The Rochester Americans overcame a poor third period performance & won 4-3 in overtime Friday night, sweeping their best-of-three series against the Belleville Senators in the first round of the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs.
Brett Murray, who played 52 games with Rochester this season and another 19 with the Buffalo Sabres, scored the game-winning goal off a feed from Arttu Ruotsalainen late in the first overtime period. The victory marked Rochester’s first Calder Cup Playoff series win since 2005 and followed a 4-3 overtime win on Wednesday that saw Ruotsalainen tally the game-winning tally.
The Amerks will now head to Utica to face the first-place Comets in a best-of-five series beginning Tuesday night.
Make no mistake: Friday’s game was entirely different from Wednesday’s, although the end result was the same. The Amerks came out much stronger from the get-go and took an early lead just 6:47 on Ruotsalainen’s first of two goals:
After a shooting frenzy by the Senators, Mark Jankowski doubled Rochester’s lead 5:41 into the second period:
Belleville started to climb back and finally got on the board with a goal from Zac Leslie, but Ruotsalainen quickly regained his team’s two-goal lead with this “Hey, watch this” move:
Unfortunately for Rochester, they utterly collapsed in the third period. After Andrew Agozzino made it a one-goal game, Rochester took two penalties in succession - including a double-minor to Casey Fitzgerald for high-sticking.
To no surprise, the Senators tied the game on the 5-on-3 advantage. Rochester went more than half of the third period without a shot on goal, which is honestly pretty indicative of how they were playing up to that point.
Thankfully, they were able to hold on and force overtime, and came out much stronger there. A handful of shots and chances early, combined with several huge saves from Aaron Dell, put the Amerks in a good position throughout the overtime period.
(As an aside, Dell has been generally superb for the Amerks. The general consensus: if Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was in, these games would have been losses instead.)
Murray’s goal came with 2:21 remaining in the overtime period & was his first of the postseason. Ruotsalainen notched his second assist - and fourth point - of the evening. Dell was credited with 34 saves in the win.
A few more final stats from Friday’s big win:
- Casey Fitzgerald: 1 assist, 4 shots on goal
- Mark Jankowski: 1 goal, 4 shots on goal
- Sean Malone: 2 assists
- Arttu Ruotsalainen: 2 goals, 1 assists, 3 shots on goal
- Jack Quinn: 4 shots on goal
- Peyton Krebs: 1 assist, 1 shot on goal
- JJ Peterka: 2 shots on goal
Here’s the reported schedule for the upcoming Amerks/Comets series:
- Game 1: May 10, 7 pm (@ Utica)
- Game 2: May 14, 7 pm (@ Utica)
- Game 3: May 15, 5:05 pm (@ Rochester)
- Game 4: May 17, 7:05 pm (@ Rochester) *if necessary
- Game 5: May 19, 7 pm (@ Utica) *if necessary