The Rochester Americans resumed their AHL regular season schedule on Friday night after competing in the prestigious Spengler Cup tournament in Davos, Switzerland, last week and went on the road to defeat the Utica Comets by a 5-2 score at Utica Memorial Auditorium.
The Amerks, who were playing their first AHL game since Dec. 21, improved their record to 14-11-3-3 with the win.
Alex Hutchings scored his first two goals of the season to lead a group of five Amerks players who registered multi-point games on the night. Nick Crawford and Joel Armia each added a goal and an assist while both Drew Bagnall and Colton Gillies collected two assists in the contest. Tim Schaller rounded out the scoring for Rochester and goaltender Matt Hackett stopped 33 of 35 shots to earn the win in net.
Kellan Lain and Pascal Pelletier each scored a goal for Utica while goaltender Joe Cannata stopped 21 of 26 shots in the loss.
Utica opened the scoring at the 14:31 mark of the first period when Lain scored his sixth of the season for the Comets. Kent Huskins got the play started with a slap shot from the left point that was turned aside by Hackett. During a scramble in front of the crease, Brandon DeFazio was able to slide the puck over to Lain, who backhanded it through traffic and in to give his team the early lead.
Just 21 seconds later, Hutchings pulled the Amerks even with his first goal of the season. With the Amerks applying pressure on the first shift following the Utica goal, Gillies gained control of the puck on the left half-wall, spun, and fired a centering pass in front to Hutchings, who re-directed the puck over the right shoulder of Cannata to tie the game. Chad Ruhwedel also assisted on the goal.
Late in the second period, the Amerks took a 3-1 lead when they scored a pair of goals just 46 seconds apart. First, Hutchings scored his second goal of the game when he got a stick on a wrist shot by Drew Bagnall and deflected the puck past Cannata to break a 1-1 tie. The tally gave Hutchings the first multi-goal game of his AHL career.
The Amerks extended their lead less than a minute later when Armia notched his third goal of the season. After the puck was dumped into the Utica zone, Dan Catenacci threw the puck back to Crawford at the blue line, and the defenseman fired an off-balance shot on goal. Armia was passing through the slot and got his blade on the puck, re-directing it past the Utica netminder to give Rochester a two-goal cushion to take into the dressing room after 40 minutes of play.
The third period got off to a quick start as the teams combined to score three goals in a span of 1:30, and when the dust settled, Rochester had a 5-2 lead.
The flurry of goals began with a power play tally by Crawford. With the Amerks working the puck around the Utica zone, Phil Varone picked up the puck in the left corner and drew the attention of the Comets penalty killers. As Varone held the puck, Crawford snuck down from the blue line and received a perfect pass from Varone in the slot, where Crawford one-timed the offering past Cannata to give the Amerks a 4-1 lead. Armia also collected an assist on the goal.
Less than 30 seconds later, Utica responded with a goal by Pelletier. After a clean face-off win by the Comets, Darren Archibald picked up the puck along the left half-wall, circled the Rochester net, and found Pelletier with a pass in front. Pelletier, Utica’s leading scorer, was able to knock the puck past Hackett for his seventh goal of the season.
Rochester wasted no time in regaining its three-goal lead. Bagnall picked up a loose puck deep in his defensive zone and head-manned it up to Gillies along the left wing boards. Gillies slid a pass to Schaller as he cut through the neutral zone, and Schaller skated right past a Utica defender as he entered the zone and roofed a shot into the left corner of the net for the goal. The goal gave the Amerks a 5-2 lead that would stand as the final score.
The Amerks return to action on Saturday, Jan. 4 when they travel to Hershey to face the Bears as the AHL’s oldest rivalry is renewed. It will be the first of just two meetings this season between the League’s two oldest franchises. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 p.m.