Amerks blitz Bears, take Game 1
By: Mike Rose
The Rochester Americans continued their winning ways as they went on the road and defeated the Hershey Bears 5-1 in Game One of the Calder Cup Eastern Conference Finals. Rochester has now rattled off seven consecutive wins in the playoffs after falling behind the Syracuse Crunch two games to none in the North Division Semifinals.
The Amerks came flying out of the gates. It took just fourteen seconds before Joeseph Cecconi rifled one past Bears goalie Hunter Sheppard to make it 1-0. It was Cecconi's second goal of the postseason with Brett Murray and Michael Mersch being credited with the assists. On his birthday, Cecconi was happy to get his team going early on.
"We want to have an aggressive start just jumped on them right off the bat there. Puck in the neutral skate, Murr chipped it up and just skated through the middle, used the defenseman as a screen, and just shot it," Cecconi said.
From there, Hershey would begin to find their legs a bit and generate a number of quality opportunities. Unfortunately for the Bears, Malcolm Subban answered the bell at every challenge. Subban supplied his biggest save on a clean breakaway chance for Garrett Pilo.
"Just tried to stretch out I think I got a piece of the stick to not let that get over my pad and then we go right back down and score so it's huge. Everyone's clicking right now and it's been great," Subban said.
Murray would be the man to deliver on the other end. He was able to deflect a perfect pass from Mersch into the back of the net to make it 2-0. The Amerks would kill off a late Hershey powerplay chance and take the two-goal lead into the locker room after one.
The second period was much of the same for Rochester. Just 1:42 into the second it was another defenseman, Matt Bartkowski, who ripped a slap shot cleanly past Sheppard to make it a 3-0 game. Five minutes later Mason Jobst was able to dance cleanly into the slot and bury one into the top corner and make it a 4-0 game. The Amerks would record the first nine shots of the second and chase Shepard who was replaced by Zach Fucale following the fourth goal. The goalie change and a penalty kill seemed to provide some life for the Bears. However, even aided by a late power play they could not beat Subban who carried his shutout into the final period.
In the third period, things were quiet until a scuffle in the crease between Cecconi and Morelli eight minutes in triggered minor penalties both ways. In the ensuing four-on-four action the Bears finally broke through on a backdoor feed from Logan Day found the stick of Aaron Ness all alone behind Subban. The goal lit a fire under Hershey for the final 10+ minutes of play but they wouldn't net another in the game. Lucas Rousek put the finishing touches on the victory with an empty net goal as Rochester took the first game of this best-of-seven series.
The Amerks got some offensive support once again from the blue line. Jeremy Davies recorded a pair of assists along with goals from Cecconi and Bartkowski. Head coach Seth Appert reiterated the importance of the offense his defense core has provided.
"It's been critical for us and it's been all year and we've needed it," Appert said. "We believe we have a d-core that could do those things, that can jump up in the play. There have been the normal guys who do it. You see more of Davies, Pilot, and Prow but tonight it was great to see Checonni do it. We talk all the time we want to be a team that plays fast and to be able to do that you have to have interchangeable parts. If a defenseman is up on the rush he needs to exceute a line rush like a forward would and the forward needs to cover back and play defense for him. That is the only way we can play with the pace that we want to play with."
Up front, Murray (1G, 1A) and Mersch (2A) also recorded multi-point efforts for an Amerks team that has now scored five or more goals in five games this postseason. It was also only the second game this postseason where Rochester held the opposition to one goal or fewer. Rochester will look to take a stranglehold on the series in Game Two Thursday night with puck drop scheduled for 7 pm in Hershey.