Crunch top Amerks 4-1 in preseason opener

Local Sports

Despite jumping out to a 1-0 lead at the 8:16 mark of the first period of Thursday’s preseason opener, the Rochester Americans saw the Syracuse Crunch score four straight unanswered goals to come a with a 4-1 victory Thursday at the Gene Polisseni Center on the campus of R.I.T.

In their first unofficial game with Rochester, John Wiitala and Justin Baudry teamed up for the lone Amerks goal in the first stanza while goaltender Jonas Johansson, who made 16 saves in his first exhibition action, took the loss. Michael Houser came into contest with just under seven minutes left in the middle frame and stopped seven of the eight shots he faced in 24 minutes.

With a game-high three points, Otto Somppi led the Crunch offense as he netted a pair of assists and a goal while Mitchell Stephens (1+1) and Peter Abbandonato (0+2) each added two points in the win. Jimmy Huntington and Ryan Lohin rounded out the scoring for Syracuse. Former Amerk netminder Scott Wedgewood made 21 saves to earn the victory.

With the contest was knotted up at 1-1 following the first stanza, Syracuse grabbed a 3-1 lead midway through the second period and took a two-goal lead going into the final period of regulation.

“We had a good start like we had wanted,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. “We then ran into some penalty trouble and did not get the kills and it came back to hurt us. Overall, I thought our compete was really good and we made a lot of good things happen.”

Rochester attempted to claw its way back into the game, but thanks to some timely saves, Wedgewood kept the Amerks at bay and Huntington’s marker just under the 7:00 mark put the game out of reach.

“I thought Wedgewood played great,” veteran defensemen Nathan Paetsch said of his former teammate from last season. “We had a lot of good looks, but he made the saves.”

After Rochester successfully killed off its first of five penalties on the night, Wiitala scooped up the puck in the right corner, and before tucking behind the cage, slid a pass to Baudry in-between the faceoff dots.

“It was a nice play by John,” described Baudry of his goal. “He laid a perfect pass in the slot and I took the puck from east to west and shot it in. It was a good feeling and nice to get the first one out of the way.”

The Crunch countered Baudry’s tally and scored four straight goals, including two with man-advantage.

“They have a lot of talent and we have to do a better job staying out of the penalty box,” added Paetsch.

The Amerks continue their 2019 preseason schedule in the front-end of a home-and-home series against the Toronto Marlies at LECOM Harborcenter in downtown Buffalo on Friday, Sept. 27. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. The matchup will mark the first meeting between the two teams since Game 3 of the North Division Semifinals in April when Toronto earned a 3-1 win over the Amerks to complete the first-round sweep. Rochester will conclude its preseason slate on Sunday evening at Ray Twinney Complex as the series with the Marlies shifts north of the border at 4:00 p.m.

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