Courtesy of Amerks.com
CLEVELAND, OH — The Rochester Americans (19-10-2-0) ended their season-long three-game skid in a monstrous way, scoring three power-play goals behind a 31-save shutout from goaltender Scott Wedgewood to cruise to 4-0 win over the Cleveland Monsters (16-11-4-0) in their first game back from the Christmas break Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena. Rochester becomes the first team in the American Hockey League’s North Division this season to reach the 40-point plateau as tonight’s win was the Amerks’ fourth consecutive of the campaign over Cleveland and second straight at the Quicken Loans Arena.
With the victory, Rochester has won eight of its last 13 games and remains in first place in the North Division standings with a two-point lead over the Syracuse Crunch entering the final week of the 2018 calendar year.
Forwards C.J. Smith and Kyle Criscuolo each collected a multi-point night as the duo tallied a goal and an assist while Victor Olofsson registered a pair of helpers for the Amerks, who improved to 24-5-2-3 in their last 34 games against the Monsters since the start of the 2011-12 season.
Alexander Nylander and Wayne Simpson rounded out the scoring while Wedgewood stopped all 31 shots he faced to record his third shutout of the year and 10th win of the slate. The netminder boasts a 10-6-1 record in 19 appearances this season and is one shutout shy of tying a career-best that he set during the 2013-14 season.
Dan DeSalvo and Dillon Simpson each had five shots on goal for Cleveland, which entered the contest winners of its last three games and had points in its last four outings. Netminder Matiss Kivlenieks made his third consecutive start but was dealt the loss as he made 27 saves on the night.
Nearly seven minutes into a fast-paced opening frame, the Amerks drew the game’s first penalty of the night at the 6:14 mark. Rochester controlled much of the time with the extra skater before Justin Bailey centered a pass to Brendan Guhle atop the blueline. Guhle flung a shot towards the Monsters net, and with traffic in front of Kivlenieks, Nylander swept the puck into the net to break the scoreless tilt.
Nylander’s goal at the 7:35 mark held up as the game-winner as the Amerks led 1-0 after the first 20 minutes of play while Guhle and Bailey recorded the assists on the power-play goal.
In the middle frame, the Amerks drew a pair of penalties in succession before Smith doubled Rochester’s lead with his 12th goal of the season with 4:20 left in the stanza. Olofsson, who earned the secondary helper on the power-play goal, fired a shot from the left point before Danny O’Regan dished a pass across the zone to Smith at the point. Smith took a few more strides before wiring a shot past Kivlenieks to give the visitors a 2-0 advantage.
The goal was Smith’s 12th of the season and 25th point overall on the year, which tops all Rochester skaters. Rochester carried a 2-0 lead into the final 20 minutes of regulation.
The Amerks continued to pad their lead in the early stages of the final frame when Criscuolo won a face-off to the left of the Monsters net and slid a pass to Simpson. As he found himself all alone in front of Kivlenieks, Simpson tucked a backhanded shot into the cage for his 10th goal of the season 4:09 into the period.
With a three-goal cushion, the Amerks capped off the scoring near the 10-minute mark as Criscuolo slipped a shot inside the left post from Olofsson and Smith.
Criscuolo’s second goal of the year was Rochester’s third power-play tally of the night while Olofsson earned his sixth multi-point effort of the campaign. The Swedish forward is second among all Amerks with 26 points in his first season in the AHL.
Looking to spoil Wedgewood’s bid for a shutout, the Monsters recorded 11 shots during the final 20 minutes of regulation, but the goaltender’s best save of the night came in the last 30 seconds as he turned aside Alex Broadhurst’s breakaway chance to preserve the 4-0 victory.
The Amerks close out their home portion of the 2018 calendar year on Friday, Dec. 28 when they host the defending Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies for a North Division matchup at 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: Nylander (8 – GWG), C.J. Smith (12), Simpson (10), Criscuolo (4)
ROC: Wedgewood – 31/31 (W)
CLE: Kivlenieks – 27/31 (L)
ROC: PP (3/6) | PK (4/4)
CLE: PP (0/4)| PK (3/6)