(Syracuse, NY) … In the second game in as many days of the home-and-home series between the Rochester Americans (30-16-3-2) and the Syracuse Crunch (30-15-2-2), newcomer Taylor Leier netted the only goal in a six-round shootout to lift the Amerks past the Crunch, 3-2, Saturday at the War Memorial Arena. The win snaps Rochester’s three-game slide and moves the Amerks back atop the AHL’s North Division standings heading into Sunday’s weekend finale against Binghamton.
With the victory, the Amerks have collected 19 out of a possible 28 points in their last 14 games and have reached the 30-win mark for the second straight season under head coach Chris Taylor. Taylor becomes the first Amerks head coach to lead his team to 30 or more wins in each of his first two seasons behind the bench since Hall of Famer Randy Cunneyworth, the all-time winningest coach in franchise history. Rochester has also notched 27 points in its last 21 games dating back to a 4-0 shutout win in Cleveland on Dec. 26.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
While Leier scored his second shootout-clinching goal of the season for the Amerks, Remi Elie and Will Borgen both tallied their second goals of the slate. Former Syracuse netminder Adam Wilcox (9-6-3) stopped 29 shots in the game plus six more in the skills competition to improve to 4-0-1 this season versus his former club.
Forwards Mitchell Stephens and Ross Colton both scored for the Crunch, who have a 1-2-0-1 record in their last four games following an eight-game winning streak, while netminder Eddie Pasquale made 37 saves but suffered the shootout loss.
With the game tied at 2-2 following regulation, the two clubs needed extra time to decide the outcome for the fourth time in the last six games, and it would be fifth time in the head-to-head series the final score would be a one-goal game.
Neither team could capitalize on a pair of prime scoring chances in the overtime period, including breakaway opportunities for each side, thus shootout was required. Syracuse elected to shoot first in each round and was denied on all six chances by Wilcox, while Pasquale nearly matched him as he stopped the first five Rochester shooters before Leier converted on his attempt to secure the Amerks the extra point.
The Amerks have now earned a point in six of the seven games this season with the Crunch and show a 4-1-1-1 record in the 12-game series.
Less than five minutes into the contest, the Amerks drew the game’s first penalty and quickly capitalized on the man-advantage as Elie jammed in his second goal of the season. On the ensuing face-off inside the Crunch zone after a boarding infraction, Kevin Porter fired a shot from along the left half-wall. Leier spotted the rebound and pushed it towards the top of the crease and Elie shoveled it overtop the netminder to give the Amerks a 1-0 lead 4:20 into the first period.
With the power-play marker, the Amerks, who own the AHL’s second-best road power-play percentage (26.2 %), have scored a goal on the man-advantage in 13 of the last 15 games against the Crunch while going 17-for-71 during that span.
The Amerks took a 1-0 lead into the intermission break, and just 2:22 after seeing the Crunch even the score at 1-1 midway through the second stanza, Rochester reclaimed its one-goal lead. Sneaking into the center of the Crunch zone, Borgen fired a shot inside the right post for his second goal of the season at the 9:39 mark of the middle period.
The marker ended a 32-game scoreless drought for the first-year defenseman as Yannick Veilleux and Dalton Smith were given the assists on the goal.
The Amerks carried their 2-1 lead into the final period of regulation, but much like the second, Syracuse evened the score 1:53 in and ultimately forced the game to go beyond regulation. The Amerks had four shots during the overtime, which included a pair of optimum scoring chances, while the Crunch also had a breakaway, but the goaltenders stood tall to the task and the shootout was needed.
After neither side could find the net through the first five rounds, Leier ended it in the sixth to give Rochester the win and reclaim the North Division lead.
The Amerks close out the three-in-three weekend on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 3:05 p.m. with a matinee against the Binghamton Devils at The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 3:05 p.m. start and will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: Elie (2), Borgen (2), Leier (SO GWG)
SYR: Stephens (5), Colton (9)
ROC: Wilcox – 29/31 (W)
SYR: Pasquale – 37/39 (SOL)
ROC: PP (1/3) | PK (3/3)
SYR: PP (0/3)| PK (2/3)
1. Eddie Pasquale (SYR)
2. Carter Verhaeghe (SYR)
3. Ross Colton (SYR)