Joseph Cecconi celebrated his birthday on Tuesday. It only took him 14 seconds.
Cecconi’s goal 14 seconds into game one of the Eastern Conference finals sparked a four-goal run and led the Amerks to a 5-1 win in the opener of their series against Hershey.
The 8,000 at the Giant Center in southern PA were hardly in their seats when Rochester put the home team a goal down. The Amerks kept the home fans sitting on their hands for virtually all 60 minutes, but head coach Seth Appert wouldn’t let the win get termed a “statement.”
“We’re not trying to make statements. We’re trying to win hockey games,” Appert said. “It’s far too late in the season to try to make statements. All we’re focused on is trying to do the best things we can with our habits, our competitiveness, playing to our identity to give us a chance to win one game. And tonight we did a good enough job.”
Brett Murray followed the Cecconi goal nine minutes later, banging in a nifty backhand feed from Michael Mersch to make it 2-0. The Bears had a couple chances to get even before the second Rochester goal, but Malcolm Subban made some of the biggest of his 21 saves midway through the first period.
Jiri Kulich had his first playoff game without a goal, but did feed a wide open Matt Barkowski at the point to give the Amerks a 3-0 cushion less than two minutes into the second period. Mason Jobst added a fourth five minutes later and the Bears never threatened from there.
A meaningless Bears goal in the third was counted by a Lukas Rousek empty netter.
Hershey came into the game without having allowed more than two goals in any playoff game this year. Cecconi’s early uppercut allowed Rochester to match that total in ten minutes and double it in 30.
“We wanted to have an aggressive start. We were all just ready to jump right off the bat there,” Cecconi said.
“I thought we handled their pressure relatively well,” Appert said. “We handled the crowd noise relatively well, but we have to reset trying learn some things and get better tomorrow.”
Rochester has now won seven straight for the first time at any point in a season since 2014. They go for eight straight Thursday night in game two Thursday night right back at the Giant Center.