Rookie forward Tim Schaller kept his hot streak alive with a pair of goals, but it wasn’t enough as the Rochester Americans closed out the 2013-14 American Hockey League regular season with a 4-3 road loss to the North Division-champion Toronto Marlies Saturday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum. The loss caps a 37-28-6-5 season for the playoff bound Amerks, who finish the campaign as the seventh seed in the Western Conference for the third straight year heading into the postseason.
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Schaller’s second of the day just 4:32 into the third period gave Rochester a 3-2 advantage, but a goal from Josh Leivo a minute later tied things up before Sam Carrick netted the eventual game-winner with 2:25 remaining in regulation to halt Rochester’s eight-game point streak.
Schaller finished with two goals to match a two-assist effort from defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, who finished the season as the Amerks’ top scoring blueliner with 28 points (4+24) in 47 games. Connor Knapp took the loss for Rochester, stopping 30 of 34 shots while Frederick Roy also scored for the Amerks.
Carrick led the hometown Marlies with a three-point day (2+1) and former Amerk goaltender Drew MacIntyre also made 30 saves on the way to his 29th win of the season for Toronto, which finished atop the North Division for the third straight year.
Schaller, who notched a hat trick in his last appearance in Toronto just two weeks ago, picked up right where he left off on Saturday as he gave the Amerks a 1-0 just 3:09 after the opening face-off. Chad Ruhwedel carried the puck into the Toronto zone along the right wing side and saucered a pass to Schaller, who had gotten behind the defense. Schaller wasted no time in firing a back-hand that snuck between the arm and chest of the Toronto netminder. The goal was Schaller’s 10th of the season and sixth in the last seven games.
Toronto responded almost immediately as Carrick tied the game just over a minute later. Carrick gained control of the puck along the right half-wall and danced his way into the slot with some nifty stick-handling before snapping a quick shot on goal that beat Knapp. Greg McKegg collected the lone assist on the goal at the 4:15 mark of the opening period.
The Marlies took their first lead of the day midway through the frame when Dylan Yeo scored his first goal of the season. After Knapp made a pair of saves on the Marlies’ attack, a clearing pass from the Rochester goal-mouth was intercepted by Yeo in the high-slot, and the defenseman stepped into a slap-shot that made its way through traffic and past Knapp for the goal.
The Amerks pulled even 5:07 into the middle frame with Roy converting from a sharp angle to knot the score at 2-2. Matt MacKenzie’s shot missed high and wide of the net and Roy immediately gave chase for the loose puck that came to rest behind the Toronto net. Roy promptly scooped it off the end boards, and in an attempt to connect with a waiting Colin Jacobs, swung a quick centering feed toward the slot only have to have the puck bank off a Marlies defenseman and sneak inside the right post. Jacobs also picked up an assist on Roy’s eighth of the season, marking his first point since Oct. 25.
With 4:08 gone in the third period, a too many men penalty to Toronto gave Rochester its fourth power-play of the game and the Amerks would need only 24 seconds on the man-advantage to capitalize. Ruhwedel led the offensive rush deep into the Marlies zone and made a drop pass for Schaller, who was stationed just off the right post. Schaller’s first swipe was denied by MacIntyre, but the rookie forward picked up his own rebound and flipped it over the Toronto netminder to put Rochester up 3-2.
The red-hot Schaller closed out the campaign with goals in each of his last three games and recorded nine (7+2) of his 18 points over the final seven games.
The lead would be short-lived, however, as the Marlies answered exactly a minute later as Leivo got credit for an unfortunate bounce that resulted in Toronto’s favor. Leivo’s initial bid from the high slot was knocked down by Knapp, but an attempt to swat the puck out of harm’s way by the Amerks defense ended up behind the Rochester goaltender for a 3-3 tie.
Carrick put the game away for the Marlies with just 2:25 remaining on the clock when Jamie Devane sprung the Toronto forward free with a long stretch pass from inside the Marlies blueline. Carrick caught the pass on his back-hand, coasted into the Amerks zone and beat Knapp to the upper right corner on the breakaway to clinch the 4-3 win for Toronto.
Finishing as the seventh seed in the Western Conference for the third straight year, the Amerks open the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs on Friday, April 25 against either the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins or Chicago Wolves in Game 1 of the best-of-five Western Conference Quarterfinals at The Blue Cross Arena. Individual game tickets for Round One of the postseason will be available at The Blue Cross Arena Box Office, online at Amerks.com, or by calling 1-855-Go-Amerks.