Toronto, Ontario (WGR 550) – The Rochester Americans started Round 3 of the Calder Cup Playoffs just the way they ended Round 2, beating the Toronto Marlies on Thursday, 4-3.
The Amerks, again, got key contributions from their young Buffalo Sabres prospects.
Isak Rosen unloaded a power play goal from the right circle, and Jiri Kulich scored a very big power play goal in the third period when he was left alone to the right of the goaltender.
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Brett Murray also had a key goal at the end of the first period when his tip-in gave the Amerks a lead they’d never relinquish.
"It’s impressive the level of consistency that [Tyson] Kozak, Rosen and Kulich are playing with at this time of the year against these quality opponents at the age they’re at, and they’re not being hidden," said Amerks head coach Seth Appert following Thursday night's win. "They’re playing big minutes, they’re on the penalty kill, they’re on the power play. They’re just doing a fabulous job."
In four playoff games, Kulich has four goals and five points. Appert liked how he came on as the game got later.
"Kulich, I think, was just OK tonight, but he got better as the game went on," he said. "He still found a way to deliver for his teammates."
Despite giving up an early goal, Rochester responded with a Kohen Olischefski shorthanded goal and Murray’s tip-in tally. Appert liked what he saw from his group.
"I liked our mentality," he said. "I thought we came out aggressive. We didn’t want to tip-toe into this series, because I thought we felt our way into the last series a little bit."
In Game 5 of their Round 2 series against the Syracuse Crunch, Rochester took a 4-1 lead in that game, only to be outshot 25-4 the rest of the way and having to recover and win in overtime.
2:07 into the third period on Thursday, the Amerks, again, had a 4-1 lead and Toronto scored twice to make it 4-3. Honestly, though, this didn’t feel like the Syracuse game.
In the final 3:41 of regulation, the Amerks had numerous blocked shots and played with a lot of desperation to get the win.
"Even though they got two goals, I thought we stayed aggressive in the third period," Appert said. "I didn’t think we sat back as much as we did in Game 5."
Thanks to a "clerical error" where Brendan Warren had to leave the game because he wasn’t on the game roster and Linus Weissbach having to leave due to injury, Rochester had to finish the game with just nine forwards. Appert said he’s fortunate to have a defenseman who can play anywhere.
"Mitch Eliot is our utility knife," he said. "We dressed seven [defensemen] knowing if anything happened, he’s done it before. He’s played full games for us at forward last year, so he played shifts for us at D tonight. Played shifts at center, played shifts at wing, and he did all of them with an equal level of effectiveness."
Murray says he welcomed the extra ice-time in the game. He has two goals and four assists for six points in the Amerks' six playoff games. He and his teammates didn’t play well in the first two games of the playoffs, but have now won four-straight since.
"It was do or die in that series, and I think that definitely helped, but it’s a lot of a mindset to play your game and not let opposing teams inflict their style of play on you," said Murray following Thursday's win.
Malcolm Subban was, again, solid in net, stopping 20 of 23 shots faced. Credit to the team in front of him, too, that limited the first place team in the North Division to very few chances, especially in the first 40 minutes.
Subban is sporting a .915 save percentage in this year’s playoffs.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is in Toronto on Saturday afternoon.