(Rochester, NY) … Despite a pair of power-play goals and a shorthanded tally, the Rochester Americans (19-6-2-2) saw the Utica Comets (18-10-1-2) score late and steal a 4-3 win Saturday at The Blue Cross Arena in the final game going into the Christmas break.
The Amerks go into the annual break showing a 14-3-1-1 record over their last 19 games dating back to Nov. 1, earning points in 16 games over that span, and holding a three-point cushion atop the AHL’s North Division standings. Additionally, Rochester has picked up points in 21 of the last 26 contests overall, going 17-5-2-2, while also earning 42 out of a possible 58 points through its first 29 contests of the season.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Forward Taylor Leier booked his first two-point outing of the season with two goals while blueliner John Gilmour scored for the third game in his last four contests. Goaltender Andrew Hammond (10-4-2) suffered his second straight regulation loss of the campaign despite making 22 saves.
Brogan Rafferty recorded his eighth two-assist game and third consecutive multi-point effort to lead Utica to its third straight victory. Sven Baertschi opened the scoring as Jonah Gadjovich, Vincent Arseneau and Olli Juolevi all rounded out the goals. Netminder Richard Bachman (1+1+1), who made his third appearance of the campaign, earned his first win, making 23 saves on 26 shots.
With the contest knotted at 3-3 late in the third period and overtime looming, Seamus Malone flung an innocent-looking shot from the left of Hammond with 1:27 to play. The puck, however, caromed up and over the Amerks netminder before Juolevi pushed it across the goal line for his first goal of the season.
WATCH: NATHAN PAETSCH POST-GAME
“It was a hard-fought game that easily could have gone either way,” said Nathan Paetsch. “Utica has a real fast team and the few chances they had were when they were on the rush. Overall, it was a close game. Sometimes the late goal can make all the difference as it did tonight.”
“Utica is a team that if you give them the smallest of an inch, they take full advantage of it,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. “It is disappointing not getting a point tonight because of the effort the team gave.”
Rochester made a final attempt to force overtime as they pulled Hammond but ultimately ran out of time, giving Utica the 4-3 win.
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR POST-GAME
Following a scoreless first period and while on their first man-advantage of the contest, Leier scooped up a loose Zach Redmond shot from the right of the Utica cage and banked it off the back of Bachman for a 1-0 Amerks lead.
The power-play goal just 2:34 into the second stanza from Redmond and Lawrence Pilut served as Leier’s first of the season.
Utica flipped a one-goal deficit into a 2-1 cushion as Baertschi and Arseneau scored seven minutes apart for their sixth goals of the campaign.
Two minutes after the Comets took their first lead of the night, Rochester drew another power-play and quickly capitalized on the extra skater when Gilmour used a screen from Sean Malone and Brett Murray to even the game at 2-2.
Malone and Jean-Sebastien Dea, who became the first Amerk this season to reach the 20-point plateau, both were awarded assists on Gilmour’s third goal of the slate with 4:44 left in the frame.
The clubs emerged from the locker room knotted up 2-2, but following a face-off win inside the Amerks zone, Gadjovich gave Utica a one-goal lead less than five minutes into the third.
WATCH: TAYLOR LEIER POST-GAME
Following the goal, it seemed like things were about to get out of hand as Rochester was whistled for an interference penalty. However, after gloving down the puck atop the right face-off dot, Leier and Casey Mittelstadt raced down the length of the ice on a 2-on-1 odd-man rush. As Leier approached the net, and after looking off Mittelstadt, he snapped a shot inside the top right corner to even the score at the 6:44 mark.
“Just shooting the puck more,” admitted Leier as to what attributed to his personal success tonight. “I also had good line mates in ‘Mittsy’ and C.J., but I thought the whole team really stuck together tonight. Utica is a good team and whenever it is back-and-forth, whenever I had a chance to shoot, I wanted to make sure I took advantage of that.”
Utica then finished off the scoring as Juolevi pushed the puck across the goal line with 87 seconds left in regulation to secure the 4-3 win for the visitors.
The Amerks return from the Christmas Break as they host the Belleville Senators for the first time this season on Friday, Dec. 27 at 7:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena. The game will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: T. Leier (1, 2), J. Gilmour (3)
UTI: S. Baertschi (6), V. Arseneau (6), J. Gadjovich (7), O. Juolevi (1 – GWG)
ROC: A. Hammond – 22/26 (L)
UTI: R. Bachman – 23/26 (L)
ROC: PP (2/3) | PK (2/2)
UTI: PP (0/2) | PK (1/3)
1. O. Juolevi (UTI)
2. T. Leier (ROC)
3. B. Rafferty (UTI)