ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester Americans faced a 4-0 deficit going into the third period Tuesday against the Utica Comets, and despite scoring twice in the final five minutes, came up short in a 4-2 loss in Game 4 of the North Division Semifinals at The Blue Cross Arena.
Even at 2-2, the best-of-five series shifts back to the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica on Thursday, May 19 for one final winner-take-all showdown between the intrastate rivals, who also split the 2021-22 regular season series with six wins each.
Forward Arttu Ruotsalainen extended his point streak to six straight games to begin the postseason. He scored his league-leading seventh goal to open the scoring for Rochester in the third period. Mark Jankowski notched his third of the playoffs in the final minute of regulation while Casey Fitzgerald, Lukas Rousek, JJ Peterka, and Jack Quinn all recorded an assist.
Goaltender Aaron Dell (3+2) earned his fifth straight start and made 22 saves in the first two periods before Michael Houser finished the contest by stopping all seven shots he faced in relief.
Utica was led offensively by the trio of Fabian Zetterlund (0+3), A.J. Greer (2+0) and Chase De Leo (1+1) as they combined for seven of the team’s 12 points. Nolan Foote tallied his first of the playoffs while netminder Nico Daws (2+1) made 30 saves in his third appearance.
Nearly seven minutes into a scoreless game, Utica forced a turnover deep inside the Amerks end before Foote finished off a series of tic-tac-toe passing from former Amerk Brian Flynn and Tyce Thompson to make it a 1-0 lead.
After carrying the 1-0 lead into the intermission, the visitors stunned the home crowd as they tacked on three more goals in the second period, including a pair 1:32 apart, to make it a 4-0 advantage after 40 minutes.
Rochester drew its fifth power-play with just under six minutes to play during the final frame.
On the man-advantage, Rousek held the puck at the top of the left face-off circle before giving it to Fitzgerald atop the point. After faking a shot, the blueliner set up a one-timer for Ruotsalainen to tuck under the crossbar and spoil Daws’s bid for a shutout.
Less than two minutes later, the Amerks drew yet another power-play. Rochester pulled Houser for two extra skaters, and as Peterka had the puck to the left of the Comets’ net, he centered a pass for Jankowski to tap behind Daws to make it a 4-2 score with just 49 seconds remaining.
Quinn recorded the secondary helper on Jankowski while Peterka earned his ninth point of the postseason.
The Comets held off the Amerks for the final 49 seconds of regulation to earn the 4-2 victory and even the best-of-five series at 2-2.
The series wraps up on Thursday, May 19 in Utica for a decisive Game 5 with the winner moving on to meet the Laval Rocket in the North Division Finals.