(Rochester, NY) … The Rochester Americans (41-21-4-2) erased a two-goal deficit and tied Wednesday night’s game against Lehigh Valley Phantoms (33-27-4-3) before falling 4-3 in overtime at The Blue Cross Arena.
Despite the overtime loss, which gave Rochester a 6-6-1-0 record in its last 14 meetings with the Phantoms, the Amerks remain just three points behind the Syracuse Crunch for the AHL’s North Division lead. The team has also earned 42 out of a possible 62 points in its last 31 games going into the final two games of March.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Forward and Amerks team-captain Kevin Porter notched his fifth two-point game of the season as he tallied his 10th goal of the season to go with an assist while Eric Cornel and former Phantom Taylor Leier each found the back of the net. Adam Wilcox (11-8-3) suffered the overtime loss despite making 13 saves in 30 minutes after replacing Scott Wedgewood with 7:33 left in the second period.
Pascal Laberge turned in his first-career hat-trick to go with a helper on Mark Friedman’s goal to extend the Phantoms point streak to four games while Chris Conner added a season-high three assists. Goaltender Alex Lyon, who made a career-high 49 saves in the first meeting between the two teams earlier this year, stopped 40 of the 43 shots he faced to even his record to 15-15-3 on the season.
WATCH: KEVIN PORTER POST-GAME
Lehigh Valley grabbed a 3-1 lead 12:27 into the second period to end Wedgewood’s night, but the Amerks trimmed the deficit in half as Cornel tallied his eighth goal of the year with 5:00 to go in the middle stanza.
As Porter was sprung into the offensive zone thanks to an outlet pass from Jack Dougherty, the veteran center dished a pass to Cornel in the right circle. Cornel calmly kicked the puck from his skate to his stick before tucking a shot in-between the left pad and right post to make it one-goal game going into the third.
Rochester continued to eye the equalizer as they fired a game-high 15 shots on Lyon during the final period and were rewarded as Porter deflected a centering pass from Kyle Criscuolo 4:01 into the frame while on the power play.
WATCH: TAYLOR LEIER POST-GAME
“As the power-play was winding down, ‘Simmer’ (Wayne Simpson) kicked the puck out to ‘Crisco’ and I just drove towards the net,” described Porter of his eighth goal of the season. “Crisco made a great pass and I didn’t really do much as the puck just banked off my stick, but I’ll take it.”
The two teams traded chances over the final 16 minutes of regulation, but the game required overtime to determine a winner for the second straight game.
“I thought we had lot of chances,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. “We just couldn’t get the puck behind their goaltender. I loved our energy for coming home as it was better than the last couple of games here.”
“We had chances to win the game but just came up short as we had a lot of new players in the lineup and I thought they played well.”
WATCH: KURT GOSSELIN POST-GAME
Neither the Amerks nor the Phantoms generated much in the early portion of the extra frame, but Lehigh Valley caught a break as they picked up a loose puck inside their own and quickly skated away on a 2-on-0 rush towards Wilcox.
Conner and Laberge exchanged a series of passes, and despite an impressive last-ditch back-checking effort by Remi Elie, Laberge slipped the puck over the goal-line at the 2:02 mark to give the Phantoms the 4-3 overtime victory.
The two clubs went into the first period tied at one as Leier, who became the fourth different Rochester skater this season to join the 20-goal club, and Friedman each scored 42 seconds apart.
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR POST-GAME
“It felt good to score against them,” said Leier, who appeared in 226 games with Lehigh Valley to begin his pro career prior to the midseason trade that landed him in Rochester. “We had the puck in their zone for quite a bit of time, and after (Matt) Tennyson’s shot got blocked, it came right to me in the slot and I kind of got lucky as it went five-hole.”
Laberge added a pair of tallies to give Lehigh Valley a 3-1 cushion at the 12:27 mark of the middle stanza, but the Amerks recorded a pair of markers in the final two periods to force the game beyond regulation.
“I felt pretty comfortable out there,” said rookie defenseman Kurt Gosselin, who made his Amerks/AHL debut after earning a promotion from the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL) yesterday. “As the game went on, I started to get my own feel for it out there. It’s disappointing as we didn’t get the results we wanted, but I’m glad to get the first game out of the way.”
The Amerks close out the home portion of the month as they host the Laval Rocket on Friday, March 29 at The Blue Cross Arena before closing out March on Saturday against the Binghamton Devils at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Arena. Both matchups are set for 7:05 p.m. and will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: Leier (20), Cornel (8), Porter (10)
LV: Friedman (5), Laberge (2, 3, 4 – OT GWG)
ROC: Wedgewood – 14/17 (ND) | Wilcox – 13/14 (OTL)
LV: Lyon – 40/43
ROC: PP (1/3) | PK (0/0)
LV: PP (0/0) | PK (2/3)
1. Pascal Laberge (LV)
2. Kevin Porter (ROC)
3. Chris Conner (LV)