The Rochester Amerks have been a free-wheeling offensive machine in the Calder Cup Playoffs, erupting for 41 goals during a seven-game winning streak. But things were quite a bit different Thursday at Giant Center in Hershey, Pa.
“They're both pretty special to watch, honestly,” Amerks winger Brett Murray said. “They both have unbelievable feats and stats this season, and even this postseason."
The Hershey Bears dictated pace and frustrated Rochester's hard-charging attack in Game 2 of the AHL's Eastern Conference final, creating a unique test for the Amerks.
They failed it. In a game that was scoreless for 36 minutes, Hershey manufactured two goals late in the second period and made them stand up for a 2-0 victory. Bears goalie Hunter Shepard made 24 saves to earn the shutout.
The result leaves the best-of-7 series tied at a win apiece as it shifts to Rochester's Blue Cross Arena for Game 3 Saturday at 7:05 p.m. – and that one is already a sellout. There are still tickets available for Game 4, which will be Monday at 6:05 p.m.
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Thursday's game marked the professional debut of Matt Savoie, the Sabres' first-round draft pick last season. Savoie, who rolled up a combined 49 goals and 124 points in the regular season and playoffs this year for the WHL's Winnipeg Ice, sat out the series opener and was inserted into the lineup at left wing for Game 2 on a line with Kohen Olischefski and Brendan Warren.
Savoie had a good scoring chance on his first shift, but fired wide after he scooped up a loose puck in the slot. He did not have any shots on goal in the game.
The Amerks took the lead in Game 1 after just 14 seconds on a goal by defenseman Joe Cecconi, a Youngstown native, and they had chances in the first two minutes to take a similar advantage Thursday.
But Shepard answered the early call, including a save on Tyson Kozak alone in front.
The Bears increased their physical quotient in the game, frustrating the Amerks' passing lanes and their forays into the offensive zone. Rochester had a 24-21 advantage in shots on goal, and Shepard was strong against Rochester standout Jiri Kulich, who had some good chances and tied Cecconi for game-high honors with four shots on goal.
Hershey broke through to open the scoring at 16:05 of the second period as Henrik Borgstrom beat Malcolm Subban with a wrist shot from the right circle on a power play that whizzed over Subban's left shoulder. It came 23 seconds after Jeremy Davies went to the penalty box for tripping.
Hershey extended its advantage on Beck Malenstyn's goal with 31.7 seconds left in the period, a shot that leaked through Subban on the short side from the left circle.
The hosts were content to maintain their defensive posture in the third period, as Rochester only had a 7-4 advantage in shots on goal and had limited looks at the net. It's the kind of game Hershey had played in going 6-1 to advance to this round; Rochester's 5-1 victory in Game 1 of this series was the first time an opponent had scored more than two goals against the Bears in this year's playoffs.
The game was the 500th all-time between Rochester and Hershey, two stalwart franchises in the AHL. The Amerks are 194-217-53 in regular-season meetings and fell to 25-11 in the playoffs.