Amerks dominate Syracuse for first win of the season

Rochester's special teams come alive in a 6-3 win over the Crunch

Brayton Wilson
October 11, 2018 - 7:21 am

Photo: Micheline Michaelina - Rochester Americans


Rochester, N.Y. (WGR 550) - After a disappointing opening to the 2018-19 season this past weekend, the Rochester Americans came alive on Wednesday to capture its first win of the year.

The Amerks got a stellar performance from their special teams as they killed off 7-of-8 penalties, while capitalizing on 3-of-4 power play chances in a 6-3 win over the Syracuse Crunch at Blue Cross Arena. Rochester also got back to basics on Wednesday night, playing with speed and pressing the Crunch to the limit for most of the night.

It was another slow start for the Amerks as they got out-shot and out-matched for the first 10 minutes of the contest. However, Rochester finally came through as Danny O'Regan got his team on the board with a power play goal. O'Regan took a missed shot from Alex Nylander and banked the puck off of goalie Eddie Pasquale into the net.

Syracuse was able to notch a power play goal with 0.9 seconds left in the first period, but instead of faltering and struggling the rest of the night, the Amerks stepped up their play even more.

Rochester dominated the pace of play in the second period with their speed and quick transitional game, and played some solid headstrong hockey in both ends of the ice.

C.J. Smith went to work for the Amerks in the period with two nice plays on the backcheck that resulted in two goals for Rochester.

On the first goal, Smith forced a turnover while shorthanded at the center ice line and got the puck ahead to Kyle Criscuolo. Smith then quickly got back into the rush and one-timed a pass from Criscuolo in the slot to put the Amerks up 2-1.

Then the 23-year-old forced another turnover on the second goal just outside the Crunch blue line, stripping the Syracuse defenseman of the puck and finding Criscuolo coming off the bench all alone on Pasquale. Criscuolo scored on the backhand to give the Amerks a 3-1 lead.

Smith was, arguably, the Amerks' best player on the night as he continues to show his improved speed that had helped him be more effective in all areas of the ice. The scoring winger has two goals so far this season, and is becoming one of the core players on this roster as he gets some key minutes on the ice playing in all situations.

Less than three minutes later, the Amerks were gifted another power play opportunity, which resulted in the fourth goal for the Amerks as defenseman Zach Redmond slapped a shot through a screen and over the glove hand of Pasquale.

Early in the third period, up 4-2 at this point, Rochester went back to work on the power play as Lawrence Pilut let a wrist shot go that found its way to the top corner of the net for his second goal of the season. It also gave the Amerks its third power play goal of the night on four chances, improving their overall conversion rate to 33.3-percent (4-of-12).

Pilut played another very good game on Wednesday, moving the puck quickly and accurately to get the Amerks from defense to offense relatively quickly. The 22-year-old continues to skate and see the ice very well, showing that his transition from Sweden to North America has gone very well so far.

Rochester added one more goal for the night as Victor Olofsson collected his first goal in North America with a wrist shot that hit a leg in front of the net and re-directed into the net. Olofsson finished the game with a goal and two assists, and is currently tied for the team lead in points with four through three games. Redmond was the only other player in the win to finish with three points (one goal and two assists).

In goal, Adam Wilcox was on top of his game as he worked hard to make 30 saves on 33 shots faced, but he did well with keeping rebounds close and not giving Syracuse many second-chance opportunities.

Over the weekend, Amerks head coach Chris Taylor had said that his team was trying to do too much against the Charlotte Checkers, which led to some breakdowns in their overall play and led to 10 goals-against. Following the win Wednesday, Taylor was happy to see his players playing with some confidence and getting back to what makes the team click.

"I think for everyone to get confidence in to our game - we needed a win," he said. "We didn't start off pretty again, but Wilcox played very well for us and kept us into it. We started rolling on... I thought we played better and better. We scored some timely goals and got some timely saves.

"We just started getting pucks behind their [defense>, and we probably got sick and tired of playing in our zone. It's not fun, but we just got it out and got started getting on the forecheck. Once one line got into it, it rolled into our second, third, fourth and all of the sudden the shifts kept getting better and better. Guys got positive, got more energy from it. You can tell the growth in some of the guys, the first year guys. I thought Asplund and Olofsson every period they kept on getting better and more comfortable, and that's with our team. Every body is new and every body is playing together for the first time in a while. It's our third game in, and I thought we took over in the second and third."

If there was one area that Taylor was not happy with on Wednesday, outside of the start of the game, was the team constantly finding themselves in the penalty box. However, the special teams was able to kill off seven of eight penalties against the team, which helped bump up their stats through three games. The Amerks are the most penalized team in the American Hockey League, along with the Toronto Marlies, and will look to continue making those necessary adjustments to be better on the penalty kill.

The Amerks will take things on the road for the first time this season on Saturday and Sunday when they visit the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in Connecticut. The puck drops at Webster Bank Arena on Saturday at 1 p.m., and then at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

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