ROCHESTER, NY – Phil Varone’s fifth goal of the season with 1:58 remaining in regulation broke a 3-3 tie as the Rochester Americans sunk the Lake Erie Monsters by a 5-3 score Friday night at The Blue Cross Arena. The win was Rochester’s second straight and vaults the Amerks to second place in the North Division with a record of 9-7-2-2.
Johan Larsson notched a goal and an assist for the Amerks, while Joel Armia, Frederick Roy and Jamie Tardif also scored. Rasmus Ristolainen added two assists for his second straight two-point outing as Colton Gillies and Kevin Porter both finished with assists on the night. Nathan Lieuwen won his second consecutive game in net with 33 saves.
Bryan Lerg, David van der Gulik and Andrew Agozzino scored for Lake Erie, and goaltender Calvin Pickard made 26 saves in defeat.
Rochester fell behind in the early stages of the game, as Lake Erie’s Agozzino was in the right spot at the right time to bury a rebound off of Lieuwen just 1:26 in for the Monsters.
The lead would be short-lived, however, as the Amerks answered right back on Armia’s second goal of the season 5:21 into the first period when Ristolainen’s shot from the blueline deflected off Porter right to Armia, who converted from a sharp angle to tie the score 1-1.
Lake Erie regained the lead early in the second period was a different story, however, as van der Gulik took a cross-ice pass from Mark Olver and finished past Lieuwen at the 15:23 mark of the second period.
The line combination of Roy, Patrick Kaleta, and Gillies proved to be a spark plug the entire evening for the Amerks, and the trio was rewarded for their efforts. With 8:06 remaining in the second period, Kaleta crashed the net with the puck, and while his shot attempt was stuffed by Pickard, Roy was standing on the doorstep to tie the score 2-2.
After nearly 20 minutes of scoreless hockey despite power-play chances for both teams, the Amerks potted the go-ahead goal with 8:46 left in the third period. During a Lake Erie line-change, Ristolainen threw a long stretch pass from the Amerks zone to a waiting Mike Zigomanis. Catching the Monsters out of position, Zigomanis fired a cross-ice pass to Larsson streaking down the left wing and he ripped up a slap-shot that beat Pickard under the blocker. The Amerks only held the 3-2 lead for 25 seconds, as a deflection by Lerg in front of the Rochester net fooled Lieuwen to tie the score at three apiece.
With just under two minutes to play, a Lake Erie defenseman attempted to dump the puck off the glass from within his own zone. The puck took a fortuitous bounce right to Varone, who skated in on the Monsters’ net untouched and ripped a low snap-shot past Pickard for a 4-3 Amerks lead.
Lake Erie pulled Pickard for the extra attacker at the 1:26 mark, but Tardif scored the dagger into the gaping net to seal the win for Rochester with exactly one minute remaining.