ROCHESTER – Three goals from captain Michael Mersch, more than the Americans had in their first two playoff games. An early score from rookie Isak Rosen, whose play, coach Seth Appert acknowledged, wasn’t good enough early in the series. The late go-ahead goal from rookie Jiri Kulich, who missed the first two contests.
After falling in a 2-0 hole in their best-of-five AHL North Division semifinal series, the Buffalo Sabres’ affiliate sorely needed its best players to step up Friday in a do-or-die Calder Cup Playoffs game.
“The regrets you have in games like this is when your team plays tight and they play tentative and they play to try not to lose instead of trying to win,” Appert said following the Amerks’ wildly entertaining 8-5 win over the Syracuse Crunch.
The Amerks let it all hang out before the noisy crowd of 9,101 fans at Blue Cross Arena. In a memorable eight-goal third period, they extended their lead to 4-2 early before Syracuse roared back and tied it.
Then Kulich, the Amerks’ leading goal scorer in the regular season, put them up 5-4 during a two-minute two-man advantage at 15:21.
“He’s a special player and in big-time moments, he shines,” said Amerks center Mason Jobst, who scored a short-handed goal early in the third period.
Kulich, a center the Sabres drafted 28th overall last year, said: “The first two games was tough for me because I wanted to help my teammates.”
Mersch’s power-play goal restored the two-goal lead before the Crunch answered. Empty-net goals from winger Brett Murray and Mersch sealed the victory.
“A roller coaster was a good way to describe that third period,” Jobst said.
He added: “For (Mersch) to go out there and have that kind of performance, it sparks everyone in the room.”
Game 4 is here Sunday afternoon.
Goals from centers Sean Malone and Jobst put the Amerks up 4-2. Murray recorded three points. Jobst, Rosen, defenseman Lawrence Pilut, and wingers Lukas Rousek and Linus Weissbach each registered two points.
Simon Ryfors recorded a hat trick and four points for the Crunch. Meanwhile, Alex Barre-Boulet registered one goal and five points.
Amerks goalie Malcolm Subban made 23 saves.
The Amerks played without rookie winger Filip Cederqvist, who missed the game with a lower-body injury.