(Rochester, February 25)… Rochester Americans forward Mark Cullen
had his hand in four of Rochester’s five goals this evening, scoring two goals and assisting on two others to send the Amerks past the first place Manitoba Moose 5-3 in the second leg of a two-game set tonight at The Blue Cross Arena. With the win, the Amerks (27-27-3-3) reach the .500 mark for just the second time this season and have now picked up points in four of their last five games, while also winning two of their last three.
Cullen (2+2), who in addition to scoring his first goal of the season and as an Amerk, reached the 400-point plateau in his professional career with his second goal of the game and fourth point of the night. The nine-year pro also finished with a plus-one on-ice rating en route to first star honors. Defensemen Mike Kostka (1+2) and Clay Wilson (1+1) also turned in multi-point efforts to claim second and third accolades, respectively. Cullen also skated on the ice during all three power-play goals, contributing in each, while Kostka and Wilson were also a factor on two of those shifts.
Netminder Tyler Plante, who was between the pipes for his 10th straight start, posted 27 saves in the winning effort. He picked up his 11th win of the season in the victory.
Guillaume Desbiens (1+1), Bill Sweatt (1+0) and Mark Flood (1+1), who kept the Moose lurking throughout the game, scored the goals for visiting Manitoba tonight. Goaltender Eddie Lack also made 27 of 32 saves in his 14th loss of the season.
The Amerks got on the board first with less than two minutes remaining in the opening period on the man-advantage. Lack denied Koskta’s initial shot from the blueline, but Cullen was able to tip it in on the rebound after a scramble in front of the net. The power-play tally was Cullen’s first goal of the season and as an Amerk. Wilson was also credited with an assist.
Manitoba knotted the score at one just 45 seconds into the second stanza. Desbiens put a rebound past Plante for his seventh of the year, with help from Flood and Sergei Shirokov
The Moose extended their lead by two with a tally by Sweatt, scoring his 14th of the year. A little more than five minutes into the period, Jordan Schroeder sent a cross-ice pass to Sweatt, who then managed to pop the puck over Plante’s left shoulder for the goal.
Rochester wouldn’t let Manitoba have the edge for long though, evening things out at 2-2 at 13:17 of the period. PJ Fenton found a streaking Colby Robak
in the high slot with a pass from behind the net that surprised the Manitoba defensive corps. Robak, who left his post at the blueline to join the play, slipped by the Moose defenders in the slot and beat Lack low on the glove-side of the net.
Then after a hooking penalty from the Moose’s Mario Bliznak, the Amerks used the power-play to their advantage to take the lead for the second time tonight. After Cullen and then Kostka both made the decision to give the puck to Wilson at the top of the point, Wilson sent the puck sailing between the circles and through traffic to the back of the net for the 3-2 go-ahead. On the play, Wilson, Kostka and Cullen all earned their second point of the night.
The Amerks opened up a two-goal advantage with their third power-play goal of the night just 1:31 into the final frame. After some tic-tac-toe passing between Wilson, Cullen, and Chris Taylor, Kostka crept in from the right point to slam home a backdoor feed that came off the stick of Taylor. The goal was Kostka’s third point of the game, and Cullen also picked up his third point with an assist.
Manitoba responded to pull within one less than three minutes later, capitalizing on a fortunate bounce. After Desbiens missed high and wide with a wrister from center point, the puck ricocheted off the glass behind the Rochester net right to Flood at the top of the crease. Flood quickly gloved it down and stuffed it between Plante’s five-hole for his eighth of the season.
Rochester quickly regained the momentum at 7:57 when Cullen once again found the back of the net for the second time in the contest, lifting him to his 400th career point, to put the home squad on top 5-3. After Keaton Ellerby
’s long shot from the left point was turned away by Lack, Cullen was all alone at the right circle to deposit the rebound. Hugh Jessiman also factored in on the play, picking up the second assist.
The Amerks head to the Southern tier on Saturday, February 26th to exchange pleasantries with the Binghamton Senators at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be the seventh of eight scheduled meetings between the intrastate rivals this season and can be heard live on SportsRadio 1280 WHTK and FM 107.3, Rochester’s Sports Talk.