UPDATE (11:27 a.m.): The Buffalo Sabres today announced the team has assigned forwards Cal O'Reilly, Tim Schaller and Philip Varone to the Rochester Americans (AHL).
With eight goals and two victories, it turned out to be a grand weekend in Grand Rapids for the Rochester Americans.
The Amerks swept a two-game set against the Griffins, recording a season-high 49 shots in a 5-3 win on Friday night and utilizing a dominant performance from Nathan Lieuwen to win 2-0 on Saturday. Rochester has won three of its last four games and now sits just three points behind fourth-place Syracuse in the North Division.
They'll have a chance to make up even more ground when they host the Crunch on Wednesday night to begin a two-game home stand that concludes against Binghamton on Friday. After that, they'll play once more in Utica on Saturday before taking a breather for the AHL All-Star break.
Rochester came into Grand Rapids with the daunting task of ending the Griffins' 15-game point streak at Van Andel Arena. Two goals from Jerry D'Amigo as well as one each from Matt Donovan, Evan Rodrigues and Jean Dupuy on Friday made it a bit easier.
Rodrigues scored the go-ahead goal 7:11 into the third period and Dupuy found twine less than five minutes later to give the Amerks a 4-2 lead. Grand Rapids added one more goal on the power-play with 2:07 remaining, but D'Amigo hit the empty net in the final minute to seal the victory.
Linus Ullmark made 41 saves to earn his first win since being reassigned to Rochester on Jan. 14.
The Amerks didn’t generate quite as much offense on Saturday but, with Lieuwen in net, they didn’t need it. The goaltender stopped all 42 of the shots he faced from Grand Rapids, posting his fourth career shutout and his first in nearly two years.
Daniel Catenacci provided goal support early, opening the scoring with a one-time goal 3:16 into the contest. Allan McPherson added his first goal of the season with 7:20 remaining and Lieuwen was perfect on 15 third-period shots to seal the win.
1. Jason Akeson 25 points (7+18)
2. Cal O'Reilly 23 points (4+19)
3. Philip Varone 19 points (10+9)
4. Justin Bailey 16 points (6+10)
5. Nicholas Baptiste 15 points (7+8)
Evan Rodrigues 15 points (5+10)
1. Nathan Lieuwen 11-7-0, 2.66 GAA, .919 save percentage
2. Linus Ullmark 2-3-0, 3.04 GAA, .920 save percentage
3. Andrey Makarov 6-7-1, 3.09 GAA, .907 save percentage
Expect a close contest when the Amerks and Crunch square off in their North Division battle on Wednesday at The Blue Cross Arena. The two rivals have split four contests this season. The first two were decided in a shootout and the last two by just one goal.
Amerks coach Randy Cunneyworth said that it will be important for his team to be prepared for a physical game against Syracuse.
"You can't help but be physical with this team," Cunneyworth told Amerks.com. "I think that's part of their makeup and I think they finish checks everywhere, all over the ice. You have to be ready for it and just accept that it's going to be that kind of the game."
After their battle with Syracuse, the Amerks will host their annual Hometown Heroes Night during their game against Binghamton on Friday. Local police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, and other first responders will be honored in addition to a pick-up game between the Rochester Police Department and Amerks Alumni.
Both of Rochester's home games this week are slated to begin at 7:05 p.m. and can be seen live on Time Warner Sports Channel and heard in Rochester on Fox Sports 1280.