Buffalo Sports Day

GRIFFINS GET PAST AMERKS IN OVERTIME, 5-4

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(Grand Rapids, MI)… Nathan Paetsch’s second goal of the game just 2:03 into overtime lifted the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 5-4 win over the visiting Rochester Americans Friday night at Van Andel Arena. Despite the loss, the Amerks gain a valuable point in the AHL’s North Division standings and brings Rochester’s overall record to 19-26-2-0 heading into Saturday’s rematch with the Griffins.

Johan Larsson finished with a team-high three points (2+1), including the game-tying goal that came with 1:58 left in regulation that would ultimately force overtime. Jerry D’Amigo and Brodie Reid also scored for the Amerks while rookie defenseman Jake McCabe recorded two assists and Phil Varone added an assist for his team-leading 36th point of the season. Andrey Makarov got the nod for the third time in four games and finished with 26 saves on 31 shots.

The Griffins were led offensively by three-point efforts from both Paetsch (2+1) and the AHL’s leading scorer Teemu Pulkkinen, who scored once and helped set up two others to push his point streak to six games. Mitch Callahan and Andy Miele each recorded two assists in the win, which also featured goals from Jeff Hoggan and Scott Czarnowczan. Grand Rapids goaltender Jared Coreau, the reigning CCM/AHL Player of the Week, also made 26 saves on the night, helping the Griffins move within two points of second place in the Midwest Division.

Grand Rapids grabbed the early lead on the power-play with Hoggan scoring his fifth of the season at 7:44 of the opening frame to put the Griffins ahead 1-0. Stationed at the top of the crease, the Griffins captain made a subtle deflection off a centering feed from Pulkkinen past Makarov for the game’s first goal.

Grand Rapids maintained the one-goal advantage for a majority of the period and appeared to carry the lead into the first intermission, but a late goal from Larsson would send the teams into the break knotted at one. After eluding coverage deep in the Griffins zone, Larsson took a quick pass from McCabe and drove hard to the net out of the left corner. Coreau made the initial save on Larrson’s back-hand attempt only to have the puck knocked up in the air and ricochet off his back before trickling over the goal-line, ending his shutout streak at 139:26. Dan Catenacci also recorded an assist on Larsson’s 11th of the season, giving the second-year forward points in three of his last four games and 12 points (4+8) over his last 16 games overall.

D’Amigo gave Rochester its first lead of the night when he took a pretty cross-ice feed from Brayden Irwin and snapped a wrist shot over the right shoulder of Coreau. Irwin collected a loose puck in the neutral zone following a Griffins turnover and led the rush up the left wing boards before posting up on the half-wall just inside the Grand Rapids blueline. D’Amigo somehow managed to sneak behind the Grand Rapids defense, took the pass in stride and sniped the upper left corner to make it a 2-1 game.

The Griffins would answer, however, scoring twice in a span of 4:54 to reclaim a 3-2 lead, beginning with Czarnowczan firing a low shot through traffic that zipped past a screened Makarov to even the score at 12:54. Paetsch followed with just 2:12 remaining in the second stanza as he turned a broken play into another Grand Rapids marker, throwing a seemingly harmless attempt on goal from the right circle that pinballed its way to the back of the net.

A back-and-forth third period saw the teams trade three goals over the final 5:36 of regulation, with Reid getting things started after he delivered an absolute blast from the top of the left circle that handcuffed Coreau. Grand Rapids responded just 1:12 later when Pulkkinen beat Makarov for his league-leading 27th goal of the season and third point of the night, bringing the score to 4-3.

With 2:05 remaining, Rochester pulled Makarov for the extra attacker and would need all of seven seconds to capitalize on the man-advantage as Larsson scored his second of the game off assists from Evan Rankin and Chad Ruhwedel to force overtime. Before the teams could get there, however, the Griffins had a chance to win in with just 10 seconds left as former Amerk Kevin Porter broke in all alone only to have Makarov rob his former teammate with a huge pad save to keep it a 4-4 game.

Rochester’s best chance of the extra session came just a minute in when Jerome Leduc nearly ended the game with a shot from the point, but Coreau reached back at the last second to keep the puck from going in. A minute later, Callahan sprung Paetsch free on a 2-on-1 fastbreak, and using Porter as a decoy, the former Amerks defenseman wired a shot over the catching glove of Makarov to give Grand Rapids a 5-4 win.

The Amerks and Griffins are back in action again on Saturday, Feb. 7 as the two teams square off for the second straight night at Van Andel Arena to wrap up the season series. The 7:00 p.m. matchup will be the fourth and final meeting of the season and will be carried live on FOX Sports 1280 Rochester. Following Saturday’s rematch with Grand Rapids, Rochester brings its three-in-three weekend to a close on Sunday, Feb. 8 when they travel to the BMO Harris Bradley Center for one final showdown against the Milwaukee Admirals.