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Levi, Amerks waddle past Penguins

Updated: Feb 18

By: Liam Hoffmann

Rochester, NY-- The Amerks downed the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Friday night on the back of goalie Devon Levi's 41-save performance. It was Military Salute night and the Amerks emerged victorious 5-3. Part of the special promotion was the Amerks players wearing nicknames on their jerseys rather than their last names. Levi certainly lived up to his "Beast" title.

The "Beast," Devon Levi. Photo Credit: Liam Hoffmann, 89.1 the Point

Michael Mersch starred on the offensive end, delivering his first points since January and first multi-point showing since 2023. He scored Rochester's first two goals and later recorded an assist. Mason Jobst was the Amerks' only other multi-point skater, recording assists on both of Mersch's goals.

"It was coming," Mersch said. "The last six or so games have been, production-wise, a little bit down, but you've just got to try to stay consistent and hope things even at some point. But, I felt good. Obviously, as a captain of the team, when you're able to score a goal or something like that, it's always nice."

Smiley Yabolanski (Mason Jobst) pregame. Photo Credit: Liam Hoffmann, 89.1 the Point

As for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, no players had multiple points. Ryan Shea scored his first goal of the 2023-24 campaign. Radim Zohorna and Ty Smith were the other goal-producers for the Penguins.

From the puck drop, Levi looked loose and comfortable. Across the ice for the Penguins was Magnus Hellberg between the poles. 14 of Levi's saves came in period one. Levi has now played four games for the Amerks in the last seven days, settling in after shorter stints in Rochester earlier in the year.

"Honestly [Levi's play] was unreal," Amerks center Tyson Kozak said. "He made so many big-time saves. That game could've got out of hand pretty fast but he stood on his head for us."

Mersch's first goal came with just over three minutes gone in the match. He uncorked a shot from deep center-ice, not far beyond the center face-off circle. Minutes later, a Penguins hooking penalty that was followed up by a delay of game infraction gave Rochester a 5-on-3 opportunity but they came up empty. The Amerks ultimately failed to convert on any of their five man-advantage situations all night.

With 64 seconds left in the first, Shea knotted things at one. After the ensuing faceoff, Wilkes-Barre possessed the puck and Zohorna was feeling inspired as he delivered the go-ahead score only 31 seconds later. The Penguins rolled into period two with a 2-1 lead. Generally, the Amerks team defense was lackluster in period one leading to the high amount of shots faced.

"We weren't good enough by any stretch," Amerks head coach Seth Appert said. "They were heavy, hard, physical, put us in some compromised spots throughout the first 25-30 minutes of that game. Levi steadied the ship for us and allowed us to only be down 2-1."

The second began with Rochester's third power play resulting from a Ty Smith hooking call. While they came up empty, Mersch appeared ultra-aggressive. He worked from the blue line as well as down low near the goal. This intensity paid off when he converted on his second goal of the night. At this point, though, the Penguins had 26 shots on goal to just 12 by the Amerks.

After the game passed the midway point 10 minutes into period two, the Amerks team defense showed signs of improvement. Particularly in the transition game, Rochester defenders were stickier than in the earlier portions. Still, though, Levi starred. The puck seemed magnetized to his gloves.

Kozak scored the go-ahead goal with under two and a half minutes left in the middle 20. Puck movement by the Amerks offense led Hellburg to lose his footing and Kozak was able to spin into an easy score. This was his fourth goal of the campaign.

"All I remember was [Jeremy Davies] chipping it in and then [Alexandr Kisakov] in on the forecheck," Kozak said. "It was all [Kisakov] basically, I just had to spin and fire it into the net."

Jeremy Davies. Photo Credit: Liam Hoffmann

Jiri Kulich broke a streak of goal-less AHL games for himself that dated back to his time in Sweden at the World Juniors. Joseph Cecconi formally assisted on the score but Tyson Jost drew the defense away just enough for Kulich to get out in front of the goal and fire. Soon after, Kulich left with an injury and didn't return.

By way of a goal two minutes after Kulich's, Smith drew the scoreboard disparity to just one with a shot from the point that made the score 4-3. That would mark the end of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's goal-scoring for the evening, though as Rochester held on to win. Linus Weissbach delivered an empty-net insurance goal with less than 90 seconds left which sealed the win. Weissbach had to win a tough puck clash, turn a tight corner, and fire from a hard angle.

"That was a great puck battle win by Weissy," Appert said. "He had to cut their defenseman's hand off to get inside position and score that goal."

The Amerks will stay home for the weekend and host the Utica Comets on Sunday with puck drop set for 3:05 p.m. The Penguins will head home tonight and play the visiting Laval Rocket tomorrow at 6:05 p.m.

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