Amerks win before record crowd

( — Cody Hodgson scored a pair of goals for the second consecutive game and David Leggio turned in a brilliant 36-save performance as the Rochester Americans cruised to a 4-1 win over the Lake Erie Monsters in front of a record-setting crowd of 19,070 fans Friday night at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo.

The crowd was the largest in the 57-year history of the Amerks franchise, and the eighth-largest crowd ever for a regular-season game in the American Hockey League.

Hodgson led Rochester with two goals, scoring twice on the power-play, while veteran forward Mark Mancari chipped in a goal and an assist to extend his current point streak to five games. Nick Tarnasky rounded out the scoring for the Amerks, adding an insurance tally midway through the third period.

Dean Strong scored the lone goal for the Monsters, who received a combined 26 saves from Sami Aittokallio and Calvin Pickard.

Hodgson spotted the Amerks to a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 14:48 of the first period. After a delay of game penalty to Lake Erie’s David van der Gulik put the Monsters two men down, Rochester needed only 15 seconds to capitalize on the opportunity as Mancari found a wide-open Hodgson, who crept in from the left half-wall and tucked the puck inside the far post for his fourth of the season. With the assist, Mancari extended his current point streak to five games while T.J. Brennan picked up his 11th point in his last seven games with the secondary helper.

Mancari’s second point of the night gave Rochester a two-goal cushion just 2:10 into the middle frame with a high wrister to the top right corner of the net. Mancari intercepted Cameron Gaunce’s pass off the right wing boards, and after gaining entry into the Lake Erie zone, drifted toward the high slot and unleashed a quick shot over the glove of Aittokallio to make it a 2-0 game.

Hodgson and the Amerks’ power play struck again over five minutes later as Hodgson finished off a give-and-go with Marcus Foligno to put his team up 3-0 at 7:52 of the second period. Leading the rush up ice, Hodgson managed to elude a defender before dishing to it Foligno at the Monsters blueline. Foligno then sent a quick return pass back to Hodgson, who took a few more strides toward the Lake Erie net before slipping a back-hander past Aittokallio for his second of the night. The goal gives Hodgson four in his last two games after netting a pair in Rochester’s 7-6 win over the Monsters on Wednesday night. Brayden McNabb also earned an assist on the play.

The Monsters answered back just 41 seconds later with a power-play goal of their own as Dean Strong knocked home Andrew Agozzino’s rebound to bring Lake Erie within two. Agozzino was camped out on the goal-line to the left of Leggio and attempted to stuff the puck inside the near post, but the rebound would kick out to the top of the crease to Strong, who deposited it into the empty net for a 3-1 score.

With 8:06 remaining in the third period, Tarnasky added some insurance as he potted his fifth goal of the season. A centering pass from Maxime Legault resulted in a loose puck on the doorstep and Tarnasky slapped it home to give the Amerks the 4-1 win.

The previous Amerks record for the largest crowd was 17,898, which was set exactly eight years ago on Dec. 28, 2004, when Rochester defeated the Edmonton Road Runners at the then-HSBC Arena in Buffalo.

“The American Hockey League has a storied history in Western New York that dates back more than seven decades,” said David Andrews, AHL President and Chief Executive Officer. “Tonight’s turnout in Buffalo is the latest testament to the support that the region’s great fans have given to our league through the years.”

“This record is a result of the tremendous support from the fans throughout Western New York,” said Amerks President Ted Black. “Rochester and Buffalo are both great hockey cities, and the Amerks organization is extremely appreciative of the continuing support of the fans in both markets.”