(Rochester, NY) … The Rochester Americans (16-4-2-2) jumped out to a 4-0 lead midway through the third period against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (13-9-3-1) and withstood a late push from the visitors to come away with a 4-2 win to close out their four-game homestand Wednesday night at The Blue Cross Arena. It was the fifth straight win over the Penguins for Rochester dating back to the 2017-18 campaign, outscoring Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 27-11 over that span.
With the victory, the Amerks have earned points in 12 of their last 13 games dating back to Nov. 1, showing an 11-1-1-1 record over that span. Additionally, Rochester has picked up points in 18 of the last 21 contests overall, going 14-3-2-2, while also earning 36 out of a possible 48 points through their first 24 contests of the season.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Forwards Jean-Sebastien Dea, Curtis Lazar and C.J. Smith, who returned to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 2, all recorded a pair of points as they netted a goal with an assist while Andrew Oglevie rounded out the scoring. Goaltender Andrew Hammond improved to 9-2-2 as he made 20 saves on the night. Over his last eight games, the Surrey, B.C. native has posted six wins, three shutouts, 1.50 goals against average and a .943 save percentage. Taylor Leier made his long awaited season debut and recorded one shot after missing the first 23 games of the season due to injury.
Jan Drozg scored his first career AHL goal while Sam Miletic rounded out the scoring for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which suffered its fourth consecutive loss. Netminder Casey DeSmith (10-6-1) stopped 26 shots but took the defeat.
WATCH: CURTIS LAZAR POST-GAME
In the opening period after getting a pass from Hammond atop the right of the Amerks cage, Will Borgen provided an outlet pass onto the stick of Lazar in the middle of the center-ice logo. As the forward sprinted into the offensive zone, he used a Penguins defenseman as a screen and roofed a shot past the blocker of DeSmith to give Rochester a 1-0 lead that they took into the intermission break.
“Playing with J.S. and adding ‘Smitty’ to the line makes the game a lot of fun,” said Lazar. “As a team, we are playing within our structure. It helps scoring a goal early in the game and the confidence rises, but the biggest thing is playing to our strengths throughout the game.”
WATCH: C.J. SMITH POST-GAME
The Amerks continued to keep the Penguins in their own side of the ice for much of the middle period, where they held a 10-1 shot-advantage before Dea, Lazar and Smith all cycled the puck around the offensive zone. As the puck made its way to the left of DeSmith, Dea slipped a backhand shot under the leg of his former teammate to double Rochester’s lead at the 7:17 mark.
“It felt great to get back on the ice,” explained Smith. “I found some chemistry right away with J.S. and Lazar. They were able to help me out finding the little habits of the game but it was good to contribute, too.”
Carrying a 2-0 lead to start the third period of play, Kevin Porter gathered the loose puck in the far corner of the ice before spotting Casey Nelson at the right point. After backpedaling towards the center of the ice, Nelson fired a shot at the cage for Oglevie to redirect into net for his team-leading 10th goal of the season with 7:17 left in regulation.
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR POST-GAME
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton pulled its netminder for the extra skater with just over six minutes to play, but Smith capped off the Amerks scoring as he flipped the puck into the vacant net from Dea. The Penguins did not leave the Flower City completely empty handed, however, spoiling Hammond’s bid for shutout with a pair of goals in the final minutes of regulation.
“I thought the three guys played really well and brought a lot of energy to our team,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor of Leier, Smith and Burton. “They helped our power-play and moved the puck well, but having those guys back into the lineup was good because they all add something different to our team.”
“They are a big part of our team and they have worked extremely hard to get back into the lineup,” Taylor added. “They provide us with depth, like top six or nine skaters, so it was really good to get bodies back into the lineup.”
WATCH: TAYLOR LEIER POST-GAME
“It was really good,” smiled Leier. “There has been lot of bag skates, practices and a lot of behind the scenes work, but it was great to get back on the ice tonight. The last few days I was wanting to fast-forward and get going, but overall but it felt good to be back.”
The Amerks hit the road on Friday, Dec. 13 for the first half of a two-game set with the Laval Rocket at 7:30 p.m. at Place Bell. After a quick turnaround, the same two teams will meet up for a 3:00 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Both contests will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: C. Lazar (6), J. Dea (9), A. Oglevie (10), C. Smith (4)
WBS: J. Drozg (1), S. Miletic (6)
ROC: A. Hammond – 20/22 (W)
WBS: C. DeSmith – 26/29 (L)
ROC: PP (0/4) | PK (2/2)
WBS: PP (0/2) | PK (4/4)
1. C. Smith (ROC)
2. J. Dea (ROC)
3. C. Lazar (ROC)