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Amerks can't handle business at home

By: Liam Hoffmann

ROCHESTER, NY --- The Rochester Amerks will head to Syracuse tied at 1-1 in the North Division Semifinals after the 4-3 overtime loss Sunday afternoon. For the second straight game, Rochester went up 2-0 before surrendering the lead to Syracuse. Unlike Game 1, they were unable to prevail.

The Amerks had no multipoint scorers but got goals from Linus Weissbach, Mason Jobst, and Michael Mersch. Devon Levi recorded 30 saves on 34 shots faced allowing four goals in just under 71 minutes in net.

"We definitely don't want to hold on to, you know, these past two games, whether they're two wins, two losses or we split," Levi said. "It's kind of like a new series going into Syracuse: 0-0."

Devon Levi getting a save on April 28 2024. Photo Credit: Micheline Veluvolu via Rochester Americans Flickr

To start the game, neither side could move the puck very well with great off-puck defense being disruptive. Joseph Cecconi was pivotal for Rochester in slowing Syracuse. Six and a half minutes in, the Amerks saw their best chance to that point with Brandon Biro having an up-close one-on-one battle against goalie Brandon Halverson after a Rochester face-off win. Halverson got the necessary save. Minutes later, Mersch found Mason Jobst for a wide-open breakaway during a shift change but again, Halverson prevailed.

With 10 and a half minutes gone, the game's first penalty was called against Dylan Duke giving Rochester two minutes with a man-up. But, Mersch only needed 13 seconds to score. He sent an initial shot that was saved then after an intense scramble for the rebound by most of the skaters that were on the ice, he eventually was able to easily tap the puck in for the 1-0 lead.

Michael Mersch celebrating his first-period goal on April 28 2024. Photo Credit: Micheline Veluvolu via Rochester Americans Flickr

In the first period, the Crunch had only six shots on goal and only one in the final six minutes. Rochester ended the first with a pair of great chances that didn't convert; Isak Rosen had what would've been a grade-A chance in which he opted for the extra pass rather than the shot. Moments later, Jiri Kulich took a one-timer with all the space in the world that Halverson saved.

Syracuse's offense was more organized in the second. They matched their first-period total of six shots in only the first six minutes. Regardless, Levi largely kept things under wraps for Rochester.

13 minutes into the middle period, Rochester was shorthanded following a Graham Slaggert slashing penalty. With only a few seconds left in the man-down, Lukas Rousek got a piece of a Crunch pass and won the ensuing puck battle. With his face towards the boards, he quickly rotated around into a perfect feed to an all-alone Linus Weissbach who fired a slap shot into the goal for the Rochester insurance.

Linus Weissbach celebrating his second-period goal on April 28 2024. Photo Credit: Micheline Veluvolu via Rochester Americans Flickr

Early in this game, the scrums were more scarce and less lengthy than that of Game 1 of the series. After Weissbach's goal, that shifted. It started when Anton Wahlberg and Philippe Myers got into it behind the goal and everyone on the ice got involved. The rest of the second saw similar scrums.

"You know, that's what this rivalry is," Jobst said. "It's hard-fought and scrappy, we know that they're not going to give up (when facing) a two-goal lead."

Jordy Bellerive scored for the second straight game with less than a minute left. He fired from between the blue line and faceoff circle and downsized the goal deficit to one for the Crunch. Notably, after six shots on goal in the first six minutes, they managed only two more in the rest of the middle third.

Rousek had the first great scoring chance of the third period but it was turned away by a perfectly timed Crunch stick-poke on the puck. The Crunch had a very long possession around four minutes into the final frame, Levi managed back-to-back elite saves to start it. However, the Amerks didn't get possession back before Gage Goncalves shot from the far edge of the right faceoff circle for the tying goal.

Lukas Rousek with the puck on April 28 2024. Photo Credit: Micheline Veluvolu via Rochester Americans Flickr

In the first nine minutes of the period, the Amerks were outshot 5-to-1. The fifth Syracuse shot saw Sean Day get all alone following assists from Maxim Groshev and Gabriel Fortier and Day shot from inside the right faceoff dot for the go-ahead Crunch goal.

"They try to make you dump a lot of pucks and they were good at breaking things out and limiting our o-zone time and I think that's why we didn't have too many chances," Jobst said.

For several minutes, Rochester couldn't find a good shot. Their third shot on goal of the whole third period didn't come until 16 minutes in when 2024 team MVP Jobst skated from beyond the blue line toward the goal and utilized hesitation to get Halverson off-balance and beat him leveling the game at 3-3.

The Amerks' defense closed regulation out. On a Crunch breakaway, Noah Östlund made a perfect defensive play to disrupt things and prevent the goal. With around a minute left, Levi made two difficult saves to keep the game open and force OT.

The Amerks on the defensive end on April 28 2024. Photo Credit: Micheline Veluvolu via Rochester Americans Flickr

"In the third when it got tough, (Levi) made a couple of big saves to give us the chance to tie it," Amerks head coach Seth Appert said.

No team showed any advantage through the overtime period. Defense was good all around, the first high-quality opportunity was for Bellerive with a one-on-one against Levi where Levi made the save. Two minutes later, Justin Richards had a similar chance on the other end but it was saved as well. Declan Carlile and Alex Barré-Boulet assisted Gabriel Fortier on the eventual game-winner that set the series at 1-1.

Rochester and Syracuse will face off once again for game three in Syracuse on Thursday, May 2 at 7:00 p.m.

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