ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Amerks had not won a playoff game in just over eight years–not since May 2nd, 2014.
That streak did not appear ready to end on Wednesday night. And then, all of a sudden, it was over.
Rochester rallied from a 3-0 third period deficit and forced overtime with just under four minutes to play. Arttu Ruotsalainen closed the comeback with an overtime tip-in to give the Amerks game one of their best-of-three first round series against Belleville.
The Sens scored twice in the first period and made it 3-0 midway through the second on a pretty tic-tac-toe play that Rourke Chartier stuffed in.
Rochester finally woke up quickly in the third. J.J. Peterka fed Lukas Rousek all alone in front to score the first Amerks goal of the postseason just over three minutes into the final period.
Peyton Krebs was the catalyst for the last two goals. His pass from the goal line to Jimmy Schuldt in the slot with just under seven minutes left got Rochester within 3-2.
The tying goal started with Krebs at the point, but ended up on Casey Fitzgerald’s stick in just about the same spot. The play also finished in the same spot–the back of the net.
Overtime opened with a fairly frantic back and forth. Rochester goalie Aaron Dell had to make a couple of big saves to keep the Amerks even, including a miracle stick save reaching from his belly. Defenseman Josh Teves even jumped in front of an empty net for a stop to keep the game alive.
Teves triggered the game-winner with a wrister from the point that got all the way through to Ruotsalainen for the winning deflection. The stickhandle before the shot moved the puck narrowly close to out of the zone and offside. The Belleville players complained to referees about the non-call afterward. News 8 replays showed the puck perhaps millimeters offside, but it was a call that would likely be too close to overturn on a replay.
It might sound cliche, but Amerks head coach Seth Appert says “love” is what keyed the comeback. The same love that kept Rochester together as they grinded into the final North Division playoff spot.
His players agreed.
“Down three-nothing, such a comeback in the third is just unbelievable from everybody,” Peterka said. “I just think that showed the character we showed the whole year. Just coming together here. That fight for each other. That’s why we won tonight.”
“We all, I think, played well. In the first period, we just couldn’t score. The same thing in the second period. We just trust how we play hockey and that paid off,” Ruotsalainen said.
Krebs called the crowd “awesome”, especially for a Wednesday night. He could tell they were ready for the franchise’s first playoff win since 2014. They were ready, too and there was confidence even before the rally started.
“We knew it was coming in the second there. We had some great opportunities to score. I think we just couldn’t buy one,” Krebs said. “To get that first one out of the way… the floodgates opened after that.”
It’s a monster win in a best of three series and a must-have victory for Rochester. Each of the final two games of the series are on the road at Belleville. The Amerks can now win Friday or Sunday to earn their first playoff series win since 2005.
A discussion that did not possible after forty minutes of game one.