GRAND RAPIDS, MI. -- The Rochester Americans scored a pair of power-play goals, but it was not enough as the Amerks dropped a 4-2 decision to the Grand Rapids Griffins Wednesday night at Van Andel Arena. The game marked the final matchup of the season between the former North Division rivals, who each posted wins on home ice throughout the two-game season series.
Phil Varone and T.J. Brennan provided the scoring for the Amerks in front of a 28-save effort from rookie goaltender Connor Knapp, who was making just his fifth start of the campaign.
Gustav Nyquist paced the Griffins with a two-point night (0+2), while the Griffins received goals from four different players. Petr Mrazek earned the win in net, stopping 19 of 21 shots he faced.
Grand Rapids opened the scoring just 2:49 into the contest after a net-front scramble led to Luke Glendening’s first American Hockey League goal. Former Amerk Triston Grant corralled Mitch Callahan’s rebound from the right corner and darted toward the net looking to beat Knapp on the short-side. Knapp, however, would make the initial save before causing a pile-up in the crease, where Glendening, a Grand Rapids native playing in his first game with the Griffins, knocked it over the goal-line to put the home team ahead 1-0.
Rochester would need just seven seconds on the power-play to knot the game at one apiece with a goal from Varone at 8:17 of the first period. After a clean face-off win in the Grand Rapids zone, Luke Adam found Varone in the low slot, where he one-timed a shot to the back of net for his third goal of the season. With the assist, Adam extends his point streak to six games, while Mark Mancari notched his third point in as many games with the secondary assist.
The Griffins would quickly regain the lead just 2:42 later as Jeff Hoggan capitalized on a defensive zone turnover. Stationed just inside the Rochester blueline, Hoggan intercepted the Amerks’ attempted clearing pass, beat his defender to the outside and snapped a shot just inside the far post for the unassisted tally to give Grand Rapids the 2-1 advantage after 20 minutes of play.
The second stanza saw the teams exchange goals, beginning with another power-play goal from the Amerks just 5:55 into the period. After Knapp gloved down a shorthanded opportunity from Griffins forward Landon Ferraro, Cody Hodgson gained possession and led the rush up ice along the right wing boards. Upon gaining entry in the Griffins zone, Hodgson dropped a pass to a trailing Brennan, who picked the right corner from the top of the left circle for his team-leading 10th goal of the season. The goal snapped an eight-game goal-less drought for Brennan, who also leads the Amerks with five power-play goals on the season. Hodgson’s assist marked his first point since Oct. 27, while Knapp also registered his first professional point with an assist on the play.
The Griffins pulled ahead once again midway through the middle frame as Joakim Andersson tipped in Chad Billins’ shot from the left point. Knapp appeared to have the initial shot from Billins in sight, but Andersson, who started the play with a drop pass to Billins at the blueline, continued to the net and redirected it to the top right corner of the net.
After almost two minutes of 6-on-5 play with Knapp on the bench, Francis Pare added an empty-netter with just 52 seconds left in regulation to secure the 4-2 win for Grand Rapids.
Rochester returns home to The Blue Cross Arena on Friday, Dec. 21 as the Amerks battle the Binghamton Senators in the first leg of a two-game set between the intrastate rivals. The 7:05 p.m. matchup will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 WHTK and will also be televised on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel 26.
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