Rochester opens Eastern Conference Finals with seventh straight win of postseason
May 23, 2023
The Rochester Americans (7-2) jumped out to a 4-0 lead against Hershey Bears before cruising to a 5-1 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Tuesday night at GIANT Center.
GAME SUMMARY PHOTO GALLERY POST-GAME REPORT
With the win, Rochester, which has won seven straight after dropping the first two games of the playoffs, takes a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Dating back to the Amerks’ last visit to GIANT Center on March 18, the club shows a 15-4-3-1 mark, which includes a 7-2 record in the playoffs.
Brett Murray (1+1), Michael Mersch (0+2) and Jeremy Davies (0+2) all registered a multi-point night while Joseph Cecconi, Lukas Rousek, Mason Jobst and Matt Bartkowski scored once in the win. Ethan Prow, Linus Weissbach, Jiri Kulich, and Tyson Kozak all recorded an assist.
Goaltender Malcolm Subban (7-2) stopped 20 of 21 shots he faced in his ninth straight appearance of the playoffs. The Toronto, Ontario, native’s seven wins and 299 saves both are second-most in the AHL.
Hershey’s Aaron Ness scored his first career AHL postseason goal during the third period from Logan Day and Joe Snively. Hunter Shepard (6-2) and Zach Fucale split the goaltending duties. Shepard, who entered the matchup allowing two or fewer goals in each of his first seven appearances this spring, drew the start but was replaced by Fucale midway through the second period. Shepard made 12 saves while Fucale turned aside all six shots he faced.
On the game’s opening shift, Mersch swatted the puck out of the defensive zone to Murray. The fourth-year pro swung around to give the puck to Cecconi, who darted through the center of the ice.
As Cecconi, who celebrated his 26th birthday today, reached the top of the circles, he snapped a shot past the stick of Shepard to give Rochester a 1-0 lead just 14 seconds into the contest for his second of the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Nine minutes later, the Amerks doubled their lead as Davies grabbed a Jobst pass just inside the offensive blueline. Davies carried the puck down the right wing and attempted a backhanded shot. The puck never reached Shepard as Mersch intercepted the pass and handed it to Murray atop the crease to shovel over the netminder’s right leg.
Following the intermission break, Rochester extended its lead to 3-0 just 1:42 into the middle period.
Weissbach, who returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games with an injury, gathered an outlet pass in the middle of the ice before Kulich carried it down the right wall. The rookie forward, who has at least point in each of his seven postseason games, slammed the breaks and spotted Bartkowski at the left point. The veteran defenseman had time and space to uncork a slapshot through traffic and in-behind Shepard.
Less than five minutes after Bartkowski scored his second goal in as many games, Davies flipped a puck out of the Amerks zone. After the puck was fumbled by a Bears defenseman, Jobst sprinted across the far blueline with Murray on an odd-man rush. Jobst drifted to his left and away from the net but picked the upper-right corner to give the Amerks a 4-0 lead with 13:27 left in the stanza.
Facing a four-goal deficit to begin the third period, Hershey spoiled Subban’s bid for a second shutout of the postseason at the 9:42 mark.
On an extended shift, Day and Snively traded passes at the blueline before Day sent a cross-crease feed for Ness at the back door.
The Bears attempted to mount a comeback and pulled Facale for an extra attacker, but Rousek sealed the 5-1 victory from Kozak and Prow.
The Amerks look to take a 2-0 series lead in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bears at GIANT Center on Thursday, May 25. Opening puck-drop in the best-of-seven series is set for 7:00 p.m. and will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM The Fan Rochester as well as AHL TV. The game will also be televised live on MSG Network.
Tonight’s win improved the Amerks to 6-2 all-time in the opening game of a playoff series against Hershey dating back to Game 1 of the 1965 Calder Cup Finals … Over their current seven-game win streak, the Amerks have outscored the opposition 41-21, including 12-3 in the first period over that span … Despite seeing his AHL-best six-game goal-scoring streak come to an end, Jiri Kulich recorded an assist on Rochester’s third goal of the game, giving him at least one point in all seven playoff games he’s appeared in, marking the longest active point streak in the postseason … Mason Jobst also extended his point streak to seven games with his third goal of the postseason … Jobst leads the Amerks with 12 points (3+9) in nine playoff contests.
ROC: J. Cecconi (2), B. Murray (4), M. Bartkowski (2), M. Jobst (3), L. Rousek (3)
HER: A. Ness (1)
ROC: M. Subban – 21/22 (W)
HER: H. Shepard – 12/16 (L) | Z. Fucale – 6/6 (L)
ROC: PP 0/1| PK (2/2)
HER: PP (0/2) | PK (1/1)
1. ROC – B. Murray
2. ROC – M. Jobst
3. ROC – M. Mersch