Surrounded by snow on the ground, a dark night sky above and the skyline of the city lighting things up here and there, the Rochester Americans defeated the Lake Erie Monsters in a shootout in front of 11,015 fans in the team’s first outdoor AHL regular season game, the Greater Rochester Area Honda Dealers Frozen Frontier presented by Labatt.
After weeks of preparation and numerous other events taking place on the freshly-made ice at Frontier Field in the past few days as part of the Frozen Frontier events, the Rochester Americans would eventually defeat the Lake Erie Monsters by a score of 5-4 in the fourth of ten meetings between the teams this season.
Of course, this meeting was a little… unique. After all, the thermometer read a chilly 18 degrees Fahrenheit, the sky was fairly clear with just light snow prior to the game, and players from both the Rochester Americans and Lake Erie Monsters returned to the roots of hockey: playing on an outdoor pond.
After the colors were presented, the anthem sung, fireworks set off and a ceremonial puck drop completed, it was time to begin the first outdoor AHL game in Rochester’s history – and it didn’t take long for things to get going at the Frozen Frontier.
Just over two minutes into the opening period, Amerks left winger Frederick Roy dropped the gloves with Lake Erie center Mitch Heard. Both players received five-minute fighting majors and two minutes each for unsportsmanlike conduct for removing their helmets. (For those keeping track, Mitch Heard suckerpunched Rasmus Ristolainen in a game on November 29th – and Ristolainen remains out of commission for the time being.)
Just over a minute and a half later, the Amerks would notch the first goal of the game, scored by none other than captain Matt Ellis at the 3:36 mark. Ellis’ fifth goal of the season was assisted by Joel Armia and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc.
An interference penalty to Matt MacKenzie would throw favor in the direction of the Monsters, and they’d take advantage of the opportunity to tie the game at one. Mark Olver blasted a shot after a Lake Erie faceoff win by Andrew Agozzino, and the Frozen Frontier game was tied with 9:18 remaining in the first period.
Minutes later, it was more of the same. Nick Crawford took an interference penalty, and once again, Lake Erie capitalized, this time at the hands of Matt Hunwick, to give the Monsters a 2-1 lead. Just like that, the Amerks had allowed the Monsters to score on three of their last five power play opportunities over a span of less than 48 hours.
Eight minutes and one second into the middle frame, Rochester center Johan Larsson took his third penalty of the game. Thankfully, Lake Erie never got much of an opportunity on the power play, as Paul Carey was served a tripping penalty just two seconds later to nullify the man advantage. While they didn’t have the power play, Lake Erie still managed to score on the 4-on-4, with a goal from right winger Garrett Meurs to up the lead to 3-1 in favor of the Monsters.
The Rochester Americans would come back with a pair of goals in 2:12 toward the end of the second period. First, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc notched his second goal of the season before center Phil Varone added one to tie the game at 3. Frederick Roy and Tim Schaller assisted on Gauthier-Leduc’s goal, while Nick Crawford and Mike Zigomanis had the helpers for Varone’s tying goal.
The Amerks would take the lead for just the second time in the Frozen Frontier game when left winger Colton Gillies scored his second of the season to give Rochester a 4-3 lead at the 3:07 mark of the third period. Joel Armia notched his second assist of the night, while Matt Ellis would also add an assist on the goal.
With four minutes remaining in regulation and the game on the line, Rochester Americans goalie Matt Hackett made the key save of the game, stopping Bryan Lerg’s slapshot to maintain the Amerks lead. He’s go on to make additional important saves on Colin Smith and Karl Stollery before Lake Erie’s Brett Clark would take an interference penalty with 2:45 remaining in the third period.
Things appeared to look good for the Amerks – on the power play, with the lead, minutes remaining in regulation. Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel proceeded to get called for interference with less than a minute left in the third period. Lake Erie pulled their goaltender to gain a 6-on-4 advantage.
The clock wound down, and as it came ever-so-close to the end, the Monsters appeared to tie the game and began celebrating a game-tying goal with the clock at zero seconds remaining. The referees deemed it a good goal, and just like that, fans were treated to some extra hockey. The goal was ruled to have been score with .1 second (that’s point-1, or one-tenth of a second!) remaining in regulation, as Matt Hunwick scored his second of the night to tie things up at four apiece.
After a fruitless overtime period, the game went to a shootout. Here’s how the first five rounds broke down:
- Round 1 – Mark Olver (LE) – no goal // Jamie Tardif (RCH) – no goal….. 0-0
- Round 2 – Colin Smith (LE) – no goal // Joel Armia (RCH) – no goal….. 0-0
- Round 3 – Bryan Lerg (LE) – goal // Phil Varone (RCH) – no goal….. 1-0 Lake Erie
- Round 4 – Garrett Meurs (LE) – goal // Mike Zigomanis (RCH) – goal….. 2-1 Lake Erie
- Round 5- Trevor Cheek (LE) – no goal // Johan Larsson (RCH) – goal….. 2-2
In the sixth round of the shootout, Lake Erie’s Andrew Agozzino was stopped before Rochester captain Matt Ellis banked the puck through the five hole, off the post and into the net to give the Amerks the victory.
Matt Hackett had 26 saves in the win for the Amerks, while Calvin Pickard had 25 saves for Lake Erie.
Ellis was named the first star of the game, with a goal, an assist, four shots and the game-winning goal in the shootout. Jerome Gauthier-Leduc was second star, as he tallied a goal and assist; Lake Erie’s Matt Hunwick (two goals) was named third star of the night.
Next up for the Amerks is a road trip to face the Syracuse Crunch on December 14 before returning home to host the Toronto Marlies on December 18.