After a pair of 4-3 overtime wins over the weekend, the AHL’s Rochester Americans have a chance to close out their playoff series against the Utica Comets on Tuesday night.
The two teams have battled hard throughout the three games so far. Utica (the New Jersey Devils’ AHL affiliate) took game one by a score of 6-3 after capitalizing on a worn-out Amerks squad, but the Buffalo Sabres’ affiliate team did well to battle back in game two and head home on equal footing.
JJ Peterka was the star of Saturday’s show, recording a hat trick, including the overtime game-winning goal. Peyton Krebs assisted on all three of Peterka’s goals, while Jack Quinn recorded his first point of the postseason with a helper on the OT tally.
Mark Jankowski also scored for Rochester in the win, while Aaron Dell made 16 saves. Nico Daws had 25 saves for the Comets.
After watching Saturday’s game from home, I was fortunate enough to be one of the 10,741 fans at Blue Cross Arena for Sunday’s evening tilt. It’s been several years since I’ve been in the crowd for a Rochester game (as opposed to the press box), but if there was ever a game to do it... this was it. The sold-out crowd was the Amerks’ biggest for a playoff game since 2004. The fans were rocking, the building was loud, and the hockey was superb.
Rochester came out pushing, but it was Utica’s A.J. Greer who opened the scoring just 7:34 in. Have no fear - the Amerks responded exactly seven minutes later, when Sean Malone tallied the first AHL playoff goal of his career.
Lukas Rousek scored just over two minutes later to put the Amerks up before the first period ended. As the teams settled into the game, the back-and-forth action continued. The Comets outshot the Amerks 16-11 in the second period and scored twice, receiving goals from Fabian Zetterlund and Aarne Talvitie.
Those goals bookended one by Brandon Biro, as Biro tipped in a shot from Peterka:
Rochester largely dominated the third period, outshooting Utica 13-5. Despite only having five shots, however, the Comets certainly had their chances. As the clock ticked down and the energy in the rink became more & more palpable, it felt like ‘the goal’ could come at any moment - at either end of the ice.
Utica’s Robbie Russo took a minor penalty with just 15 seconds left in regulation after delivering a nasty blow to captain Michael Mersch, sending the Amerks to the power play.
This was it - you just knew it had to be. After multiple chances in that short 15-second span, followed by an intermission, the teams reconvened to start the first overtime period.
Just like Saturday’s game, it didn’t take long for the Amerks to end it. Peterka’s goal on Saturday came at 1:29; this time, Arttu Ruotsalainen scored at 1:39 - on the power play - to finish it. A beautiful pass from Krebs set up Ruotsalainen in his spot to the goalie’s left, where he’s already scored from multiple times this postseason.
The shot, the goal, and the crowd went wild.
FOR THE 10,741 AMERKS FANS IN ATTENDANCE TONIGHT.— x-Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) May 16, 2022
FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU. pic.twitter.com/7f9sXFVrlz
This time, Dell had 30 saves. Akira Schmid made his postseason debut and had 34 saves on 38 shots faced.
Sunday’s win was the Amerks’ fourth overtime victory of the postseason, all by 4-3 scores.
Now, the Amerks head into Tuesday’s game three on the precipice of advancing to the third round for the first time since 2004. Tuesday’s 7:05 pm puck drop will be available to watch on AHLTV; tickets are also still available.
Scoring leaders for Rochester include:
- Arttu Ruotsalinen (6-3-9) * second in AHL in scoring
- JJ Peterka (4-4-8) * fourth in AHL in scoring
- Peyton Krebs (0-8-8) * fourth in AHL in scoring