Features | 4/25/2013 4:03:59 PM | Warren Kosel
| David Leggio was named Team MVP
AMERKS PUNCH THEIR PLAYOFF TICKET
The Rochester Americans have punched their ticket into the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs, marking the 43rd time in the 57-year history of the franchise that the Amerks have advanced to the postseason. It’s also the second straight season and the third time in four years Rochester has qualified for the Playoffs after going 7-3-0-0 in the final 10 games of the regular season to secure a berth, clinching on home ice in its final regular season tilt at The Blue Cross Arena on April 20 against Hamilton. The Amerks closed out the campaign with a record 43-29-3-1 and 90 points, representing the first time since the 2009-10 season Rochester reached the 90-point mark in a season.
WE MEET AGAIN
For the second straight year, the Amerks finished seventh in the American Hockey League’s Western Conference standings, setting the stage for another first-round matchup with the defending Western Conference champion Toronto Marlies. The playoff series will mark just the second time ever the North Division rivals will square off in postseason play after the Marlies earned a three-game sweep of Rochester during the 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals a year ago. Toronto went on to advance to the Calder Cup Finals, where the Marlies were swept by the eventual champion Norfolk Admirals as part of the team’s historic run to its first-ever AHL title.
The Amerks finished the regular season ranked seventh in the AHL in goals for with 234, 13 shy of Syracuse’s league-leading 247 tallies. Rochester also finished seventh in the league in goals-per-game, averaging 3.08. Among the eight Western Conference teams who locked up a playoff spot, the Amerks boast the fourth-best offense entering the postseason while their 43 wins are the fourth-most among the 16 AHL clubs advancing to the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs.
ROLSTON MOVES UP TO NHL
The Buffalo Sabres promoted former Amerks head coach Ron Rolston to serve as their interim head coach for the remainder of the 2012-13 season. Rolston replaced Lindy Ruff, the all-time winningest coach in Sabres history and longest tenured coach in the NHL, who was relieved of his duties after 16 years behind the Buffalo bench. Rolston became the 16th coach in franchise history after compiling a 63-56-5 regular-season record over part of two seasons with the Amerks, who he led to the Calder Cup Playoffs in just his first season as an American Hockey League coach. He officially made his NHL coaching debut in Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 21 at the Air Canada Centre and earned his first win in the Sabres’ 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 26. His biggest win as Sabres head coach came on Apr. 2 in a 4-1 defeat of the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins, who came into the game with the NHL’s second-longest winning streak of 15 straight victories. To date, Rolston is 14-12-4 since taking over for Ruff on Feb. 20.
CASSIDY APPOINTED HEAD COACH IN ROCHESTER
The exit of Rolston to Buffalo meant the elevation of Amerks assistant coach Chadd Cassidy as the new bench boss in Rochester. Cassidy, who previously worked alongside Rolston for five seasons at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, became the 30th head coach in Amerks history and the first to take over the position as a midseason replacement since John Van Boxmeer was appointed the title midway through the 1984-85 season when he took over for Jim Schoenfield. Cassidy made his American Hockey League head coaching debut in Rochester’s 5-1 loss to the Texas Stars on Feb. 20 and earned his first win in a 2-1 overtime victory over the Syracuse Crunch on March 2. Cassidy finished the campaign with a 16-11-1-0 record as head coach, and since Mar. 2, guided the Amerks to an incredible 16-7-1-0 record and a second straight playoff berth.
SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWN
Rochester’s power-play proved to be one of the most effective in the league as the Amerks scored 65 goals over their 320 man-advantage opportunities. The Amerks ended the season with the fourth-best power-play unit in the AHL with a 20.3% efficiency rate, scoring at least one power-play goal in 47 of the 76 games this season, including a season-high six straight games between Feb. 26 and Mar. 9. Rochester also owned the second-ranked penalty kill in the AHL, successfully killing off 267 of 307 short-handed situations for an 87.0% efficiency rate, including 130 of 144 at home for a league-best 90.3% success rate.
The Amerks had one of the league’s elite offensive pairings in veteran forwards Kevin Porter and Mark Mancari leading up to Porter’s NHL recall to the parent Buffalo Sabres. The duo combined for 30 multi-point outings between the two of them since the puck dropped back in October. More impressively, the pair recorded at least one point in the same game in 23 outings this season, including eight different occasions where they have each posted multiple points in the same game. Rochester was 19-3-1-0 when Porter and Mancari registered a point in the same game.
LEGGIO NAMED TOP GOALTENDER FOR MARCH
Amerks goaltender David Leggio was selected as the CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month for March. Leggio went 9-4-0 with a 1.86 goals-against average, a .946 save percentage and two shutouts, allowing two goals or fewer in 11 of his 13 appearances during the month. Leggio began March by snapping a personal four-game losing streak with a 35-save outing in a 2-1 overtime win at Syracuse on Mar. 2. He made 38 stops in defeating Lake Erie, 4-2, on Mar. 3, and his 44 saves in a 5-0 win over Abbotsford on Mar. 8 were the most in a shutout by any AHL goaltender this season. Leggio won his fifth straight game in a 3-1 decision over Binghamton on Mar. 13, and made at least 36 saves in four consecutive starts from Mar. 22-29, including a 38-save shutout of Syracuse on Mar. 27.
LEGGIO’S CAREER YEAR LEADS THE WAY… AGAIN
A year after single-handedly guiding the Amerks into the postseason, Leggio again had another big year between the pipes for Rochester after making a repeat performance as team MVP. The 2012-13 campaign saw the fifth-year netminder finish the regular season as the AHL’s leader in wins (38), saves (1,957), shots against (2,119), minutes played (3,800), and games played (64) while ranking fourth with a .924 save percentage. In addition, the Williamsville, N.Y, native also captured his third straight 20-win season and became the first Amerks netminder to post 30 wins in a single season since Ryan Miller’s incredible 41 victories during Rochester’s historic 2004-05 campaign. Most recently, he turned in yet another memorable performance on Mar. 27 against Syracuse when he steered aside all 38 shots for his fourth shutout of the season, matching the career-high he set during the 2008-09 campaign with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. And just three nights later on Mar. 30 at Hamilton, Leggio earned his 35th win of the season, marking just the seventh time in the franchise’s 57-year history that a Rochester goaltender has won at least 35 games in a season. Since Feb. 22, 2012, Leggio has started 90 of Rochester’s 102 regular-season and playoff games and has earned 51 of the team’s 56 wins. He ended the season having set new AHL career-highs in all goaltending categories, including goals-against average (2.56), save percentage (.924), wins (38), saves (1,957), shutouts (4), minutes (3,800) and gamed played (64) and led all AHL netminders with a 9-1 shootout record. He also challenged the AHL record for saves in a season (2,005), established by Mike O’Neill with the Baltimore Bandits in 1995-96, but came up shy 48 saves.
MANCARI MAKES HIS MARK
The return to Rochester has been quite the homecoming for Mancari, who had another successful season as an Amerk since originally joining the organization as a rookie for the 2005-06 campaign. The eight-year pro led the Amerks in all offensive categories in goals (22), assists (39) and points (61) and ended the season ranked 11th in scoring among the AHL’s top point-getters. Mancari also finished tied for ninth in assists, which included the 10th-most on the power-play with 18. His 279 shots on goal were also tops in the AHL and were 36 more than the next closest player. Entering this year, the eight-year pro ranked 46th all-time in scoring amongst forwards in franchise history with 156 points (62+94) in 215 career games in the red, white and blue, but has since climbed to 24th on the list, surpassing some notable names like Dane Jackson, Scott Nichol, Jason Pominville and most recently, Wally Boyer, along the way. Mancari added another personal milestone at Toronto on Feb. 27, scoring his 200th pro career goal and recording his 200th point as an Amerk, becoming just 30th player in team history to reach the mark. After hitting the 57-point mark for the third straight season with the Amerks, a feat he also accomplished during the 2006-07 and 2007-08 campaigns in Rochester, Mancari ended this season surpassing the 60-point plateau for the fourth time in his career.
A ‘FLYNN-TASTIC’ NOVEMBER
Rookie forward Brian Flynn was Rochester’s most productive and consistent player throughout the month of November. After beginning the month with an assist in a 3-2 win over Hamilton on Nov. 2, the Lynnfield, Massachusetts, native put on quite the offensive display that saw the first-year pro record an astounding 15 points on seven goals and eight assists over a career-long nine-game point streak. Flynn’s only scoreless outing in November came in a 4-1 setback to Toronto on Nov. 30, snapping what was the second-longest active point streak and the longest active assist streak in the AHL. More impressively, however, Flynn compiled four multi-point outings during the stretch, including three over his last six appearances that was highlighted by a career-high four-point effort (3+1) on Nov. 23 against Albany as he notched his first career hat trick. Flynn ranked fifth in the AHL in scoring during the month of November, behind only Oklahoma City’s Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Taylor Hall and Houston’s Justin Fontaine. Flynn finished the campaign ranked among the AHL’s top scoring rookies with 32 points (16+16) in 45 games and was fortunate enough to earn a recall to the Buffalo Sabres, where he amassed 10 points (5+5) in 26 games with the big club. The Amerks were 11-2-0-0 this season when Flynn scored a goal.
THE STREAK CONTINUES
Mancari became the first Amerk this season to net 20 goals on the way to posting his seventh consecutive 20-goal season over his eight-year professional career. In doing so, Mancari continued Rochester’s 57-year tradition of having at least one player from each season since the team’s inception in 1956 to score 20 or more goals, a streak that was sparked by Bronco Horvath’s team-leading 37 tallies during the Amerks’ inaugural 1956-57 campaign.
Over the first two and a half years of his professional career, Amerks defenseman Alex Biega played in 21 shootout games and was never called on to attempt a shot. That changed earlier this season, and Biega’s prowess brought the Amerks valuable standings points down the stretch. On Mar. 10, Rochester turned to Biega in the bottom of the 10th round of a marathon shootout vs. Abbotsford, and the third-year blueliner snapped a shot home to give Rochester the win. On Mar. 19, Biega got the call in the fifth round and netted the only goal of the shootout, sending the Amerks to victory in Oklahoma City. And on Mar. 23 in Houston, Biega’s goal in the last half of the fifth round made Rochester triumphant again – and made him 3-for-3 with three game-winners, putting him sixth in the AHL in shootout efficiency, while helping the Amerks improve to 9-1 in shootouts this season. He also led the league, including all defensemen, in shootout game-winning goals.
TWICE IS NICE
The goaltending tandem of Nathan Lieuwen and Leggio combined to give the Amerks back-to-back shutout wins for the first time in over a decade during a shutout streak in late March that kept opponents off the scoreboard for 180:10. After Lieuwen stonewalled the Rampage with 39 saves in San Antonio on Mar. 24, Leggio followed up with an equally impressive outing of his own with a 38-save shutout of Syracuse on Mar. 27. It would mark the first time Rochester earned consecutive shutout victories since the 2002-03 season when former Amerks netminder Mika Noronen single-handedly posted back-to-back shutouts as part of a two-game sweep of the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks on Jan. 24 and Jan. 25 in southern Ohio.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
The end of the NHL lockout may have meant the departure of several key components to Rochester’s offense, however a flurry of roster moves late in the season was certainly beneficial for the Amerks. Aside from the season-long mainstays in Mancari and Nick Tarnasky, the additions of high-end forwards Patrick Rissmiller, Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick give the Amerks an added veteran presence in the lineup while providing stability and plenty of leadership. Along with established defenseman Adam Pardy, who recorded nine points (2+7) in 21 with games with the Amerks, Rochester’s veteran class has combined for over 1,200 man games in the NHL, including 329 from McCormick, and has totaled 132 points (56+76) for the Amerks in 2012-13.
LENDING A HAND
The Amerks have had a total of seven players make the 75-mile trek west down Interstate 90 to Buffalo this season with third-year forward Luke Adam being the most recent to join the Sabres on recall. In addition to Adam, Buffalo has also required the services of forwards Marcus Foligno, Cody Hodgson, Porter and Flynn along with defensemen T.J. Brennan and Mark Pysyk, who all began the season in Rochester. The group has totaled 78 points (32+46) in 185 combined games with the Sabres. Buffalo has also sent reinforcements to Rochester in the form of veteran forwards McCormick and Ellis as well as defenseman Pardy, all of whom have also seen time with the Sabres this season.
With wins in eight of their last 10 road games, the Amerks ended the season tied as the seventh-best road team in the AHL with a 21-14-3-0 record (45 points). Conversely, Rochester finished with a 22-15-0-1 mark (45 points) at home, including an AHL-best 6-1 record in shootouts, and outscored the opposition 113-100 in 38 total games at The Blue Cross Arena.
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT
The Amerks had seen 14 of their last 25 games decided by one goal dating back to a 3-2 setback at Hamilton on Feb 22. Rochester finished 17-11-3-1 in 32 one-goal games this season after finishing the 2011-12 campaign with 42 such outings. Of those 32 one-goal decisions, 15 have been determined in overtime or via the shootout, for an 11-0-3-1 record.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Amerks year-end record against North Division Rivals was 21-13-1-1 (44 points), but showed a 22-16-2-0 (46 points) mark versus non-divisional foes. Rochester scored the first goal in 45 of 76 games during the campaign and show a 33-10-2-0 record when doing so, including a 17-4-0-0 mark at home. The Amerks were also 33-1-1-0 when leading after two periods, a streak that also came with an unblemished 19-0-0-0 mark at home.
2013 ALL-STAR CLASSIC RECAP
Amerks defenseman Brayden McNabb became just the fifth AHL player ever to crack triple digits in the CCM Hardest Shot contest, winning the event with a blast of 101.8 miles per hour as the Western Conference All-Stars earned a 12-11 win over their Eastern Conference counterparts in the 2013 AHL All-Star Skills Competition. McNabb also became just the second Amerk to top 100 miles per hour in the event, finishing behind current teammate Mark Mancari, whose blast of 102.8 during in 2008 is still an AHL record.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Rochester set a new franchise attendance record by playing in front of a capacity crowd of 19,070 fans on Friday, Dec. 28 against Lake Erie at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y. The record-setting attendance also represented the ninth-largest crowd for a single game in American Hockey League history and the fifth-largest for an AHL game played indoors. The previous Amerks record for the largest crowd in the 57-year history of the franchise was 17,898, which was set eight years prior to the day on Dec. 28, 2004, when the Amerks defeated the Edmonton Roadrunners at the then-HSBC Arena in Buffalo.
More than a dozen different crowds of 7,000+ fans in attendance have taken in an Amerks game this season, including ten in the Flower City’s downtown hockey barn. The number is a vast improvement from the 2011-12 season, when only three crowds of 7,500 or more were on hand. Rochester ended the season 10th in the AHL in total attendance averaging 6,314 fans per game.