By: Liam Hoffmann
Friday night at Blue Cross Arena saw the first-place Cleveland Monsters fall to the Rochester Americans. This was the Amerks' first home win since November of last year.
Making his first Amerks start of the year between the poles was Eric Comrie. Comrie was loaned to Rochester by Buffalo earlier this week. This was Comrie's first game-play in a month and he saved 30 of 31 shots by the Monsters. His active hands were perhaps his best tool en route to the win.
"We had a good week of practice," Comrie said. "Starting from Tuesday, we were working hard right from the get-go, and I think the guys bought into what we wanted to do this weekend."
The penalty kill, a problematic area for the Amerks at times throughout this season, got the job done, knocking off five of Cleveland's six power-play chances.
"You put them in the powerplay six, seven times, they're really hard to beat," Amerks head coach Seth Appert said. "We had some big-time blocked shots...but obviously always your best penalty killer is your goaltender, and I thought Comrie was really good tonight."
Five and a half minutes into period one, Brendan Warren scored his second goal since returning from injury in December. Some miscommunication in the defensive zone by the Monsters left the net neglected and Warren was able to find the back of it.
Ethan Prow returned to the Amerks lineup after suffering a lower-body injury late in November. Getting back a 41-point defenseman from a season ago is an uplifting way to start the new year for Rochester.
"We missed him," Appert said. "He's just so calm, he makes the game easy on us. He moves the puck so efficiently, he's a really smart puck mover."
The Monsters got the pushing and shoving started early. They played angry and physical from the puck drop.
With a man advantage after Tyson Jost was called for tripping, Owen Silinger buried a goal via Carson Meyer and Trey Fix-Wolansky to put Cleveland in the scoring column and even things at one.
Period two included aggressive offensive play from Isak Rosen. In the recent absence of usual linemate Jiri Kulich, Rosen has not been as offensively productive as Amerks fans have come to expect, but against Cleveland he was engaged and involved. Kulich will be back in the lineup shortly, after solidifying a bronze medal for his nation of Czechia at the World Juniors earlier today.
The go-ahead Amerks goal was scored by Mason Jobst one-third of the way through period two. Lukas Rousek extended his point streak to seven games by delivering an accurate feed that allowed Jobst to sneak it in behind Cleveland goalie Jet Greaves. One minute later, Viktor Neuchev converted on a similar chance to grow the lead to two.
"[Greaves] had made a huge save on Novikov, and on Davies," Appert said. "Jobst and Neuch made two excellent moves to finish those plays off."
To this point, the Amerks had been outshot by the Monsters 18-15, but it still seemed like the puck was living in Rochester's offensive zone. They were winning puck battles by the wall consistently despite the physicality of the Monsters.
The third period was silent in terms of scoring. Comrie kept things reeled in and Greaves showcased why he entered the contest with a 16-3 record in net. His shot-saving ability kept the gap on the scoreboard from growing.
With under a minute to play, a massive scrum broke out after Jobst was hit from behind near the boards. Jobst wound up leaving the ice and heading into the locker room until the end of the game.
With the win, the Amerks slightly thin the gap between themselves and the Monsters in the North Division. The two sides will hit the road before facing off again tomorrow in Cleveland at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Puck drop in that one will be at 7:00 p.m.