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Grant scores 6 goals as Amerks sweep weekend games

by Rochester Americans @AmerksHockey /

The Rochester Americans swept the weekend with three wins in three games, including a pair on home ice at The BlueCross Arena. The Amerks improved their record to 27-37-0-2 and currently sit in sixth place in the North Division with 56 points.


Friday: Springfield 3 - Rochester 4

SPR 3 - RCH 4

Trailing 3-1 entering the third period, the Rochester Americans responded with three straight goals, including Cole Schneider's overtime winning tally with 1:16 remaining in the extra stanza, to defeat the Springfield Thunderbirds Friday night at The Blue Cross Arena. The Amerks snapped a five-game losing streak with the victory while improving to 6-0 in overtime this season.

Schneider (1+1), Derek Grant (2+0) and Mat Bodie (0+2) all recorded multi-point efforts to lead the Amerks. Schneider recorded his 50th and 51st point of the season with his two point-night, a mark he has now reached in four straight seasons, in addition to reaching the 20-goal mark for the fourth straight year. 

Meanwhile, newcomer Alex Kile opened the scoring with his first professional goal during the middle frame. At the backend of the ice, goaltender Linus Ullmark, who has started 21 of the last 23 games for Rochester, improved to 23-26-2 after stopping 21 of 24 shots he faced. The Swedish netminder also ended a personal five-game losing skid with the win.

Chase Balisy upped his team-best offensive output on the season to 39 after he tallied the final goal for Springfield as he now shows 12 points (5+7) in his last 12 games. Josh Brown and Dryden Hunt capped off the scoring as they scored in the first and second periods, respectively. After entering the contest with a 5-1-0 record this season against Amerks, Springfield goaltender Adam Wilcox took the loss despite making 27 saves. The netminder is 22-10-5 on the season.

Following a brief altercation between the two teams midway through the final period with the Amerks trailing 3-1, Rochester was awarded a five-minute power-play and eventually it would pay off. Unable to generate many opportunities during the first three minutes of the infraction, Bodie fired a shot from the top of the slot.

With a pair Amerks parked in front of Wilcox, Grant redirected the shot into the cage for his first of two goals on the night and cut the deficit to 3-2 with 12:03 to play.

"I thought our team really rallied around the hit on 'Bapper' (Nick Baptiste)," said Grant. "As a team, we started moving our feet and starting firing more pucks to the net and got rewarded for it in the third period. We did not like our second period, so it showed a lot of character for us to come back in the third like we did."

Later in the period following another spirited altercation, the home team continued to carry the momentum and tied the contest at 3-3 at the 17:34 mark as Grant struck again, this time knocking the puck into the cage out of mid-air. Casey Nelson fired the initial shot from the right point and he and fellow rookie Alexander Nylander each earned an assist on the play.

"I think we started playing with a lot more emotion during the third period," Amerks head coach Dan Lambert said. "Guys stepped up and they were guys who we need to step up after not being very sharp for the first two periods."

After outshooting the Thunderbirds 17-6 during the final period, the Amerks tied the game and forced overtime. The two clubs exchanged chances in the first three minutes but were unable to register any shots until Jean Dupuy fired the puck on net.

Fortunately for the Amerks, Wilcox couldn't handle the rebound, as Schneider scooped up the puck and buried his 20th goal of the season with a quick turnaround shot over the right shoulder with just 1:16 left in extra session. Dupuy and Bodie each picked up helpers on the game-winning goal.

Saturday: Rochester 5 - Binghamton 4 

RCH 5 - BNG 4

Veteran forward Derek Grant made an impactful return in his first game back in the southern tier, scoring three times, including once in each period, to lead Rochester to a hard-fought 5-4 win over the Binghamton Senators on Saturday at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena. 

The win was the second straight for the Amerks and the second in as many nights Rochester scored three straight unanswered goals to come from behind after trailing after 40 minutes of play.

After scoring just one goal through his first 10 games, Grant, who spent four-plus seasons with the Senators and helped Binghamton win the Calder Cup in 2011, has tallied five in the past two nights, including his first career hat trick tonight to lead the Amerks to the comeback victory.

The three-goal night was the second of the season for Rochester after Nick Baptiste notched three back on Dec. 14 versus the Toronto Marlies. Baptiste scored the game-winning marker with his team-leading 21st of the season while Justin Vaive helped start the Amerks comeback with his third of the season before adding an assist on the game-winner. 

Baptiste and Vaive joined Grant, Mat Bodie, Cole Schneider and Tim Kennedy as all six would finish the night with multi-point efforts. Rookie netminder Jonas Johansson had an equally impressive American Hockey League debut, stopping 28 of 32 shots he faced to pick up his first AHL win.

Max McCormick (2+1) paced the Binghamton offense with his team-best 19th and 20th goals of the season and Zach O'Brien notched his first-career AHL goal before Nick Paul capped off the scoring. Goaltender Matt O'Connor stopped 36 of 41 shots he faced in a losing effort to drop his record to 12-17-2.

After taking a 4-2 lead 19 seconds into the final period, the B-Sens saw the Amerks storm back with a goal of their own just 14 seconds later to make it a one-goal game again. Following Vaive's goal, the Amerks continued to fire shots on O'Connor, but it seemed they were not going to solve the netminder as time was ticking away. 

However, at the 15:44 mark of the final stanza, Bodie fired a shot on net that Grant was able to get a stick on and redirected the puck into the net to even the score at 4-4 with 4:16 left in regulation to complete the hat trick. The three-goal outing on the road was the first for the Amerks away from The Blue Cross Arena since Tim Schaller scored three times Feb. 20 of last season against the Syracuse Crunch.

As time was dwindling down, it appeared the game might be headed to the extra session, but Baptiste ended any thoughts of that as he dug out the puck of a scrum to the left of the B-Sens goalie. The second-year forward wasted little time as he ripped his team-leading 21st goal of the season with 1:21 left in the contest.

Despite Binghamton pulling O'Connor after the Baptiste goal, Johansson and company were able to hold off the final push by the Sens. The newcomer earned the win to give Rochester its second win in as many nights as he finished with 28 saves in his professional debut.

Sunday: Springfield 0 - Rochester 2

SPR 0 - RCH 2

The Amerks closed out their three-in-three weekend the same way it began with a thrilling victory over the Springfield Thunderbirds (27-29-9-2). Thanks to timely saves from second-year goaltender Linus Ullmark, the Amerks shutout the Thunderbirds by the score of 2-0 Sunday afternoon at The BlueCross Arena for the third win in as many days.

For the third time in the last three games, the Amerks were led by veteran forward Derek Grant (1+1) as he opened the scoring with his seventh goal of the season. The seven-year veteran closed out the weekend with six goals, including his first career hat trick, one assist and 15 shots while helping Rochester claim all six points this weekend. 

Nicholas Baptiste netted his team-leading 22nd goal of the campaign late in the third period while Ullmark made 28 saves in the victory for his AHL shutout and second straight win. He now shows a record of 24-26-2 on the campaign.

Paul Thompson and Jared McCann each fired five shots, which led the Thunderbirds, while netminder Adam Wilcox suffered his second straight defeat despite stopping 30 of 31 to earn third star honors.

"We had a great weekend," said Ullmark. "We have a streak going as the boys were terrific today as they were helping me out immensely. They were blocking shots, keeping Springfield on the outside and giving me clear sight of the puck.

"I thought tonight, and throughout the weekend, that we competed," said Amerks head coach Dan Lambert. "We have talked about doing it all year and we had some guys step up big for us, including Derek Grant. I thought he was outstanding for us as he scored some big goals for us at some key times. There were a lot of other guys who stepped up as well, including (Cole) Schneider, (Hudson) Fasching, and the penalty killers were solid as with our goaltender. Overall, it was a solid weekend."

After the Baptiste goal, the Thunderbirds continued to push, but Ullmark made the final two saves of the night to preserve the shutout and the third win of the weekend.

"As a goaltender, this is what we are always trying to do," said Ullmark when talking about his shutout. "I think, I have been close a couple of times, especially my first game as an Amerk, and it only took me around 100 more games to finally get one."

Coming up

The Amerks kick off another three-in-three stretch on Friday, March 31 as they host the Utica Comets in the first of two meetings on the weekend at The BlueCross Arena. 

Following Friday's 7:05 p.m. matchup, the Amerks will face the Comets again on Saturday, April 1 when the home-and-home series shifts to Mohawk Valley for a 7:00 p.m. showdown at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Both contests will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.

Rochester will play in Albany at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Scoring leaders

1. Cole Scheider: 20G - 34A - 54 PTS
2. Mat Bodie: 10G - 27A - 37 PTS
3. Nicholas Baptiste: 22G - 13A - 35 PTS
4. Justin Bailey: 19G - 10A - 29 PTS
5. Evan Rodrigues: 9G - 18A - 27 PTS

Goaltending leaders

1. Linus Ullmark: 24-26-2; 2.88 GAA; .907 SV%
2. John Muse: 2-8-0; 3.35 GAA; .898 SV%
3. Jonas Johansson: 1-0-0; 4.00 GAA; .875 SV%

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