(Oklahoma City, OK)... Rochester Americans defenseman Drew Schiestel scored 3:21 into overtime on the power-play to lift the Amerks to a 4-3 win over the league-leading Oklahoma City Barons in the first-ever meeting between the teams tonight at the Cox Convention Center. With their third straight win, the Amerks improved to 14-12-4-1 and move within three points of the Toronto Marlies for the top spot in the American Hockey League's North Division.
The game featured the return of forwards Paul Szczechura and Derek Whitmore, who both skated in their first game back with the Amerks after a recent NHL stint with the Buffalo Sabres. Szczechura, who last played with Rochester on December 4, made an immediate impact, helping the Amerks build a 2-1 lead through the first 20 minutes and then scoring the game-tying goal midway through the third period that would force overtime.
In addition to Szczechura's first three-point game of the season and Schiestel's heroic game-winner, defenseman Alex Biega also scored for the Amerks while six different players recorded points. Drew MacIntyre, who's started two straight and three of the last four, steered aside 27 of 30 shots to earn his sixth win of the campaign.
The teams would exchange power-play goals within the first 7:25 of the contest, beginning with Szczechura's second of the season just 2:45 into the first period that put Rochester on top 1-0. With the Amerks on the man-advantage, Whitmore gained entrance into the offensive zone and left the puck in the high slot for Drew Schiestel, who opted to shoot from his post on the blueline. Despite an initial save from Oklahoma City netminder Yann Danis, the rebound kicked out to the right of the Barons backstop and Szczechura was there to deposit a shot past the sprawled Danis for his first point of the game.
The Barons countered with a power-play goal of their own just under five minutes later as Josh Green deflected Magnus Paajarvi's shot from the point for his sixth goal of the season at 7:25 of the opening frame. Barons captain Bryan Helmer also picked up an assist on the play as Oklahoma City needed just 39 seconds on the man-up to knot the game at one.
Alex Biega would restore Rochester's lead with a blast from the point at 10:39 for his third of the season. After a successful faceoff win by Szczechura to the right point, Biega stepped up and unloaded a one-timer from the top of the circle over the glove of Danis to make it a 2-1 score. The second-year defenseman now has scored two goals in his last three games and has recorded at least one point three of his last four outings.
The Amerks would maintain their one-goal advantage for most of the second stanza, and appeared to extend their lead to 3-1 with a goal from Jonathan Parker, but a roughing penalty to Riley Boychuk would negate the goal just seconds before Joe Finley was sent off for a delay of game infraction.
Despite failing to find the back of the net on their two-man advantage, the Barons quickly gained momentum in the final two minutes of the period with a pair of tallies 56 seconds apart to take their first lead of the game. Former Amerk Triston Grant took a shot from the right flank that caromed off the head of MacIntyre and then glanced off the crossbar before finally falling over the line at 18:10 for his eighth of the season. Then, not more than a minute later, Ryan O'Marra received a pass from Dan Ringwald from the left point, spun toward the Amerk net and snapped a quick shot that trickled through the legs of MacIntyre to give Oklahoma City a 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission.
Rochester would rally, however, as Szczechura emerged with the puck after a net-front battle in front of Danis and put a shot under the crossbar at 10:00 of the third period for his second goal of the game to cap his first three-point game of the season.
Schiestel would give the Amerks the win 3:21 into extra session with a blast from the top of the right circle through traffic. Awarded a late power-play after a Philippe Cornet slashing penalty, Rochester capitalized on the opportunity as Phil Varone set up Schiestel to hand the Barons their first overtime loss of the season.
The Amerks will meet the Barons in a grudge match as the same two teams face off again in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night at the Cox Convention Center. Following a travel day on Thursday, the Amerks will host the Hamilton Bulldogs at 7:35 p.m. on Friday, December 30 at The Blue Cross Arena.