Amerks Drop Season Opener to Checkers
(Rochester, NY) ... The Rochester Americans (0-1-0-0) opened their 63rd American Hockey League season and 37th as the primary affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres Friday night at The Blue Cross Arena, but it was the Charlotte Checkers (1-0-0-0) who earned a 6-2 victory in the first game of the 2018-19 campaign.
Rookie forward Lawrence Pilut made an immediate impact in his North American debut, leading led Rochester with a goal and an assist for a two-point night. Second-year forward and reigning Rookie of the Year C.J. Smith netted the other goal during the second period. Goaltender Scott Wedgewood, who also made his Rochester debut, made 33 saves.
Janne Kuokkanen had a game-high four points (2+2) for Charlotte, while Nicolas Roy (2+1), Andrew Poturalski (1+2) and Spencer Smallman (0+2) all turned in multi-point efforts. Roland McKeown rounded out the scoring while netminder Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 22 of 24 shots he faced to record his first win of the campaign.
The Checkers, who led the AHL in scoring last season, tallied a pair of goals 35 seconds apart during the first stanza and took a 2-0 lead into the intermission break.
Rochester, however, came out in the middle frame and Smith trimmed the lead to one as he ripped a shot over the glove just 32 seconds into the period. Pilut and Kyle Criscuolo teamed up to spring the Des Moines, Iowa, native into the offensive zone with Pilut recording his first AHL point on the marker.
Rochester drew its second power-play less than five minutes later and Pilut evened the game with his first AHL goal just 10 seconds into the infraction.
"Kevin Porter won the face-off back to me," said Pilut. "I waited it out to find a lane, then I saw one and shot the puck. Luckily for me, I had a screen in front and it when into the net."
Porter and Victor Olofsson, who also made his Amerk debut, each were awarded the helpers.
Charlotte, though, was quick to regain the lead with just 46 seconds left in the frame and took a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes of play.
"Any time you get scored on in the final minute of a period is tough," said Criscuolo. "No matter the game it's never easy, but we just have to look at the film and compete on every shift from top to bottom."
The Checkers silenced any thought of an Amerks comeback as they scored three goals during the first-half of the final frame and made it a 6-2 contest.
"We were not ready to play and it's on me and the leadership team," Porter said. "We dug ourselves a hole and we were able to battle back but credit them. They are a good team, but we made them look like NHL All-Stars tonight."
"It's disappointing," Amerks head coach Chris Taylor said. "It was disappointing how we started the game, but the only bright spot was Wedgewood all night."
Rochester had eight players make their Amerks debut, four of which made their AHL debuts.
The Amerks continue their three-game homestand to begin the 2018-19 season with a rematch against the Checkers on Saturday, Oct. 6 at The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start and will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
ROC: Smith (1), Pilut (1)
CHA: Kuokkanen (1, 2), McKeown (1), Roy (1, 2), Poturalski (1)
ROC: Wedgewood - 33/39 (L)
CHA: Nedeljkovic - 22/24 (W)
ROC: PP (1/3) | PK (1/3)
CHA: PP (2/3) | PK (2/3)
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