Amerks open New Year with overtime win in Belleville

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BELLEVILLE, ON — On the strength of multi-point efforts from Sean Malone and Jean-Sebastien Dea, and Remi Elie’s game-winning goal 1:01 into overtime, the Rochester Americans (21-8-2-2) opened the New Year with a 4-3 victory over the Belleville Senators (19-12-0-1) at CAA Arena Friday night.

The contest, which served as the third of a four-game North Division road swing for Rochester, was the second of the six-game season series after the Amerks claimed the first meeting between the two teams by way of a 4-3 score back on Dec. 27.

With the win, the Amerks snapped their three-game road losing skid while improving to 16-5-1-1 over their last 23 games dating back to Nov. 1, earning points in 18 games over that span. By way of Rochester’s win and a Utica loss Friday, the Amerks regained the top spot in the AHL’s North Division standings. Additionally, Rochester has picked up points in 23 of the last 30 contests overall, going 19-7-2-2, while also earning 46 out of a possible 66 points through its first 33 contests of the season.

Malone and Dea both turned in a goal and assist effort while Casey Mittelstadt scored his first goal with Rochester during the second period and picked up his third point (1+2) over his last four games. Elie, who returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing the previous 19 games due to injury, finished off the scoring in overtime with his third marker of the campaign.

Goaltender Jonas Johansson, who was one of two Amerks named to the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic earlier today, pushed his AHL career-best record to 11-2-2 on the season as he made 19 saves. Dating back to Nov. 13, the third-year netminder boasts a perfect 9-0-0 record with two shutouts, a 1.88 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage while allowing just two goals or less in six consecutive starts over that span.

Erik Brannstrom returned to Belleville after spending the majority of December with the Ottawa Senators and turned in a two-assist outing. Josh Norris, Alex Formenton and Drake Batherson all lit the lamp for Belleville while rookie goaltender Joey Daccord (5-1-2) suffered the overtime loss.

Despite outshooting Belleville 36-22, which included a 29-10 shot advantage over the last two periods, the game required overtime as the score was knotted at three at the end of 60 minutes.

As Lawrence Pilut backpedaled out of the Senators zone with the puck early in overtime, he dished a bank-pass to Dea along the near boards. Dea flagged it down to the left of Daccord and skated across the goal-mouth before firing a shot towards the cage. After collecting the rebound, Elie banked it off the side of the netminder and in to give the Amerks a 4-3 overtime win just 61 seconds into the extra period.

The victory gives Rochester a 6-0-2-0 record in the road portion of the all-time series with Belleville. It also gives the Amerks at least one point in 10 of the first 14 meetings with the Senators dating back to the 2017-18 season.

After falling behind Belleville 1-0 at the 8:11 mark of the opening period, the Amerks tied the game just 1:59 into the middle stanza as Eric Cornel set up Malone’s seventh tally of the season. It would be the first of three straight second-period tallies for Rochester.

The Senators reclaimed their one-goal lead with 11:54 to go in the second, but Rochester countered with a pair of markers to take a 3-2 lead into the third period.

Moments after Daccord turned aside Cornel on a grade-A scoring chance, Malone and Zach Redmond exchanged a give-and-go to enter the Belleville zone inside the 8:00 mark of the second. Malone fired a shot off the right pad of the netminder before Dea scooped up the rebound and slipped it inside the left goal post to even the score at 2-2 with his team-leading 11thgoal of the slate.

As the middle period was nearing its end, the Amerks appeared to give Belleville an opportunity to grab the lead going into the final 20 minutes of play as they were whistled for a high-sticking infraction. Despite being down a skater, Mittelstadt lifted the stick of Senators defenseman Jordan Murray as he attempted to begin the Belleville power-play from just inside his own blueline. With the puck on his stick and defenders behind him in pursuit, Mittelstadt raced in all alone towards Daccord and roofed a backhanded shot past the diving glove of the netminder for his first goal as an Amerk.

The Amerks took the 3-2 lead into the third period, but Batherson tied the game at three with 6:35 to play to force overtime. In the extra session, Dea and Elie connected for the game-winner just 1:01 into the frame to give the Amerks the 4-3 victory.

Rochester wraps up its four-game road swing on Saturday, Jan. 4 when the Amerks make their first trip back to Coca-Cola Coliseum since Game 3 of the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs for another go-around with the Toronto Marlies at 4:00 p.m. The North Division matchup will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.

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