Courtesy of Amerks.com
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Despite a pair of goals from Victor Olofsson, the Rochester Americans (45-23-5-2) saw the Syracuse Crunch (47-21-4-3) claim the North Division title with a 4-3 win on Saturday night at the War Memorial Arena.
Despite the road loss, just the ninth in regulation away from The Blue Cross Arena this season for the Amerks, Rochester secured a second-place finish in the AHL’s North Division, setting up a first-round matchup with the defending champion Toronto Marlies for the start of the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Amerks concluded a 12-game head-to-head series with the Crunch earning at least one point in eight contests while showing a record of 6-4-1-1.
With Olofsson’s 29th and 30th goals of the season, he becomes the first Amerks skater to score 30 goals in a season since Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville both reached the mark during the 2004-05 campaign. Former Crunch forward Dalton Smith rounded out the scoring for Rochester, which has points in eight of the last 10 games. Goaltender Scott Wedgewood (28-14-5) stopped 28 of the 31 shots he faced but was dealt with the loss.
Forwards Taylor Raddysh and Mitchell Stephens each turned a two-point (1+1) for the Crunch, who claimed their second F.G. (Teddy) Oke Trophy in the last three seasons as the North Division champions. Carter Verhaeghe and Gabriel Dumont completed the scoring while netminder Eddie Pasquale made 23 saves to earn his second win in as many nights.
With the game tied at two late in the third period, it seemed as if the contest was destined to go beyond regulation. However, Alex Barre-Boulet, named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team earlier this week, forced a turnover inside the Amerks zone and connected with Verhaeghe in-between the face-off circles. Without hesitation after receiving the pass, Verhaeghe fired a shot that glanced off the left post and behind Wedgewood with 3:21 left in regulation.
Less than 80 seconds later and facing a one-goal deficit, Rochester pulled its goaltender but Dumont raced down a loose puck and flipped into the cage formerly occupied by Wedgewood to put the Crunch up 4-2.
While Smith was able to bring Rochester within a goal as he scored his second of the campaign fromYannick Veilleux and Eric Cornel, it was too little, too late, as the Amerks could not complete the comeback.
The scoring started in the first period of play as the two intrastate rivals exchanged goals 47 seconds apart midway through the frame.
Less than a minute after Wedgewood stopped Dennis Yan on a breakaway, the Amerks drew the game’s first power-play with 12:06 remaining in the opening stanza. As the infraction was nearing its end, Danny O’Regan stripped a Crunch player of the puck and sent a cross-crease pass onto the stick of Olofsson. After maneuvering to avoid a sliding defender, the Swedish forward ripped a shot into the top corner of the net to give the Amerks a 1-0 lead.
Rochester’s lead was short-lived, however, as Syracuse tied the contest nearly a minute later when Raddysh corralled a wobbling puck after it went over the shoulder of Wedgewood and flipped it into the net at the 10:26 mark of the first period.
The contest remained knotted up at 1-1 until just 2:30 into the third period as each side scored 17 seconds after one another.
With the puck to the left of Amerks zone, Stephens swiped his stick at the puck and it caromed off a Rochester skater and made its way across the goal-line to give Syracuse its first lead of the night.
On the ensuing shift, rookie defensemen Kurt Gosselin, who notched his first assist as an Amerk last night, dumped the puck in front of Pasquale. Rasmus Asplund tracked the puck down and handed it to Olofsson at the left corner. From nearly an impossible angle, Olofsson banked a shot off the netminder from the near corner that managed to sneak through to even the score yet again.
Syracuse added a pair of markers in a span of 77 seconds to take the lead for good before Smith closed out the scoring in the final minute of regulation.
The Amerks close out the 2018-19 regular season with a 2:00 p.m. matinee against the Belleville Senators on Sunday, April 14 at CAA Arena. The North Division matchup will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: Olofsson (29, 30), Dalton Smith (2)
SYR: Raddysh (18), Stephens (11), Verhaeghe (34), Dumont (15 – GWG, EN)
ROC: Wedgewood – 28/31 (L)
SYR: Pasquale – 23/26 (W)
ROC: PP (1/2) | PK (2/2)
SYR: PP (0/2) | PK (1/2)