On the strength of a pair of goals from newcomer Tage Thompson and 36 saves by goaltenderScott Wedgewood, the Rochester Americans (45-22-4-2) picked up their league-leading 24th road win of the season with a 2-1 victory over the Cleveland Monsters (36-28-7-2) Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena. Rochester is now guaranteed at least a second-place finish or better in the American Hockey League’s North Division, securing the Amerks home ice for the best-of-five first-round series of the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs.
With the win to close out their season series with the Monsters, the Amerks improved to 26-7-2-3 over Cleveland since the start of the 2011-12 campaign. Additionally, Rochester inched just one point behind the Syracuse Crunch for the AHL’s North Division lead with three games remaining in the 2018-19 regular-season.
Thompson netted his fourth and fifth goals of the season to help the Amerks improve to 8-2-0-0 over the last their last 10 road games, which includes five straight. The club has also collected 50 out of a possible 72 points in the last 36 games overall. Wedgewood, who came within three minutes of earning his sixth shutout of the season, stopped 36 of 37 shots he faced to push his record on the campaign to 28-13-2, including a 5-1-0 in six games against the Monsters this season. He remains on pace to become the first Amerks netminder to reach 30 wins in a season since former two-time MVP David Leggio reached the mark in 2012-13.
Cleveland, who is clinging to the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division, got on the scoreboard thanks to Mark Letestu’s 20th goal of the season late in the third period while goaltender Brad Thiessen (11-7-3) took the loss.
Following a scoreless opening period of play where each team was unsuccessful on its lone power-play opportunity, the Amerks broke through as Thompson tallied his first goal of the night just 2:31 into the second stanza.
Jack Dougherty collected the puck in-between his own face-off dots and quickly hit Kevin Porter with an outlet pass in the center of the neutral zone. Rochester’s captain left the puck for C.J. Smith, who entered the Monsters blueline and turned a cross-ice feed to Thompson atop the left circle. Thompson fired in the one-timer overtop the right shoulder of Thiessen to give Rochester a 1-0 lead that they took into the second intermission.
With the secondary assist, the 100th of his career as an Amerk, Porter extended his current point streak (1+7) to six games and is one point away from reaching the 40-point mark for the third consecutive season.
After a pair of penalties to begin the final period of regulation, Rochester cashed in on the second infraction as Thompson again received a perfect one-time feed from Matt Tennyson to double the Amerks lead.
The power-play goal from Tennyson and Wayne Simpson at the 10:34 mark was the Amerks’ seventh tally while on the man-advantage in the last six meetings versus Cleveland, and third in as many games.
As the third period was dwindling down and the Monsters facing a 2-0 deficit, Letestu had the puck in the right corner of Wedgewood. The forward threw the puck towards the goal-mouth as a teammate was crashing the net, resulting in a fortuitous bounce for the home team as it glanced off the stick of an Amerks defenseman at the top of the crease and in to make it a one-goal game.
Things got interesting in the final 2:43 of regulation as both teams took coincidental roughing penalties before Smith was whistled for interference, but Wedgewood remained strong and closed out the 2-1 win despite Cleveland pulling its goaltender.
The Amerks wrap up the 2018-19 campaign with three games in three nights beginning on Friday, Apr. 12 at 7:05 p.m. when they host the intrastate rival Binghamton Devils in the regular-season home finale at The Blue Cross Arena. Rochester will then close out the year with a return trip to Syracuse on Saturday before visiting Belleville on Sunday afternoon.