The Rochester Americans (29-15-3-2) came up on the short end of a 5-2 decision Tuesday night against the Cleveland Monsters (23-21-5-1) at Quicken Loans Arena. It was just the second time all season that the Amerks suffered back-to-back regulation road losses.
Even with tonight’s defeat, the Amerks have collected 17 out of a possible 24 points in their last 12 games and maintain their first-place lead atop the AHL’s North Division standings going into home-and-home series with the Syracuse Crunch. Rochester has also notched 25 points in its last 19 games dating back to a 4-0 shutout win in Cleveland on Dec. 26.
Forward Remi Elie scored his first goal as an Amerk and later assisted on Wayne Simpson’s third-period goal for the Amerks, who show a record of 24-6-2-3 against Cleveland since the start of the 2011-12 season, which includes a 10-2-1-0 record in the last 14 meetings. Goaltender Scott Wedgewood (17-8-2), who has won eight of his last 11 games dating back to the day after Christmas, was tagged with the loss as he made 29 saves.
Cleveland, which entered the game winless in five of its last six games, was paced by Kole Sherwood and Vitaly Abramov’s two-goal night as well as Nikita Korostelev’s multi-assist (0+2) performance. Paul Bittner finished off the scoring as netminder Jean-Francois Berube stopped 26 of 28 shots he faced to even his record on the slate to 15-15-4.
After allowing the Amerks to even the game at 1-1 just 2:46 into the second period, the Monsters scored three unanswered goals prior to the halfway point of the final frame to grab a three-goal cushion.
Shortly after Abramov scored his first of the night at the 4:23 mark, the Amerks appeared to shift the momentum in their favor as they drew an interference penalty, but the home club, much like the three prior infractions, successfully killed off the penalty.
The Monsters extended their lead as Abramov and Sherwood each tacked on their second goals of the night 1:40 apart to make it a 4-1 score at the 13:08 mark of the third period. While Simpson cut the lead in half as he redirected a Casey Nelson point shot, Cleveland put the game away as Bittner scored his seventh marker of the season into a vacant net.
With Simpson’s 16th goal of the season, the Boxborough, Mass., native reached the 30-point plateau for the fourth straight season and tied a career-best in goals through 48 games.
The two North Division opponents, who will meet again in eight days at The Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, went into the third period knotted up at 1-1 before Cleveland scored four goals in the final 20 minutes of regulation.
During an end-to-end opportunistic first-period, the Monsters scored the only goal of the stanza as Sherwood gave Cleveland its first lead of the season-series at the 15:53 mark. As the Monsters kept the puck inside the Amerks zone, Sam Vigneault centered a pass to Sherwood before tucking behind the cage. Despite failing on his initial attempt, Sherwood bunted the puck over the left arm of Wedgewood for his 10th goal of the campaign and first of the contest.
Trailing for the first time in the season-series, the Amerks responded after the first intermission and tied the contest 2:46 into the middle frame as Elie, who had a career-high five shots, backhanded a breakaway shot over the glove-hand of Berube and made it a 1-1 game from Eric Cornel.
The Amerks open up their second three-in-three of the season beginning on Friday, Feb. 15 when they welcome back the Syracuse Crunch to The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start