By: Aiden Locke
ROCHESTER, NY --- The Rochester Americans dropped a tough North Division contest against Utica. The Comets' defense controlled the game from start to finish ending with a second shutout against Rochester this season. The game ended 4-0 despite a solid all-around effort from Rochester.
"Effort was good," Head coach Seth Appert said. "We competed hard. They had a little more nastiness around both nets which is always a difference maker."
The first period was as hard of a fight as they come for both sides. Rochester came out strong and aggressive in an extremely physical game for both sides from start to finish. Issac Poulter was a busy man in net for Utica facing ten first-period shots with numerous more blocked by skaters in front. Poulter was flawless all evening as he picked up his 11th win of the season.
"Poulter made some really tough saves in traffic," Appert said.
Devin Cooley got the call-in net for Rochester and put in one of his best performances of the season. He allowed three goals on 27 shots faced and made some highlight reel saves to keep Rochester within striking distance for 55 minutes. A late third-period goal by Utica winger Arnaud Durandeau gave the Comets a three-goal advantage with four and a half minutes remaining. This would be followed by an empty net goal two minutes later.
"I thought he (Cooley) was very good tonight," Appert said.
Once Utica established their one-goal advantage, they parked the bus on Rochester and smothered the Amerks attack time after time throughout the second and third periods. Rochester outshot Utica 22-15 in the final two periods of the night with many other shots being blocked by Utica, which could have made that a wider margin. Rochester's passing was a bit out of sync all night long as some errors and indecision with the puck also led to some additional missed opportunities for the Amerks.
The turning point in this contest came in the third period when Amerks forward Brendon Warren would score to make the game 2-1. However, after review, the goal was called off as the officials declared it was intentionally kicked in. Warren was sat in front of the Utica goal, a puck was thrown at the net from the blue line, Warren was shoved from behind while battling for position which sent him in the puck's path where it deflected off his skate and into the net.
"I didn't intentionally do anything," Warren said. "It just kind of hit my leg and whatnot but it is what it is."
The goal being called off sucked any potential momentum Rochester would have gained from that play out of the building.
"It was an important part of the game," Warren said. "If that counted, the last ten minutes of the third period were trying to make a push, I think maybe we can get some momentum and maybe they get on their heels, but it didn't go our way."
The shutout also saw Rochester forward Lukas Rousek's 13-game point streak, which was the longest active in the AHL and second longest all season, come to an end. Rousek had four goals and ten assists during the streak.
Utica's win in Rochester makes up for a loss against this same Rochester team just a week ago on their home ice. The season series between these two teams still favors Rochester. In six matchups Rochester is 4-2-1-0 against their in-state and North Division rivals.
The near future has a lot of important North Division matchups on the horizon for Rochester as Laval comes to town on Saturday night at 5:05 p.m. This stretch sees Rochester face eight straight North Division games with seven more coming up.
Rochester and Utica will meet again on February 14th at Blue Cross Arena.
For more on the Amerks check out the Flower City Sports podcast every Thursday at 11:00 p.m. on 89.1 FM or on Spotify.