|(Photo by Micheline Veluvolu)
The last time the Rochester Americans and Hamilton Bulldogs met on October 11, the Bulldogs rallied to beat Rochester 6-4. Rochester turned the tables on Hamilton Wednesday at First Niagara Center, scoring three times in the second period to emerge with a come-from-behind 3-2 victory.
Both Andrey Makarov and Hamilton goaltender Joey MacDonald kept the game scoreless in the first period. MacDonald made 10 saves, including several dangerous looking opportunities on an early Rochester power play. Makarov was a bit busier during the first period with 12 stops. He was largely unchallenged until late in the period.
With a little over two minutes left in the first, Hamilton was gifted a 5-on-3 power play after a hooking penalty on Kevin Sundher and a delay of game penalty on Tim Schaller. On the subsequent penalty kill, Makarov made four key saves, and his teammates made several vital blocks to keep the game scoreless.
Makarov was unable to keep the game scoreless in the second period.
Shortly after Mark Pysyk departed the penalty box, the Amerks tired legs and need for a line change allowed Hamilton center TJ Hensick to break into space on the right side of the ice, and wristed a shot past Makarov high on the blocker side.
For Hensick, who has twice been an AHL All-Star in his lengthy professional career, it was his first goal of the season.
With 7:35 played, Hamilton added to their lead. On a 2-on-1 break, Hamilton center Sven Andrighetto drove to the net and fired a shot past Makarov from in close. The goal was Andrighetto’s fourth of the season.
Rochester quickly responded after Hamilton’s second goal.
After another quality Bulldog chance failed to find the back of the net, the Amerks countered with a 4-on-2 break the other way. Joel Armia found a trailing Mikhail Grigorenko in the slot, and the Russian center fired a wrister past MacDonald to cut the deficit to one. The goal was Grigorenko’s fourth of the season.
“I was really happy to score in this building,” Grigorenko said after the game. “I hadn’t really celebrated goals much this year, but I was really pumped to score that goal.”
Minutes later Grigorenko and Armia teamed up once again, but this time the linemates switched roles. Grigorenko won the faceoff and dropped the puck back to the right-handed Armia, who promptly ripped a wrist shot past MacDonald for his third goal of the year.
Just 37 seconds later, the Amerks would take their first lead of the night when Luke Adam fired home his first goal of the season after a cross-ice pass from newcomer Akim Aliu.
Rochester defenseman Chad Ruhwedel recorded an assist on the goal, extending his season-long point streak to seven games.
Shortly after successfully killing off a Rochester power play early in the third, Hamilton nearly fell behind by two. Phil Varone flipped a nifty, no-look backhand pass to an unmarked Zac Dalpe in front of the Bulldog net. Unfortunately for the Amerks, Dalpe was unable to convert the point-blank opportunity.
On the defensive end, the Amerks shut the door in the third period. After allowing 25 Hamilton shots through two periods, Makarov only faced five shots in the final 20 minutes.
Makarov finished the night with 28 saves on 30 shots. Those 28 saves included several key stops on the penalty kill. His coach was very pleased with theyoung goaltender’s performance.
“I thought Makarov was really good tonight,” said Amerks head coach Chadd Cassidy. “He was our best penalty killer for sure. He handles the puck so well that he’s like a third defenseman back there.”
ARMIA AND GRIGORENKO CONTINUE TO IMPROVE
A pair of former Sabres first-round picks stole the show offensively for Rochester on Wednesday. Joel Armia and Mikhail Grigorenko both had two point nights (1+1), and each continued their strong offensive starts to the season.
While Cassidy was undoubtedly pleased with the pair’s offensive production, he’s found that their development away from the puck has been instrumental in their strong play.
“They’re doing a much better job now of understanding that if you’re in the right spots and everyone knows where you’re going to be, then you’re going to get the puck back,” Cassidy said. “They’re special players with the puck and the more we get it to them the better shape we’re going to be in. That’s probably the biggest step that they’ve made so far this year.”
ADAM FINALLY GETS HIS FIRST
Luke Adam led the Amerks in goals last season with 29. This year, with six games played, Adam had yet to score his first goal of the season. That changed on Wednesday.
After Mikhail Griogrenko tied the score at 11:29 of the second period, Adam put the Amerks up for good with his first goal of the young season 37 seconds later.
“I was starting to think that it was never going to come,” Adam said.“I was just trying to stay with it. I’d been getting some opportunities that weren’t going in, but it was definitely nice to finally get one and help the team out.”
The Amerks travel to Syracuse to play their long-time rivals Friday at War Memorial at Oncenter at 7 p.m. The Halloween-night fixture will be their first of eight regular season matchups against the Crunch.