(Rochester, NY) … Doomed by a pair of power-play goals and two empty-net tallies from the opposition, the Rochester Americans (39-21-3-2) fell 5-2 to the Cleveland Monsters (30-26-7-1) Friday night at The Blue Cross Arena. The game served as the kick-off to a busy three-in-three weekend for the Amerks and was the third straight loss by Rochester.
The regulation defeat to the Monsters was Rochester’s first on home ice since Apr. 5, 2013, a span of 13 games. Furthermore, the Amerks show a 25-7-2-3 record against Cleveland dating back to the start of the 2011-12 season.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Despite the three-game slide, the third of the season, the Amerks remain five points behind the Syracuse Crunch for the North Division lead despite having collected 37 out of a possible 56 points in their last 28 games.
Forwards C.J. Smith and Victor Olofsson each tallied their 23rd and 25th goals of the season, respectively, while goaltender Adam Wilcox (10-8-3) made his 23rd appearance but took the loss. The fourth-year goaltender made 22 saves.
Mark Letestu (1+2), Garret Cockerill (0+2) and former Amerk Zac Dalpe (1+1) all recorded a multi-point game for Cleveland, which moved within four points of the Belleville Senators for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division. Derek Barach and Alexandre Texier each scored their first professional goal while Justin Scott added his 12th of the season to round out the scoring. Jean-Francois Berube improved to 21-17-5 as he made 32 saves before being replaced by Brad Thiessen with just under three minutes left in regulation. Thiessen stopped all three shots he faced over the final 2:38 of regulation.
WATCH: VICTOR OLOFSSON POST-GAME
Facing a 3-1 deficit near the midway point of the third period, the Amerks sliced their deficit in half as Olofsson booked his team-leading 25th goal of the season at the 7:02 mark while Rochester was on the man-advantage.
“I feel okay with the goal, obviously, but as a team, we did not play well for two periods,” Olofsson said. “We played a little better in the third, but overall it was not good enough.”
The power-play goal from Lawrence Pilut and Rasmus Asplund ended an 0-for-14 stretch for the Amerks.
WATCH: KEVIN PORTER POST-GAME
Rochester attempted to tie the game and pulled Wilcox twice in the final two minutes of the contest, but Cleveland added a pair of empty-net goals to come away with the 5-2 win.
“We didn’t play very well at all,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. “I didn’t like how we started the game, didn’t like the end of the game or anything in-between. Overall, it was a bad game.”
“We need to be better in every aspect the rest of the weekend,” Taylor added.
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR POST-GAME
After each team successfully killed off its initial penalty of the opening period, the Monsters took the lead with 2:10 left. Despite the Amerks gathering the puck to the left of Wilcox, their attempt to clear the puck out of the zone was knocked down at the blueline by Tommy Cross. The blueliner took a few strides in-between the dots and fired the puck towards net. The rebound landed on the stick of Barach and he tucked it inside the right post.
“We seemed to take a good team lightly,” said team captain Kevin Porter, who recorded the primary assist on Smith’s second-period goal. “We didn’t start off the game well and they came out hard and out-played us for two periods. In the third, we had to play catch up and it just was not enough.”
Moments after killing their third penalty of the night, the Monsters doubled their lead 4:57 into the second period as Dalpe tipped in a shot from the right face-off circle inside Rochester’s zone.
WATCH: C.J. SMITH POST-GAME
The Amerks cut into the lead with 7:59 left in stanza as Smith lifted a shot under the crossbar off a cross-ice feed from Porter, but Cleveland responded less than three minutes later to take a 3-1 lead into the final period of regulation.
“It might have been a lack of execution and guys may have been trying too hard and over-thinking our systems,” Smith said when explaining the loss. “We have to continue to work hard and keep it simple moving forward.”
Rochester made it a one-goal game inside the 13:00 mark of the third period, but the Monsters scored a pair of empty-net tallies to secure the 5-2 victory.
The Amerks wrap up their season series north of the border with the first of back-to-back meetings against the defending Calder Cup champion rival Toronto Marlies on Saturday, March 23 at Coca-Cola Coliseum. Game time is slated for a 5:00 p.m. start and will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: C.J. Smith (23), Olofsson (25)
CLE: Barach (1), Dalpe (24), Texier (1), Letestu (18), Scott (12)
ROC: Wilcox – 22/25 (L)
CLE: Berube – 32/34 (W)
ROC: PP (1/6) | PK (2/4)
CLE: PP (2/4) | PK (5/6)
1. Mark Letestu (CLE)
2. C.J. Smith (ROC)
3. Garret Cockerill (CLE)