(ROCHESTER, NY)… The Rochester Americans may have been outshot 38-14 in the contest, but it was goaltender David Leggio’s brilliant 38-save performance that proved to be the deciding factor as the Amerks earned a gritty 1-0 win over the Eastern Conference leading Syracuse Crunch Wednesday night at The Blue Cross Arena.
Leggio was flawless, stopping all 38 shots, including 29 through the final two periods, en route to his league-leading 34th win of the season while matching a career-high with his fourth shutout of the campaign. The win also marked the first time this season the Amerks posted back-to-back shutouts after rookie goaltender Nathan Lieuwen pitched a 39-save effort in Rochester’s 3-0 whitewash of the San Antonio Rampage on Sunday.
Although the injury-riddled Amerks entered the game with a short bench, Rick Schofield’s lone tally held up to be the difference-maker. Zemgus Girgensons and Alex Biega each earned assists in the win for Rochester, which has won three straight and four of its last five to move into a fifth-place tie with Houston in the Western Conference standings.
Despite being outshot by a 9-4 margin through the opening frame, it was Rochester who struck first as Schofield converted Girgensons’ pass to give the Amerks a 1-0 lead over his former team. Mark Mancari hit the outside of the cage with a shot from the right corner, but Girgensons collected the rebound off the end boards and made a no-look backhand pass to the low slot, where Schofield wristed one by Syracuse goaltender Riku Helenius for his seventh of the season with just 42 seconds remaining in the first period. The ex-Crunch forward has three goals and five points against Syracuse this season.
The Crunch dominated much of the second period, holding the Amerks to a season-low three shots on goal while generating several quality scoring chances within the offensive zone. Leggio, however, was equal to the task and came up with some big saves to keep the puck out of the net to preserve Rochester’s one-goal lead heading into the second intermission. Leggio’s finest save of the period came on perhaps Syracuse’s best scoring opportunity when Vladislav Namestnikov rang a shot off the left post that nearly went in, but using the paddle of his stick, Leggio reached back and pulled the puck into his glove seconds before it crossed the goal-line.
Syracuse still was unable to solve Leggio in the third period, which began with the momentum of the second and the Crunch maintaining offensive zone pressure. The Amerks netminder was tested with 16 shots from the Crunch in the final 20 minutes, but was able to keep everything in front of him, including many in the last minute with Syracuse skating 6-on-5 in favor of an extra attacker.
The Amerks remain at home on Friday, March 29 when they host the first-place Toronto Marlies in a North Division showdown at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be the ninth of 10 meetings between the two teams this season and will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 WHTK. The game will also be televised live on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel 26.