Courtesy of Amerks.com
TORONTO, ONT. — With three goals during the third period, including a pair from leading point-getter Victor Olofsson, the Rochester Americans (40-21-3-2) defeated the North Division rival Toronto Marlies (35-21-6-4) by way of a 5-2 victory Saturday night at Coca-Cola Coliseum in the first game of the back-to-back meetings north of the border.
The win snaps Rochester’s three-game skid and moves the Amerks to within three points of the Syracuse Crunch for the North Division lead. The team has also earned 39 out of a possible 58 points in its last 29 games and has won five of its last eight heading into tomorrow’s rematch with the defending Calder Cup champion Marlies.
The Amerks, who became the third different AHL team this season to reach the 40-win mark, have won seven of the first eight meetings in the head-to-head series while outscoring Toronto 38-23 over that span. Rochester head coach Chris Taylor also becomes the first bench boss to lead his team to the 40-win mark since Benoit Groulx in the 2009-10 season.
As Olofsson turned in his team-leading 15th multi-point effort of the season, which featured his ninth game-winning goal that ties him with teammate Zach Redmond for most in the league, Remi Elie (1+1), Kyle Criscuolo (1+1) and Danny O’Regan (0+2) all recorded a two-point outing for the Amerks. C.J. Smith sealed the win with his 24th goal of the campaign while goaltender Scott Wedgewood improved to 26-12-2 as he made 23 saves. The sixth-year netminder has won eight of his last 11 games and 16 of his last 23 appearances overall.
Timothy Liljegren posted two assists for Toronto, which remains five points behind the Amerks for third place in the AHL’s North Division. Chris Mueller and former Amerk Nick Baptiste put the Marlies on the board while goaltender Michael Hutchinson stopped 27 of the 31 shots he faced but took the loss.
With the game tied at 2-2 to begin the final period of regulation, Olofsson scored a pair of tallies 3:16 apart to give the Amerks a 4-2 lead at the 8:51 mark of the stanza. Both of Olofsson’s goals from O’Regan were nearly mirror images of each other. Moments before each goal, O’Regan forced a turnover inside the Marlies zone before handing Olofsson a pass which the Swedish forward converted on from in-between the face-off dots.
Rochester iced the 5-2 win with 2:51 left in regulation as Smith tucked the puck into the vacant net as Hutchinson was pulled for the extra attacker. With his 24th goal of the slate from Kevin Porter and Taylor Leier, Smith, who has 53 points (24+29) in 53 games this season, has collected 36 points (18+18) over his last 32 games dating back to Dec. 5.
Two minutes after the Marlies took a 1-0 lead, the Amerks quickly evened the score with 3:09 left in the opening 20 minutes of play. Criscuolo dumped the puck into the offensive zone before forcing a Toronto skater behind his own net. Wayne Simpson joined the two players and dished a centering pass onto the stick of Elie parked to the left of Hutchinson. Elie received the pass and quickly fired it past the blocker of the netminder.
The Amerks used the momentum of Elie’s seventh goal of the year and took their first lead of the contest just 1:54 into the second period when Criscuolo tipped in a Jack Dougherty point shot for his fifth of the campaign.
Rochester held a 2-1 advantage for the next dozen minutes, but the Marlies tied the contest just five seconds after a holding penalty to Andrew MacWilliam had expired as Baptiste got a piece of a Pierre Engvall shot to even the game at two before the end of the second period.
The Amerks, who successfully killed off a Toronto two-man advantage for 52 seconds prior to the third period, tallied three straight unanswered goals over the final 20 minutes to defeat the Marlies 5-2.
Following a quick turnaround, the Amerks and Marlies wrap up their season series on Sunday afternoon with a 5:00 p.m. rematch at Coca-Cola Coliseum. The North Division matchup will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV. Additionally, the game will air live on the NHL Network.
ROC: Elie (7), Criscuolo (5), Olofsson (26 – GWG, 27), Smith (24 – EN)
TOR: Mueller (29), Baptiste (13)
ROC: Wedgewood – 23/25 (W)
TOR: Hutchinson – 27/31 (L)
ROC: PP (0/3) | PK (5/5)
TOR: PP (0/5) | PK (3/3)