ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) —Rookie forward JJ Peterka recorded his second hat trick of the month as part of a four-point night and Casey Fitzgerald returned in time to notch a career-best three assists to power the Rochester Americans (37-29-7-3) to a dominating 8-1 rout of the Utica Comets (42-20-8-1) in Friday’s regular-season finale at The Blue Cross Arena.
With the win, Rochester closed out its 66th AHL season earning points in 15 of its final 21 games overall but remain in sixth place in the North Division ahead of the final day of the regular season tomorrow. The Amerks, who posted 20 victories on home ice this season, finish the head-to-head series with the Comets showing an even 6-5-1-0 record.
Peterka (3+1), Jimmy Schuldt (0+2), Mark Jankowski (0+2), Jack Quinn (1+1) and Josh Teves (1+1) all posted multi-point efforts as did Fitzgerald (0+3), who spent the last three months with the Buffalo Sabres. Brandon Biro, Linus Weissbach and Sean Malone rounded out the scoring with a goal each as Rochester scored a season-high eight goals. Ethan Prow, Lukas Rousek, Michael Mersch and Brett Murray all chipped in an assist.
Goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (15-14-6) made five saves before leaving the game with a lower-body injury following a collision in the crease during the first period. Aaron Dell stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced in 48 minutes of relief effort.
Forward Chase De Leo scored his 19th goal of the season late in the second period to spoil Rochester’s bid for a shutout from Michael Vukjevic and A.J. Greer. Goaltender Nico Daws (13-4-2) allowed four goals in the first period and suffered the loss before being replaced by Akira Schmid, who also allowed four goals.
Rochester came out in the opening period tallying four goals, which tied a season-high, to take a 4-0 lead into the intermission break.
Quinn sparked the offensive onslaught as he netted his 26th of the season 6:30 into the frame from Rousek and Teves before Malone doubled the lead with his 20th from Mersch and Prow just 1:51 later.
With the goal, and his 60th point of the season, it marks the first time in franchise history the Amerks have two rookies (Peterka) with 60 or more points in the same season, while Malone became the fourth different Rochester skater this year to reach the 20-goal mark.
Peterka pushed the Amerks’ cushion to three and then four as he netted a pair of tallies three minutes apart to send Rochester into the break with a 4-0 advantage.
During the middle period, just 32 seconds after Teves’ added his sixth just 1:34 into the stanza, Peterka completed the hat trick as he converted on penalty shot after being hauled down from behind while on a breakaway.
The German forward is the first Amerk to score on a penalty shot on home ice since Joel Armia on Oct. 10, 2014 against Adirondack.
Four minutes after Peterka scored, Weissbach steered in his 16th of the season at the 6:28 mark after Murray’s rebound caromed off his chest as he was crashing the net.
Utica stopped the seven-goal run as De Leo buried in a centering feed from Greer with 2:31 left in the second period.
To cap off the scoring as the Amerks were on their second penalty kill of the night, Schuldt sprung Peterka and Biro on an odd-man rush through the neutral zone. As the rookie pairing reached the top of the circles, Peterka slid a one-time feed for Biro with 13 seconds left regulation.
The Amerks now await their fate for the final playoff spot in the North Division, needing the Belleville Senators to win in regulation over the visiting Toronto Marlies on Saturday afternoon.