Arttu Ruotsalainen’s league-leading sixth goal of the Calder Cup Playoffs 1:39 into overtime lifted the Rochester Americans (4-1) to their second win in as many days over the Utica Comets (1-2) in front of a sellout crowd of 10,741 Sunday at The Blue Cross Arena.
With a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-five North Division Semifinals, the Amerks can close out the series with a win in Game 4 on Tuesday, May 17 on home ice.
The overtime victory was the Amerks’ fourth of the postseason as well as the fourth by a 4-3 score. It was the club’s second straight game that required extra time after Rochester claimed Game 2 on Saturday night just 89 seconds into the overtime.
While Peyton Krebs and JJ Peterka recorded two assists each, Mark Alt, Jimmy Schuldt, Casey Fitzgerald, and Ryan MacInnis all notched a helper. Brandon Biro and Sean Malone both scored their first goals of the playoffs while Lukas Rousek netted his second. Ruotsalainen capped off the scoring as he tallied his league-leading sixth goal and ninth point, which is second in the AHL.
Goaltender Aaron Dell (3+1) earned his fourth win of the playoffs as he stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced.
Utica defenseman Robbie Russo (0+2) and Fabian Zetterlund (1+1) both logged multi-point games as they each tallied two points. AJ Greer scored his fourth goal of the playoffs while Aarne Talvitie was credited with his first, respectively. Netminder Akira Schmid (0+1) made his first-career postseason appearance but suffered the loss as he made 34 saves.
With the game deadlocked at 3-3 in the final minute of regulation, Rochester drew a power-play, but was unable to score in the first 15 seconds of the man-advantage, ultimately requiring overtime.
Early in the extra session, Fitzgerald kept the puck inside the zone as a Comet attacker applied pressure. The blueliner exchanged a pass with Mark Jankowski before he gave the puck to Krebs atop the left point. Krebs skated down the left wall before sending a cross-crease pass to right dot for Ruotsalainen. The Finnish forward received the pass and quickly snapped a one-timer to give the Amerks a 4-3 overtime win with 1:39 elapsed.
The Amerks came out in the first seven minutes of the contest outshooting the Comets 7-1, however, Utica eventually broke the scoreless game as Greer backhanded his own rebound at the 7:34 mark.
Rochester responded shortly after as the home team scored twice in a span of 2:11 with Malone and Rousek’s first and second goals of the postseason, respectively.
Prior to Malone’s goal with 5:26 left in the period, both he and Schuldt, who seconds earlier stepped out of the box after serving a high-sticking penalty, blocked a shot inside the Amerks zone.
Alt gathered the second blocked-shot and began the transition as he sprung Schuldt into the offensive zone. Schuldt reached the top of the left dot and fired a shot off the right pad of Schmid for Malone, who made a diving effort to sweep in the rebound to make it a 1-1- game.
On Rochester’s second goal of the period, MacInnis stepped inside the Comets blueline and made his way in-front of the goalmouth with the puck, which pinballed its way through traffic before finding the stick of Peterka. With his back was towards Rousek, he made a no-look backhanded pass through his legs to his fellow rookie to hammer past the netminder at the 14:34 mark.
Midway through the second stanza and on Utica’s second power-play of the contest, Russo had the puck atop the point. The defenseman floated a one-time feed to the left face-off dot for Zetterlund to tie the game at 2-2.
The clubs then traded goals as Biro steered in his first of the playoffs before Talvitie was credited with a goal to make it a 3-3 game going into the final period of regulation.
Following a scoreless third stanza where the Amerks outshot the Comets 13-5, Ruotsalainen sealed the victory just 1:39 into the overtime.
The Amerks have a chance to close out the Comets and advance to the third round for the first time since 2004 when the series resumes on Tuesday, May 17 with Game 4 at The Blue Cross Arena.