BELLEVILLE, ON – Brett Murray placed his name next to Arttu Ruotsalainen‘s on the list of postseason overtime heroes on Friday night when he netted the game-winner during the first overtime period against the Belleville Senators. The victory propelled the Rochester Americans to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2005, where they will face the Utica Comets. While the end results may have been the same – two 4-3 overtime finals – the journey to get there was vastly different in both of these matchups.
Unlike Wednesday’s series opener, the Americans started game two determined to play their style of hockey, one that differs drastically from the typical playoff formula. Rochester found ways to frustrate Belleville early and forced them to play undisciplined hockey, quite the shift in play from game one. Ruotsalainen got the Amerks on the board first, scoring on the first of four power plays for Rochester in the first period. Sean Malone and Peyton Krebs picked up assists on Ruotsalainen’s goal at 6:47 of the first. However, the Amerks could not capitalize on their other three chances with the man-advantage in the period.
It didn’t take long for the Senators to find their legs in the second period, as they registered the first six shots on goal in the period. Luckily for the Amerks, Aaron Dell was up for the task, allowing Mark Jankowski the opportunity to push the Amerks’ lead to two after displaying masterful patience in the slot off of a feed from, you guessed it, Ruotsalainen. Belleville’s persistence paid off at 13:26 of the second period as Zac Leslie cleaned up a rebound in the blue paint after Dell turned aside an initial shot from Rourke Chartier. Perhaps the most skilled goal of the game, and maybe the postseason to this point, came at the 15;48 mark when Ruotsalainen had the puck on a string, weaved through a bevy of Belleville defenders and stunned Senators goaltender Filip Gustavsson with a beautiful shot. Casey Fitzgerald and Malone picked up the assists. The script flipped a bit from the first matchup, as Rochester entered the third period with a two-goal lead and all of the momentum. Were they up for the task of holding off a surging Belleville team?
— Die By The Blade (@diebytheblade) May 7, 2022
This go around, it was Belleville’s turn to make a miraculous comeback, and they did not take long to prove they were up for the task. Andrew Agozzino found the back of the net less than three minutes into the period, cutting the Amerks’ lead in half with well over three-quarters of the third period to play. Mark Kastelic picked up the lone assist. With a one-goal lead, the Amerks hoped to hold off the surging Senators by playing disciplined, defensively sound hockey – they failed to do so.
After killing off the first of a Casey Fitzgerald double-minor for high sticking, Josh Teves was dinged for boarding with 1:33 remaining on the second double-minor penalty. That gave the Senators a lengthy 5-on-3 opportunity that Roby Jarventie would take advantage of. Jarventie fired a one-timer behind Dell, the pass courtesy of Jake Lucchini. Unfortunately for the Amerks, their first shot on goal came at the 11:22 mark of the third period, a shot in from the blue line that Gustavsson saved with ease. Once again, Teves did his best goaltender impression to keep the game tied in the third period.
#ROCvsBEL | If any AHL teams are in the market for a goaltender next season, might I recommend Josh Teves, who puts his body in front of yet another open net, keeping this one a tie game. Rochester with 0 SOG in the third.
10:26 left in the 3rd Period | ROC 3 – BEL 3
— Jeremy Paul (@FPHAmericans) May 7, 2022
After that, both teams traded opportunities with neither goalie willing to budge. For the second time in as many games, this one would need extra time.
The Senators brought all of the momentum into the overtime period, leading in total shots on goal 32-20. Rochester, however, was able to dictate the pace early, outshooting the Senators 4-2 in the first ten minutes of the overtime period. One of the best opportunities for the Amerks came as Ruotsalainen came in on a breakaway against Gustavsson, poised to make his hat trick goal the game-winner. Unfortunately, he fired the puck just wide. Rochester was able to outshoot Belleville 10-5 in the overtime period. However, the Amerks faithful would have to wait until the 17:39 mark to see the fruits of that labor. This time, Murray got to play hero, firing the puck behind Gustavsson on a beautiful setup play from Ruotsalainen.
BRETT MURRAY, BABY! pic.twitter.com/hK55bfM08t
— x-Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) May 7, 2022
When previewing this series, it was clear that Rochester needed a few things to win. For starters, Dell had to be their best player – luckily enough for them, he was, although Arttu Ruotsalainen may disagree. Next, Rochester had to force Belleville to get away from playing gritty, playoff hockey – a style of play that would have played right into the Senators’ hands. Aside from the first 40 minutes of game one, Rochester was generally able to control the way this series was played, which is a true testament to just how skilled their youngest players are. Jack Quinn, JJ Peterka, and Peyton Krebs had to be outstanding – two out of the three contributed offensively in a big way. The bright side is that Ruotsalainen made up for Quinn being held off of the score sheet. It will be interesting to see if Rochester can get Quinn going against Utica when the series starts on Tuesday.
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