By Erica Whyte
Coming off Saturday’s 7-4 come-from-behind win over the league-leading Toronto Marlies, the Rochester Americans have notched at least one point in 15 of their last 21 games since the turn of the New Year. They enter the week in a two-way tie for third place in the AHL’s North Division standings with the Utica Comets, who have two more wins and two more regulation losses than Rochester.
The Week In Review
SYRACUSE (2) AT ROCHESTER (1) - Feb. 21
Rochester saw its three-game win streak at KeyBank Center come to an end as they made their annual trek down the New York State Thruway to play in the home of the Buffalo Sabres. Wednesday night's 2-1 loss to the intrastate rival Syracuse Crunch drops the Amerks to fourth place in the American Hockey League's North Division standings.
Rookie Sean Malone tallied his first-career shorthanded goal and sixth of season for the Amerks in the opening frame while goaltender Linus Ullmark stopped 29 of 31 shots he faced in the contest but took the loss.
The Amerks split the weekend in their home-and-home series against the AHL’s first place Toronto Marlies, falling 5-3 in Rochester on Friday and coming back with a 7-4 win at the Ricoh Collesium on Saturday.
Two different game outcomes with remarkably similar storylines: former Marlie Seth Griffith opened scoring against his old squad on both Friday and Saturday, Justin Bailey recorded back-to-back multi-point nights and an explosive late third-period push by the trailing team determined each game’s result.
TORONTO (5) AT ROCHESTER (3) - Feb. 23
On Friday, the Marlies scored three goals in the final 4:13 to come away with a 5-3 victory at The Blue Cross Arena. The contest was the first of three meetings in eight days between these North Division rivals.
Bailey scored his first goal since the first game of the season to end a career-long 21-game scoring drought while also setting Alexander Nylander up for his fifth marker of the campaign. Goaltender Linus Ullmark made 31 saves but took the loss. The Swedish netminder carries a record of 18-11-8 in 38 appearances on the season.
Following Friday's loss, the Amerks piled onto the team bus to head to Toronto for a quick-turnaround 4:00 p.m. tilt and their opportunity for revenge.
ROCHESTER (7) AT TORONTO (4) - Feb. 24
The game resulted in the Amerks tying an AHL season-high by scoring six times in the third period, including five straight unanswered goals in the final 5:58 of regulation, to come away with a 7-4 win. Multi-point nights were had by Bailey (2+0), Colin Blackwell (1+1), Sahir Gill (0+2) and former Marlie Stuart Percy (1+1), while Amerks captain Kevin Porter tallied his second three-point night (2+1) of the season. Adam Wilcox stopped 24 of 28 shots he faced in his first appearance against Toronto this season to improve to 9-4-6.
Despite coming away with two of four points on the weekend, head coach Chris Taylor was pleased with many parts of the Amerks performance, but he admitted that he still expects his team to do better entering the final month and a half of the regular season.
"I liked two and a half periods on Friday night, I liked another two and a half periods on Saturday. We’ve got to put a full game together. But the guys know that when they play the right way, they’ll get results."
Tayor continued by saying that although the Amerks have struggled recently, this team remains resilient, a trait they’ve displayed consistently throughout the course of the season.
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR SPEAKS WITH MEDIA FOLLOWING MONDAY'S PRACTICE
“Our PK is doing a good job, our power-play is starting to look better, and you know, we’re hitting our stride,” said Taylor. “Teams go through a stretch like we (did), and again, it’s how we bounce back. And I think we did a good job on Saturday to bounce back like we did.”
Bailey’s back-to-back multi-point performances on the weekend almost doubled his points on the season, after he has spent much of the year either injured or recovering from injury, but Bailey said that he is finally feeling like himself again.
“I felt good. I think the last couple weeks I’ve been getting my timing back and getting my game back, and remembering how to play the right way. Anytime you go through a rough patch scoring wise, you start to overthink it, and for me to get one finally (on Friday) was obviously a sigh of relief. Hopefully it translates into more success in the future.”
WATCH: JUSTIN BAILEY SPEAKS WITH MEDIA FOLLOWING MONDAY'S PRACTICE
News and Notes
With nine points (5+4) over his last eight games, Griffith remains second on the team in points. The former AHL All-Star has maintained nearly a point-per-game pace all season as he shows 34 points (13+21) through 36 games and hasn’t gone more than three games without a point all season. He was rewarded earlier today by earning a promotion to the Sabres. He started the year in Buffalo, recording three points (2+1) in 18 games.
Along with Griffith, second-year forward Kyle Criscuolo remains the team-leader in goals as he has 15 through 48 games this season. Over his last eight games, Criscuolo shows nine points (3+6), which includes a career-high four-point (2+2) effort against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Feb. 16. His 33 points (15+18) rank third among all Rochester forwards.
The Amerks own three of the top point-producing defensemen in the AHL in Zach Redmond, Percy and rookie Brendan Guhle. Redmond leads all Amerks defensemen with 33 points (10+23) through 48 games, ranking tied for third on the team and fifth among all AHL defensemen in scoring. The veteran blueliner is also tied for fourth in goals by a defenseman with 10, which is a new career-high. Guhle is fourth in scoring among all AHL rookie blueliners with 24 points (8+16), while his eight goals are third-most. With his two-point (1+1) performance Saturday, Percy has established career-highs in goals (5), assists (22), and points (27) in 49 games.
Despite missing his first six games of the season due to injury, rookie forward C.J. Smith continues to pace the team with 25 assists and 39 points in 50 games thus far this season. The Des, Moines, Iowa native currently ranks fourth in scoring among all AHL rookies while his 25 assists are tied for fourth-most between all first-year skaters.
The Amerks enter the final week of February having appeared in 10 games that went beyond regulation since Jan. 1. Overall on the season, Rochester leads the AHL in games decided after the third period with 23, showing as 7-8 mark in overtime while going 2-6 in shootouts.
Rochester has a 15-4-8-3 record in 30 games away from The Blue Cross Arena this season. The four regulation losses are the fewest in the American Hockey League while their 41 points are third-most in the league.
Amerks Bolster Offense at NHL Trade Deadline
The Buffalo Sabres made only one move during Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline, but it’s one that will positively impact the Amerks in their pursuit of clinching a playoff spot for the first time in three years.
The Sabres acquired 2016-17 AHL Rookie of the Year Daniel O’Regan, along with two conditional draft picks, from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for forward Evander Kane.
O’Regan, 24, won the Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding rookie last season, when he put up 23 goals and 35 assists for 58 points in 63 games with the San Jose Barracuda. O’Regan also earned a spot on the AHL All-Rookie Team and represented the Barracuda at the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic.
He added four goals and three assists for seven points in 15 postseason games last spring as the Barracuda advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
This season, O’Regan has seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points in 31 AHL games with San Jose, as well as four assists in 19 NHL games with the Sharks.
The Amerks return home on Wednesday as they conclude the month of February with a matchup against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at The Blue Cross Arena. Rochester then hits the road on Saturday for a rematch with the Toronto Marlies before hosting the Laval Rocket on Sunday to close out the weekend.
All three games can be heard live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.