What better way to respond to a three-loss weekend than with three straight wins? That's what the Rochester Americans did, sweeping their 3-in-3 weekend with victories over the Portland Pirates, the Syracuse Crunch and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Linus Ullmark matched a season high with 43 saves in the 2-1 overtime win over the Pirates on Friday and then he shattered that mark with 51 saves in a 6-2 win in Syracuse on Saturday. Nathan Lieuwen took over in net on Sunday, earning the victory in a 3-2 overtime decision over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Ullmark's 94 saves on 97 shots over those two games earned him the honor of being named CCM/AHL Player of the Week. His 51 saves against Syracuse were the most in a game by an AHL goaltender this season and the most by an Amerks goalie in over six years.
Ullmark was strong from the get-go on Friday, weathering a 13-shot first period to allow Daniel Catenacci, fresh off a short stint in Buffalo, to give Rochester a 1-0 lead 2:49 into the second. Portland beat Ullmark once before the period's end with a well-executed goal from Corban Knight, creating a tie that would last through the end of regulation.
It'd didn’t take Rochester long into the extra period to clinch the victory. Jason Akeson scored the game-winner 2:03 into overtime, tapping in a feed from Cal O'Reilly on the back post for his eighth goal of the season.
After the game, the Amerks goaltender was the topic of conversation.
"Fantastic," Amerks coach Randy Cunneyworth said of Ullmark. "He was on his game and very focused. That's what you need."
If 43 saves from Ullmark qualified as a "fantastic" performance, you'd have to dig for adjectives to describe his 51-save effort the next night in Syracuse. The Amerks were outshot 53-35, yet came away with a lopsided win thanks to their stellar goaltending and a huge night from the line of William Carrier, Tim Schaller and Justin Bailey.
Schaller tallied his second career hat trick and added an assist, Carrier had two points (1+1) and Bailey had three assists in the victory. Catenacci also scored for the second night in a row, while Nicolas Baptiste rounded out the scoring for Rochester with his eighth of the season.
Shots in the first period were 20-11 in favor of Syracuse, yet the score come intermission was 1-0 in favor of Rochester thanks to Schaller's first of the night. Rochester scored three more in the first four minutes of the second, from Schaller, Baptiste and Schaller again to jump out to a 4-0 lead.
Mike Blunden provided all of the offense for the Crunch, scoring a power-play goal 9:14 into the second and then again 9:33 into the third. The Amerks responded promptly, however, with a goal from Carrier less than four minutes later before Catenacci capped the scoring with 3:35 left on the clock.
Akeson earned a secondary assist on Catenacci's goal, his second of the game, for his team-leading 30th point of the season.
After assisting on the overtime winner two nights prior, O'Reilly was able to score one himself on a rebound 1:55 into the extra period against Hartford at the Blue Cross Arena on Sunday. Lieuwen did well to follow up Ullmark's outings with an impressive 36-save night of his own in the win.
Rochester trailed twice against the Penguins and both times pulled even on the strength of goals from Carrier. Carter Rowney opened the scoring for the Penguins 3:54 into the contest; Carrier responded with a goal 30 seconds later. Rowney's linemate, Tom Kostopoulos, regained the lead in the second, but Carrier responded again on a 3-on-2 rush before the period's end.
The Amerks killed three penalties, including a 5-on-3, in the third period to force overtime. O'Reilly won the game by tapping in a rebound off a hard shot by defenseman Chad Ruhwedel on a 4-on-3 power play. With the win, the Amerks improved to 26-24-2-1 on the season.
"It's always good to get wins, especially right now fighting for a spot in the playoffs," Carrier said afterward. "We lost three last weekend, didn’t have the energy we wanted so we just tried to bring that the first game, yesterday was a pretty good game too and I though today we played pretty well.
1. Jason Akeson 30 points (8+22)
2. Phil Varone 29 points (12+17)
3. Cal O'Reilly 28 points (6+22)
4. Justin Bailey 26 points (10+16)
5. William Carrier 23 points (9+14)
1. Nathan Lieuwen 13-9-0, 2.61 GAA, .919 save percentage
2. Linus Ullmark 6-6-0, 2.79 GAA, .922 save percentage
3. Andrey Makarov 6-7-1, 3.09 GAA, .907 save percentage
The Amerks are back on the road for a two-game set beginning on Thursday night in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters and continuing at 3 p.m. on Saturday against the Toronto Marlies. Both games can be heard live in Rochester on Fox Sports 1280. Visit amerks.com for complete coverage.