Courtesy of Amerks.com
HARTFORD, CT — C.J. Smith and Eric Cornel each scored twice and Jonas Johansson stopped all but one of the 35 shots he faced as the Rochester Americans (28-13-3-1) closed out their three-game road swing with a convincing 4-1 victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack (19-23-3-2) at XL Center on Saturday night.
Along with the win, which gave Rochester the weekend sweep, the Amerks have collected 14 out of a possible 16 points during their current eight-game point streak and maintain their first-place lead atop the AHL’s North Division standings coming out of the All-Star break. The team has also notched 22 points in its last 15 games dating back to a 4-0 shutout win in Cleveland on Dec. 26.
With a three-point (2+1) night, Smith took over the team scoring lead on the season as he scored his 17thand 18 goals of the campaign to go with an assist while Cornel also bagged a pair of goals in the win. Johansson (3-1-0) was less than three minutes shy of earning his first-career AHL shutout but instead turned in a solid 34-save effort to improve to 4-1-0 through five appearances with Rochester this season.
Forward Ville Meskanen scored his 10th marker of the slate for Hartford, which dropped to 0-6-1-0 in its last seven games, while netminder Dustin Tokarski stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced but took the loss.
After serving an interference penalty in the early minutes of the contest, Smith collected a loose puck inside the center-ice circle and sprinted in all alone towards Tokarski. The second-year winger faked a shot to the left of the netminder before flipping in his first goal of the night four minutes into the opening stanza.
As the end of the first period was nearing, the Amerks doubled their lead as Cornel skated into the Wolf Pack zone on a 2-on-1 rush alongside Rasmus Asplund at the 15:21 mark. Cornel used Asplund as a decoy before snapping in his fifth goal of the campaign over the shoulder of the netminder.
The contest remained a two-goal game until Cornel netted his second of the tilt with 3:01 left regulation. Rochester pressured the Wolf Pack inside their own territory and while turning with the puck just inside the blueline, Smith flung it towards the net. Cornel, stationed in front of Tokarski, managed to redirect the offering from Smith through the pads of the Hartford netminder and watched as it slowly trickled its way past the goal-line, extending the Amerks lead to 3-0.
While Hartford avoided its second shutout of the season with Meskanen’s marker at the 17:40 mark of the third period, Smith sealed the 4-1 victory as he deposited his 18th goal of the season into a vacant net with 1:48 left in regulation.
With two goals tonight, Smith, who saw his career-long nine-game point streak halted last night, established a new career-high in goals (18) in 16 fewer games this season and has also recorded 22 points (11+11) in his last 16 games dating back to Dec. 14.
Rochester’s shorthanded unit went a perfect 2-for-2, and dating back to the turn of the New Year, has successfully killed off 31 of the 33 penalties in the last 12 games.
The Amerks return to action for a pair of home games beginning on Wednesday, Feb. 6 as they welcome the Syracuse Crunch to The Blue Cross Arena before hosting the Springfield Thunderbirds two nights later. Both of the 7:05 p.m. games can be heard live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: Smith (17, 18), Cornel (5 – GWG, 6)
HFD: Meskanen (10)
ROC: Johansson – 34/35 (W)
HFD: Tokarski – 24/27 (L)
ROC: PP (0/3) | PK (2/2)
HFD: PP (0/2) | PK (3/3)