|(Photo Credit: Rochester Americans)
A victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Wednesday gave Randy Cunneyworth his 337th victory as coach of the Rochester Americans, moving him into a tie with John Van Boxmeer for the franchise record.
He'll have to wait a bit longer to claim sole possession of first place, however, after back-to-back losses over the weekend. The Amerks fell 5-3 in Binghamton on Saturday night and then lost 4-1 to the Providence Bruins on Sunday.
The losses leave the Amerks seven points back from the Utica Comets, who are third in the North Division. To make the postseason, Rochester needs to either finish in the top three in the North or finish fourth, but with a better points percentage than the fifth-place team in the Atlantic Division.
As of Wednesday, Rochester sits six points behind the Atlantic's fifth-place Portland Pirates.
"We put ourselves a little bit behind the eight-ball," Cunneyworth told Amerks.com. "We're going to have to string some games together. We're not counting on help from anyone else so we're going to have to do it ourselves. Just going to have to dig a little deeper, that's all."
Justin Bailey was a force on offense throughout the week for Rochester, tallying four goals over the three games. Bailey scored the game-winning goal on Wednesday, scored twice more in the loss on Saturday and then tallied Rochester's only goal of the game on Sunday.
The rookie forward now has 36 points (16+20) on the season, third on the team behind newcomers Cole Schneider and Eric O'Dell.
"We have 13 games so we don't want to let them get too far ahead of us," Bailey said of Utica. "But there are 13 games [left] … When we get hot, put a good stretch together, there's not many teams that can play with us. So we've just got to find that and put a good little streak together."
The Amerks will have a chance to make up points when they play the Comets in Utica next Tuesday. They have three games prior to that. They'll be at home against the St. Johns IceCaps on Wednesday and Friday night and in Syracuse against the Crunch on Saturday. All four games begin at 7 p.m.
WEDNESDAY: LV 1 - ROC 3
Rochester began its fifth win in six games with what has quickly become a familiar sight for the Amerks: a connection between O'Dell and Schneider. With the Amerks on the power play for the second time, O'Dell fed a pass across the crease to Schneider, who buried his shot with 8:59 remaining in the first period.
Lehigh Valley got a goal from Aaron Palushaj to tie the game before the period's end, but it was the only time they'd beat goaltender Linus Ullmark. Bailey scored the go-ahead goal in the second period and Chad Ruhwedel provided extra cushion with a goal midway through the third.
Ullmark was strong in net with 42 saves to pick up his fourth-straight win. He anchored an Amerks penalty kill that was a perfect 5-for-5 on the night.
SATURDAY: ROC 3 - BNG 5
Bailey scored the first two goals of the game in Binghamton to get the Amerks out to an early lead, but it was a pair of former Amerks who stifled Rochester's winning aspirations. Philip Varone and Jerome Leduc scored roughly four minutes apart in the second to tie the game for the Senators. Varone assisted on the go-ahead goal, scored by Travis Ewanyk with 2:47 remaining in the period.
Ruhwedel re-tied the game for the Amerks just 1:10 after Ewanyk's goal, but Varone put home the eventual game-winning goal for the Senators 6:59 into the third. Varone then capped his four-point night with the primary assist on Mike Borkowski's goal later in the period.
Ullmark saw his winning streak broken in the loss, allowing five goals on 31 shots.
SUNDAY - PRO 4, ROC 1
Bailey scored with 19 seconds remaining in the second period to cut a two-goal deficit in half after Brandon DeFazio had scored the Bruins' second goal of the night just 10 second prior, but the Amerks couldn't build on the momentum in the third.
Anton Blidh regained the lead for Providence 2:44 into the final period and Frank Vatrano, the AHL's leading scorer this season, capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with 1:28 remaining. Ullmark took his second-straight loss despite a 30-save effort.
1. Cole Schneider 50 points (19+31)
2. Eric O'Dell 43 points (22+21)
3. Justin Bailey 36 points (16+20)
4. William Carrier 30 points (13+17)
5. Cal O'Reilly 28 points (6+22)
1. Nathan Lieuwen 14-10-0, 2.86 GAA, .911 save percentage
2. Linus Ullmark 10-10-0, 3.03 GAA, .913 save percentage
3. Andrey Makarov 6-7-1, 3.09 GAA, .907 save percentage
Both of the Amerks' upcoming home games against St. Johns on Wednesday and Friday can be seen live on Time Warner Cable Sports Network. All four games in the upcoming week can be heard on Fox Sports 1280 in Rochester.