With the American Hockey League playoffs now underway, the Rochester Americans enter this week in a 1-1 split in their series against the Chicago Wolves, AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues.
Rochester entered the playoffs last week as the 7th seed in the AHL’s Western Conference.
The Americans finished the regular season with a record of 37-28-6-5 and 85 points, two points ahead of eighth-place Oklahoma City and six points behind sixth-place Milwaukee.
Rochester is facing a Chicago team that finished second in the conference, with 100 points and a regular-season record of 45-21-5-5.
The teams began their series with a pair of games in Rochester on Friday and Saturday.
Things started off well for the Amerks on Friday, with Joel Armia scoring the first postseason goal of his AHL career at the 14:09 mark of the first period. Nicolas Deslauriers would add a power play goal less than two minutes later to make it a quick 2-0 in favor of Rochester. Chicago’s Brent Regner would score his own power-play goal a few minutes later to cut the lead in half.
The first period of Friday’s game also saw a scary moment for Rochester Americans defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Ristolainen crashed at full-speed into the boards and seemed to have trouble getting up (and understandably so.) It was difficult to tell exactly what the issue was – head? neck? shoulder? leg? Ristolainen missed the remainder of the first period, but remarkably, he returned for the rest of the game and appeared to be fine. Thank goodness – the loss of Ristolainen would have been significant for the Amerks going forward.
Chad Ruhwedel would make it 3-1 i n favor of Rochester less than two minutes into the second period, and it would stay that way for a long time.
In fact, with five minutes remaining in regulation, the Amerks continued to hold a two-goal lead.
A late collapse, however, saw the Wolves score twice in a span of 2:31, including a shorthanded goal by Sebastian Wannstrom and a tying goal by Mark Cundari. Just like that, it was a completely different game.
The teams eventually headed to overtime, but it wouldn’t last very long. Left winger Dmitrij Jaskin scored the OT game-winner for Chicago just 1:06 into the extra period, and Chicago took game one. Andrey Makarov had 35 saves, while Chicago’s Jake Allen had 26. Ruhwedel and Armia finished the night with a goal and assist each.
The teams met again on Saturday in Rochester, with things working out slightly different. The Wolves opened the scoring late in the first period on a goal by Nathan Longpre, but Rochester would score the next three goals en route to a 3-2 win.
Colton Gillies opened the scoring for Rochester at the 6:14 mark of the second period, while Chad Ruhwedel scored his second of the postseason just over four minutes later. Luke Adam added a power-play marker in the third period, and once again, the Rochester Americans held a 3-1 lead with about five minutes left in regulation.
And once again, Chicago scored a late goal – this time at the hands of Keith Aucoin. However, this time, the Amerks would hold on, not allowing the Wolves to tie things up, and Rochester would even the series at one game apiece.
Saturday’s win broke a 10-game playoff losing streak for the Rochester Americans, marking their first playoff win since April 21, 2010.
Next up for the Rochester Americans and Chicago Wolves is game three on Thursday at 7 p.m. Central time. The teams will also face each other on Friday in Chicago (7:30 p.m. CDT). If necessary, game five will be on Sunday at 3 p.m. CDT in Chicago.