The Grand Rapids Griffins scored twice in the first period before adding three unanswered goals in the second half of the contest as the defending Calder Cup champions cruised to a 5-1 win over the Rochester Americans Saturday night at the First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo.
Despite the loss, the Amerks have won eight of their last 10 games and maintain sole possession of second place in the American Hockey League’s North Division standings entering the 2014 AHL All-Star break.
The Griffins owned Rochester all season long, starting with an 8-1 thrashing on opening night. For the year, Grand Rapids won all four games by a combined score of 21-4. The Amerks scored only one goal in each defeat.
Rasmus Ristolainen provided Rochester’s lone tally in this game with assists from Chad Ruhwedel and Kevin Porter. Goaltender Matt Hackett finished with 22 saves in his second start in two nights.
Jeff Hoggan, Cory Emmerton and Martin Frk all finished with a goal and an assist for Grand Rapids, and former Amerk Nathan Paetsch added two assists. Tom McCollum stopped 27 of 28 Rochester shots for his 19th win of the season.
Grand Rapids opened the scoring just 7:22 into the first period, when Emmerton buried a rebound off of Hoggan’s shot. The Griffins added their second goal 5:50 later when Paetsch’s shot from the point was deflected by Callahan and into the net. Officials gathered following the play to discuss whether Hackett was illegally pushed into the net by Callahan, but eventually upheld the ruling in favor of the Griffins.
The Amerks would swing momentum back in their favor late in the first period while on the power-play, as Ruhwedel swung a pass along the blueline over to Ristolainen, who hammered a one-timer past a frozen McCollum to bring the score to 2-1 heading into the first intermission.
That deficit would be the closest the Amerks would get, as Hoggan and Marchenko would add consecutive tallies midway through the second period to bring the score to 4-1 in favor of Grand Rapids.
With the Amerks looking to mount a comeback, Frk scored the Griffins’ fifth goal just 1:13 into the final period. With just over nine minutes remaining in regulation, Grand Rapids took consecutive penalties 15 seconds apart to provide a five-on-three power-play for the Amerks. Johan Larsson rang two separate shots off the post from the right circle, and despite containing the Griffins in their own zone for nearly the entire two-man advantage, the Amerks couldn’t again solve McCollum, who kept Rochester at bay for the remainder of the contest.
The Amerks return to action following the annual All-Star break on Friday, Feb. 14 as they take on the intrastate rival Utica Comets at 7:05 p.m. in the first leg of a home-and-home series at The Blue Cross Arena. The special Valentine’s Day matchup will be the eighth of 10 scheduled meetings between the two teams this season.