OPINION: A 'tackle football game' broke out in Rochester for Game 3 of Eastern Conference Finals

Hershey won, 4-2, to take a 2-1 series lead over the Amerks

Rochester, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Former Rochester Americans forward Justin Kea and Morgan MacPhee decided Saturday the sellout crowd in Rochester came to see them officiate, and not two teams playing Game 3 of the AHL Eastern Conference Finals. They made a farce out of the game.

The Hershey Bears ended up winning the game, 4-2, and now have a 2-1 lead in the best–of-seven series.

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I’ve rarely, if ever, seen a worse officiated game, but it’s not the worst.

I remember Richard Trottier refereed three games between Rochester and Springfield in the Calder Cup Finals back in the early ‘90s, and it looked like he had a bet on the series. Of course, I'm sure he didn't, but it was still awful.

In the deciding game of the series, Rochester had two power plays, while Springfield had nine. Late in the third period, one of the Springfield players picked up Jody Gage off the ice and threw him into the goaltender. Gage was called for goaltender interference.

As bad as it was Saturday in Rochester, it wasn’t even close to the worst officiated game I’ve ever seen.

These days, the referees are bad for both teams. Both teams had four penalties, but it was all the missed calls that were bothersome. Amerks coach Seth Appert said after the game he doesn’t know what a penalty is.

“With the way the game’s being officiated, you’ve got to score how we scored, because it’s tackle football out there,” said Appert when talking about how his team needed to play. “You’ve just got to get to the net and get screens, tips and rebounds. We’ve scored a lot of goals that way this year, so I’m not worried about that,”

Sean Malone netted his third goal of the playoffs at 7:36 of the third period to make the score 3-2. Malone said following the loss you can’t worry about the officials.

“It’s maybe a little different in this league than the NHL in the games I watch, at least, but you’ve got to fight through it. There’s nothing we can do about it,” said Malone on Saturday. “Maybe in the moment you get frustrated with the referees, but it's not about them. It’s about us, and we’ve got to keep battling through that.”

Well I’ve got news for you, Sean, Kea and MacPhee thought the game was about them and nobody but them.

Rochester came out fast for the first five minutes or so, and got Hershey back on its heels.

Matt Savoie was on a line with Jiri Kulich and Lukas Rousek on Saturday, and on the first shift, Rousek found Savoie in the slot. After that, though, that line wasn’t good at all.

Hershey took over the final 15 minutes of the period, and Logan Day’s screen shot was allowed to happen because Savoie and Kulich got crossed up and left Day alone at the point.

Appert later took Rousek off the line and put Tyson Kozak on it, and they were much better.

After a horrific first game, Hunter Shepard has come back with two masterpieces, showing why his 2.18 goals-against average was second in the AHL during the regular season. His .916 save percentage was sixth.

Only the Calgary Wranglers gave up fewer goals than Hershey in the AHL this season.

The Bears choke you off and try to stifle your speed and creativity, and for four periods, they did that. However, the Amerks started getting movement in the offensive zone, which gave them a lot of puck possession.

They had a huge 2-0 hole to climb out of, but they had the right people getting the right chances. Once they stopped taking forever to get shots off, Shepard got busy and he, once again, became the reason the Bears won.

Rochester outshot Hershey, 25-12, in the final 40 minutes, with Kulich and Isak Rosen getting golden opportunities to score.

Rosen stole a puck and had a clear cut breakaway, but Shepard robbed him.

Kulich, who scored a goal in six straight games, has now gone three without one. He was in his office in the slot three different times, but Shepard foiled him each time.

One thing I noticed is the Amerks are taking too long to tee up shots, and Hershey closes in fast on them to make a great scoring chance into an average ones.

Kulich and Rousek had wide-open rebounds, but could get the puck to sit down.

The last time Rochester lost two-straight playoff games, they went out and won seven in-a-row.

The Amerks are in a must-win situation on Monday in Rochester, because the Bears are one of the best teams in the AHL. They’re too good to expect to comeback from down 3-1.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi
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