Courtesy of Amerks.com
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — After allowing a pair goals in each of the first and third periods in the second-leg of a two-game set with the Hartford Wolf Pack (14-14-1-2), the Rochester Americans (18-10-2-0) closed out their final game before the Christmas break on the wrong side of 5-1 decision Saturday at The Blue Cross Arena. The loss extends Rochester’s skid to a season-long three games.
Yannick Veilleux scored his second goal of the campaign during the final period while goaltender Adam Wilcox started the game in the Rochester crease before being replaced by Scott Wedgewood. Wilcox stopped 16 shots but was handed just his third regulation loss of the season while Wedgewood also made 16 saves in 20 minutes of relief duty for the Amerks, who despite the loss, have won seven of their last 12 games and maintain a three-point lead atop the AHL’s North Division standings heading into the annual break.
Former Amerk Cole Schneider and Peter Holland each recorded a three-point night as they both tallied a pair of goals and an assist in Hartford’s third straight win. Vinni Lettieri, who registered a season-high three points last night, collected a goal and a helper tonight to complete the scoring. Marek Mazanec made a season-best 40 saves to even his record to 5-5-2 in 12 contests.
Despite registering a season-high 23 shots on Mazanec in the first 20 minutes of the game, the Wolf Pack led after the opening frame on the strength of a pair of goals from Holland.
Skating with the puck along the right wall in the Amerks zone 11 minutes into frame, Matt Beleskey sent a shot towards Wilcox, but the initial attempt was flagged down by Holland. After successfully settling the puck, the Toronto native swept it past the diving glove-hand of the Rochester netminder.
Nearly five minutes after scoring his eighth goal of the season for Hartford, Holland added his second of the period at the 15:26 mark. While in the offensive zone, Ville Meskanen and Ryan Lindgren teamed up to support Holland’s second marker that snuck through the legs of Wilcox.
Hartford went into the intermission break with a two-goal cushion despite being outshot 23-13.
“It just didn’t seem to be our night,” said Amerks assistant captain and defenseman Nathan Paetsch. “We came out swinging with 23 shots in the first period. It might have been one of our best periods of the season, but for whatever reason, things just did not go our way.”
“We started off really well,” head coach Chris Taylor said. “Our whole game, we had 91 shot attempts, our most of the year, but we missed a lot of empty-nets, hit four posts. We are in one of those slumps right now and it happens in hockey and we just have to find our way out of it.”
The game tightened up defensively during the middle frame as the teams combined for 15 shots, but the Wolf Pack extended their lead in the final 10 seconds of play and carried a 3-0 lead into the dressing room.
On the ensuing face-off following an icing to the left of Wilcox, Hartford won the draw back to the top of the point. Wolf Pack blueliner Chris Bigras quickly fired a shot the caromed off an Amerk and back to the defenseman. Bigras followed his shot and sent the puck to the net-front, where Schneider shuffled a pass to a wide-open Lettieri atop the crease.
The Wolf Pack made it a 4-0 score 4:35 into the third period as Schneider hammered home his 10th goal of the season on a cross-ice pass from Lettieri and Steven Fogarty.
As Mazanec was eyeing his first shutout in nearly three seasons, Veilleux notched his second of the campaign as Eric Cornel fired a cross-ice pass to the forward at the 9:15 mark of the stanza. Tyler Randell recorded his first assist as an Amerk on the goal.
Hartford regained its four-goal cushion in the final minutes of regulation as Schneider stuffed in his team-leading 11th of the season on the power-play to secure the 5-1 win for Hartford.
“It will be good for the guys to get away from hockey,” Paetsch explained. “It’s a long season. There are ups and downs over the year and I thought we played the right way despite the score.”
“The break will be huge to take our minds off hockey,” said Veilleux. “It will be a time to enjoy time with our families and come back refreshed.”
The Amerks return from the Christmas break on Wednesday, Dec. 26 as they travel to Quicken Loans Arena to kick-off a stretch of three games in four nights against the Cleveland Monsters at 7:00 p.m. All of the action will be carried on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester and AHLTV.
ROC: Veilleux (2)
HFD: Holland (7, 8 – GWG), Lettieri (7), Schneider (10, 11)
ROC: Wilcox – 16/19 (L) | Wedgewood – 16/18 (ND)
HFD: Mazanec – 40/41 (W)
ROC: PP (0/3) | PK (2/3)
HFD: PP (1/3) | PK (3/3)