For at least one night this October, Buffalo hockey fans were allowed to enjoy a game of the sport they love as the AHL’s Rochester Americans and Hamilton Bulldogs took to the ice inside of First Niagara Center. The Amerks ended up skating away with a 3-1 victory and the cheers from nearly 11,000 grateful Western New York fans.
It didn’t play out like a normal Amerks game, which so far this season has usually featured abundant scoring and invisible defenses from both teams. The Amerks secured a trio of goals to top the Bulldogs while showing a dramatically improved defense from what hit the ice in the previous five regular season contests.
That improved defense began with goaltender David Leggio, who made his sixth and decidedly best start in net for Rochester this season. Leggio stopped all but one of 37 shots that Hamilton threw his way—a performance that earned him the second star of the game.
Leggio entered tonight’s contest leading the AHL in saves with 157, but he also had claim to a particularly ugly statistic—20 goals against in just five games. Although he didn’t face an array of difficult shots, the 28-year-old was smart with his positioning from start to finish.
He his biggest save unquestionably came late in the third while the Amerks were on the power play. A whiffed pass resulted in a 3-on-1 Bulldogs rush, but Leggio foiled a hard wrister and kept his team ahead on the scoreboard.
The Amerks first lit the lamp at 11:45 of the opening period. Immediately following a listless power play where Rochester had only one shot on goal, Joe Finley battled along the boards before grabbing the puck and hurling it towards the Hamilton net. The puck found its way past Bulldogs netminder Peter Delmas and gave Rochester the 1-0 lead, along with Finley’s first goal of the season.
The Bulldogs would eventually even the score at 12:09 in the second period when Michael Bournival also claimed his first goal of the season.
The Amerks struck back just 44 seconds later. Cody Hodgson collected an Evan Rankin pass as he crossed the Hamilton net, and the Hodgson deposited it past Delmas for his eight point, but first goal in the AHL this season.
While on the power play with under four minutes to go in the third, Rochester tallied their third goal of the night. TJ Brennan, who entered the evening leading the AHL’s defensemen in points, launched a blistering slapshot from the circle that tore clear past Delmas.
It was Rochester’s only power play goal out of four opportunities, but the other side of their special teams was stellar. Hamilton had the man-advantage just twice on the night, and both times they were stifled by the Amerks penalty killers.
The win was Rochester’s third in a row and lifted them to 8 points. They’re currently tied for first alongside Lake Erie and Chicago in the Western Conference, but have played one more game than both clubs.
The Amerks will next face off against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins on Friday the 26th. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 PM from the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.