(Utica, NY) … After scoring a power-play goal to tie the game midway through the third period, the Rochester Americans (20-8-2-2) saw the Utica Comets (20-10-2-2) regain the lead with a power-play goal of their own before holding on for a 3-2 win Tuesday at Adirondack Bank Center. The Amerks attempted to stage a late third-period comeback but fell short and were defeated in back-to-back games in regulation for the first time all season.
Despite the setback, however, the Amerks show a 15-5-1-1 record over their last 22 games dating back to Nov. 1, earning points in 17 games over that span, and share top spot in the AHL’s North Division standings with Utica going into New Year. Additionally, Rochester has picked up points in 22 of the last 29 contests overall, going 18-7-2-2, while also earning 44 out of a possible 64 points through its first 32 contests of the season.
For the second time this season, Taylor Leier tallied a pair of goals against Utica while blueliner Casey Nelson, who had a game-high five shots last Saturday, registered seven shots on net. Goaltender Andrew Hammond (10-6-2) stopped 15 of 18 shots he faced but suffered his fourth consecutive loss.
Sven Baertschi produced two assists while Brogan Rafferty, Wacey Hamilton and former Amerk Justin Bailey all scored to extend Utica’s point streak to six games. Netminder Zane McIntyre (10-5-2) made 33 saves to earn his 10th win of the season
As the Amerks entered the third period trailing by a goal, Rochester drew a slashing penalty at the 11:48 mark. On the ensuing face-off win by Kevin Porter, defensemen Lawrence Pilut and Zach Redmond traded passes before Redmond sent a knuckleball of a shot towards McIntyre. As the puck ever-so-slowly pinballed its way towards the net, it glanced off the pants of Leier and past the unsuspecting Utica netminder to even the score at 2-2.
Utica countered back less than five minutes later as Bailey connected on backdoor feed from Kole Lind and Baertschi for his 12th of the season after the Amerks were whistled for a too-many-men infraction.
After Rochester was unable to capitalize on the power-play, Hammond was summoned to the bench for the extra attacker, but the visitors could not find the equalizer to force overtime despite outshooting the Comets 13-2 over the final 20 minutes of play.
Near the 15:00 mark of the opening period with the game scoreless, Leier circled around Redmond to dump the puck into the right corner and in behind the Comets net. After gathering the puck, Porter attempted to center a pass to Casey Mittelstadt, but the puck hopped over the stick of the forward. As luck would have it, though, Leier found the puck atop the circles and quickly snapped into the back of the net for his fourth of the season to give Rochester a 1-0 lead they carried into the first intermission.
Utica began the second stanza trailing by a goal, but having a carryover penalty from the first period combined with roughing infraction within the first 51 seconds, the Comets had a 5-on-3 power play for 1:05. The Amerks successfully killed off the initial penalty, but following a face-off win to the right of Hammond, Rafferty sent a shot that trickled across the goal-line to make it a 1-1 score.
The two clubs did not generate much offensively for the remainder of the second despite a combined five penalties, and as the final minute of the frame was dwindling down, Reid Boucher dumped the puck into the Amerks zone. As the puck caromed around the end boards, Baertschi centered it to Hamilton out in-front of the goal-mouth with 34 seconds left in the period.
Rochester tied the game at two with 11:32 to play, but Bailey delivered his second straight game-winner to give Utica its third win of the season in the 10-game series.
The Amerks head north of the border for their first two games of the New Year beginning on Friday, Jan. 3 when they take on the Belleville Senators at 7:00 p.m. at CAA Arena. The following day, Rochester makes its first trip back to Coca-Cola Coliseum since Game 3 of the Calder Cup Playoffs for another go-around with the Toronto Marlies at 4:00 p.m. Both games will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: T. Leier (4, 5)
UTI: B. Rafferty (5), W. Hamilton (3), J. Bailey (12 – GWG)
ROC: A. Hammond – 15/18 (L)
UTI: Z. McIntyre – 33/35 (W)
ROC: PP (1/6) | PK (4/6)
UTI: PP (2/6) | PK (5/6)
1. J. Bailey (UTI)
2. Z. McIntyre (UTI)
3. T. Leier (ROC)