Courtesy of Amerks.com
ROCHESTER, N.Y. –Thanks to a pair of goals by Eric Cornel late in regulation, the Rochester Americans (31-17-4-5) concluded their season-long six-game homestand with a 4-2 win over the Laval Rocket (26-24-5-3) Friday at The Blue Cross Arena.
With the victory, the Amerks stretched their point streak to seven straight games, including a 3-0-2-1 record during the homestand, and remain just six points back of the Belleville Senators for the North Division lead with a game in hand. Rochester also completed the four-game season-sweep versus the Rocket this season, outscoring Laval 17-6 while improving to 13-3-0 all-time against Montreal’s affiliate.
Cornel pushed his career-high in goals to 11 and 12 as he struck twice in the third period, first providing the go-ahead goal at the 14:44 mark before sealing the win with an empty-netter with seven seconds to spare in regulation. Casey Mittelstadt (1+1) and Taylor Leier (0+2) each produced a pair of points in the win while Remi Elie opened the scoring 2:10 into the contest as he added his seventh goal of the season. Goaltender Andrew Hammond improved to 15-11-3 on the slate as he made 34 saves in-between the pipes.
Forwards Nikita Jevpalovs and Laurent Dauphin both found the back of net for Laval, which saw its four-game point streak halted. First-year netminder Cayden Primeau (15-11-3) stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced but was dealt the loss.
The Amerks saw the Rocket erase their 2-0 goal lead during the second period and saw the visitors register eight of the first 10 shots in the final 20 minutes. After successfully killing off its fourth penalty of the night, Rochester pushed back and was rewarded as Cornel redirected in his 11th of the season and first of the night at the 14:44 mark.
The line trio of Cornel, Sean Malone and Scott Wilson and defensemen Will Borgen and Brandon Hickey kept the Rocket trapped inside their own zone for an extended shift. Hickey pinched down the from left point to prevent the puck from escaping across the blueline and Malone gathered a pass from Wilson behind the net. Malone continued to cycle the puck around the zone as he banked a pass to Borgen at the blueline. The second-year defenseman rifled a shot towards Primeau and appeared to net his first goal of the season only to have Cornel provide a last-second redirection to give Rochester a 3-2 lead.
“I tried to do what I always do,” said Cornel of what led to his first goal of the night. “I always want to work hard, get on the forecheck and make it hard on their defensemen.”
Laval attempted to force overtime and pulled its goaltender for the extra attacker in the final minute of regulation. The Rocket tried to dump the puck into the offensive zone, but Asplund and Leier both held the line before Cornel sealed the 4-2 victory as he scored into the vacant net.
“He has confidence and is making plays,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor of Cornel. “He is not just throwing pucks away and his wall play has been really good. Both he and Malone have been on a line together for much of the year and they have been really thriving and feeding off one another.”
“It’s nice to see them both get rewarded for their efforts,” Taylor continued.
In the opening period, after Elie gave Rochester an early one-goal lead, Mittelstadt notched his ninth of the campaign in the final minute of the frame from Jean-Sebastien Dea and Leier.
With his goal and assist tonight, Mittelstadt has 11 points (3+8) in 13 games during the month of February and shows eight points (2+6) over his last nine appearances. The former-first round selection and second-year pro has 20 points (9+11) since the turn of the New Year.
“At this point of the season, it always feels good when you can take the points as you can get them,” said Mittelstadt. “Leiersy kind of just threw the puck at the net and J-S made a great play knocking it out of midair. The rebound came right to me and I had nearly the whole net.”
The Rocket erased Rochester’s two-goal advantage during the second period on goals from Jevpalovs and Dauphin, but Cornel’s two goals in the final six minutes of regulation gave the Amerks the victory.
“I thought we had a good start,” said Taylor. “After their (first) goal and penalty it was a little tough, but we battled back on the penalty kill. We just hung in there, and while we made some mistakes, I thought Hammond played really well.”
“We fought back in the third period, which is nice, and found a way to capitalize on our opportunities,” Taylor added.
The Amerks conclude the month of February on Saturday, Feb. 29 against the Syracuse Crunch at Upstate Medical University Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start and will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.