Courtesy of Amerks.com
UTICA, N.Y. — Thanks in part to a pair of third-period goals from Victor Olofsson and Remi Elie, as well as a near-perfect performance from goaltender Scott Wedgewood, the Rochester Americans (34-17-3-2) closed out the month of February with a 3-1 victory over the North Division rival Utica Comets (29-21-5-2) Wednesday night at Adirondack Bank Center.
With the win, the Amerks have collected 27 out of a possible 38 points in their last 19 games and have notched 35 points in their last 26 dating back to a 4-0 shutout win in Cleveland on Dec. 26. More importantly, Rochester regained the top spot in the AHL’s North Division standings heading into this weekend’s crucial home-and-home series with the Syracuse Crunch to start the final full month of the 2018-19 regular season. The Crunch remain just two points back of the Amerks with two games in hand on Rochester.
Forwards C.J. Smith notched his 19th goal of the season and 26th point (13+13) in his last 22 games dating back to Dec. 5, while Olofsson and Elie rounded out the scoring for the Amerks. Olofsson grabbed a share of the team lead with his 21st goal of the campaign to go along with his team-high 26 assists and 47 points, whereas Elie extended his point streak to five games as he collected his fifth goal in the last seven games. Wedgewood earned his 13th win in the last 16 games and stopped 30 shots on the night. With his 21st victory of the season, which is second-most in the AHL, Wedgewood has established a new pro career-high in wins as he boasts a 21-9-2 record.
Reid Boucher tied his own franchise record with his 25th goal of the season to put Utica on the scoreboard while former Amerks netminder Michael Leighton made 29 saves but was handed his second straight loss.
Much like the second period where the Amerks broke a tie game in the first minute of play, the visitors did the same in the third frame, as Olofsson scored his 21st just 21 seconds in, thus giving Rochester a one-goal cushion.
The Amerks dumped the puck in the offensive zone, and as the puck made its way near the goal-mouth, Danny O’Regan, who was reassigned earlier in the day from the Buffalo Sabres, swiped it across the crease to Olofsson. The Swedish forward quickly flipped it into the net past Leighton for his 21st of the season from O’Regan and Rasmus Asplund.
Rochester then made it 3-1 score as Elie tucked a shot under the crossbar at the 6:55 mark. Sean Malone, playing in his 100th AHL game, earned the primary assist after the Buffalo native stepped in front of an outlet pass and handed Elie the puck near the Utica blueline.
The Comets attempted to mount a comeback as they were given their fourth power-play of the night before pulling Leighton for the extra attacker for the final two minutes, but Wedgewood stopped all 10 shots he faced during the period to preserve the win for Rochester.
The 3-1 victory gives the Amerks at least one point in 14 of the last 17 games against Utica dating back to the start of the 2017-18 campaign, going 9-3-2-3 over that span. Additionally, of Rochester’s 32 goals this season against the Comets, 13 have been scored while on the power-play.
Following a scoreless opening frame, the Amerks, who drew their first penalty of the night with 47 seconds left in the first period, capitalized on the carryover man-advantage as Smith blasted a slap-shot overtop the glove of Leighton. Matt Tennyson kept the puck from exiting the offensive zone connected with Smith just 55 seconds into the second stanza. With the goal, Smith has recorded 18 points (8+10) since Dec. 26 while being held without a point just once in his last 13 games.
As the middle frame was nearing the end, the Amerks were whistled for a cross-checking infraction and Utica needed only six seconds to tie the game as Boucher tallied his 25th of the slate at the 16:38 mark.
The two clubs entered the intermission break even at 1-1 before Rochester added a pair of goals during the final 20 minutes of play to pick up the win.
The Amerks begin the final full month of the 2018-19 campaign with a home-and-home set against the Syracuse Crunch beginning on Saturday, March 2 at the War Memorial Arena in Syracuse. Following the 7:00 p.m. meeting, the series will shift to The Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester on Sunday for a 3:05 p.m. matinee. Both North Division matchups will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: C.J. Smith (19), Olofsson (21 – GWG), Elie (5)
UTI: Boucher (25)
ROC: Wedgewood – 30/31 (W)
UTI: Leighton – 29/32 (L)
ROC: PP (1/3) | PK (3/4)
UTI: PP (1/4) | PK (2/3)