By: Liam Hoffmann
ROCHESTER, NY-- The Rochester Amerks tough stretch continued Wednesday night as the visiting Cleveland Monsters downed them 5-3. Amerk Dustin Tokarski saved 26 of Cleveland's 30 shots on goal on the night. But, Amerks penalty kill woes continued with three of the four Monsters' goals Tokarski allowed coming on the power play.
"[Tokarski] probably wants a couple of those back," Amerks head coach Seth Appert said. "A big piece of our penalty kill being so much better in the last six weeks is Ticker...your goalie always has to be your best penalty killer. Always, all the time."
From puck drop, and most especially in period one, Cleveland's defense did well to interrupt the puck control of the Amerks. The Amerks offense looked to push the pace, most apparently on the third line that features Jiri Kulich, Isak Rosen, and Linus Weissbach. With six minutes and change gone in period one, Brandon Biro slammed home a puck that was laid off by Lukas Rousek to get Rochester out to the early lead.
Two minutes later, Trey Fix-Wolansky capitalized on a Jeremy Davies tripping penalty, striking from the left side to knot things up. Davies was a driver for the Amerks in the game. From start to finish, he was aggressive in looking for his shot and insistent on creating opportunities for teammates.
"I'd go to battle with [Davies] any day," Appert said. "He's gonna give you everything he has, he gives his teammates absolutely everything he has."
Jacob Bryson was added to Rochester's lineup Wednesday, making his season debut with the team. This was his 67th game played with Rochester since his professional debut with them in 2019. Bryson looked comfortable with linemate Nikita Novikov despite their limited time on the ice together this year.
"I think [Novikov] is a good player and you can learn a lot," Bryson said. "I think he's gonna be a really good player in the future."
Jake Christiansen got the ball rolling on his four-point night with two and a half minutes left in period one as he hammered off a one-timer from near the right faceoff dot for the lead. A scrum between the Amerks and Monsters broke out as the buzzer rang marking the end of period one.
A Davies one-timer attempt was redirected by Brendan Warren behind Monsters' goalie Jet Greaves with four gone in period two. Warren returned to the lineup after being sidelined with a broken jaw since October 28th.
"Obviously it didn't go quite the way we wanted it to, but it felt good to be back with the team and playing some games," Warren said.
With the game tied, a few good Amerks chances over the next few minutes didn't amount to a go-ahead goal. Joseph Cecconi took a bad fall and left the game with medical staff seven minutes into the second. He was able to return in period three.
Less than 60 seconds into period three, Rousek scored a goal between the legs of Graves that tied the game once more. Carson Meyer answered back five minutes later with his 12th goal of the year, being assisted on by Christiansen and Justin Pearson.
Rochester was the aggressor for portions of period three. They knocked Monsters around at times. Davies was hit with an interference penalty after eight minutes and with two seconds remaining in the ensuing power play, Luca Del Bel Belluz scored from the left dot gaining the lead. This completed the perfect three-for-three power play night Cleveland had.
The Amerks could not muster up a game-tying score in the final minutes. Christiansen recorded his third assist and final point of the night on an empty net goal scored by Cole Clayton that put the Amerks away.
Rochester drops to 1-3-0-1 in their last five games after the loss. Special teams improvements will be pivotal to getting the Amerks back to consistent winning.
"I think we've definitely taken some strides the last few weeks," Biro said. "I thought we played really well five on five again tonight...sometimes we're kind of giving them easy offense. It's what we are doing to ourselves."
The Amerks are back at Blue Cross Arena Friday night, hosting the Providence Bruins at 7:05 p.m. The Monsters will be in Syracuse playing the Crunch Friday at 7:00 p.m.