ROCHESTER (LGS) — “We’ve got to play a full 60 minutes.”
Those were the words of Amerks captain Brandon Smith just one week ago, after Rochester had dropped a 4-1 decision to the WBS Penguins.
Despite playing well at times, the Americans have not been able to string together a full 60 minutes worth of hockey and win games on a regular basis. With their playoff spot no longer a given, Rochester looked to change their recent fortunes as they embarked on a four game week.
The slate of contests began on Friday night in the City of Brotherly Love, to take on the Philadelphia Phantoms. The Phantoms didn’t show the Amerks too much love however, as they took the contest, 3-0, at the Wachovia Spectrum.
Ryan Potulny earned first star honors as he potted two goals, including the game winner.
Mark Cullen pitched in offensively for the Phantoms with two assists.
Adam Dennis played between the pipes for Rochester, stopping 30 of the 33 shots he faced.
Saturday night saw the Red, White and Blue travel up the QEW to the Ricoh Coliseum where they took on the Toronto Marlies. Martin Sagat stole the show for the Marlies, who became the second player in two nights to tally two goals against the Amerks.
Toronto’s Brett Engelhardt opened the scoring for the Marlies 6:39 into the first period.
Rochester answered back at 15:36 when Stefan Meyer scored on the power play. Assisting on the goal were Mark Mancari and Janis Sprukts.
That was as close as things would get for the Amerks. Dominic D’Amour scored one goal and Sagat scored two in the final period as the Marlies pulled away for a 4-1 win.
Justin Pogge, former goalie of the Canadian WJC gold medal team, picked up the games third star as he stopped 31 of 32 shots he saw on the night.
Adam Berkhoel started in goal for Rochester, making 23 saves.
Despite losing the first two games of the weekend, to a man the Amerks would have said they didn’t play that bad.
“We battled really hard,” Amerk coach Randy Cunneyworth would say on Sunday night, “but we didn’t get rewarded.”
The Amerks were rewarded on Sunday night.
Sprukts scored the games first goal, just 1:42 in as Rochester raced to a 1-0 lead. Dylan Hunter set the play up, as he drove up the right wing boards. Hunter stopped at the half-wall and feathered a pass to Sprukts in the slot for the goal. Mancari added the second assist on the goal.
“We worked hard (in the first period),” Cunneyworth would say later when asked about the quick start.
“It was nice to get an early lead,” Drew Larman added. “We went from there and never looked back.”
Houston’s Joey Tetarenko knotted the game at one when he got behind Rochester’s defense and wrist a shot under Adam Dennis’ arm.
This was Rochester night however, as Rochester played a full 60 minutes of hockey, at both ends of the ice and pulled away.
Larman’s game-winning goal was a thing of beauty. In the ultimate team sport, it was his individual play that won the contest for Rochester. Larman collect a loose puck in the neutral zone, and worked around two Houston defenders. Skating through the defense like they were practice pylons took Larman to the left wing boards with a streaking Dylan Hunter in the slot on a 2 on 1. Larman gave a long, hard look at Hunter which tricked, if only for a second, Dieter Kochan. It was all the time Larman needed as he fired a wrist shot into the net.
“It was definitely overdue,” Larman said in a victorious Amerks dressing room. “I showed pass, and I saw him (Kochan) cheat a little. He left the short-side open and I buried it.”
Mancari was credited with the games final goal in a truly bizarre sequence. With the Houston net wide open, Mancari intercepted a pass in the neutral zone. As he raced into the Aeros zone, he was caught from behind by a Houston defender and was mauled like a starving bear eating a salmon, and never got a shot off. The referee would have awarded a penalty shot, but with the net empty gave Mancari the goal.
“I honestly thought that he was going to just trip me,” said Mancari. “I think he got a bit more of me than he intended to and I lost my balance.”
Adam Dennis, who entered the game having not won a start since January, played wonderfully in net for the Amerks. Dennis saved 27 shots on the night.
“I think I was putting too much pressure on myself,” the rookie goaltender said. “I was getting away from what has made me successful. Sometimes I get too caught up in outcomes as opposed to taking it one save at a time.”
A travel-heavy month saw Rochester make a run for the border for the second time in less than a week on Wednesday night. Copps Coliseum was the destination, and the Hamilton Bulldogs were the opponent.
Stefan Meyer opened the scoring, as he netted his 12th goal of the year just 1:57 into the opening period. Mark Mancari added the assist.
Matt D’Agostini and Jonathan Ferland answered back for the Bulldogs just over a minute apart to take a 2-1 lead heading into the second period.
It was a man not noted for his scoring prowess who tied the game at two for Rochester, as Patrick Kaleta scored on the power play.
Marek Zagrapan tallied Rochester’s third goal, and second on the power play, in the waning moments in the second.
After skating through the first 15 minutes of the third period with zero goals, the last five minutes saw two.
Francis Lemieux tied it up at three when his shot found the back of the twine with 4:07 left as Hamilton had their sites set on overtime.
Dylan Hunter wanted no part of the extra session and he netted the game winner with 1:52 remaining for Rochester’s second win in a row.
Adam Dennis played well between the pipes once again, making 25 saves for his second consecutive win.
Three stars for the week:
1. Adam Dennis – showing the form that makes him a top prospect
2. Drew Larman – stepping his game up
3. Mark Mancari – providing offense, and leadership