The Rochester Americans opened their three-game preseason schedule with a 4-2 comeback victory over the Toronto Marlies Thursday evening.
The North Division rivals, who will face each other six times during the regular season, met for a preseason match in front of a small crowd at HARBORCENTER in downtown Buffalo.
“It was a tough game, lot of people’s first games of the year,” said Amerks forward Wayne Simpson. “It’s been months and months since we played a competitive game. Seemed like it was going to be a close game, so it was good to edge them out.”
It was a young group on the ice for the Amerks, who were missing some of their top players. Rasmus Asplund, Victor Olofsson, Will Borgen and Scott Wedgewood, who were all re-assigned to the AHL by the Buffalo Sabres earlier in the day, but were scratched for the game.
Among others scratched: Zach Redmond, Andrew Oglevie and Taylor Fedun.
Adam Wilcox got the start in net for Rochester and made 17 saves.
Sam Babintsev opened the scoring for Toronto, potting a power-play goal in the first period to give the Marlies a 1-0 lead.
Just 34 seconds into the second period, the Amerks got on the board. Wayne Simpson’s point shot slowly made its way through traffic and was deflected by Nathan Paetsch on its way to the back of the net.
Before the middle frame ended, Matt Bradley regained the lead for Toronto. Rochester got the goal back less than four minutes into the third as Tobie Bisson’s shot was deflected by Pascal Aquin into the net behind Marlies netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo.
Aquin said after the game that he was “really stressed at first,” but that goal helped him calm down and feel more confident.
The Amerks finally took their first lead of the night with just under six minutes to play in regulation. Defenseman Arvin Atwal had the goal, with C.J. Smith and Wayne Simpson notching assists.
“It was a weird little play, he slid it over to me and just threw it on net and the rebound went right to him and he was able to finish it, so a good all-around play and good play by Arvin,” Smith said after the win.
Rochester maintained the lead through the first few minutes and held the Marlies without a shot for the final 5:57 of regulation. The Amerks ended up with 30 shots on the night.
Aquin potted the empty-netter, his second goal of the night, with 21.5 seconds left to make it a 4-2 game.
“I liked our compete tonight; I thought we did a lot of good things, especially with being physical and getting around the net,” said head coach Chris Taylor.
“We’ve got a lot of things to clean up, that’s for sure, but anytime you get a win it’s good,” he said.
Kevin Porter wore the captain’s C for the Amerks Thursday night, while Paetsch wore an A.
The Amerks will continue their preseason schedule with a rematch against Toronto on Saturday at the Frank Doherty Arena in Thorold, Ontario. They’ll close out the three-game stand against Syracuse at RIT’s Gene Polisseni Center on Sunday night.
“Even though the next couple days we might see some more faces here, everybody trying to get on the same page, we just trying to keep it simple, learn our systems here and get some chemistry going for the last two games before the regular season starts,” Smith said.
“We need to get a good look at these guys to see where they’re at and where we think they fit in,” Taylor said after the game, adding that some of the players from Thursday’s game are likely to play on Saturday, with goaltender Jonas Johansson also likely to see some ice time.
With the Sabres opening their regular season Thursday, the Amerks begin their respective season next Friday, October 5. They’ll host the Charlotte Checkers for the first game in a back-to-back series at 7:05 p.m. at Blue Cross Arena.