(Rochester, NY) … On the strength of a season-high 42-save effort from goaltender Scott Wedgewood, the first-place Rochester Americans (17-7-2-0) came away with a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Monsters (13-10-3-0) Friday at The Blue Cross Arena. The contest served as the front-end of a home-and-home weekend series between the two North Division teams.
With the win, the Amerks improved 22-5-2-3 in the last 32 games against the Monsters dating back to the start of the 2011-12 campaign. Additionally, the Amerks have won six of their last eight games overall while also earning 36 out of a possible 48 points in the last 24 contests to maintain a four-point lead atop the AHL’s North Division standings.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Forward Justin Bailey (0+2) recorded a pair of assists to give the Amerks their fourth home win in last five tilts while Brandon Hickey, Danny O’Regan and Alexander Nylander all lit the lamp. Wedgewood made his first appearance in the blue paint since Dec. 1 and improved to 9-4-1 with the win, stopping all but one while carrying a shutout into the final 1:11 of regulation.
Cleveland, which entered the matchup with a 6-4-2-0 record in its last 12 games, got on the scoreboard thanks to Adam Clendening’s third goal of the slate while goaltender Jean-Francois Berube made 23 saves but took the loss.
WATCH: C.J. SMITH POST-GAME
Following a scoreless opening period between the two clubs, the Amerks broke through as Nylander tallied his seventh goal of the campaign 2:29 into middle stanza.
Clearing the puck out from the Amerks zone, Jack Dougherty took a hit to send an outlet pass into the Monsters end of the rink. Nylander intercepted a pass between two Cleveland defensemen and Bailey tipped the puck back to the Swedish forward. Failing on his initial shot, Nylander followed it up with another to compete the goal. Bailey and C.J. Smith were credited with the helpers.
WATCH: JUSTIN BAILEY POST-GAME
“We knew coming into the game, Cleveland is a good team with a lot of veterans, who know how to play with the lead, so for us getting the lead was a big key tonight,” Bailey said.
“We had a lot of good opportunities, especially in the first period,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. “Wedgewood came up big as did our penalty kill unit. It was a good team win.”
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR POST-GAME
The game remained 1-0 in favor of the hosts until the 17:09 mark of the third period as Hickey fired a shot from the top of the left point to double Rochester’s lead. Bailey tracked down a loose puck in the far corner before he connected with Hickey to pick up his second assist of the night.
Trailing by a pair of goals, Cleveland pulled Berube in favor of the extra attacker, but O’Regan pushed the Amerks lead to 3-0 with 2:27 remaining. Victor Olofsson picked up the lone helper on O’Regan’s 10th of the season.
Cleveland drew a penalty in the final two minutes of the contest and pulled Berube yet again but this time the decision paid off as Clendening spoiled Wedgewood’s bid for a third shutout of the season with 1:11 left in the tilt.
Rochester, despite being outshot 18-6 over the final 20 minutes of regulation and 43-26 in the game, survived the final 71 seconds to earn the 3-1 victory in the first game of the home-and-home series.
WATCH: SCOTT WEDGEWOOD POST-GAME
“I was a little nervous at the beginning as it has almost been two weeks since my last game,” said Wedgewood,” who was reassigned to the Amerks earlier in the week from the parent Buffalo Sabres. “After the first five minutes or so, I started feeling better and better while getting more comfortable as the game went on.”
After a quick turnaround, the same two teams clash for the second time in as many nights as the action shifts to Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday, Dec. 15 for a 7:00 p.m. rematch in Cleveland. All of the action will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/ 95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: Nylander (7), Hickey (2 – GWG), O’Regan (10)
CLE: Clendening (3)
ROC: Wedgewood – 42/43 (W)
CLE: Berube – 23/25 (L)
ROC: PP (0/4) | PK (4/5)
CLE: PP (1/5)| PK (4/4)
1. Scott Wedgewood (ROC)
2. C.J. Smith (ROC)
3. Justin Bailey (ROC)