The Rochester Americans jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and used multi-point outings from Phil Varone and Brayden Irwin to cruise to a 5-1 win over the visiting Syracuse Crunch in their regular season home finale Friday night at The Blue Cross Arena. The win improves the Amerks to 7-0-0-1 in their last eight games and closes out a strong season on home ice in securing a 22-10-3-3 record in Rochester.
The win also marked the Amerks’ fourth straight over their intrastate rivals from Syracuse, evening up the season series at four games apiece in front of a season-high crowd of 9,518 in attendance at The Blue Cross Arena to celebrate Fan Appreciation Night.
Along with the efforts of a goal and an assist from both Varone and Irwin, the Amerks also earned goals from Luke Adam, Nick Deslauriers and rookie forward Tim Schaller. For Adam, his first period goal was his 29th tally of the season, tying his career-high he set back in 2010-11 as a rookie with the Portland Pirates. Rochester also received another strong performance in net from Andrey Makarov, who was making his 10th consecutive start in goal for the Amerks. Makarov turned aside 22 of Syracuse’s 23 shots, earning his seventh straight win while pushing Rochester’s point streak to eight games.
Jonathan Marchessault scored the only goal for the Crunch early in the second period and Cedrick Desjardins made 19 saves for the loss.
The Amerks opened the scoring 7:44 into the first period on Schaller’s ninth goal of the season. Schaller, who was named the team’s most improved player prior to the game, skated in on a 2-on-1 with Colton Gillies. Gillies delivered a pretty pass to Schaller at the left circle, and Schaller picked a corner over Desjardins’ glove to put Rochester up 1-0.
The goal scoring continued just 3:20 later on Adam’s team-leading 29th of the season, following a miscommunication between Desjardins and the Syracuse defense that left a loose puck sitting idly for Adam. With Desjardins out of position, Adam scooped up the spare change and slid the puck into the net to make it a 2-0 game. Adam now just sits one goal away from becoming Rochester’s first 30-goal scorer since 2004-05 campaign.
Rochester kept its foot on the gas pedal during its first power-play opportunity of the night, as Irwin caught a pass from Varone down low and made a power move towards the net. While Desjardins stuffed the initial shot, Irwin jammed home the rebound to put the Amerks up by three with just over seven minutes remaining in the first period.
The offensive boom from the Amerks carried over into the second period on another strong passing play, this time capped off on a shot from Deslauriers. Rochester broke into the Syracuse zone on a 3-on-2 with Kevin Porter possessing the puck. The Rochester captain dished a short pass to a cutting Kevin Sundher, who in-turn dropped the puck off to Deslauriers and he wasted no time going top shelf for the Amerks’ fourth goal.
Rochester couldn’t take advantage of an extended power-play to begin the final period, and the Crunch countered with their first goal of the night on an odd-man rush finished off by Marchessault just 3:33 into the third. The Amerks would regain their four-goal lead, however, when Johan Larsson sped across the Syracuse blueline and chipped a pass to Varone, who re-directed the puck high into the net to put the final touch on a 5-1.
The Amerks bring the 2013-14 regular season to a close on Saturday, April 19 when they head north of the border for one final go-around with the Toronto Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum. The 3:00 p.m. contest will be the 10th and final meeting between the North Division foes this season and will be carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK. Following Saturday’s matchup, Rochester’s potential first round home playoff dates, depending upon opponent, will be either Friday, April 25 and Saturday, April 26 or Wednesday, April 30 and Thursday, May 1 (if necessary).