By: Liam Hoffmann
ROCHESTER, NY--- The Rochester Amerks waited until the final minutes to put together the winning goals against the Charlotte Checkers Wednesday night. Three goals in the final six minutes of play were enough to get the Amerks the 4-3 victory. The second line for Rochester, which featured a trio of young Buffalo Sabres first-round draft selections, led the comeback.
"There's a real honesty to their game collectively. They were winning puck battles, weren't turning pucks over, and were playing behind their defense when it was time to play behind their defense," Amerks head coach Seth Appert said about the young group.
Early on, the puck lived on the Amerks side of the ice. Physical play from Charlotte made things tough for a smaller Rochester team. Charlotte forward Patrick Khodorenko struck first off of a cross-crease pass from Cam Morrison with 4:52 gone in the first period. Both goalies played well in the match, but Devin Cooley of the Amerks surely wishes he had the first allowed goal back.
Tyson Kozak of Rochester was stuffed on a breakaway opportunity a few minutes later. A number of good looks were generated by the Amerks offense throughout the early stages of the game, but many of the shots just weren't finding the back of the net.
That was until Casey Fitzgerald of Charlotte went to the box after a checking to the head offense gave the Amerks a power play opportunity. Michael Mersch scored following a left dot faceoff just over six minutes into the game. Matthew Savoie was credited with the primary assist on the goal.
Savoie spent time with the club in last year's playoffs, but this year is with Rochester on a conditioning assignment. As the Sabres' ninth overall draft choice a year ago, he is expected to join Buffalo after five games or less.
"It was exciting. I felt like I played with a lot of energy, I feel like I played fast. It's just exciting every time I got to touch the ice," Savoie said post-game.
While Rochester had more shots on goal early, lots of blocks on passes and shot tries by Charlotte's defenders kept the puck out of the net.
A tripping penalty on Justin Richards gave the Checkers a power play of their own. Jake Wise capitalized and scored with less than two minutes remaining in the first.
In the second, Rochester struggled to keep a full group on the ice. Penalties by Savoie, Mersch, Filip Cederqvist, and Riley Stillman gave Charlotte more power plays. Wise kept contributing by being the primary assister on a slapshot power play goal scored by Michael Benning to give Charlotte a 3-1 lead.
A pivotal save by Cooley halfway through the period kept the game within reach, but Charlotte was applying lots of pressure on Rochester's defense.
The beginning of the third saw physical, tough defense from both sides. The energy level stepped up for Rochester in this period, but quality shots were very hard to come by. Jiri Kulich began the run made by the Amerks after he and the second line entered with six minutes left in the contest. Kulich continues his hot start to the season by scoring his fifth goal in as many games.
Lukas Rousek and Tyson Kozak set up Aleksandr Kisakov on his short goal that came with five minutes remaining. All of a sudden, the momentum belonged to Rochester, as they evened the score at 3.
"That was our best thing. That's a style of play that's replicable, that you could win with at different times of the year," Appert said after the game.
Dating back to last season, 11 of Rochester's last 16 regular season games required overtime, and this one looked as though it may end that way as well.
However, Isak Rosen had other plans. A bit of a broken play off of a face-off turned into an improbable shot from distance by Rosen between a group of Checkers defenders to give Rochester the lead. The young line of Rosen, Kulich, and Savoie lit a spark late in the game that enabled the hurried comeback. The three goals were all scored within two and a half minutes. Rosen was asked about how he felt their line gelled together tonight.
"I think we play good, better with each other. We played good defense and that led to playing offense for us. We played with speed and the floor checking was good," Rosen said.
Rochester held on for the win. The tough 4-3 victory gets the Amerks to 3-1-1-0 on the year. Charlotte falls to 2-3-0-0. Rochester stays at home and will take on Laval Rocket Friday night at 7:05. They split a pair of games against that club last week. The Checkers will play the Bridgeport Islanders in Charlotte on Friday at 7.