(Rochester, NY) … The Rochester Americans (21-11-2-4) tied Friday’s contest against the Cleveland Monsters (18-19-1-2) late in regulation, but fell short of the come-from-behind win as the Amerks dropped a 4-3 decision in a shootout at The Blue Cross Arena to open a three-game weekend.
The matchup was the fourth between the North Division rivals this season with all four games having been one-goal margins and three being decided beyond regulation.
Despite the shootout loss, the Amerks show a 16-8-1-3 record over their last 18 games dating back to Nov. 1, earning points in 20 games over that span. Rochester reaches the halfway point of the 2019-20 campaign with a 21-11-2-4 record, good enough for third in the AHL’s North Division standings.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Defenseman John Gilmour chipped in a pair of points (1+1) for the Amerks, who boast a 28-7-3-4 record in the previous 41 get-togethers with the Monsters dating back to the 2011-12 season. Casey Mittelstadt tallied his fourth goal of the season before C.J. Smith forced the game to go beyond regulation with his seventh of the slate. Goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (0-0-1) made his season debut for Rochester after earning a recall earlier in the week from the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL), but suffered the loss while making 23 saves plus one in the shootout.
Ryan MacInnis, Trey Fix-Wolansky and Kole Sherwood all found the back of the net for Cleveland, who ended its four-game skid. Markus Hannikainen was the only skater for either team to score during the skills completion while netminder Veini Vehvilainen stopped 29 of 32 shots he faced, including all three shots in the shootout to improve to 9-10-1.
As Rochester was facing a 3-2 deficit with just under five minutes left in regulation, defenseman Casey Nelson drew a holding infraction just behind the Cleveland net. During the Amerks’s fifth man-advantage of the night, Gilmour fired a shot to Vehvilainen and the rebound fell to Kevin Porter. Rochester’s team captain collected the puck and whipped a cross-ice feed to Smith at the backdoor. Without hesitation, Smith banged in the pass, tying the game at three with his seventh of the slate to force overtime.
WATCH: UKKO-PEKKA LUUKKONEN POST-GAME
During the extra period, each team was unable to capitalize on the power-play and the shootout then followed.
The Amerks elected to shoot first, but Mittelstadt, Andrew Oglevie and Smith all were denied by Vehvilainen. After stopping Fix-Wolansky in the opening round of the skills completion, Luukkonen was unable to deny Hannikainen’s attempt, giving Cleveland a 4-3 victory.
“It stinks to lose, especially at home,” said Luukkonen after making his season debut. “I thought we played a solid game tonight and there are some bounces that I would have liked to go the other way. There are some things I still need to sharpen up and some that things that I am happy about. Overall, it was not a bad game.”
“I think he handled it really well,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor of Luukkonen. “Especially during the 4-on-3 and the two 5-on-3’s we had tonight, I thought he did a really good job. He stayed with it tonight, and after only seeing a few shots early on, I thought he was good.”
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR POST-GAME
The scoring began in the first period as Gilmour gathered a puck behind the Amerks net and raced end-to-end before picking the top corner at the 14:45 mark of the stanza. The power-play goal, which was unassisted and the defenseman’s fifth of the campaign, gave Rochester a one-goal lead after the first 20 minutes of play.
“On the power-play there is obviously more room on the ice,” explained Gilmour, who has recorded a goal in each of his last two contests. “Going out on the ice, just being confident and making plays while trying to help the team win. One thing about tonight’s game is we can go to bed proud of the game as it is really anyone’s game in the shootout.”
WATCH: JOHN GILMOUR POST-GAME
Cleveland knotted the score at 1-1 less than 2:55 into the middle period as MacInnis added his fourth of the season while on the man-advantage, but Jean-Sebastien Dea and Mittelstadt connected to reclaim the Amerks 2-1 lead.
After seeing Rochester take its second lead of the contest, the Monsters scored a pair of markers less than five minutes apart to take an advantage into the third period.
“I feel J.S., Remi (Elie) and myself have been playing well together as of late,” Mittelstadt said. “It took us a while to build the chemistry, but it was good to see a goal go into the net tonight. The chances and the goals will come, but one wasn’t enough for our line tonight.”
WATCH: CASEY MITTELSTADT POST-GAME
Smith would force the game to go beyond regulation as he scored with 4:28 to go, but the Amerks ultimately came up short of ending their five-game winless streak.
“It was not a perfect game but we can take some positives out of tonight’s game and into the rest of the weekend,” Taylor said. “Getting one point was big for our team as we are trying to get back on track. Any time we can get points, we are happy but we have to be ready for the rest of the weekend.”
The Amerks continue their last three-in-three of the campaign on Saturday, Jan. 18 when they face-off against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the PPL Center at 7:05 p.m. before closing the weekend Sunday night in Hershey against the Bears at 5:00 p.m. Both games will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: J. Gilmour (5), C. Mittelstadt (4), C. Smith (7)
CLE: R. MacInnis (4), T. Fix-Wolansky (3), K. Sherwood (5), M. Hannikainen (SO GWG)
ROC: U. Luukkonen – 23/26 (SOL)
CLE: V. Vehvilainen – 29/32 (W)
ROC: PP (2/6) | PK (7/8)
CLE: PP (1/8) | PK (4/6)
1. R. MacInnis (CLE)
2. J. Gilmour (ROC)
3. T. Fix-Wolansky (CLE)