Courtesy of Amerks.com
LAVAL, QUE — For the second consecutive game, the Rochester Americans (22-11-2-0) erased a deficit before completing the come-from-behind win in a shootout. Friday night’s 3-2 five-round shootout win against the Laval Rocket (14-16-3-3) at Place Bell served as the first leg of a back-to-back set between the two North Division opponents.
With the victory, Rochester retains its two-point lead atop the AHL’s North Division standings heading into Saturday’s rematch with the Rocket. The Amerks have won four of their last five games and 11 of their last 17 contests overall. Rochester also became the fifth team in the Eastern Conference this season to reach double digits in road wins (10) while its three regulation losses are tied for fewest in the entire AHL.
Forward Judd Peterson, who made his Amerks debut after being recalled earlier this week from the ECHL, and Alexander Nylander both lit the lamp for the Amerks while netminder Scott Wedgewood turned in a 22-save effort to push his record to 13-6-1 on the season. Rochester also improved to 8-2-0 in its last 10 meetings with Laval dating back to the 2017-18 season, which includes a perfect 5-0-0-0 mark inside Place Bell.
David Sklenicka and Alex Belzile scored for the Rocket, who came into the matchup with a 6-3-0-1 record in their last 10 games, while goaltender Michael McNiven appeared in his first game with Laval in since Dec. 21. The goaltender, who was reassigned earlier this week from Mobtreal, stopped 32 of 34 shots he faced but was handed the loss.
As the game remained tied 2-2 after regulation and a five-minute overtime period, a shootout was needed to determine the outcome. The contest was the second straight game in which the Amerks were involved in the skills competition while it was Laval’s first since mid-December.
Laval elected to shoot first in the shootout, and with the exception of Belzile in third-round, the four other skaters were denied by Wedgewood. Rochester’s Wayne Simpson beat McNiven in the second round but because of Belize’s goal, the shootout continued until Nylander ended the five-round skills competition as he roofed a backhanded shot under the crossbar.
Other than each team drawing a penalty in the opening frame, the first period of play seemed to be a uneventful as both the Amerks and Rocket appeared to enter the break scoreless. However, Sklenicka gave Laval a late one-goal with just three seconds to play in the period.
As time was dwindling down in the first period, defenseman Maxim Lamarche fired a shot wide of the net only to have the rebound carom around the wall and onto the stick of Sklenicka. The blueliner skated down the boards before slapping a shot over the glove of Wedgewood for his second of the season.
Midway through the second period, Laval was whistled for an interference penalty and the Amerks seized the opportunity as Nylander knotted the game at 1-1 with his eighth of the season from Brendan Guhle and Zach Redmond.
The Rocket, however, quickly responded as they drew their own power-play and regained a 2-1 lead just 21 seconds into the infraction. With the puck at the top of the point, Xavier Ouellet fired a shot off the end boards, and after Daniel Audette fanned on the shot, Belzile tallied his seventh of the season at the 11:35 mark.
While facing a 2-1 deficit in the final minute of the period, Peterson received a bank-pass from Redmond as he made his way through the neutral zone. While Danny O’Regan drove the center lane into the zone, Peterson flipped a pass from the right half-wall in the direction of O’Regan. As a Rocket defender attempted to take away O’Regan’s stick, the puck glanced off his stick and snuck inside the near post with 49 seconds left.
The goal was Peterson’s first-career American Hockey League point.
Rochester tried to avoid the overtime period as they outshot Laval 12-3 during the final 20 minutes of regulation, but the contest was decided in the five-round shootout.
Following a quick turnaround, the Amerks and Rocket meet again on Saturday, Jan. 5 for a 3:00 p.m. matinee. The rematch from Place Bell will be the third of four meetings between the North Division rivals this season before one final get-together in Rochester on Mar. 29. Saturday’s action will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester and can also be viewed on AHLTV.
ROC: Nylander (8, SO GWG), Peterson (1)
LAV: Sklenicka (2), Belzile (7)
ROC: Wedgewood – 22/24 (W)
LAV: McNiven – 32/34 (SOL)
ROC: PP (1/2) | PK (1/3)
LAV: PP (2/3)| PK (1/2)