SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WROC) — For the second straight season, the Amerks advanced to the third round of the Calder Cup Playoffs after defeating the Crunch 5-4 in OT on Saturday night. Rochester became just the 12th team in AHL history to overcome a 2-0 deficit and win a best-of-5 series.
11 minutes into the game, Isak Rosen found Tyson Kozak camped out in front for the quick goal to take a 1-0 lead.
The score remained that way until the 2nd period when the Amerks offense took off. Lawrence Pilut got the ball rolling with a goal from the left slot to make it a 2-0 game.
14 minutes into the 2nd period, Jiri Kulich deked out the Crunch goaltender for the score to give the Amerks a resounding 3-0 lead.
After a Crunch goal 15 seconds later made it a two goal game, Michael Mersch scored less than a minute later to give Rochester a 4-1 lead. Syracuse added a goal late in the 2nd period to cut the Amerk lead back to 2 heading into the final period.
Midway through the 3rd period, Syracuse found the back of the net again to make it a 4-3 game. With 30 seconds left in regulation, Trevor Carrick scored the equalizer after the puck took a few awkward bounces.
After being dominated in the period, Amerks head coach Seth Appert took unusual approach during the intermission to get his team back on track.
“I went in there immediately which I don’t normally do and said, ‘Take a breath. Calm down. We’re going to win this game,'” said Appert. “Then I came back at the normal time in the middle of the intermission and I reminded them that whatever has happened is done. We just have to stay calm and keep our composure. Then get back to our attacking game. Get back to our identity.”
For the 2nd time this series, the two teams needed overtime to decide the outcome. In Game 1, the Crunch came away with the 3-2 win. However on Saturday night, Pilut became the hero after sending a missile into the net 11 minutes into OT for the series-clinching goal.
“Coming back into the locker room after the 3rd period you realized how much character is on this team,” said Pilut. “Everybody kept saying ‘focus on the next thing. Focus on the next play’. I think what made us jump back into our momentum.”
The Rochester faithful traveled well to Syracuse Saturday night making their presence felt throughout the game.
“That was awesome and that was special to see,” said Appert. “That’s a credit to our players that they earned that love from this fanbase because of the heart, the character, and the tenacity that this group has come to play with now. I really love coaching this team. They’ve grown so much.”
The Amerks will now face the Toronto Marlies in the North Division Finals. Game 1 will be played in Toronto on Thursday, May 11th at 7pm followed by Game 2 on Saturday, May 13th at 4pm.
The series will return to Rochester on Wednesday, May 17th for Game 3 while a Game 4, if necessary, will be played at Blue Cross Arena on Friday, May 19th.
If a Game 5 is required, the deciding game will be held Sunday, May 21st in Toronto.