Mike Zigomanis scored the eventual game-winning goal early in the third period as the Rochester Americans closed out a four-game homestand with a 3-2 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs Saturday night at The Blue Cross Arena. The win boosts Rochester to 27-18-3-4 on the season and marks the 12th win in the last 16 games for the Amerks, who also finished the weekend with points in four straight.
The goal was the first in nearly two months for the Amerks veteran forward, who was playing in just his sixth game following a 17-game absence due to an upper-body injury. The veteran’s last tally came back on Dec. 18 in a 2-1 over his former Toronto Marlies on home ice.
Frederick Roy and Luke Adam rounded out the scoring for the Amerks, and rookie defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen finished with two assists. After Matt Hackett was a late scratch in net, Nathan Lieuwenstarted for the fourth consecutive night and earned his eighth win in 10 starts with 27 saves for Rochester, which improved to 4-0-0-1 over its last five games at home.
Gabriel Dumont scored both of Hamilton’s goals on the power-play, and Robert Mayer turned aside 24 of 27 shots he faced.
The most effective trio for the Amerks during the first period was the new combination of Joel Armia, Dan Catenacci and Roy. Their best shift came nine minutes into the game, after the line hemmed the Bulldogs in their own zone for nearly an entire minute and eventually found an opening for the Amerks’ first goal. Following an extended cycle in the corner, Armia flipped a saucer pass to Ristolainen at the blueline. With Roy parked in front, Ristolainen unleashed a high slap-shot that went off Roy’s stick and in for a 1-0 Amerks lead at 10:42 of the opening frame.
With Brayden McNabb in the penalty box following a hooking penalty during the second period, the Bulldogs nearly evened the score, when Sven Andrighetto accepted a cross-ice pass and fired a shot all in one motion. The puck whizzed past Lieuwen but rang off the post and into the corner.
McNabb wasted no time making amends for his earlier penalty at 11:33 of the second period. With the Amerks on the power-play, McNabb received a pass along the blueline from Chad Ruhwedel and fired a shot-pass to Adam in the high slot. Adam poked his stick out and re-directed the puck high into the net for the All-Star forward’s team-leading 22nd goal of the season.
The Amerks fell into penalty trouble in the latter stages of the second period and Hamilton soon took advantage. During the original minor to Brayden Irwin, Dumont was in the left circle for consecutive scoring chances, and after hitting the post on the first shot, snuck the puck past Lieuwen seconds later on his next attempt.
Rochester potted its final goal on a broken play 5:53 into the third period when Kevin Porter’s attempted pass to the middle bounced off Hamilton’s Patrick Holland right to Zigomanis, who lifted the puck over Mayer from in close to make it a 3-2 game.
Dumont scored his second power-play goal of the game after curling around the left circle and snapping a shot off the post and in to bring the Bulldogs within one goal. However, despite pulling Mayer for the extra attacker, that was the closest Hamilton would get as the Rochester defense shut the door in the final minute to ensure the victory.
After playing eight of the last nine at home, Rochester embarks on four-game trek through the Midwest Division on Thursday, Feb. 27 as the Amerks travel to Des Moines for a rematch with the Iowa Wild at Wells Fargo Arena. The 8:05 p.m. EST matchup will be the second and final meeting between the two teams this season