Barons even up Amerks

By Mike Buskus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (December 1, 2002). Like their parents, the Buffalo Sabres, the Rochester Americans have trouble scoring goals. A dozen good scoring chances got converted into one goal by the Rochester Americans, only enough to come from behind and tie the Cleveland Barons, 1-1, before 4,894 at the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial.

It seemed as though the Amerks were in the penalty box half of the game. Not quite. However, they were penalized nine times, for 18 minutes, versus four times, for eight minutes, assessed by referee Harry Dumas to Cleveland. Credit the Amerks with strong penalty kill work, particularly in the scoreless second period when the Barons had four power plays, three of them of the overlapping (5-on-3) variety.

Doug Houda, in particular, seemed to draw the referee’s attention, with three separate whistles against him. One, early in the third, was plainly a “hip check” but was called as a kneeing penalty.

Cleveland opened the scoring thanks to a screen shot after a face-off. Lynn Loyns won the draw in the attack zone, sent it back to Matt Carkner on the right side, who relayed it to Miroslav Zalesak back at the left point. His low rising shot from the point went in the wide side through traffic to give the Barons a 1-0 lead at 8:16 of the first, a lead Cleveland held for most of the game.

Rochester worked hard in the corners but had bad luck or lack of finish or both. Chris Taylor had a breakaway early in the first, only to have the puck roll off his stick. Early in the second, Milan Bartovic had a breakaway only to clang it off the right post. Radoslav Hecl came up empty on a short-handed bid in the middle frame, as Cleveland goaltender, Vesa Toskala, came up big. Later in the second, Bartovic had another breakaway, only to be stopped by a Toskala pad save.

At the other end of the ice, backup goaltender Tom Askey was sharp. He stopped 26 of 27 overall to earn third star. Early in the third, with Cleveland still nursing its one-goal lead, the “iron ally” of Askey came to the rescue as Niko Dimitrakos rang a shot off the post during one of the many Cleveland power plays.

Finally, on one of the rare (only four on the night for Rochester, versus nine for Cleveland) power plays for the Amerks, they took their time, then scored from an odd angle. After handling the puck around the perimeter, Jaroslav Kristek fired from the boards by the edge of the right wing circle. It eluded traffic and Toskala to knot the score at one, which was the final tally. Francois Methot and Chris Taylor drew assists.

Milan Bartovic was turned aside on an overtime breakaway by the Cleveland goaltender, who also deflected a close-range shot by Denis Hamel in the final minute.

The three stars: third, to Tom Askey, the Rochester goaltender, who stopped 26 of 27; second, to Jaroslav Kristek with the game-tying goal; and, first, to Cleveland netminder with 27 saves on 28 shots, including a bunch of breakaway chances.