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Crunch Snap Amerks' 7-Game Winning Streak

Snow kept fans away as Amerks look listless in defeat
Cedric Paquette scored two goals and former Amerk Evan Rankin added two assists as the visiting Syracuse Crunch defeated the Rochester Americans 4-1 Wednesday night at The Blue Cross Arena. The loss ends the Amerks season-long seven-game winning streak and drops their record to 22-16-3-3.

Frederick Roy scored Rochester’s only goal of the evening, extending his point streak to three games, with Mark Pysyk adding the assist. Nathan Lieuwen started in goal and stopped 14 shots for the Amerks.

Brett Connolly and Dmitry Korobov added goals for the Crunch and goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis turned aside 21 of 22 Rochester shots for the win, which improved Syracuse to 4-0-0-0 against Rochester this season.

The Amerks controlled the puck in the Syracuse zone for most of the opening 10 minutes of the first period with plenty of offensive pressure from the line combination of Luke Adam, Brayden Irwin and Johan Larsson. However, the Amerks couldn’t get the jump on Syracuse as Gudlevskis kept the game scoreless.

In the latter stages of the opening 20 minutes, Syracuse began countering the Amerks’ pressure with some strong scoring chances. Jon DiSalvatore nearly opened the scoring for Syracuse on a slap-shot from the right wing, but the puck rang off the inside of the left post and out of harm’s way. Minutes later, a give-and-go play ended with the puck on Rankin’s stick, but Lieuwen slid across the crease to deny his attempt.

Lieuwen wasn’t the only player keeping the Crunch off the board. After straying from the crease to play a loose puck, Lieuwen’s clearing attempt went right to the stick of a Syracuse attacker. With his goaltender out of position, Brayden McNabb stepped in front of the net and saved a sure goal.

Both teams hit an offensive lull for a majority of the second period, but the Crunch would ultimately strike first. With 1:54 left in the middle frame, Paquette took advantage of a turnover inside the Rochester blueline and fired a shot over Lieuwen’s shoulder for a 1-0 Syracuse lead.

Syracuse padded its lead to 2-0 just 4:42 into the third period when Connolly picked up a loose puck in the left circle and surprised Lieuwen with a high shot. Moments later, the Crunch potted their third goal on Paquette’s second of the night, again picking the upper right corner from the right slot.

With the Amerks in desperate need of a boost, defenseman Matt MacKenzie stepped up with a hard body-check at the Amerks blueline. Following the hit, DiSalvatore stepped in and dropped the gloves with MacKenzie, and both players were sent to the box with fighting majors. Vladislav Namestnikov was also issued a five-minute major for butt-ending, but the Amerks were unable to capitalize on the extensive power-play opportunity.

With 7:19 remaining in regulation, Pysyk’s shot from the point was re-directed by Roy into the net, bringing the score to 3-1 and breathing life into the Amerks comeback effort. Rochester pulled Lieuwen with 1:57 remaining in regulation, but Korobov picked off a cross-ice pass and sealed the game with his shot into the empty net.

The oldest rivalry in the American Hockey League will be renewed on Friday, Feb. 7 as the Amerks host the Hershey Bears in a battle of the league’s two senior-most franchises. The 7:05 p.m. contest will mark the 448th all-time meeting between the longtime foes.
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