(Rochester, NY) … Two days after scoring his first professional goal for the Rochester Americans (30-17-3-4), rookie defenseman Jacob Bryson delivered the game-winner just 35 seconds into overtime to cap a two-point night and give the Amerks a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (23-24-2-6) Friday at The Blue Cross Arena.
With the win, the Amerks remain in second place in the AHL’s North Division standings and evened their record to 7-7-1-1 in the last 16 meetings with Lehigh Valley dating back to the start of the 2015-16 campaign.
Bryson produced a two-point effort with a goal and an assist while forwards C.J. Smith and Sean Malone each scored their 11th goals of the season for Rochester. Goaltender Andrew Hammond improved to 14-11-2 on the slate as he made 29 saves in-between the pipes.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Kurtis Gabriel tallied his fourth marker while Mikhail Vorobyev scored his 11th late in the third period to force overtime for Lehigh Valley. Netminder Alex Lyon (10-13-4) stopped 32 of the 35 but suffered the loss in the extra stanza.
The game seemed destined to go beyond regulation as the two teams were deadlocked at one in the final minute of the third period. In nearly identical goals, both Malone and Vorobyev found a loose puck out in-front of the goal-mouth before scoring for their respective teams to send the contest into overtime as they both scored in the final minute and 20 seconds apart from one another.
“I saw the puck go through our defenseman and forward’s legs and decided to step up,” said Malone when talking about his goal. “I knew I had an opportunity to shoot the puck and fortunately it went into the net.”
WATCH: JACOB BRYSON POST-GAME
After Rasmus Asplund won the opening draw back to Bryson, the duo, along with Casey Mittelstadt, traded passes to enter the Phantoms zone. Asplund and Mittelstadt crossed paths before Mittelstadt attempted a backhanded shot to the left of Lyon. The netminder made the initial stop only to have Bryson flip the rebound to the top corner to give Rochester a 3-2 overtime victory just 35 seconds into the frame.
“It was all about getting to the net tonight,” explained Bryson. “Mittsy made a great play getting there and I was kind of in the right spot at the right time for the goal. I just drove to the net and was able to find the puck.”
“He is getting more and more confidence,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor when talking about his young 22-year old defenseman who now has goals in back-to-back games. “Any time you get rewarded with goals it can sort of give you the lift off. You see that with Jacob and now you can see him jumping up into the play. He is quick enough and smart enough that he can recover and get back into the play if needed.”
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR POST-GAME
For the third game of the homestand, the Amerks opened the scoring early in the contest. On the first power-play 3:19 into the game where Asplund secured the draw back to Bryson, Jean-Sebastien Dea sent a cross-crease pass to Smith, who was stationed below the right face-off dot of the Phantoms zone. Smith fired the one-time feed and perfectly tucked the puck inside the near post to give Rochester a one-goal cushion just seven seconds into the man-advantage.
Smith’s tally held as the only marker of the game until Gabriel evened the contest 3:35 into the final stanza.
It appeared Lehigh Valley was gaining momentum from the goal and had its best chance to take the lead with a 5-on-3 two-man advantage opportunity following consecutive penalties to Rochester. Hammond, however, made several game-saving stops to keep the game tied.
WATCH: ANDREW HAMMOND POST-GAME
“It’s one of those things where you could feel them gaining some energy,” said Hammond. “As a goaltender, you feel if you can help bail your team out then maybe we could go the other way. It’s my job to make the saves, and sometimes it’s maybe harder than others, but you just try to do what you can do to bail the team out.”
In the final minute of regulation, Malone temporarily gave Rochester a 2-1 lead as he buried the puck over the left shoulder of Lyon from Andrew Oglevie and Bryson. The Phantoms countered back and forced overtime as Vorobyev slipped a shot under the pad of Hammond at the 19:28 mark.
“Hammond made some big saves for us,” added Taylor. “I thought our ‘D’ played really well tonight and they contained Lehigh Valley. It was a strange play as Hammond tried to slide across the crease, but the puck bounced off the stick and right to their guy.”
WATCH: SEAN MALONE POST-GAME
During the extra frame, Bryson completed his two-point night as he sealed the 3-2 overtime win.
Rochester’s homestand continues as they close out the weekend on Saturday, Feb. 22 when they welcome the North Division rival Cleveland Monsters back to The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start and will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: C. Smith (11), S. Malone (11), J. Bryson (2 – OT GWG)
LV: K. Gabriel (4). M. Vorobyev (11)
ROC: A. Hammond – 29/31 (W)
LV: A. Lyon – 32/25 (OTL)
ROC: PP (1/4) | PK (5/5)
LV: PP (0/5) | PK (3/4)
1. J. Bryson (ROC)
2. S. Malone (ROC)
3. M. Vorobyev (LV)