Amerks Take First of Two in Cleveland
(Cleveland, OH) - JJ Peterka scored in his return to the lineup while Oskari Laaksonen (0+2) and Linus Weissbach (0+2) both turned in multi-point efforts to help lift the Rochester Americans (20-11-2-1) to a 4-1 victory over the Cleveland Monsters (12-12-4-3) in the first of back-to-back meetings between the two teams Friday night at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
SCORING SUMMARY 1 2 3 OT SO FINAL
Rochester 1 1 2 -- -- 4
Cleveland 0 1 0 -- -- 1
With the win, Rochester's 20th of the season, the Amerks have earned points in 15 of their last 21 games dating back to Nov. 19 while the club shows a 4-3-2-1 over their previous 10 games to remain within three points of Utica for first place in the AHL's North Division standings.
Rochester shows a 33-12-4-4 mark against Cleveland over the last 10 years dating back to the start of the 2011-12 campaign while also having earned a point in 11 of the last 16 games.
As Laaksonen and Weissbach led the Amerks with multi-point efforts, Peterka, who missed the previous five games due to COVID-19 Protocols, Arttu Ruotsalainen and Ara Nazarian all found the back of the net before Monster Ryan MacInnis capped off the win with an empty-netter in the final minute of play. Brandon Biro, Michael Mersch and Josh Teves all produced an assist while goaltender Mat Robson (4-1-2) made a season-high 35 saves in his seventh appearance with the Amerks this season.
Forward Brendan Gaunce scored his 11th goal of the campaign late in the late period from Adam Helewka and Dillon Simpson for Cleveland, who dropped to 1-2-0-0 in the first three games of the 10-game season-series. Goaltender Jean-Francois Berube (4-6-3) suffered the loss despite stopping 21 of 24 shots he faced, including a game-high 13 in the first period.
Early in the first period, the Monsters had the puck inside the Amerks zone, but as a pass made its way to the left point, it bounced over the defenseman's stick and into the center of the ice. As Peterka pressured the blueliner, he forced a turnover before Weissbach slid the puck to open ice for Peterka just outside the far blueline. By outracing the Cleveland player, Peterka had a breakaway entering the zone and beat Berube to open the scoring just 4:13 into the frame.
After the Amerks took a 1-0 lead into the intermission and were outshot 8-0 in the opening seven minutes of the second period, they drew a slashing infraction at the 8:02 mark.
While on the man-advantage, Laaksonen, who returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games, and Biro exchanged passes to the right of the Monsters net. With the puck inside the left face-off circle, the rookie snapped a shot towards Berube before Ruotsalainen finished off the rebound for his fifth of the season with 7:54 left in the period.
With the power-play tally, Rochester has scored 11 power-play goals in its last 13 games against Cleveland dating back to the start of the 2019-20 season, going 11-for-53 (20.8%) with the man-advantage over that span.
By Biro earning the primary assist, he has 17 points (5+12) over his last 16 games dating back to Nov. 27, which includes a season-high three-point (1+2) performance against Utica on Jan. 12. Additionally, he shows one goal and six assists over his last five games.
The Monsters capitalized on their own power-play later in the stanza to make it a 2-1 game going into the final period of regulation after Gaunce's attempted centering feed caromed off the stick of a Rochester defenseman and in for his 11th of the season.
Nazarian, however, answered 2:51 into the final frame to restore Rochester's two-goal cushion.
After Weissbach entered the offensive zone on a pass from Laaksonen, the Swedish forward turned to the center of the ice and then dished a behind-the-back pass to the right wall for Nazarian. With two defenders on Weissbach, Nazarian glided towards the crease before whistling over the right leg of the netminder for his second as an Amerk to double the lead.
By way of the secondary helper, Laaksonen, who boasts eight points (1+7) in his last seven games since the turn of the New Year, leads all Rochester blueliners and is tied for second among all AHL defensemen in scoring with 23 points (3+20) in 30 games. He also paces the league with 17 power-play assists as all but three of his 19 assists this season have come on the man-advantage. Equally as impressive, 19 of Laaksonen's 23 points this season have been on the power-play.
Facing a 3-1 deficit in the final minutes of regulation, Cleveland pulled its goaltender for an extra attacker, but MacInnis erased any hope of a potential comeback as he pushed the puck into the vacant net at the 19:22 mark.
Mersch and Teves both picked up the assists on MacInnis's AHL career-high ninth goal of the season. Over his last 20 games dating back to Nov. 24, Mersch has totaled 22 points (10+12) and four multi-point efforts. He's been held scoreless just five times over that span to move into a fourth-place tie in the AHL in scoring with 35 points (17+18) on the season.
Following a quick turnaround, the Amerks and Monsters wrap up their back-to-back set with a rematch on Saturday, Jan. 22 at 1:00 p.m. All of the action from the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM The Fan Rochester as well as AHLTV.
CLEVELAND GAMECENTER ROCHESTER
B. Gaunce (11) GOAL-SCORERS J. Peterka (7), A. Ruotsalainen (5), A. Nazarian (2), R. MacInnis (9)
J. Berube - 21/24 (L) GOALTENDERS M. Robson - 35/36 (W)
1-5 POWER-PLAY 1-5
4-5 PENALTY KILL 4-5
36 SHOTS ON GOAL 25
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