Following a pair of losses to the Charlotte Checkers, who last season paced the American Hockey League in scoring, the Rochester Americans returned to the ice on Monday in preparation of a busy three-game work week
The Amerks close out their three-game homestand to begin the 2018-19 campaign when they host the Syracuse Crunch Wednesday night at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. contest with the Crunch will mark the first game between the two clubs since Syracuse eliminated Rochester in the Opening Round of the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs this past spring.
Following the tilt with the Crunch, the Amerks hit the road for the first time on the young season as they are set to face-off with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for a pair of afternoon matinees from Webster Bank Arena on Saturday and Sunday.
While the Amerks returned 16 players from last year’s playoff caliber squad, 10 different players made their debuts in the Flower City over the past weekend. Rochester also had seven rookies in the lineup in the two-game series with Charlotte and five appeared in their first American Hockey League contest.
Despite being rookies, Lawrence Pilut, Rasmus Asplund and Victor Olofsson all appeared in their first games in North America after the trio began their professional careers in Sweden.
“I felt fresh,” said Olofsson, who recorded his first-career point on an assist in Friday’s loss to the Checkers. “It would have been nice to get a win out of the two games, but I am feeling more and more comfortable each day.”
Pilut, who’s tied for the team lead with a pair of points (1+1) through two games, is also adjusting to the North American style of play.
“It was good to get the first goal out of the way, but it means nothing after not getting the win,” Pilut offered. The 22-year-old enters the week tied for points in the entire league amongst all rookie blueliners.
“I am working on my defensive game each day while the offensive side of things is also improving. Defensively, I am learning on how to take away players’ time and space while also trying to change their angles to make it difficult to make a play. The older guys have been doing a great job helping me out along the way.”
MacWILLIAM RETURNING TO LINEUP
After serving the final two games of a carry-over suspension from the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs, Amerks defenseman Andrew MacWilliam is set to return to the Rochester blueline this week.
The Rochester blueline will welcome back the Calgary, Alberta, native after allowing the opposition to score 16 goals in the last three contests dating back to Game Three of the Opening Round of Calder Cup Playoffs.
“Mac is the type of player that brings a style of play we need to be a successful team,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. “He has the leadership traits we look for both on and off the ice while bringing a physical presence on the ice. He is a guy who looks for the teams’ success rather than his own and will stand up for his teammates in more ways than one.”
WEDGEWOOD’s START TO THE SLATE
Goaltender Scott Wedgewood joined the Buffalo Sabres organization over the summer. He appeared in three exhibition games between the Amerks and Sabres, posting a 1-1-0 record with a 2.62 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.
Wedgewood drew the starting nod in both of the Amerks contests last weekend but was dealt with two losses.
“Obviously we did not get the results we wanted this past weekend,” said the 26-year old netminder from Etobicoke, Ontario. “Not to make excuses, but early in a season it’s always tough on goaltenders to get used to the angles and the bounces of the ice. Over the summer months you work on certain things, but one thing that cannot be simulated is the screens and tips.”
Despite not earning his first win as an Amerk last weekend, Taylor saw some things he liked out of his netminder.
“As a team, we did not give him much support, but I thought Scott played well despite what the stats my show,” said Taylor. “It’s not an easy task on a goaltender early in the year. It’s demanding on them, and to be in the position they are in for as long as they are, it takes a toll on the body. We are very lucky to have him.”
WATCH: AMERKS HEAD COACH CHRIS TAYLOR POST-PRACTICE
As mentioned earlier, tomorrow night’s game will be the first official contest between the two clubs since Rochester’s bid for a seventh Calder Cup Championship was prematurely ended in the best-of-five series with Syracuse. While Rochester will look to build from a 4-1 preseason victory against the Crunch, the stakes will be different this time around as two points are up for grabs with the Amerks still searching for their first win of the young season.
“We are itching to get back on the ice after the 0-2 start to the season,” said Amerks alternate captain and veteran defenseman Zach Redmond. “Playing against a team like Syracuse, who knocked us out of the playoffs, only makes it that much more exciting.”
Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena and the War Memorial Arena in Syracuse is separated by roughly 90 miles, making the rivalry that much fiercer. The Amerks and Crunch are slated to play each other 12 times this season, more than any other AHL opponent on their respective schedules.
“Syracuse presents a good challenge for us,” said Taylor. “They work hard every shift and we must be able to match that and play smart.”
“We have a lot of guys who were here last season and they have a sour taste in their mouths, me included. I don’t think it will be a hard game to get up for and it’s a big game for us,” added Redmond.
MEET THE AMERKS IRON MAN
Rochester forward Wayne Simpson, who notched his first goal as an Amerk just nine seconds into the second period last Saturday, is the AHL’s current leader in consecutive games played with 189. The Boxborough, Mass., native appeared in all 76 games with the Hershey Bears and Providence Bruins over each of the last two seasons prior to joining the Amerks this summer.
WATCH: WAYNE SIMPSON POST-PRACTICE: