(Belleville, ON) … Thanks to three points apiece from Taylor Leier (2+1) and Wayne Simpson (0+3), as well as three power-play goals, the Rochester Americans (46-23-5-2) closed out the 2018-19 regular-season with a 4-2 victory over the Belleville Senators (37-31-3-5) at CAA Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Rochester finished the campaign with an AHL-best 25-9-3-1 road record and its nine regulation losses were tied for fewest in the AHL this season. The 25 wins away from The Blue Cross Arena were also tied for most by any AHL team and matched a single-season franchise record which was set during the 1998-99 season.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
As Leier tallied his first three-point outing of the season, he also reached the 40-point mark for the second time in his career, while Simpson recorded his first three-assist effort for the Amerks, who finished the season winning 11 of the last 14 road games. Tage Thompson (1+1) and Kyle Criscuolo (0+2) also turned in multi-point efforts while Casey Fitzgerald scored his first professional goal to wrap up the scoring. Netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made his professional debut for the Amerks and stopped 32 shots he faced to earn his first-career win in the crease.
First-year forward Drake Batherson, who was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team earlier this week, added a pair of assists for Belleville while Jack Rodewald and Logan Brown both lit the lamp. Goaltender Marcus Hogberg (21-11-6) made his eighth straight appearance and took the loss despite making 25 saves.
Just over 12 minutes after Belleville tied the game at two early into the second period, Rochester drew its fourth power-play of the contest at the 14:43 mark of the stanza. Much like the first period, the Amerks capitalized on the man-advantage, only this time it was rookie defenseman Kurt Gosselin, who entered with an assist in each of the two previous games of the weekend, set up Thompson atop the left circle in the Senators zone.
With Thompson’s sixth goal of the season with 5:35 left in the frame, Rochester took a 3-2 lead into the final period of regulation.
Belleville pressed to even the score to force overtime, and after failing to score on two straight power-play opportunities, Fitzgerald sealed the win as he ripped a one-timer from Leier and Criscuolo midway through the third to put Rochester ahead by two.
Despite seeing the Senators open the scoring on their second shot of the game, the Amerks drew three straight penalties, including a pair of tripping infractions, to gain a two-man advantage for 55 seconds.
Leier capitalized on the first penalty to knot the score at one with 9:31 left in the opening period before he doubled the Amerks lead with another power-play marker 3:08 later.
Keeping the puck in the Senators zone following a Rochester timeout to begin the 5-on-3 advantage, Thompson slid a pass to Simpson, who was to the right of the Belleville cage. Drawing the attention of the defense, the forward sent a cross-crease pass to a wide-open Leier and he banged in his second of the afternoon to give the Amerks a 2-1 lead before the end of the frame.
Although Rochester took a hooking penalty 23 seconds into second period, and Belleville tied the game at 2-2, the Amerks countered back with a pair of goals in the final 38 minutes of regulation to collect a 4-2 win.
The victory was the Amerks first against Belleville this season after going 0-2-1-0 in the three previous meetings.
Rochester’s quest to the Calder Cup begins on Friday, April 19 when the Amerks host the Toronto Marlies in Game 1 of the best-of-five North Division Semifinals at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. matchup will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: Leier (21, 22), Thompson (6 – GWG), Fitzgerald (1)
BEL: Brown (14), Rodewald (23)
ROC: Luukkonen – 32/34 (W)
BEL: Hogberg – 25/29 (L)
ROC: PP (3/4) | PK (3/4)
BEL: PP (1/4) | PK (1/4)
1. Taylor Leier (ROC)
2. Tage Thompson (ROC)
3. Drake Batherson (BEL)