For just the second time this season, the Rochester Americans (39-20-3-2) dropped back-to-back regulation losses on the road as they come up short in a 3-1 penalty-filled matchup to the Charlotte Checkers (41-15-6-1) Saturday at Bojangles Coliseum. Tonight’s game was the second in as many nights and the final meeting of the four-game season series between the two teams.
The defeat keeps the Amerks one point behind the Syracuse Crunch for the North Division lead despite having collected 37 out of a possible 54 points in their last 27 games. The regulation loss was just the eighth for the Amerks outside the Flower City, which are tied for fewest in the league this season.
Forward and team captain Kevin Porter put the Amerks on the scoreboard as he tallied his ninth of the season in the second period while goaltender Scott Wedgewood (25-12-2) was tagged with the loss, his second in as many nights, as he made 19 saves. Over his last 23 appearances, the sixth-year netminder shows an impressive 16-6-1 record dating back to Dec. 26.
The Checkers, who completed the four-game sweep of the Amerks, were led by former forward Amerk Bobby Sanguinetti, Aleksi Saarela and Julien Gauthier as the trio all scored. Netminder Dustin Tokarski made his second appearance of the campaign with Charlotte and improved to 12-6-2 overall as he stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced.
After a series of events which culminated with Zach Redmond and C.J. Smith on a 2-on-1 odd-man rush to enter the zone, Smith centered a pass to Porter in-between the face-off dots and the veteran poked the puck past Tokarski to knot the score at 1-1 apiece. The goal at the 2:49 mark was Porter’s ninth of the year. Smith, meanwhile, picked up his 34th point (16+18) over his last 30 games and Redmond moved to within one point from having his first 50-point season of his career.
Charlotte regained its lead nine minutes later to take a one-goal cushion into the final period, where they are a perfect 30-0-0-0 this season when ahead to start the third stanza. Collecting a loose puck just out of the reach of Wedgewood, Sanguinetti scored his first goal of the season with 8:20 to go in the second period.
The marker was the three-time AHL All-Star’s first goal in North America since March 4, 2016 as a member of the Amerks.
Saarela gave Charlotte an insurance goal on the power-play midway through the third, but the Amerks, who went 0-for-9 on the man-advantage throughout the game, were unable narrow the gap despite testing Tokarski 14 times over the course of the third period.
In the first period full of heavy hits, six penalties and a fight, the Checkers opened the scoring as Gauthier tallied his 19th goal of the season inside the final minute of play to give Charlotte a 1-0 lead.
The Amerks return to action for their second-to-last three-in-three of the 2018-19 campaign beginning on Friday, March 22 when they host the Cleveland Monsters in a North Division showdown at The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start