Rookie forward Vincent Trocheck scored the deciding goal in the fourth round of the shootout as the San Antonio Rampage defeated the Rochester Americans, 3-2, Friday at The Blue Cross Arena. Despite the loss, though, the Amerks earned a point for the third straight game and now trail the division-leading Toronto Marlies by only three points in the North Division standings.
Phil Varone and Brayden McNabb each recorded a goal and an assist to guide the Amerks, while Luke Adam added two assists and Nathan Lieuwen made 25 saves in his third consecutive game for Rochester. The two-point effort marks the third straight multi-point game for the streaking Varone, who has also found the back of the net in each of his last three outings.
Quinton Howden and Joey Crabb scored in regulation for the visiting Rampage, and Michael Houser stopped 23 shots for his ninth win in 15 games. San Antonio has now won six games in a row and haven't lost in regulation since Rochester beat them 3-2 on January 18th in Texas.
The Amerks broke open the scoring just 3:38 into the game on Varone’s 12th goal of the season, when Adam curled behind the net and spotted Varone at the far post to give the Amerks an early 1-0 lead. The goal set a new career-high for Varone, who scored 11 in each of his last two seasons in Rochester.
With Crabb in the penalty box for delay of game, the Rampage tied the score 9:35 into the second period when Ryan Martindale skated in the Rochester corner and fed a pass to Howden. After catching the pass in stride, Howden made a quick move around the Amerks defense and tricked Lieuwen with a back-hand shot to even the score at one apiece.
Rochester would regain its one-goal lead with just 18 seconds remaining in the second period on the power-play. Adam faked a shot from the top of the zone and fed a cross-ice pass to McNabb, who caught Houser out of position with a one-timer from the top of the right circle for his seventh goal of the season.
The Rampage, however, answered early in the third period as Trocheck’s shot from the side boards was deflected by Crabb, who had parked himself in front of Lieuwen, to tie the score 2-2.
Rasmus Ristolainen appeared to score the game-winning goal with just 1:50 remaining in regulation after the rookie defenseman drove to the net and jammed the puck in past Houser. Unfortunately for the Amerks, referee Mark Lemelin immediately waved off the goal claiming Ristolainen made incidental contact with the San Antonio netminder.
After controlling the puck for most of the early stages of overtime, Johan Larsson was assessed a slashing penalty, but a strong Amerks penalty kill gave Rochester a chance. As Larsson’s minor was about to expire, Varone drove in on a partial breakaway and was held by Drew Shore. With an overtime power-play of their own, the Amerks generated plenty of chances on Houser, but couldn’t find the sudden death magic from their previous two games.
In the shootout, Bobby Butler and Varone trade goals during the first two rounds before Trocheck fooled Lieuwen in the fourth round to put San Antonio ahead. After attempts by Jamie Tardif and Alex Petrovic were both turned away by the goaltenders, the Amerks sent out Larsson as their fifth shooter in an attempt to extend the shootout, but Houser squeezed the pads on Larsson’s five-hole shot to preserve the win for San Antonio.
Rochester brings its four-game homestand to a close on Saturday, Feb. 22 when the Amerks take on the North Division rival Hamilton Bulldogs at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be the seventh of eight meetings between the two teams this season