(Syracuse, NY) … After the Syracuse Crunch (25-13-2-1) tied the game at 3-3 to force overtime, the Rochester Americans (26-13-3-1) saw the home club earn the victory as Carter Verhaege completed the hat trick just nine seconds into the extra period Saturday at the War Memorial Arena.
Despite the 4-3 overtime loss, the Amerks, who have collected 18 points in the last 13 games, including eight out of a possible 10 in their last five outings, hold their first-place lead atop the AHL’s North Division standings heading into the annual All-Star break.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Amerks forwards Scott Wilson and Kyle Criscuolo both tallied a goal for Rochester, which holds a 3-0-1-0 record in the head-to-head matchup with the Crunch this season, while Brendan Guhle completed the scoring as he tallied his fifth of the campaign. Goaltender Adam Wilcox stopped 27 of 31 shots he faced but was handed his second straight overtime loss.
The Crunch, who have won four consecutive games, were led by Verhaeghe’s career-high four-point night which also included his first AHL hat-trick to go with an assist. Jan Rutta (1+1) and Cameron Gaunce (0+2) each turned in a multi-point effort while netminder Connor Ingram made 22 saves.
Trailing 3-2 with under four minutes to go, the Crunch pulled their goaltender as they were on their third power-play of the contest. Rochester successfully killed off the infraction, but Verhaeghe followed his own rebound in-between the face-off dots and tied the game to force the overtime period.
The Amerks, who were outshot 20-4 in the final 20 minutes of regulation, won the opening face-off of the extra session but, an attempted stretch-pass took a strange hop and Verhaeghe scooped up the loose puck. As the forward outraced the Amerks defender on his way towards Wilcox, he flipped a shot past the Rochester netminder to complete the hat trick just nine seconds into the frame, giving Syracuse its first win in 12-game season series.
While the outcome was not as the Amerks had hoped going into the AHL All-Star break, the contest started out well as they drew the matchup’s first penalty of the night and quickly capitalized on the man-advantage. Just 20 seconds into the ensuing power-play, Wilson flung an innocent-looking shot from the left corner that snuck between the arm and body of the netminder for his second tally of the season. With the power-play goal, Rochester’s power-play unit has gone 16-for-54 on the man-advantage over its last 13 games.
As it appeared the Amerks were going to carry a one-goal lead into the intermission break, Syracuse tied the game late in the first period as Verhaeghe scored his first of the night. Rochester, however, regained its lead midway through the middle stanza as Criscuolo tipped a shot inside the right post at the 9:55 mark.
By recording the primary helper on Criscuolo’s fourth goal of the season, C.J. Smith pushed his career-long point streak (5+8) to nine straight games, tying for the AHL’s longest active point streak. Dating back to Dec. 14, the 2018 AHL All-Star MVP has posted 19 points (9+10) and shows 38 points in 39 games overall on the season.
The Amerks took a 2-1 lead on the scoreboard into the third period as well as a 21-10 shot-advantage. Syracuse, however, tied the game 36 seconds into the stanza as Rutta tucked a shot under the crossbar from atop the right face-off dot.
Despite the Crunch continuing to press Wilcox to take their first lead of the night, Guhle put the Amerks in front for a third time at the 9:19 mark of the third period. Syracuse won a face-off inside its own zone and attempted to wrap the puck around the boards and out of the zone. Amerks defenseman Jack Dougherty prevented the puck from exiting the Crunch end, allowing for Victor Olofsson and Danny O’Regan to exchange a give-and-go before Guhle fired a shot from the left point that saw its way into the net.
Rochester held the lead until Verhaeghe scored a goal late in regulation before completing the hat trick with the game-winner just nine seconds into overtime.
Rochester resumes its three-game road swing following the annual All-Star break on Friday, Feb. 1 as the Amerks travel to face the Binghamton Devils at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena Game time is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start and can be heard live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester. The North Division matchup can also be viewed on AHLTV.
ROC: Wilson (2), Criscuolo (4), Guhle (5)
SYR: Verhaeghe (18, 19, 20 – OT GWG), Rutta (3)
ROC: Wilcox – 27/31 (OTL)
SYR: Ingram – 22/25 (W)
ROC: PP (1/4) | PK (3/3)
SYR: PP (0/3)| PK (3/4)
1. Carter Verhaeghe (SYR)
2. Cory Conacher (SYR)
3. Jan Rutta (SYR)