The Amerks are in need of a push to the playoffs and they gave themselves just that with their second win in a row on Friday night against the Adirondack Phantoms. David Leggio played a superb game for his second shutout of the season with 27 saves. There was also at least four or five additional saves given to the goal posts and crossbar.
The first period started getting physical with some extra shoves here and there following the whistles. Jacob Lagace flattened Ben Holmstrom with a clean open ice hit. Shortly after that Travis Turnbull and Ben Holmstrom shared a ‘friendly’ shoulder bump changing lines during a stoppage in play. Matt Walker of the Phantoms also gave an extra shove on Luke Adam after a whistle. Nothing else happened after those plays but both teams were proving they weren’t going to be pushed around.
Derek Whitmore scored the first goal and game winner at the 11 minute mark of the first period for his team leading 23rd goal of the season. Joe Finley started the play with a long pass that bounced off of the stick of a Phantoms player and to Luke Adam. Derek Whitmore was skating down the center of the ice and received the pass from Adam and got a bounce to get it past Michael Leighton.
The Amerks appeared to go up 2-0 but referee Jarrod Ragusin waived off the goal scored by Marcus Foligno and sent Foligno to the penalty box for goaltender interference. Foligno was skating circles all over the ice putting on a one man show when he went to the net hard. Watch the replay and decide for yourself:
Evan Rankin returned to the lineup after missing 23 games due to a concussion and played on a line with Colin Stuart and Phil Varone. Rankin had an early breakaway but wasn’t given much to shoot on from Leighton. He finished the game with only one shot on goal with a few other close chances. Rankin joins the ranks of players like Colin Stuart and TJ Brennan who’ve missed a large amount of games and just getting their stride back.
The only other goal of the game was scored just 1:11 into the second period off a shot from Dennis Persson that just barely slid under the right pad of Michael Leighton. Persson was recently a healthy scratch for four straight games and has come back with two of his best games of the season. He scored a goal on Friday night and also had a goal and an assist this past Wednesday against the Hershey Bears.
Ron Rolston has said for much of the season that players were being handed roster spots instead of earning them and now that’s finally changing (for now). The defense is healthy and Alex Biega, Corey Fienhage and Drew Schiestel were all scratches. A healthy defense will certainly keep everyone at the top of their game if they want to stay in the lineup.
The next step will be to have an extra forward or two to push the offense to continue to skate at their best. Corey Tropp was called up on Friday morning and joined the only other Amerk on recall, Zack Kassian. Get those two back into Rochester and keep Luke Adam around and just maybe they’ll all continue to play at the top of their games.
Saturday night at 7:35pm against the Lake Erie Monsters is the last of nine home games in the month of February. The Monsters are chasing the Amerks and the Amerks are trying to get away from the Monsters. It’s a big game between the two teams.