Mersch's Four-Point Night Not Enough in 7-5 Loss to Comets
(Rochester, NY) ... The Rochester Americans (8-10-2-1) scored three power-play goals and five overall, but were unable to snap their four-game slide Friday night in a 7-5 loss to Utica Comets (10-6-0-1) at The Blue Cross Arena.
The contest, which was Rochester's eighth straight home defeat, was the sixth of 14 meetings between the two teams this season. Prior to tonight, the Amerks earned at least one point in four of the last five games versus the Comets and in 23 of the last 33 games overall dating back to the start of the 2017-18 campaign, going 17-10-2-4.
Forward Michael Mersch turned in a season-high four points (2+2), his most since a career-high five-point outing (3+2) back on Mar. 27, 2015 as a member of the Manchester Monarchs. Remi Elie and C.J. Smith both tallied a pair of helpers while Brett Murray, Brendan Warren and Dominic Franco all found the scoresheet with a goal. Oskari Laaksonen, Casey Fitzgerald and Brent Gates, Jr. all recorded an assist in the defeat.
In his first-career American Hockey League start and third appearance overall, rookie goaltender Billy Christopoulos made 27 saves but took the loss.
Entering the contest winless in its last four road games, Utica was fueled by John Stevens (1+2), Will Lockwood (2+0), Sam Anas (2+0) and Carson Focht (1+1) as they all tallied multi-point games. Hugh McGing rounded out the scoring while first year netminder Jake Kielly (4+2+0) earned his fourth win of the season, stopping 24 of the 29 shots he faced.
After falling behind 3-0 at the 10:13 mark of the second period, the Amerks and Comets traded goals but Rochester never could pull within one as Utica responded each time during the final 29:47 of the contest.
Four minutes after Anas' first marker of the night to give Utica a three-goal cushion, Murray found himself in-between the face-off dots with the puck all alone in the offensive zone. As he settled the puck, the second-year forward rifled a shot to get Rochester on the scoreboard from Mersch and Smith.
Utica reclaimed its three-goal cushion as Lockwood netted his second of the contest after picking the upper corner following a turnover inside the offensive zone at the 14:21 mark, but Warren stuffed in his first American Hockey League shorthanded goal with just over four minutes to play in the second period.
After seeing the Comets goaltender fumble the puck atop his own goal crease, Mersch was denied but, Warren converted the rebound to make it a 4-2 game.
The two teams again traded goals before the end of the second period, which included Mersch's sixth tally of the campaign and first of the night from Smith and Elie.
With his second assist of the contest, Smith has 10 points (3+7) in nine games with Rochester this season, including seven points (1+6) in his last six appearances.
As the third period began, the Comets added to their 5-3 lead as Anas fired in his second of the contest four minutes into the frame from Josh Teves.
Just over 12 minutes later, Franco and Mersch both netted power-play goals as Elie, Fitzgerald, Gates, Jr. and Laaksonen all recorded the assists, respectively.
By adding the primary helper on Franco's third goal in the last six games, Elie extended his three-game point streak (3+2) while Fitzgerald has recorded five helpers in the last five games and six over his last seven outings.
Laaksonen's assist gives him eight points (2+6) over his last 10 games, which includes back-to-back multi-point games over that span, while Gates, Jr. has earned five points (1+4) over his last five contests.
Sandwiched between Rochester's power-play goals, Utica tacked on its seventh goal of the night to complete the scoring and seal the 7-5 win.
The Comets took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission as McGing and Lockwood both scored before the teams countered one another for the final 10 goals of the game.
The Amerks close out the week on Saturday, April 24 at Upstate Medical University Arena as they clash with the Syracuse Crunch for the second time in four days. Game time is slated for a 7:00 p.m. start and will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
Amerks forward Michael Mersch - https://youtu.be/FY-RPSEss5A
Amerks forward C.J. Smith - https://youtu.be/czvfN3yoxl0
Amerks head coach Seth Appert - https://youtu.be/A0XpgkeUhtU
ROC: B. Murray (7), B. Warren (2), M. Mersch (6, 7), D. Franco (3)
UTI: H. McGing (2), W. Lockwood (2, 3), S. Anas (1, 2 - GWG), C. Focht (2), J. Stevens (5)
ROC: B. Christopoulos - 27/33 (L)
UTI: J. Kielly - 24/29 (W)
ROC: PP (3/5) | PK (3/6)
UTI: PP (3/6) | PK (2/5)
1. J. Stevens UTI)
2. M. Mersch (ROC)
3. S. Anas (UTI)
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