By TODD ETSHMAN
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — There was something for everyone at Blue Cross Arena on Friday night: fast skating, offensive play that led to a dozen goals, a few scraps and more. It ended in a 7-6 shootout victory for the home team, their second shootout win in three days. Even the defense played well, at times anyway, despite the scoreboard lighting up like a pinball game bonus round.
It’s a shame the oldest rivalry in the AHL doesn’t get together more often. The Atlantic Division Hershey Bears make just one appearance in Rochester this season and it was one the fans and the players won’t soon forget.
“They’re a fun team to play against,” said team captain, Kevin Porter, who had a goal and an assist in the Amerks second period barrage. “They are high offense. They’re highly skilled, their power play is really good.”
The Amerks got to see that high powered offense execute early and often as the Bears jumped out to an early 3-0 lead less than seven minutes after the opening faceoff. It stayed that way until the Amerks exploded on offense in the second.
Goals by Six different Amerks brought them back and propelled them into a 6-4 lead at the second intermission. There wasn’t time to research the history books but unofficially that hasn’t happened since 2006.
The crowd of 6,622 gave the team a standing ovation as the they left the ice at the end of the period. But, the roller coaster ride continued into the third as Hershey shook off the deficit, kept the pressure on, outshot the Amerks, 12-6, and sent the game into overtime.
“Hershey is a good team. They always have been and they always will be,” said Amerks coach Chris Taylor, who, unlike most of his team, has seen the Bears many times in his career.
Surprisingly, there was little offensive action in the normally exciting three on three overtime. Young Amerk’s defenseman, Brendan Guhle, had a Bobby Orr-like end to end solo rush but Bears’ goalie Pheonix Copley stopped that one and the teams had to go to the shootout to decide things.
Forwards Eric Cornel and C.J. Smith scored shootout goals to win it for the home team. Cornel also scored the shootout winner in Utica on Wednesday night.
Cornell said he’s never really been a shootout specialist before but has been working on it and it’s paying off.
“I thought it was one of his best games of the year here tonight, defensively and offensively,” said Taylor.
The opportunity was there for Cornell to play more since Buffalo recalled Nick Baptiste on Wednesday.
Nearly everyone got on the score sheet for Rochester including Kyle Criscuolo, who had a goal and an assist on the night.
“Coming into the game , we knew they were a run and gun team. It’s not the type of game we want to play. I don’t think that’s how we’re built as a team but it’s a long season and we’re going to have to play different ways,” he said.
Despite the offensive production, Taylor said he looks at performance not points. The 6-4 Amerks head back to Utica for another game against the division foe Comets on Saturday.