Amerks rally to knock out Comets

Photo: Jeff Pexton

Three third-period goals lifted the Rochester Americans to a 4-2 victory over the Utica Comets in the winner-take-all Game 5 of their division semifinal series in Utica on Thursday night.

After eliminating the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, Rochester, which needed outside help on the last day of the regular season just to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs, moves on to face the Laval Rocket in the North Division Finals, beginning Sunday evening at Place Bell in Laval.

Trailing 2-1 entering the final frame, the Amerks pulled even at the 3:22 mark of the third period when Arttu Ruotsalainen’s centering pass hit a Comet’s skate in front and redirected in for his fifth goal of the series and league-leading eighth of the postseason.

Then at 6:45, Sean Malone beat Comets goaltender Nico Daws with a wrister from the right circle for what would prove to be the series-winning goal.

Mark Jankowski secured the win at 18:59, hitting the empty net from his own end boards some 189 feet away.

Rochester had gotten the game’s first goal 9:10 into the contest, as Casey Fitzgerald’s wrister from the center point beat Daws over his right shoulder.

Utica answered with a pair of goals in a span of 49 seconds, as Chase De Leo and Alex Holtz scored to give the Comets the lead midway through the first period.

Those two quick goals would be the only shots to get by Aaron Dell, who finished with 19 saves on the night and allowed fewer than three goals for the first time in seven starts this postseason.

Daws stopped 24 of 27 shots in the loss.

Rochester went 1-for-2 on the power play in Game 5 and wound up 5-for-12 in the series. The Amerks also did not allow a power-play chance to the Comets, who had gone 4-for-7 with the man advantage in the first four games.

North Division Semifinals – Series “J” (best-of-5)
N1-Utica Comets vs. N5-Rochester Americans
Game 1 – Tue., May 10 – UTICA 6, Rochester 3
Game 2 – Sat., May 14 – Rochester 4, UTICA 3 (OT)
Game 3 – Sun., May 15 – ROCHESTER 4, Utica 3 (OT)
Game 4 – Tue., May 17 – Utica 4, ROCHESTER 2
Game 5 – Thu., May 19 – Rochester 4, UTICA 2