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Amerks' rally falls short

Updated: Mar 24

By: Liam Hoffmann

ROCHESTER, NY-- The Rochester Amerks escaped Friday night with a point after the 2-1 shootout loss at the hands of the Toronto Marlies. Goalie Michael Houser played his first AHL game since Nov. 1 for Rochester and gave up only one regulation goal.

"The beauty of Housey is he's seen everything, everything imaginable in pro hockey at every level," Amerks head coach Seth Appert said. "He's always ready. He prepares every day like he's gonna play that night in the NHL."

Michael Houser on March 22, 2024. Photo Credit: Micheline Veluvolu, Rochester Americans via Flickr

In his first game action in almost two weeks, Linus Weissbach scored the only goal for the Amerks. Houser recorded 19 saves while facing 20 shots. The assisters for Rochester were Tyson Kozak and Ryan Johnson. No Amerks scored in the shootout.

Dennis Hildeby was between the poles for Toronto and saved 31 of the 32 shots he faced plus denied all Amerks in the shootout.

"There's a reason he's a high-end goalie and a high-end prospect of their organization," Appert said. "He's got pride too. He's a really talented goalie."

Dennis Hildeby on March 22, 2024. Photo Credit: Liam Hoffmann, 89.1 the Point

Rochester's offense was in control early in period one. They matched the physical play style presented by Toronto and played a more technical game. Through half of the first, the Amerks had fired four shots on goal compared to Toronto's one. What left much to be desired was Rochester's power play. They failed on both first-period chances and nearly surrendered a shorthanded goal.

Ryan Johnson in a puck battle on March 22, 2024. Photo Credit: Liam Hoffmann, 89.1 the Point

Down the stretch of the first, Toronto better controlled the puck and ran their offense. Dylan Gambrell scored in transition for the game's first goal. Tate Singleton fed a waiting Gambrell who was near the faceoff circle for a one-timer that found the back of the net.

As a whole, though, the Amerks' team defense was as good as it's been all year. They were very disruptive denying Toronto from running a comfortable offense or one that mustered many shots. Amerk skaters were blocking pass after pass and turning many into turnovers.

"We knew Toronto passes a lot east to west when they get in the zone," Houser said. "So I think the biggest thing that I saw tonight is we just always had our sticks in the lanes...our stick details were really good today."

In the second, there were significant chances near the net for each offense at times but great goalie play and stick work didn't allow any dirty goals by either side. No goals came in the middle 20 minutes.

Michael Mersch by the crease on March 22, 2024. Photo Credit: Liam Hoffmann, 89.1 the Point

All night but especially in the third, it was a true playoff feeling at Blue Cross Arena with physical play and an emotional crowd. Rochester outshot Toronto seven to three in that period applying offensive pressure. The payoff came when Johnson fed Weissbach who then scored on a breakaway to tie the game at 1-1. The final two and a half minutes of regulation were hectic with big turnovers on each end but ultimately at the end of 60, overtime was necessary.

"It was a tight game," Weissbach said. "All teams at this time of the year are playing pretty tight hockey you know, the defenses getting stronger and stronger. So, you want to find ways to get pucks through and get some dirty goals."

Ryan Johnson and Jeremy Davies on March 22, 2024. Photo Credit: Liam Hoffmann, 89.1 the Point

In the extra five, Rochester had tons of scoring chances including multiple Jiri Kulich one-timers but Hildeby stood on his head and saved all seven Amerks shots. Houser also did his job on the other end and the tie endured through the overtime period enabling a shootout.

Weissbach had another chance at a one on one as the first Amerk in the shootout but failed. Brandon Biro and Kulich didn't score on their attempts either. Alex Steeves and Logan Shaw couldn't win it for Toronto but Nick Abruzzese did on the final shootout try.

The Amerks get a break tomorrow before the Utica Comets are in town on Sunday. Puck drop in that one is set for 3:05 p.m.

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