The Rochester Americans gained entry into the Calder Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive year with a win over the Hamilton Bulldogs earlier this April. When the season concluded and playoff positions were finalized, the Amerks found that they were matched up with a familiar opponent in the Toronto Marlies.
The series began in Toronto where Rochester’s strong play was matched by former Amerk goaltender, Drew MacIntyre. MacIntyre posted 31 saves on 34 shots and with the added help of Greg Scott’s four goal night, the Marlies took a one game advantage over the Amerks on Saturday. Zemgus Girgensons and Cody McCormick scored for Rochester in the game, which was tied 3-3 entering the final period.
Game 2 saw a goaltending change for Rochester when recently-acquired Matt Hackett received the start in place of Team MVP David Leggio, who started the opening game. Although Hackett played well by stopping all but two of the shots he faced and the Amerks out-shot Toronto for the second straight game, MacIntyre turned aside all 25 shots he faced, giving his team a shutout victory and a 2-0 lead in the series.
Now the series shifts to Rochester, where the Amerks were 22-15-0-1 on home ice this season, for Game 3 on Wednesday night at The Blue Cross Arena, and the Amerks will be looking to extend their season.
After playing two different goalies in the first two games, Coach Chadd Cassidy spoke with the media after practice on Tuesday and declined to reveal which netminder would start in Game 3.
“We have two very capable guys (in Leggio and Hackett) and in the end it’s going to be a pretty easy decision for us…. We feel confident no matter who’s in the net, so we’re going to get good goaltending Wednesday night no matter what.”
When asked about keeping both goalies focused and sharp, Cassidy was quick to complement the play and mindset of both goalies.
“I don’t think [keeping them focused] is an issue with either one of those guys. You’re going to get their best no matter what the situation is. I thought that whatever situation we played those guys in this year they’ve been ready for it. Obviously [Hackett] coming in here late has known that [Leggio] was here and established and he played that role, what you could call a backup role very well for us, although I wouldn’t call him a backup because he’s 1-A”.
Still, the question of who was to start remained unconfirmed, even among the goalies. Leggio discussed how his approach to a must-win game Wednesday night remains the same either way.
“You always approach a game as if you’re playing… I think that we have made a case for both of us, we are a team with two good goalies. I feel confident that I can get the job done and I think that the team feels confident with both of us.”
The Amerks have also welcomed back two players, Brian Flynn and Mark Pysyk, who began the year in Rochester only to finish the regular season in the NHL playing for the Buffalo Sabres. Both are eager to contribute and help turn around the series in Rochester’s favor.
Flynn, who had success while in Buffalo by recording 11 points (6+5) in 26 games, talked about the significance of rejoining his former team in time for the postseason.
“Everybody loves to play in games that mean a lot, which is every night in the playoffs,” he said. “I’m just trying to enjoy myself but we need to get that first one tomorrow.”
The most recent addition to the lineup is highly-touted prospect and Buffalo’s first selection in last year’s draft, Mikhail Grigorenko, who made his Amerks debut in Game 2 on Sunday. The young forward hopes to contribute to the team while its playoff future is on the line.
With the Amerks down 0-2 in the series, Wednesday night’s Game 3 is now the biggest game yet.