Amerks end skid with bounce-back win over Syracuse

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. — In a game highlighted by near-perfect execution on special teams and a combined seven goals in the first period, the Rochester Americans (7-5-1-1) halted the Syracuse Crunch’s (8-6-1-0) five-game winning streak and ended a four-game winless streak of their own on Saturday with a 5-3 victory at Upstate Medical University Arena.

The contest was Rochester’s second meeting in just as many days against Syracuse and was the seventh of 12 scheduled matchups between the two clubs this season. The Amerks are 16-9-2-1 in their last 28 contests against Syracuse and have taken four of the first seven contests against the Crunch this season.

Brett Murray (2+1) powered the Amerks offense by notching a point on three of the team’s four goals of the night, marking the first three-point effort of his career. Arttu Ruotsalainen (1+2) had a three-point night as well, picking up his second straight multi-point effort and earning his fourth goal in six games. Rochester newcomer Griffin Luce (1+0) scored his first pro goal, which proved to be the eventual game-winner, while fellow rookie Jack Quinn (1+1) posted his first multi-point game. Dominic Franco (0+1), Oskari Laaksonen (0+2), Andrew Oglevie (0+1) and Mattias Samuelsson (0+1) all added assists on throughout the contest.

Goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (6-4-1) made his third consecutive start in the crease for Rochester and stopped 25 of the 28 shots he faced.

Now 14 games into the campaign, Rochester’s power-play has gone 19-for-59 with a 32.2% conversion rate that is currently tops in the AHL. The Amerks’ 19 goals are also tied for most in the league with the Chicago Wolves, who have played in three more games than Rochester.

The Amerks have scored at least one power-play goal in 12 of their first 14 games this season and have registered multiple power-play tallies in three of their last eight outings overall.

The Crunch offense was led by both Boris Katchouk (1+1) and Alex Barre-Boulet (1+0), who notched their sixth goals of the season, respectively. Henry Bowlby (1+0) scored his second of the season and the first goal of the night’s high-scoring contest.

Syracuse goaltender Spencer Martin (2-2-0) made his fifth start of the year and made 22 saves.

The scoring frenzy began just 1:40 into the contest as Bowlby broke to the net to find the first of three markers for the Crunch in the opening period.

The lead would be short-lived, however, as Ruotsalainen netted his fifth of the season and second in as many nights against the Crunch to make it a 1-1 game. After taking a pass up the left-wing boards from Samuelsson, Ruotsalainen unleashed a shot from just inside the Syracuse blueline that completely handcuffed Martin as it sailed over his right shoulder and into the upper corner.

The Amerks then set out on their first power-play opportunity of the night, which quickly turned into five-on-three two-man advantage, and Murray seized the opportunity with back-to-back goals 50 seconds apart while on the man-advantage.

The first of two power-play markers came from a pass exchange between Ruotsalainen and Quinn, who sat above the face-off dots in the offensive zone. When Quinn saw that Murray was positioned to the right of the Crunch crease, he sent a pass his way, which Murray in turn backhanded into the net to put the Amerks up by one.

Just 50 seconds later, Murray then lit the lamp for the second time of the night on the man-advantage for his second multi-goal game of his AHL career.

Ruotsalainen sat in the right face-off dot, taking his time before deciding where to send his perfectly placed pass in order to take advantage of the remainder of Rochester’s second power-play opportunity. This time, though, Murray was stationed to the left of the Crunch net as he received Ruotsalainen’s pass and tipped it in to push it past Martin for his second of the game.

The Amerks have now scored a power-play goal in 11 of their last 15 games against Syracuse dating back to last season, going 18-for-58 (31.0%) with the man-advantage over that span and have scored 11 power-play goals on their 27 chances against Syracuse this season.

Katchouk then pulled Syracuse within one almost a minute after the Amerks back-to-back powerplay markers, extending his goal streak to five games and making it a 3-2 score.

Luce restored Rochester’s two-goal lead in the first. As Franco swiveled a pass from behind the Syracuse net, Murray was waiting on the right-wing boards, where he’d pick up the pass and fire a shot towards the Crunch net. As the rebound from Murray floated out between the face-off dots, Luce capitalized on a clear lane to the net and snapped home his first pro goal.

The Crunch, however, would not go into the first intermission without finding the back of the net once more in the first, making the score 4-3 before the period’s end.

After a strong first stanza and a combined seven goals between the two teams, the second period would fate much different. Both teams fell silent as Rochester was held to just seven shots on goal and Syracuse 11.

In the final frame, Quinn gave the Amerks a two-goal lead as they added another man-advantage marker to the final scoreline, making them a near-perfect 3-for-4 on the power-play for the night.

Driving the puck through the neutral zone, Oglevie found Quinn making his way up the right boards and shifted the puck his way. Quinn accepted the pass in stride and roofed a backhanded shot with 4:35 remaining in regulation to secure the 5-3 win for Rochester.

The Amerks return home on Wednesday, April 7 for another go-around with the Crunch at The Blue Cross Arena to finish off their three-game series with a 7:05 p.m. face-off. All of the action will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.

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