Connor Knapp earned every bit of his first career win.
Knapp stopped 41 shots to lead the Rochester Americans over the Adirondack Phantoms 3-1 on Friday night at Blue Cross Arena.
The Amerks' rookie had dropped his only two starts of the year, but stepped up when his team desperately needed a win. The Amerks had lost their last three in a row and seven of their last 10 coming into Friday's game.
“It's emotional for sure,” Knapp said just minutes before teammate T.J. Brennan gave him a shaving-cream pie to the face. “It took awhile, but it's awesome.”
Tied at one after one, the York, N.Y., native battled through four Amerks penalties to stop all 25 shots he faced in the second period.
“He is big, but he played big tonight,” head coach Ron Rolston said. “He filled the net up and a lot of pucks that he couldn't see hit him and he battled.”
Rolston said early in the game Knapp was battling the puck – the only Phantoms goal coming on a rebound to winger Sean Couturier – but the 6-foot-6 goalie became more confident as he went along.
While their goaltender was stopping everything the Phantoms threw at him, the Amerks scored two goals on just six shots – both goals coming from captain Kevin Porter with the second coming short-handed.
“Nabber (Brayden McNabb) made a nice play and tipped it up off their guy's stick,” Porter said. “I felt like I had a jump there, so I just tried to tip it past the D and get in a foot race. Luckily I got it past him and had an open lane.”
In his description on his seventh goal of the year, Porter didn't mention his perfect snipe of the top left corner of the net.
The Amerks locked things down in the third period, only allowing seven shots.
“I didn't want a Hamilton reenactment,” Knapp said, recalling a blown lead in his first start against the Bulldogs. “
After improving to 10-8-2 for the year, Amerks forward Mark Mancari made sure the rookie got the puck.
“Things like that are important,” Mancari said. “It's a milestone. Everyone's goal and dream is to play pro hockey and eventually in the NHL. I thought that was something important for him to have and I didn't want one of their guys to flip it over the glass or something in frustration.”
Luke Adam – played one of his stronger games of the year. He assisted on Kevin Porter's first goal on a nifty pass and created several point-blank chances in the second period.
Mark Mancari – Clearly had better chemistry playing with Adam and Porter. He finished plus-1 with an assist.
Brian Flynn – Opened the scoring on a tap-in. He's got 9 goals in 19 games. Played a strong game next to Marcus Foligno and Phil Varone
Marcus Foligno – Created Flynn's goal by finding space and throwing a puck at the goalie's pads. Played a typical hard-working game.
Jerone Gauthier-Leduc – He's coming along. It was only his seventh game, but expect him to stick with Joe Finley after a fairly strong performance Friday night.
Joe Finley – We haven't given Finley enough credit for being reliable despite playing with a bunch of different partners.
T.J. Brennan – Made a few mistakes early, but played a strong overall game racking up big minutes on the power play and the penalty kill
Mark Pysyk – Sometimes it's a good thing when you don't notice a defenseman. Friday, that was the case with Pysyk. He won't put up big power play numbers now because T.J. Brennan and Mark Mancari are at the point, but he “gets it” and is improving his quick decisions in his own end.
Evan Rankin – Is one tough guy. He was hit with a puck but kept blocking shots. Is playing on the third line for now, but, with the Amerks, if you don't like your line, wait until tomorrow.
Jon Parker and Kevin Sundher played because Rick Schofield and Nick Tarnasky were both injured. The latter two are expected to return by Tuesday.
Cody Hodgson is also expected to return on Tuesday. The Amerks will need him for a difficult stretch.