ALBANY, N.Y. (January 19, 2005). Special teams and goaltending made the difference tonight as the Rochester Americans blanked the Albany River Rats, 4-0. Rochester notched two short-handed goals, added one power play marker and tossed in one even-strength lamp-lighting event just for good measure. Albany, on 29 shots, could not solve back-up Rochester goaltender, Tom Askey. Ari Ahonen absorbed the loss for the Rats.
The River Rats reached the mid-point of their season, having accumulated only 10 wins in 40 contests. Albany is stuck in last place in the East Division with 28 points, a full 20 points out of playoff contention.
Albany played Rochester about even through the first 18 minutes. Pascal Rheaume of the Rats had several good chances that Tom Askey turned aside. Rochester defenders did a good job of clearing rebounds and Albany was unable to get any second chances.
Then, after Matt DeMarchi was called for hooking Derek Roy at 18:09, the whole tone of the game changed in seconds. Chris Taylor won the offensive-zone draw cleanly, tapping it toward Thomas Vanek, who relayed it to Derek Roy who, in turn, pushed a back-hander through Ari Ahonen's five-hole. The old saying about a bad time to give up a goal (in the final several minutes of a period) proved true tonight for Albany.
Early in the second, Ahonen seemed frozen like a deer in the proverbial headlights when Geoff Peters (not exactly a sniper) went in alone on a short-handed breakaway. The Albany goaltender never budged and Peters' shot beat him glove-side high.
Rochester's next goal was clearly off-sides and should not have counted, but at that point, late in the second period, the Rats were probably out of contention already. Chris Taylor tucked a puck just inside the far post after taking a pass from Jason Pominville through the slot. Three-zip, Rochester.
The icing on the cake for the Amerks was a short-handed, unassisted goal, also by Chris Taylor, mid-way through the third period.
The Amerks also won the fights tonight. Sean McMorrow easily defeated Brett Clouthier of Albany by pulling his jersey up over his eyes and flailing away with the punches. Cam Janssen of the Rats fared better in a later matchup with McMorrow, but again the Rochester pugilist managed to yank the River Rat's jersey up over the face, giving him an edge. Still later, Chris Thorborn bested Ray Schultz of Albany with a flurry of lefts and rights.
So, for the approximately 500 or so Albany fans (of the announced crowd of 2,455) who braved a winter storm to attend, there really was not much to cheer about. The River Rats' power play was awful, going 0-for-6 and surrendering two short-handed goals to boot. The Amerks' converted one of seven man-up chances. At least two of the goals, from the Albany goaltending perspective, were "soft" goals. The first one could have been sticked aside easily; the first short-handed goal did not even see Ahonen move.
The three stars: third, to Geoff Peters of Rochester for a short-handed goal; second, to Amerks' goaltender, Tom Askey, with a solid performance and 29 saves (shutout); and, first, to Chris Taylor of Rochester, with two goals, one of them short-handed.
While the Amerks, battling for first place in the North Division, are clearly far superior to the River Rats, tonight they made it look easy.