By: Mike Rose
The Rochester Americans were in the driver's seat heading into the final period of Game 4 and appeared poised to tie the Eastern Conference Finals at two games apiece heading into Game 5. Instead, the wheels fell off late and the Hershey Bears knocked off the Amerks 4-2 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series back home to Hershey. Rochester now finds themselves on the brink of elimination for the second time this postseason having dropped the last three games following a dominant Game 1 victory.
Rochester knew some lineup changes were needed after the Bears pushed them around in Games 2 and 3. Highly touted prospect Matthew Savoie was scratched and Fillip Cederqvist was inserted into the lineup. Head coach Seth Appert shuffled around all four of his offensive line combinations as well and quickly these moves appeared to pay dividends as the Amerks struck first. Zach Metsa led the rush into the offensive zone and laid it off on the wing to Cederqvist who fired one toward goal. While Hunter Shepard made the initial stop Linus Weissbach was able to stuff home the rebound and make it 1-0. However, despite the early momentum Hershey controlled large portions of the action which would prove to be a trend the deeper the game progressed. Malcolm Subban was called upon to make timely saves early and often.
In the second period, Subban was the star of the show in keeping Rochester afloat. Hershey controlled almost all of the scoring chances in the period doubling up Rochester in shots 14-7. This included three powerplay chances for the Bears that all ended empty-handed. In fact, despite spending most of the period pinned in their own end it was the Amerks who broke through for the second goal of the contest. Cederqvist helped create a turnover by the Bears in the defensive zone and from there it was a rocket from the point by Matt Bartkoski that found the waiting stick of Linus Weissbach on the doorstep for the redirection. Weissbach's second goal of the game made it a commanding 2-0 advantage for Rochester heading into the third.
However, in the third period the Amerks could not seal the deal. After a scoreless first ten minutes of which Hershey was firmly in control, Lucas Johansen broke the seal to cut the deficit to one. Just a couple of minutes later Logan Day stepped into a feed from Conner McMichael to beat Subban and tied the game up. Mason Morelli followed three minutes after that, jamming home a loose puck in the crease. Just like that, in only 5:21 of game time, a 2-0 lead turned into a 3-2 deficit for the Amerks. Morrelli buried an empty netter with just under a minute left to put the finishing touches on what may have been a series-defining comeback.
After rattling off seven consecutive victories, the Amerks are back on the ropes. The power play for Rochester remained scoreless in the series after going 0-2 on the night. They'll head back out on the road to Hershey with the season on the line in Game 5 on Wednesday night.