By: Aiden Locke
ROCHESTER, NY --- The Rochester Americans rough run of form continues. A rematch from a 3-2 OTW on Saturday against the Syracuse Crunch didn't go Rochester's way on Wednesday night, falling 3-1 against their North Division and New York rival.
Three goals in 37 seconds in the middle of the second period, soured what was otherwise a solid performance for the Rochester Americans.
"We limited them, there wasn't many shots," Amerks head coach Seth Appert said. "We did a lot of good things, but we didn't get the result."
That quote from Appert really sums up a lot of the recent performances over the past two months for Rochester. The Amerks sit in fourth place in the North Division with 29 points on the season bosting a 13-11-2-1 record after the loss. Rochester's last ten games have been tough, having a 3-6-0-1 record over that span. A big factor for Rochester's offensive struggles on Wednesday night is the absence the AHL's second leading goal scorer Jiri Kulich (16 goals), who is in Sweden playing in the U20 World Junior Championship. Kulich is the captain for team Czechia and scored a hat trick against Norway on Wednesday.
The goalie matchup saw Dustin Tokarski (.888 SAV%, 3.49 GAA) come into this game just one win away from being tied for 12th place in the all-time AHL wins list for a goaltender with Nick Damore (211). Syracuse sent out Matt Tompkins for the second consecutive game vs Rochester (.904 SAV%, 2.43 GAA).
"Credit to Syracuse, they played good defensively," Appert said. "Tompkins played really good in net as well."
Both teams came out firing in the first period, which saw one of the most physical 20 minutes the Amerks have played all season long. Rochester shut down Syracuse defensively and limited their offensive zone time, only allowing the Crunch to throw four shots on goal in the first period. The first 20 minutes was Rochester busiest offensively generating ten shots on goal, but some miscued passes prevented them from finding the back of the net.
The second period would start off much of the same as the opening 20 minutes but a few mistakes defensively in the middle of period two would see the Crunch score three goals in a flash. The Crunch offense was lightning in a bottle for 37 seconds as they cashed in on multiple Amerks mistakes. Center Shawn Element would score the first and third goal, with fellow center Gage Goncalves scoring the second. Rochester's defense held Syracuse to just 15 shots on goal which was the lowest allowed by the Amerks all season.
"You're going to make mistakes," Appert said. "The position of goaltender wouldn't exist if there was never a mistake made in a game."
Following the three-goal spree from Syracuse, Rochester would continue to push for offense in the second period to no avail. This didn't take the lift out of a packed Blue Cross Arena as the massive fan turnout continued to make noise and cheer on their Amerks.
Rochester's lone goal came from winger Lukas Rousek, who did a great job all night creating for the offense. Rousek found himself all alone on a breakaway where he would draw a tripping call from behind and be awarded a penalty shot. Rousek being one of the most polished danglers on Rochester was able to capitalize on the penalty shot and use some creative moves one on one with the goaltender and snuck it behind Tompkins to give life back the Amerks. Rochester would finish with a respectable 23 shots on goal but even with multiple quality scoring chances, they couldn't find the back of the net outside of the penalty shot.
"I wanted to shoot between the legs at first, but I changed it at the last minute and it was almost an empty net," Rousek said.
The Crunch defense would shut the door on Rochester for the rest of the third period, only allowing five shots on goal for the Amerks, despite Rochester having an empty net for over four and half minutes to close out the game. Rochester did well to keep the puck in the offensive zone and with a couple big plays in the neutral zone Rochester wouldn't concede an empty netter to add salt to the wound.
Rochester will look for their first regulation win since November 18th on Friday night as they take on the AHL's current top team, the Hershey Bears. Hershey eliminated Rochester from last year's playoffs in the Eastern Conference Finals on their way to a Calder Cup championship last season.
For more in-depth analysis of the Rochester Americans, check out the Flower City Sports podcast airing at 11 p.m. every Thursday on 89.1 The Point, or on our Spotify.