By Erica Whyte
One quarter of the way through the 2017-18 season, the Rochester Americans rank fifth overall in the AHL, and sit in second place in the North Division.
After concluding the weekend with back-to-back wins over the Binghamton Devils, the Amerks have claimed five out of a possible six points in the last week and have collected at least one point in 10 of their last 11 games, including seven straight to open the month of November.
"We’ve had our ups and downs, but that will happen all year. I think were still finding our way,” said head coach Chris Taylor about the Amerks stellar start. "We’ve had some good weeks, and we’ve had not-so-good weeks, but it’s trending in the right direction right now.”
Weekend in Review
ROCHESTER (5) AT SYRACUSE (6) – OTL
After a back-and-forth battle throughout regulation, the Amerks fell in overtime, 6-5, to the North Division rival Syracuse Crunch in a game that saw goals from 11 different players. Of the 17 games this season, Rochester has seen seven go beyond regulation play, two of which have been against the Crunch.
The night was full of firsts on Rochester’s end with Amerks forward Sean Malone scoring his first professional goal, defenseman Conor Allen netting his first goal as an Amerk and Evan Rodrigues picking up his first point of the season with an assist. Linus Ullmark, who entered the game on a career-long five-game win streak, turned in a solid 43-save effort as Rochester was able to gain a point for the eighth time in its last nine games.
BINGHAMTON (3) AT ROCHESTER (10) – W
The Amerks weekend sweep over Binghamton began with a 10-3 victory against the Devils in the Blue Cross Arena on Friday, marking the first time the Amerks scored 10 in a game since a 10-4 win over then Binghamton Senators over a decade ago, on Dec. 16, 2006. Fourteen of the 18 Rochester skaters recorded a point, led by forward Rodrigues, who collected a career-best four-point night (2+2), while Steve Moses (2+1) and Sahir Gill (0+3) each notched three-point outings.
ROCHESTER (4) AT BINGHAMTON (3) – OTW
The sweep was completed the following night in Binghamton, as the Amerks scored twice in the third period to erase a 3-1 deficit before Casey Nelson provide the overtime winner. With the win, the Amerks improved to 6-1-2-1 in their last 10 games while collecting 21 out of a possible 28 points dating back to Oct. 25. They also hold a record of 7-1-2-1 through 11 games in the month of November. Zach Redmond opened the scoring 1:52 into the game for the Amerks and later added an assist to give him six points (2+4) over his last six games while Kevin Porter chipped in a pair of helpers to push his point streak to three games. Rookies Brendan Guhle and C.J. Smith tallied their fifth and sixth goals of the season, respectively, and Adam Wilcox earned his second victory of the slate, stopping 16 of 19 shots.
News and Notes
After missing the first 14 games of the season due to injury, the Sabres’ 2016 16-17 Rookie of the Year has made up for lost time. Evan Rodrigues has tallied six points in his first five games of the season, all six of which have occurred in the last three games.
However, the Amerks offensive charge continues to be led by rookie forward C.J. Smith. Smith leads the Amerks with 19 points (6+13) in 19 games this season and is currently riding a three-game point streak.
This month, Nick Baptiste, Alexander Nylander and Rodrigues have all returned to the lineup, and now the list of star Amerks forwards just got one name longer. After starting the season in Buffalo, Seth Griffith has been reassigned to the Amerks. With 76 NHL games with four different NHL teams under his belt, the Wallaceburg, Ontario, native is expected to join Amerks practice this week.
"His creativity is unbelievable,” said Taylor on Griffith. "We just want to get him into our dressing room, and used to our guys, and used to our systems here. And I think he’s going to be beneficial to a lot of players here, especially on our power-play. I think he’s going to help that out a lot.”
Griffith’s arrival only provides a boost to an already well-balanced offense that ranks fourth in the AHL with 3.53 goals per game. The Amerks are also tied for second in North Division with 67 goals scored on the season, trailing only Laval.
Griffith comes to Rochester having produced 202 points (66+136) in 203 career AHL games with previous stops in Providence and Toronto. His best season as a pro came during the 2015-16 campaign with the Bruins when he set career-highs in goals (24), assists (53) and points (77) and was named an AHL First Team All Star.
The Amerks will conclude their November games with an intrastate matchup against the Utica Comets at the Adirondack Bank Center on Wednesday night. Rochester returns home on Friday, Dec. 1 to host the Hartford Wolf Pack before making its lone trip of year to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to face-off against the Penguins on Saturday. All three games can be heard live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.