The Rochester Americans (29-17-3-4) built a 2-0 lead midway through the second period only to see the first-place Belleville Senators (34-15-4-1) counter with three straight tallies, including the game-winning goal 1:12 into overtime, to steal a 3-2 win from the Amerks Wednesday at The Blue Cross Arena.
Despite the overtime loss, the Amerks, who remain in second place in the AHL’s North Division standings, have earned a point in 11 of the 16 all-time meetings with Belleville dating back to the 2017-18 campaign.
Forward Jean-Sebastien Dea scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season to go with an assist while rookie defenseman Jacob Bryson notched his first pro goal in the second period. First-year netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (3-3-2) made 15 saves in his third consecutive start but suffered the overtime loss.
Rookie Josh Norris factored in on all three Belleville goals, scoring the game-tying goal and eventually the game-winner in overtime to go along with an assist while Rudolfs Bacers added three helpers in the overtime victory for Belleville. Vitaly Abramov rounded out the scoring on the night as he registered his 18th of the slate. Goaltender Joey Daccord improved to 14-4-2 as he stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced.
With the Amerks holding a 2-0 lead to begin the final frame, the Senators made it one-goal game midway through the period as Abramov completed a series of tic-tac-toe passes from Balcers and Norris.
Belleville carried the momentum as Norris redirected a Jordan Murray point shot from in-between the face-off dots to even the game at two with 4:48 left in the regulation.
“I thought we came out strong,” explained Dea. “We seemed to think it was maybe going to be an easy game, but we have to play a full 60-minute game. At times lately we have not been able to play a full 60 whether it be a slow start or finishing the game. It’s something that we need to regroup and get better moving forward.”
In the overtime period, Rochester registered the first two shots but following the second, while in the left corner of the Senators zone, Balcers provided an outlet pass along the boards to Norris. Norris, who entered the game leading all AHL rookies in scoring, tracked down the puck just inside the blueline, and after avoiding an Amerk defenseman, sniped a shot past the glove of Luukkonen to complete the come-from-behind win just 62 seconds into the extra session.
“We did not play a 60-minute game,” said Amerks team captain Kevin Porter. “We let up a little bit and they picked it up and took it to us in the third period. To get two points out of this game would have been huge.”
“We have to be willing to finish teams off,” Amerks head coach Chris Taylor said. “As hard as it is to win games, it is even harder to finish them off. We did not finish off plays and we let them back into the game.”
Much like Sunday’s contest against the Utica Comets, the Amerks opened the scoring before the 5:00 mark to jump out to an early 1-0 lead. Following a face-off win by Rasmus Asplund to the right of the Belleville net, Zach Redmond fired a shot from the point. Prior to the puck reaching Daccord, it glanced off the inside skate of Dea and pinballed its way across the goal-line.
“He’s just a crafty veteran,” explained Taylor of Dea’s goal. “He is a guy who knows how to get by the net and he had a few other chances during the game that we needed him to put in the back of the net.”
“Every offseason I try to come into the year being more consistent,” Dea said when talking about his goal-scoring ability. “I feel as if I have done that so far this season, but I know I still can continue to improve each and every day.”
The Amerks carried the one-goal cushion into the intermission break as well as a 13-3 shot-advantage after 20 minutes of play.
Midway through the second period, Asplund won another face-off to Dea inside the Rochester zone before Dea sent Asplund and Bryson in transition towards Daccord. As Asplund outwaited a diving Senators defender, he flipped the puck to the 21-year-old Bryson, who fired it over the left hand of the netminder to double the Amerks lead with 9:04 left in the frame.
The goal from Dea and Asplund was Bryson’s first-career goal and 19th point of the campaign.
“It took nearly 50 games but it does feel good,” smiled Bryson. “It was a set play off the face-off. ‘Aspie’ made a great pass and all I really had to do was put the puck on net. It was a great feeling.”
“It’s nice to see him get rewarded finally,” added Taylor. “Jacob is one of those guys who is very good defensively, but over the last 10 games or so he has had a lot of really good offensive chances. I am very happy for him.”
Rochester held a 2-0 lead going into the third period, but the Senators pushed back with two goals in the final 9:37 of regulation before Norris capped off the 3-2 win for Belleville 1:12 into overtime.
Rochester’s homestand continues into this weekend with games on back-to-back nights, beginning on Friday, Feb. 21 when they close out their season series against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start