While his younger brother participated in the NHL All-Star festivities in Nashville over the weekend, Cal O'Reilly was playing in his fourth All-Star Game in the American Hockey League, albeit with a new twist: it was now a round-robin tournament of seven 9-minute games.
Each game was played 4-on-4 for the first 4:30 and 3-on-3 for the second 4:30. O'Reilly and the North Division All-Stars won their first game 1-0 but dropped their next two, being eliminated after the second loss.
“It was good. A lot of open ice, guys making plays. It was a change for the better, for sure,” O’Reilly told Amerks.com. “It definitely was more intense, a little harder defense being played [than in past games].”
O'Reilly and the Amerks will remain on break until Friday when a two-game road trip begins in Syracuse. They'll be looking to snap the two-game skid that carried them into the break, having fallen 5-2 at home to Binghamton on Friday and 4-2 to Utica on Saturday.
Rochester came out on top of its last bout with Syracuse, a 6-5 overtime win last Wednesday at the Blue Cross Arena. After being reassigned from Buffalo to Rochester earlier that day alongside O'Reilly and Tim Schaller, Philip Varone led the way with a four-point night (2+2).
Matt Donovan also scored twice for the Amerks, while Schaller and Jerry D'Amigo each added a goal. O'Reilly, Evan Rodrigues and Daniel Catenacci had two assists a piece.
Rochester had already tied the game three separate times when it found itself trailing 5-4 early in the third period thanks to a goal by Syracuse's Brian Hart. With 4:23 remaining in the period, it was D'Amigo who cleaned up a rebound for his seventh goal of the season to force a 5-5 tie.
It took 1:46 in the extra period for Varone to score the game-winner, drawing Syracuse goalie Kristers Gudlveskis out from the net for his second marker of the night.
"It was cool," Varone said. "We found a way to win against a team that's in our division. That's a big win."
With their win over Syracuse, the Amerks entered their home game against Binghamton on Friday on a three-game winning streak. They outshot the Senators 34-28 and even got the first goal, from O'Reilly just 2:31 into the game, but beyond that were never really close to getting their fourth win.
Binghamton answered O'Reilly's goal with three of their own. Schaller scored his seventh goal of the season to bring Rochester back within one 5:04 into the second, but Binghamton scored again 30 seconds into the third and later added an empty netter to seal the win.
Nathan Lieuwen made seven saves on 10 shots before being replaced by Linus Ullmark, who allowed one goal on 17 opportunities.
"I thought we got off to a decent start in terms of our speed, our rush effort, I thought we were moving the puck well," Amerks coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "They kind of wore us down a little bit and I thought we ended up spending a little too much time in our end."
The Amerks again got out to an early lead on Saturday in Utica, this time on the strength of goals from rookies Matt Prapavessis and Justin Bailey within the first five minutes of the game, but it was all the offense they could generate on the night.
Beginning with 4:09 remaining in the first period, the Comets scored four unanswered goals to earn the win. Utica forward Mike Zalewski, returning from a two-game stint with Vancouver in the NHL, scored twice.
Ullmark made his second start in three contests, allowing three goals on 31 shots.
1. Cal O'Reilly 26 points (5+21)
2. Jason Akeson 25 points (7+18)
3. Philip Varone 24 points (12+12)
4. Justin Bailey 18 points (7+11)
5. Evan Rodrigues 17 points (5+12)
1. Nathan Lieuwen 11-8-0, 2.76 GAA, .915 save percentage
2. Andrey Makarov 6-7-1, 3.09 GAA, .907 save percentage
3. Linus Ullmark 3-4-0, 3.19 GAA, .908 save percentage
The Amerks will play back-to-back road games this weekend, beginning in Syracuse on Friday and then in Binghamton on Saturday, both at 7 p.m. The game on Friday can be seen on Time Warner Sports Channel and both can be heard live on Fox Sports 1280 in Rochester.