(Rochester, NY) … The Rochester Americans (21-11-2-0) overcame a two-goal deficit and tied the game in the final 12 seconds of regulation before needing the shootout to complete a 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (21-9-4-2) Wednesday at The Blue Cross Arena.
With the victory, Rochester regained its lead atop the AHL’s North Division by two points over the Syracuse Crunch. The Amerks have won 10 of their last 16 games while also claiming three of their last five on home ice. Overall, the team has 12 wins in the Flower City this season, which is tied for most in the AHL.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Forward Kyle Criscuolo booked his third multi-point outing of the campaign as he scored his third goal of the season to go with an assist. Danny O’Regan, Andrew MacWilliam and Rasmus Asplund rounded out the scoring while goaltender Scott Wedgewood improved to 12-6-1 on the year as he made 22 saves on the night to Rochester improve to 5-1-1 in its last seven meetings with Bridgeport dating back to the 2016-17 season.
Bridgeport, which came into the matchup winners in eight of its last nine, were led by wingers Tanner Fritz and Matt Gaudreau, who each tallied a goa and an assist. Ryan Bourque and Otto Koivula also scored while netminder Jeremy Smith, who was honored as the CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month for December earlier today, was tagged with the overtime loss. The 10-year pro shows a record of 6-1-1 in his last eight appearances.
WATCH: RASMUS ASPLUND POST-GAME
Facing a 4-3 deficit and with Wedgewood on the Amerks bench for the extra attacker, Sean Malone won the face-off back to Zach Redmond near the left point. The blueliner centered a pass to Alexander Nylander atop the circles and the third-year pro quickly found Asplund to the left of the Sound Tigers net. Despite a sprawling attempt by Smith, Asplund hammered home the game-tying goal with 12 seconds in regulation to force overtime.
“I just tried to get open,” said Asplund. “Nylander is the type of player who can make those passes, so I found some room, and if I got the puck, I knew I had to get it on net.”
After a back-and-forth extra period, the shootout was required as the Eastern Conference matchup was knotted up at 4-4.
WATCH: KYLE CRISCUOLO POST-GAME
The Amerks elected to shoot first in the skills competition, and of the three Rochester shooters, Victor Olofsson was only player to defeat the goaltender to give the Amerks a 5-4 shootout win while Wedgewood turned aside all three attempts he saw.
In Rochester’s three games this season against Bridgeport, Olofsson has delivered the game-deciding goal in all three victories after scoring the game-winning goal in each of the first two meetings back in October.
“Victor is a big-time player,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. “He wants to have the puck on his stick and I thought that line (O’Regan, Asplund and Olofsson) played really well for us tonight. They got us some good scoring chances, but overall it was a good team effort as it always is when you trail by two goals.”
WATCH: ANDREW MacWILLIAM POST-GAME
The first half of the opening stanza was uneventful until the two teams traded goals five minutes apart to go into the break even at 1-1. Rochester broke the scoreless contest as Criscuolo capitalized on a failed clearing attempt before Koivula tied the game with his 10th of the year while on the man-advantage.
Bridgeport grabbed a two-goal lead less than four minutes into the middle frame as Gaudreau slipped a rebound between the legs of Wedgwood and a laser of a shot from Fritz. The Amerks, though trailing 3-1 just 3:31 into the frame, cut the deficit in half as O’Regan tallied his 12th of the season at the 7:10 mark.
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR POST-GAME
Picking a loose puck just inside the Sound Tigers blueline, Criscuolo, who shows six points (2+4) in six games since returning from injury, raced in towards Smith on a 2-on-1 odd-man rush with O’Regan. After evading a driving attempt from a Bridgeport defender, he backhanded a pass to O’Regan at the right post.
“Overall, the last couple of weeks we have been playing a smarter game and getting the pucks behind them and out-working our opponents,” Criscuolo said. “Tonight, we just stuck to the program and even when we went down, we just kept to the game plan.”
While going into the second intermission looking at a 3-2 score, Rochester evened the game as MacWilliam stuffed in his first goal as an Amerk 3:11 into the final frame. The goal from Eric Cornel, who has three points (1+2) in his last three games, and Tyler Randell, was MacWilliam’s first since April 6, 2016 as a member of the Manitoba Moose.
“It’s always nice to chip in offensively,” said MacWilliam. “Scoring doesn’t always come around to me, but when it does, it feels great. I’ve only scored a couple, but I do remember them all.”
Despite Bridgeport regaining its lead, Asplund tied the game to force the extra time before Olofsson capped off the 5-4 shootout-win.
The Amerks wrap up the first week of 2019 as they travel north of the border for a pair of games against the Laval Rocket, beginning Friday, Jan. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Following a quick turnaround, the same two teams meet again on Saturday, Jan. 5 for a 3:00 p.m. matinee. All of the action from Place Bell will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: Criscuolo (3), O’Regan (12), MacWilliam (1), Asplund (2), Olofsson (SO GWG)
BRI: Koivula (10), Gaudreau (1), Fritz (5), R. Bourque (3)
ROC: Wedgewood – 22/26 (W)
BRI: Smith – 25/29 (SOL)
ROC: PP (0/4) | PK (3/4)
BRI: PP (1/4)| PK (4/4)
1. Kyle Criscuolo (ROC)
2. Rasmus Asplund (ROC)
3. Tanner Fritz (BRI)