Amerks Blank Comets for Fourth Straight Win
(Rochester, NY) ... After being locked in a scoreless affair entering the third period of Wednesday night's game at The Blue Cross Arena against the Utica Comets (30-26-5-2), the Rochester Americans (39-18-3-2) tallied three unanswered goals during the final frame to come out with a 3-0 victory. The shutout win by Scott Wedgewood was his second in his last three appearances and fifth overall of the season, which set a new career-high.
Along with the win, the fourth consecutive for Rochester, the Amerks remain atop the AHL's North Division standings with a one-point lead over the Syracuse Crunch, despite the Crunch having a game in hand. Rochester has now collected 37 out of a possible 50 points in its last 25 games. The victory also gave Rochester at least one point in 15 of the last 18 games against Utica dating back to the start of the 2017-18 campaign, going 10-3-2-3 over that span.
Victor Olofsson turned in his 14th multi-point effort of the season as he tallied a team-leading 24th goal of the season to go with an assist while C.J. Smith reached the 50-point mark for the first time in his career as he notched a two-point (1+1) night, including the game-winner. Taylor Leier extended his goal-scoring streak to tie a career-long three games while Rasmus Asplund pushed his point streak to a personal-best four games with his helper on Smith's 22nd goal of the season.
Wedgewood improved to 25-10-2 on the season as he stopped all 30 shots he faced. The sixth-year netminder finished the season series with the Comets with a perfect 5-0-0 record and 1.00 goals-against average as well as a pair of shutouts. He boasts an impressive 16-4-1 record in his last 21 appearances dating back to Dec. 26.
"I am feeling confident," said Wedgewood. "Ever since Christmas break, after changing some things and making some adjustments, I have cleaned them up and feel very safe. Whenever you feel safe and trust the guys around you, it makes my job a lot easier."
The Comets, who have dropped their last five contests, were shutout for the sixth time this season and second in the past three games. Brendan Gaunce led Utica with his second straight five-shot game while netminder Marek Mazanec was tagged with the loss as he made 23 saves.
Midway through the third period of a scoreless game, Smith jumped into the offensive zone while on a delayed penalty and corralled a cross-ice pass from Olofsson in-between the face-off dots. The Amerks reigning Rookie of the Year, who has 33 points (16+17) over his last 28 games, ripped a shot past the glove of the Utica netminder at the 8:48 mark to break stalemate and put Rochester in front.
"It was a delayed penalty, and normally it's the next center that goes on the ice, but I jumped on before 'Ports' (Kevin Porter) and ended up scoring," said Smith when describing his goal. "I gave 'Ports' a nice pat on the back after the goal and thanked him for letting me go."
"The goal got the momentum going in our favor and it was nice to get the win," added Smith.
Just 3:29 after Leier pushed the Rochester lead to a two-goal cushion, the Amerks, who joined the Charlotte Checkers as the only two teams in the AHL with 39 wins on the season, closed out the scoring as Olofsson connected on a one-time feed from Smith with 2:31 left in the contest.
"The first two periods were not our best, but lately we have been finding a way to win," Olofsson said. "That is what it's all about and comes down to sometimes. We just need to keep it going."
With the Olofsson's power-play marker from Smith and Wayne Simpson, Rochester has collected a goal in four straight games while on the man-advantage. It's the third time this season the Amerks have had such a stretch.
"I liked our third period and our goaltender from the start of the game," Amerks head coach Chris Taylor said. "Our guys pushed back while protecting our goaltender whenever someone ran into him, and I really liked that."
"No disrespect to any team we have played lately, but we know we can play better," Taylor explained. "We will get there. It's a long season but right now we are finding the results."
The Amerks look to avenge their back-to-back Opening Weekend losses to the league-leading Charlotte Checkers as they hit road for a weekend set in North Carolina for the final two games of the season series. The AHL's top two teams kick-off their weekend series on Friday, March 15 at 7:00 p.m. before one final get-together on Saturday for a 6:00 p.m. face-off. All the action from the Bojangles' Coliseum in Charlotte will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: Smith (22 - GWG), Leier (19), Olofsson (24)
ROC: Wedgewood - 30/30 (W)
UTI: Mazanec - 23/26 (L)
ROC: PP (1/8) | PK (4/4)
UTI: PP (0/4) | PK (7/8)
1. Scott Wedgewood ()
2. C.J. Smith ()
3. Victor Olofsson ()
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