ROCHESTER, N.Y. – While Rochester Americans fans may want to forget the first 40 minutes of Wednesday night’s game one matchup against the Belleville Senators, they’ll never forget the final 36:54. The Americans entered the third period down 3-0 and came back to the ice for the third with a choice – take the game one loss and hope for better in Belleville or take command of the series by completing an epic comeback. They chose the latter, winning 4-3 to take a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-three first-round series.
Belleville Commands Early
The first period played directly into Belleville’s hands as they were able to limit the Amerks to five shots on goal. Five proved to be a magic number as five shots on goal was all that Belleville needed to take a commanding 2-0 lead into the intermission. Cole Reinhardt started the scoring at 7:27 of the first period off of a feed from Egor Sokolov. Reinhardt’s goal came on the first shot of the game for the Senators and was the first playoff goal of his AHL career. Dillon Heatherington made it 2-0 at the 19:00 mark of the first when all five Rochester skaters were drawn to the corner, leading to a takeaway by Logan Shaw who found Heatherington in the slot, leaving Rochester goaltender Aaron Dell helpless.
Although the Amerks were able to outshoot the Senators 14-8 in the second period, Belleville controlled the tempo, limiting the Americans to shots from low-danger areas. At the 12:58 mark of the second period, the Amerks once again allowed a Belleville skater to park themselves in front of Dell with no resistance. This time, it was Rourke Chartier capitalizing on the defensive collapse, giving the Senators a 3-0 lead. Senators netminder Filip Gustavsson, who was the story of the first 40 minutes of the tilt, turned aside the first 20 shots he faced. Toward the end of the second period, Gustavsson took a JJ Peterka shot off his right foot, leading to a stoppage in play to tend to the Senators netminder. Blue Cross Arena erupted in frustration after the play was called dead as the Amerks were in possession of the puck. In fact, Peterka was lining up yet another shot when the play was stopped.
Oh no… Filip Gustavsson appears to take a shot off the foot and is down in pain. Kevin Mandolese is backing up but this would be a major loss for Belleville. pic.twitter.com/4UFjtBTGwL
— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) May 5, 2022
If there is one thing that the Rochester Americans have been good at this season, it has been scoring goals. The play of Gustavsson made overcoming the three-goal deficit close to unattainable, however, an early third-period goal from Lukas Rourke, made possible by a beautiful assist by Peterka, gave the Amerks life. A questionable boarding call on Peyton Krebs gave the Senators an opportunity to regain their three-goal lead, however, Dell was able to turn away both of the Senators’ power-play shots, which would be the last two he would face in regulation. Nine seconds after stepping out of the penalty box, Krebs was able to find Casey Fitzgerald who delivered a pass to Jimmy Schuldt. Schuldt wasted no time finding the back of the net, bringing the Americans within one goal with 6:41 remaining.
One thing was clear in the third period – Krebs did not like having to sit in the penalty box for two minutes and he was going to make sure that everyone knew it. Krebs once again used his elite playmaking skills to control the tempo in the offensive zone, eventually finding Fitzgerald, who was able to beat Gustavsson five-hole to tie the game. On only six third-period shots, the Amerks were able to net three, tie the game, and give the fans at Blue Cross Arena free hockey.
Belleville lost a bit of their game during the third period, however, they were able to find it early in the overtime period. Both teams traded chances and both goaltenders seemed up to the task. The Senators’ best chance of the overtime period came when Dell found himself out of position on a Reinhardt shot. Luckily for the Amerks, Josh Teves slid behind Dell and kept the puck out of the net for what may have been the save of the night. Officials would review the shot at the next stoppage in play to ensure the puck did not cross the line and it was determined to be no goal.
JOSH TEVES WITH THE SAVE OF THE GAME! pic.twitter.com/auBtfrueq4
— Die By The Blade (@diebytheblade) May 5, 2022
Ultimately, the hero of Wednesday night’s matchup would be none other than Arttu Ruotsalainen, who netted the game-winning goal at the 16:54 mark of the first overtime. Gustavsson let up a huge rebound off of a Teves shot from the blue line that Belleville initially believed was shot from an offside position, and Ruotsalainen cleaned it up with ease.
Rochester has a chance to secure a second-round matchup against the Utica Comets with a win on Friday in Belleville. It will be no small task for the Amerks to secure a win at CAA Arena, but having two opportunities to do so is a luxury that Rochester will gladly take. Belleville will look to return to the first 40 minutes of Wednesday’s game, where they established a typical brand of playoff hockey that kept Rochester from utilizing their stars. Jack Quinn had a very quiet game one – Belleville will work to continue shutting Quinn down, while Rochester will try to find ways to get Quinn involved in the next matchup(s) early and often. One thing is for sure – if Friday’s matchup is anything like Wednesday’s, we’re in for a treat.
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