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Kulich, Rosen push Amerks past Marlies

By: Brayden Peters

Jiri Kulich celebrates his goal with his teammates. (Photo Credit: Liam Hoffmann/89.1 The Point)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Best buds Isak Rosen and Jiri Kulich went off in the Rochester Americans 5-3 win against the Toronto Marlies. Kulich's (1+1) goal late in the second followed by Rosen's (0+1) that began the third led the Amerks to their first regulation win over Toronto of the season. Tonight was also the first home contest of the season series for the Amerks.

Before the game, Rochester's lineup had a bit of a shakeup. Due to injuries in the forward room, defenseman Zach Metsa was thrown into the forward role. This wasn't the first time this has happened to him.

"It's always interesting when you've been told you are playing forward," Metsa said. "You know, I really have no problem doing it. Did it before earlier this year, I did it a couple times in college...end of the day, I just want to try to help the team win."

The Marlies got off to a quick, hot start in the first period. Logan Shaw scored off of his first shot of the game. Not only was it his first shot, it was Toronto's first shot as well.

Devon Levi locks in during pregame warmups. (Photo Credit: Liam Hoffmann/89.1 The Point)

The Amerks started to pick things up, through the first three minutes. They started to generate more shots and high-quality scoring chances. However, Toronto's Dennis Hildeby held his own between the pipes. He made diving saves to prevent Rochester from scoring.

The Amerks broke the seal thanks to Mason Jobst picking up his 17th goal of the season. The Amerks' points leader has been on a roll as of late. He's recorded 26 points in the last 26 games.

"You could easily argue if you voted for an MVP of our team right now, it's him," Appert said. "He's a 30 year old that just keeps getting better...that's the work ethic, the daily habits, how he trains, how he attacks the offseason..."

Afterward, Jobst was told about Appert's recognition of him.

"That's pretty cool," Jobst said. "I've come a long way. In the three years I've been here, from being scratched quite a bit in my first year to Most Improved Player as a 30 year old last year, it's an honor."

The goal lit a fire underneath Rochester as their offense consistently created scoring chances. Not only that, but their defense started to put the clamps on Toronto's offense. Turnovers and lack of shots started to hurt the Marlies. Even on their first power play, they couldn't get much going before the power play turned into 4-on-4 hockey, thanks to Joseph Blandisi being penalized for interference.

The Amerks continued to ride their wave of momentum. Nikita Novikov scored his second career AHL goal off a wrist shot that gave Rochester a 2-1 lead.

Novikov battles for a puck along the boards with Logan Shaw. (Photo Credit: Liam Hoffmann/89.1 The Point)

The Marlies began to turn things up on offense. They managed to get the puck to the slot more often and create more high-quality shots. However, Amerks goalie Devon Levi made superb saves left and right. It was as if giving up the first goal flipped a switch in him.

By the end of the first period, Rochester doubled Toronto in shots on goal. The Amerks recorded 16 shots on net to the Marlies' 8.

The Marlies offense continued to put pressure on Rochester right out of the gate in the second period. Levi still stayed strong in net. There was then a period where things died down for both teams offensively. Turnovers and inconsistent passing at times played a significant role in this.

The Marlies looked like they were going to possibly tie the game up on a breakaway. However, Levi denied the opportunity and kept Rochester's lead. However, he would still face heavy pressure from Toronto's offense that found ways to cut through Rochester's defense. The Marlies were relentless with the number of shots they were taking.

Toronto's defense began to tighten things up. The Amerks' offense looked completely different from the first period. They struggled to generate shots, thanks to Toronto's defense causing multiple turnovers.

Then, the moment of truth came for Amerks fans. Kulich scored a one-timer goal with 38.4 seconds left in the second period. It was his 18th goal of the season. Also, it was the first time he scored a goal since Feb. 16.

Kulich looks to get open for a pass. (Photo Credit: Liam Hoffmann/89.1 The Point)

Toronto was able to respond, though. With 19 seconds left in the period, Roni Hirvonen buried a one-timer of his own to cut Rochester's lead down to one goal.

By the end of the period, Toronto outshot the Amerks 27-21. The Amerks were only able to record five shots while Toronto recorded 15. It was a complete turnaround compared to the first.

The Amerks' offense quickly regained their footing in the third period. Rosen buried an almost no-angle wrist shot from the left wing to give Rochester a 4-2 lead. It was his 14th goal of the season and the first time he scored since Feb. 28 against the Syracuse Crunch.

Rosen looks for a shooting lane. (Photo Credit: Liam Hoffmann/89.1 The Point)

The Marlies' offense continued to put pressure on Rochester's defense. They couldn't capitalize on the multiple scoring chances they had, though, even on their second power play of the game.

Rochester began to pull away from Toronto. With almost 11 minutes left in the game, Viktor Neuchev buried a wrist shot for his seventh 2023-24 goal. With that , he now has seven goals, 10 assists, and 17 points in the last 22 games. It was a complete turnaround for him after only recording 5 points in his first 23 games.

None of Rochester's goals stopped the Marlies' relentless offensive pressure. They managed shots on goal from almost everywhere in the offensive zone. However, Levi stayed strong in net, saving every one of them.

Neuchev takes a wrist shot. (Photo Credit: Liam Hoffmann/89.1 The Point)

With an empty net, Toronto got their third goal of the game. With seven seconds left in the game, Josiah Slavin scored off a rebound narrowing the final score discrepancy.

Despite the loss, Toronto took even more shots on goal in the third period than in the second. The Marlies recorded 20 while the Amerks recorded just four. In total for the game, Rochester was outshot 44-25 in the game.

Rochester looks to stay undefeated against Toronto in their contest on Saturday. The Amerks are looking to make some defensive adjustments after their defense struggled in the second and third periods.

"We just got to be more aware of better sticks," Metsa said. "So if we can get on and have decent sticks to prevent those passes going back door, I think we'll be in a pretty good spot."

Rochester will be in Toronto for Saturday's game. Puck drop is currently set for 7:05 p.m.

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Great to see Levi getting some real challenge to gain experience to be ready for another stint w/ the Sabres! Great win Amerks!

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