By Erica Whyte
Despite a weekend split, the Rochester Americans remain in second in the North Division, and the return of some star players has added more offensive power than this Amerks squad has had all season.
Week in Review
BINGHAMTON (0) AT ROCHESTER (3)
The Amerks took an early two-goal lead Wednesday night at The Blue Cross Arena as they hosted the Binghamton Devils to begin a stretch of three games in four nights. After grabbing the lead, the Amerks never looked back as goaltender Linus Ullmark, who appeared in his 200th professional game, stopped all 31 shots he faced to record his second-career AHL shutout and helped the Amerks to a 3-0 victory.
Defenseman Stuart Percy factored in on all three Rochester goals, scoring twice while also adding an assist for a career-high three points to lead the Amerks. The blueliner pushed his point streak to three games as he shows six points (2+4) over that span. Eric Cornel notched his second tally of season in the opening period while Ullmark won his fourth straight start and sixth of his last seven to improve his record to 7-3-0 on the season.
HARTFORD (2) AT ROCHESTER (4)
Similar to Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Binghamton, back-to-back goals early in the first period on Friday helped the Amerks to a 4-2 win against the Hartford Wolfpack.
Rookie forward C.J. Smith took over the team-lead in scoring as he notched a career-high four points with his third and fourth goals of the season and a pair of helpers. The first-year player is now third among all AHL rookies in scoring with 15 points (4+11) through 15 games to begin his professional career. Colin Blackwell tallied two assists on the night as Brendan Guhle and Hudson Fasching added their third and fourth markers of the season, respectively. Ullmark pushed his win streak to a personal-best five games as he made 36 saves on the night. The Swedish netminder is now tied for league-lead for in wins (8) and has won seven of his last eight outings.
On Friday night, both Alexander Nylander and Evan Rodrigues made their season debuts, after both forwards sustained injuries before the regular season began. Forwards Nick Baptiste and Justin Bailey also made their returns to the Amerks lineup, both of whom were sent back down to Rochester after their first stints of the season with Buffalo.
“It felt great finally being back on the ice with the teammates,” said Nylander of his return to the lineup. "We’re relaxed and having fun. We’re buying into the system and trying to play hard hockey out there and getting the wins.”
ROCHESTER (0) AT BINGHAMTON (5)
But the Devils got their revenge with a 5-0 win in Binghamton on Saturday night, turning the tables on the Amerks with a shutout victory of their own on home ice.
The loss was the Amerks first in regulation on the road this season after starting 4-0-1-1 away from The Blue Cross Arena. Additionally, the loss snapped Rochester’s string of seven straight games with a point, the team’s longest stretch since an eight-game run to open the month of April during the 2013-14 campaign.
Percy, who entered the contest riding a four-game point streak (2+5), led all Amerks with five shots while goaltender Adam Wilcox suffered the defeat in net despite making 31 saves.
News and Notes
Kyle Criscuolo made his NHL debut on Friday night for the Buffalo Sabres, a day after earning his first-career NHL recall. He finished the night with one shot over 6:56 of ice in a 3-1 loss at Detroit.
The rookies continue to lead the way for the Amerks. With 15 points (4+11) in 16 games, Smith sits fourth in the league for rookie scoring. Guhle, meanwhile, is tied for the scoring lead amongst rookie defensemen with 10 (3+7) points in 16 games.
A year after leading the AHL in saves, games and minutes played, Ullmark has picked up right where he left off from last season. The former Swedish Goaltender of the Year and reigning team MVP has won a career-best five straight and seven of his last eight starts dating back to Oct. 25, including a season-high 44-save effort at Utica on Nov. 1. He’s currently tied for the AHL lead in wins (8) and ranks first in saves (341) while his .924 save percentage is ninth-best among netmidners with at least 300 minutes played.
The Week Ahead
The Amerks remain on the road on Wednesday, Nov. 22 for a pre-Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Syracuse Crunch at the War Memorial Arena before taking on the Binghamton Devils in a home-and-home series. All three games are slated for a 7:05 p.m. start and will be broadast live on Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
Team Leaders at a Glance
1. C.J. Smith: 4G - 11A - 15 PTS
2. Kyle Criscuolo (with Buffalo): 5G - 6A - 11 PTS
3. Sahir Gill: 6G - 4A - 10 PTS
Brendan Guhle: 3G - 7A - 10 PTS
5. Kevin Porter: 4G - 5A - 9 PTS
Steve Moses: 3G - 6A - 9 PTS
Linus Ullmark: 8-3-0-0; 2.65 GAA; .924 SV%
Adam Wilcox: 1-2-1-0; 3.49 GAA; .886 SV%