ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The return of Amerks forward Jack Quinn after missing ten games due to mono was overshadowed Wednesday night by the return of the Syracuse Crunch, who played in their first game since December 15, 2021. Rochester was unable to tie the game late in the third, failing to convert on a 6-on-4 opportunity, giving the Crunch their first win of the 2022 calendar year.
A Mutually Slow Start
One thing was clear from the start of this one – it would be a sluggish game through and through. After eight minutes of play, both teams had registered only one shot on goal. Syracuse’s slow start was to be expected after not playing for 15 days, and perhaps the Amerks playing their third game in five days contributed significantly to the pace of this game. Rochester was clearly unable to capitalize on the energy of Quinn being plugged back into the lineup. Crunch goaltender Maxime Lagace faced only eight shots through the first two periods of play, a welcome change of pace from his time in the NHL with the Tampa Bay Lightning last week.
Syracuse, however, was able to find its footing early in the second period, finding the back of the net only 1:27 into the period when Cole Koepke fired a shot behind Amerks goaltender Michael Houser. Koepke had a productive night, accounting for five of Syracuse’s 16 shots on goal. The Crunch would then give the Americans a taste of their own medicine, lighting the lamp on the power play as Gabriel Dumont rang a puck off of the post and behind Houser for his 11th of the season. Although the Crunch are off to a slow start in the standings, their power play is good for fifth in the AHL, and they went 1-for-3 on the man-advantage Wednesday. Thanks to a Ryan MacInnis goal with only five seconds remaining in the second period, the Amerks entered the second intermission with an opportunity to make up for their plodding start.
Ryan MacInnis, there it is! pic.twitter.com/PUbfFbyW1W
— Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) January 6, 2022
Third Period Domination Not Enough
Although the Americans were only able to test Lagace eight times in the first forty minutes, the Amerks capitalized on the momentum created by MacInnis’ late second period goal and dominated the pace of the third period, outshooting the Crunch 10-2. The Crunch’s last shot of the game came 2:25 into the period, and Syracuse went the remaining 17:35 without a shot on Houser.
Former Amerk and current Crunch forward Remi Ellie was penalized twice in the third period, allowing the AHL’s top power-play unit to tie the game early in the third. Unfortunately for the Americans, they could not register a shot on goal during their first opportunity with the man-advantage, and Lagace denied shots by Quinn and Arttu Ruotsalainen during the second Ellie penalty.
Although he did not find the scoresheet in Wednesday’s matchup, Jack Quinn took on Syracuse defenseman Ryan Jones in what would be Quinn’s first fighting major of his professional career. Jones, who picked up his third fighting major of the season, landed a few good jabs on Quinn, who may think twice before dropping the gloves again. Quinn’s last fighting major came as a member of the Ottawa 67’s, where he also received a minor penalty and misconduct for instigating a fight against Bradey Johnson.
The Amerks were again unable to capitalize on their third power play of the period, coming with only 3:23 remaining in regulation. Houser made his way to the bench to give the Amerks a two-man advantage; however, Lagace was able to stop a Michael Mersch shot that would end up being the final shot on goal of the game, giving the Crunch a 2-1 victory over the Americans.
What’s Next and What’s Happening
Rochester won’t have to wait to get back on the ice as they welcome the Hartford Wolf Pack to Blue Cross Arena on Friday. The Wolf Pack will be looking for revenge after the Amerks won the first matchup between the two squads on January 2nd by a score of 4-3. Although Rochester has a commanding lead over Toronto for second in the North Division, the Amerks’ sights are set on first place in the division. Since beginning the season 13-0-0-0, the Utica Comets are 5-2-3-0 and continue to be impacted by call-ups by the New Jersey Devils.
Perhaps some of the recent struggles on the power play stem from missing two of the team’s biggest weapons, who are playing meaningful minutes in the NHL. Peyton Krebs registered his first point as a member of the Buffalo Sabres on January 1st before being put in COVID-19 protocol on January 4th. Brett Murray has soundly broken into the Sabres lineup, skating in 15 games this season, scoring two goals, and tallying four assists. It may be a while before Amerks fans see the return of goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who has started in seven games for the Sabres and has posted a .927 save percentage is averaging 2.54 goals-against. For now, it looks like the Amerks’ net belongs to Houser and Aaron Dell.
Finally, another interesting story to note is that Scott Wheeler of The Athletic reports that Quinn and Krebs are on Team Canada’s long list of those being considered for the 2022 Olympic Team. Due to Quinn and Krebs both playing on two-way NHL deals, it is safe to assume that neither player would be eligible to compete for Team Canada. Nevertheless, a tremendous honor for two incredibly talented prospects with Rochester ties to be named to such a list.
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