Amerks strike first in Eastern Conference Finals

Photo: Tori Hartman/Hershey Bears

Rochester struck early and often on Tuesday night, claiming Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals with a 5-1 victory over the Hershey Bears at Giant Center.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is set for Thursday evening.

The Amerks, who entered the game on a six-game winning streak, needed just 14 seconds to pot the first goal of the series. Joseph Cecconi, on his 26th birthday, carried the puck into the Bears zone and wristed a shot that eluded Hunter Shepard for his second goal of the postseason.

Rochester doubled its lead at the 9:04 mark of the opening period when Brett Murray took a net-front pass from Michael Mersch and scored to make it 2-0.

Matt Bartkowski and Mason Jobst scored early in the second period to chase Shepard, who allowed more than two goals in a game for the first time in eight starts this postseason.

Aaron Ness, back in the Bears lineup after missing the previous four games due to injury, scored on a back-door tap-in with 10:18 left in regulation for Hershey’s only offense. It was the first goal in 45 career Calder Cup Playoff contests for Ness.

Lukas Rousek added an empty-net goal with 1:01 to play for the final margin.

Malcolm Subban made 21 saves for the Amerks, who now own the third-longest playoff winning streak in franchise history behind the 1991 (10 games) and 1996 (nine) teams.

Zach Fucale stopped all six shots he faced in relief of Shepard (12 saves).

(Rochester leads series, 1-0)
Game 1 – Tue., May 23 – Rochester 5, HERSHEY 1
Game 2 – Thu., May 25 – Rochester at Hershey, 7:00
Game 3 – Sat., May 27 – Hershey at Rochester, 7:05
Game 4 – Mon., May 29 – Hershey at Rochester, 6:05
*Game 5 – Wed., May 31 – Rochester at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 6 – Fri., June 2 – Hershey at Rochester, 7:05
*Game 7 – Mon., June 5 – Rochester at Hershey, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern