Amerks snap playoff skid, win Game 2

( — Luke Adam scored the eventual game-winning goal early in the third period as the Rochester Americans survived a late charge from the Chicago Wolves and held on for a 3-2 win in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday at the Blue Cross Arena.

The win snaps a 10-game postseason losing streak for the Amerks dating back to 2010, and knots the best-of-five series at one game apiece as the round shifts to Chicago for the final three games.

A victory in Game 2 was of critical importance for the Amerks after being dealt a 4-3 overtime defeat in the series opener. In Game 1, the Rochester held a 3-1 advantage with just under five minutes remaining before Chicago mounted a late comeback to steal the win. Led by strong efforts from Colton Gillies and Chad Ruhwedel, the Amerks avoided a similar fate in Game 2.

Gillies and Ruhwedel each totaled a goal and an assist to top Rochester’s scoring efforts, and rookie goaltender Andrey Makarov earned his first career AHL playoff win with 26 saves. Tim Schaller, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, Alex Hutchings and Jamie Tardif each added assists for the Amerks, who earned their first playoff win since Apr. 21, 2010.

For Tardif, his assist came in his first action in nearly a month, as the veteran forward had missed Rochester’s previous 11 games with an injury.

Nathan Longpre and Keith Aucoin scored in a losing effort for the Wolves, and Jake Allen turned aside 28 shots in the defeat.

Looking to set an early tone, the Amerks tested Allen early with a number of scoring chances, but similarly to Game 1, the Baz Bastien Award winner was tough to beat early on. Allen was particularly strong following a Chicago penalty just 5:01 into the game, keeping a hot Rochester power play off the board.

The Amerks’ own penalty-killing unit had to be strong in their own right during the first period after Gillies and Ruhwedel took consecutive penalties just 1:05 apart, setting up Chicago with some time with the 5-on-3 man advantage. Thanks to some defensive attitude from Rasmus Ristolainen and a huge open ice hit from Schaller on Shane Harper, Rochester held Chicago’s power-play in check.

Chicago would capitalize on an odd-man rush late in the first session, however, when Longpre’s shot from the high slot appeared to deflect in front of Makarov and slip into the net to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead.

Possession with the puck began to swing heavily in the Amerks favor following an Eric Selleck tripping minor in the early stages of the second period. While Rochester generated plenty of scoring chances with the man-advantage, Allen stood tall in net. Just minutes after the penalty expired, Rochester would finally get the bounce they were looking for when Gauthier-Leduc’s shot bounced around in front of the net before finding Gillies on the opposite side. Gillies emphatically slammed the puck home past the out-of-position Allen to tie the score 1-1 6:14 into the second period.

Gillies showed off his passing touch just minutes later to set up Rochester’s second goal. Schaller originally controlled the puck, and absorbed a hit along the boards before cycling the puck low back to Gillies. Ruhwedel pinched in down low from his post at the blueline and Gillies slid the puck through traffic just in time for Ruhwedel to pick the upper corner for his second goal of the playoffs, putting the Amerks on top 2-1.

Another strong shift from the combination of Gillies, Schaller and Brayden Irwin drew a penalty early in the third period, and the Amerks power-play unit provided the two-goal lead. Again it was Ruhwedel beginning the play with a tricky shot from the point that redirected off of Tardif’s stick to Allen. The deflection caused Allen to cough up a big rebound and Adam arrived in the nick of time to chip it in.

The Amerks nearly potted their fourth goal midway through the third period when Ristolainen unleashed a one-timer from the point that was deflected by Tardif in front and dinged off the right post.

Two consecutive penalties from Ristolainen and Nick Petrecki provided Chicago with its second 5-on-3 of the evening with just 3:47 left in regulation, and Chicago quickly erased the first penalty on Aucoin’s goal bringing the score to 3-2.

With Chicago pressing in the final minute, Allen was pulled for the sixth attacker. Unfortunately for the Wolves, Makarov saved his best for last to secure the victory for the Amerks and knot the series 1-1.

The series jumps to Chicago’s Allstate Arena for the remaining three games, beginning with Game 3 on Thursday.

Western Conference Quarterfinals – Series “F” (best-of-5)
2-Chicago Wolves vs. 7-Rochester Americans
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 25 – Chicago 4, ROCHESTER 3 (OT)
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 26 – ROCHESTER 3. Chicago 2
Game 3 – Thu., May 1 – Rochester at Chicago, 8:00
Game 4 – Fri., May 2 – Rochester at Chicago, 8:30
*Game 5 – Sun., May 4 – Rochester at Chicago, 4:00
   *if necessary… All times Eastern