Amerks comeback falls short in Syracuse

Courtesy of Amerks.com

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Despite erasing a two-goal deficit, the Rochester Americans (4-3-0-0) saw their comeback attempt fall just short in a 4-3 loss to the Syracuse Crunch (2-4-1-0) Monday afternoon at Upstate Medical University Arena.

The contest was the final of Rochester’s three-game road swing as well as the third of 12 scheduled meetings against the Crunch this season. Although the Amerks came away with victories in each of the previous two get-togethers against Syracuse, they suffered the loss today, pushing their record to 14-8-1-1 in their last 24 games against their longtime North Division rival.

Forward Ryan Scarfo (1+0) got the scoring started for the Amerks in the first period with his second goal of the season, and the second in as many games against Syracuse, while Michael Mersch (1+0), who appeared in his 400th professional game, and Andrew Oglevie (1+0) each scored on the power-play. Ryan Jones (0+1), Oskari Laaksonen (0+1), Jean-Sebastien Dea (0+1), Casey Fitzgerald (0+1), Brett Murray (0+1) and Arttu Ruotsalainen (0+1) all added assists, while rookie defenseman Griffin Luce (0+0) made his American Hockey League debut.

Goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (3-2-0) dropped his second straight game of the season while making 21 saves.

The Crunch offense was powered by a pair of AHL firsts, with Devante Stephens (1+1) and John Ludvig (0+1) notching their first in the league. Forward Otto Somppi (1+1) had his first multi-point outing of the season, while Peter Abbandonato (1+0) also netted his first of the season. In just his second game of the year, Spencer Martin (1-1-0) recorded his first win, stopping 31 of the 34 shots he faced in net.

After three consecutive goals, Syracuse took a 3-1 lead early on in the second period.

Stephens tacked on his second point of the night with his first goal in the American Hockey League, giving the Crunch their first lead in a game since their opening night contest against the Utica Comets. Just 4:44 later after adding an assist on the goal prior, Somppi added his second point of the night to give Syracuse a two-goal cushion and his first multi-point effort of the 2020-21 season.

As Rochester’s third power-play chance of the game ensued, they began to inch back at the Crunch lead at the 11:37 mark of the middle frame.

From just inside the blueline, Fitzgerald connected with Dea, who was positioned right above the left face-off circle. Dea then sniped a shot towards the Crunch net that Mersch redirected over the  blocker of Martin to pull Rochester within one.

With Mersch’s goal on the man-advantage, the Amerks have scored a power-play marker in seven of their last 11 games against Syracuse dating back to last season, going 9-for-37 (24.3%) over that span.

The Amerks then knotted the matchup in the third period with back-to-back power-play markers.

From outside the right face-off dot, Ruotsalainen sent a pass to Murray, who was stationed to the right of Spencer. Murray then set up Oglevie for a one-time feed that made its way through traffic and past the Syracuse netminder for his second goal of the year to make it a 3-3 game.

With just 5:31 to go in the third frame, the Crunch took their second lead of the game heading into the final minutes of the contest.

After battling for the puck in the near corner, Ryan Lohin (0+1) sent a pass to Ludvig in-between the face-off dots and he picked the upper corner over Luukkonen’s glove to seal the 4-3 win for Syracuse.

With a combined 18 shots in the first period between the two clubs, it was Rochester who lit the lamp first.

On a pass from Laaksonen in the defensive zone, Jones moved the puck up the ice until he could slip a pass to Scarfo. From the neutral zone, Scarfo then drove the puck to the left face-off dot and roofed a shot to get the Amerks on the board just 7:08 into the first stanza.

Syracuse evened up the score with 3:36 to go when Abbandonato tallied his first goal of the season and just his seventh in the AHL.

The Amerks return home on Wednesday, March 3 when they host the intrastate rival Utica Comets in a North Division showdown at The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start and will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.

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