Second period meltdown dooms Amerks

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The Rochester Americans stormed out to a 2-0 first-period lead on a pair of goals just 1:33 apart but let it slip away as the Toronto Marlies responded with four goals in the second before surviving a late push from the Amerks to come away with a 4-3 victory Sunday at Ricoh Coliseum. 

Cole Schneider (1+1), Nick Baptiste (0+2) and Casey Nelson (0+2) each recorded two points for Rochester, which despite the loss, has won seven of its last 10 games entering the final stretch of the regular season. Schneider’s goal and assist on the night keep him leading the Amerks points race by 20 while also allowing him to surpass the 60-point mark for the first time in his pro career. A night after scoring his first AHL goal in last night’s 5-0 win over Utica, newcomer Justin Danforth tallied his second goal in as many nights while Justin Bailey also found the back of the net for the second straight game, bringing his goal total to 22 on the year. Rookie netminder Jonas Johansson returned the paint for Rochester, turning aside 27 of 31 shots he faced to fall to 3-3-0 through his first six appearances as an Amerk.

Four different goal-scorers paced the Toronto offense during a wild second period which saw the Marlies score four times in a span of 10:20 with three coming just 2:13 apart. Andrew Campbell, Mike Sislo, Brendan Leipsic and Justin Holl all scored in the win for Toronto while Kasimir Kaskisuo made 25 saves. Kerby Rychel and Seth Griffith each picked up two assists.

The Amerks grabbed a 2-0 lead as Schneider opened the scoring on the power-play with his 24th of the year at 14:21. An early Marlies penalty gave the Amerks the man-advantage. Baptiste fired the puck down the ice to Schneider, who carried the puck wide around Toronto defenseman Steve Olesky and slipped backhanded shot through the pads of Kaskisuo.

Just 1:33 later, Rochester took advantage of an offensive zone breakdown by the Marlies, which was dissolved when Baptiste streaked down the ice with the puck, followed closely by Nelson and Danforth on a 3-on-1. Baptiste’s shot was deflected but the rebound was picked up by Danforth for his second goal in as many games.

The Marlies came out firing in the second, scoring three times in just over two minutes to take a 3-2 lead. Campbell got things started for Toronto 5:40 in to the middle frame, finishing off a nifty passing play that resulted in the defenseman’s sixth goal of the year. Sislo then connected on a no-look, behind-the-back pass from Rychel before Leipsic capitalized off a nearly broken play just 49 seconds later to put the Marlies in front for good.

Holl capped the scoring by giving Toronto its largest lead of the night at the 16:00 mark for his eighth of the season, making it 4-2 Marlies after 40 minutes.

A quiet third period finished with a bang when Schneider lobbed a pass across the net to Bailey, who tipped the puck in and made it a one-goal game at 14:41. The Amerks had an opportunity to tie it up late in the game as they pulled Johansson just as Holl was sent off cross-checking in the final minute of regulation. Despite the two-man advantage, however, Rochester couldn’t find the equalizer as the Marlies held on the 4-3 win.

The Amerks begin the final week of the season when they return to The Blue Cross Arena on Wednesday, April 12 for a rematch with the Binghamton Senators. The 7:05 p.m. contest opens a stretch of three games in four nights for Rochester before a home-and-home series with the Albany Devils to close out the regular season.

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