On the strength of multi-point efforts from forwards Eric Cornel (1+1) and Sean Malone (1+1), the Rochester Americans (17-4-2-2) opened the first half of a two-game set with the Laval Rocket (15-11-3-0) with a narrow 3-2 victory Friday night at Place Bell. The win also restored sole possession for first place in the AHL’s North Division standings heading into Saturday’s rematch with the Rocket.
With the win, the Amerks have earned points in 13 of their last 14 games dating back to Nov. 1, showing a 12-1-1-1 record over that span. Additionally, Rochester has picked up points in 19 of the last 22 contests overall, going 15-3-2-2, while also earning 38 out of a possible 50 points through their first 25 contests of the season.
Both Cornel and Malone each contributed a goal and an assist for the Amerks, who have won six of the last seven meetings against the Rocket dating back to the 2017-18 season. Defenseman Casey Nelson opened the scoring on the night with his fourth tally of the season while goaltender Jonas Johansson extended his personal win streak to a career-best six games as he made 35 saves. The Swedish netminder shows an 8-2-2 record while his 2.09 goals-against average is second-best in the AHL.
Charles Hudon scored his team-high 11th goal of the campaign for Laval, which came into the matchup winners in four of its last five home games, while Nikita Jevpalovs added his fourth. Goaltender Charlie Lindgren (7-6-2) stopped 17 of 20 shots he faced but was dealt the loss.
After seeing the Rocket pull within a goal 2:35 into the third period and taking their fifth penalty of the night, the Amerks successfully killed off the infraction to remain in front by a 3-2 score. Laval continued to press to find the equalizer, and despite pulling Lindgren, Johansson made timely saves in the final period to preserve the one-goal victory.
Rochester jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead as Nelson fired a shot from atop the blueline from Kevin Porter and Andrew Oglevie just 53 seconds into the contest. The lead would be short-lived, however, as Laval responded less than two minutes later to even the score while on the power-play.
Later in the first period, the Amerks were whistled for a hooking penalty, but a wide shot attempt as the penalty was expiring sent Malone and Cornel in the other direction on a 2-on-1 odd-man rush at the 13:58 mark. After entering the zone with the puck, Malone dished a pass to Cornel at the left wing. Cornel fired a shot that beat Lindgren and rang off the right post before Malone converted the rebound for his sixth of the season to give Rochester a 2-1 lead they carried into the final 20 minutes of play.
Much like the opening 20 minutes of play, the Amerks used a quick goal to increase the lead but the Rocket answered right back to keep it a one-goal game.
Carrying the puck through the neutral zone, Cornel snapped a shot from just inside the blueline and Lindgren kicked the puck to the right hash marks. Malone attempted to shovel in the rebound but this time it was Cornel making good on the second opportunity as he backhanded it into the net for his fifth of the campaign to restore the two- lead for Rochester.
Rookie Jacob Bryson was credited with the secondary helper just 1:57 into the third.
On the ensuing shift, Laval countered as Jevpalovs spotted a loose puck to the right of Johansson and picked the top-right corner with a shot from a near-impossible angle.
Rochester faced a lot of pressure from a desperate Rocket team for the remainder of the contest, and despite being outshot 18-5 in the final period, the Amerks survived the last push and held on for the 3-2 victory.
After a quick turnaround, the same two teams will meet up again on Saturday afternoon for a rematch at Place Bell.