NORTH DIVISION RIVALS TO SQUARE OFF TONIGHT AT BLUE CROSS ARENANews | 10/16/2011 12:41:27 PM | ROCHESTER AMERICANS
Game Notes: Tonight, the Rochester Americans bring the weekend to a close as the Grand Rapids Griffins make their first of three visits to The Blue Cross Arena this season. The 6:05 p.m. contest will be the first of three straight games at home for the Amerks and will be broadcast live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk.
Head-to-Head: The matchup marks the first of six scheduled meetings this season between the North Division rivals. Rochester posted a 2-4-0 record last season against the Griffins, but fared better at home with a mark of 2-1-0 within the friendly confines of The Blue Cross Arena. The Amerks are 22-27-3 all-time against the Detroit Red Wings’ affiliate.
Amerks Notes: Rochester (1-2-0-0, 2 points) enters the contest after defeating the Lake Erie Monsters 3-1 on Friday night to snap a two-game skid and earn its first win of the 2011-12 American Hockey League season. The Amerks used three different goal scorers in Michael Ryan, T.J. Brennan and Zack Kassian while fourth-year goaltender David Leggio backstopped the victory with a superb 34-save performance for his first win of the campaign. The game also produced the first career AHL coaching triumph for new Amerks bench boss Ron Rolston, who became the 29th head coach in franchise history following seven years at the helm of the USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.
Team and League Leaders: Forwards Corey Tropp and Zack Kassian currently share the team lead with three points apiece and are both playing at a point-per-game pace. Tropp, a second-year pro, leads Rochester with three assists in as many games, while Kassian enters the game in the midst of a three-game point streak (1+2) after scoring his first professional goal against Lake Erie’s Trevor Cann on Friday night. The Windsor, Ontario, native presently ranks tied for 11th among the AHL’s freshmen class in scoring. Travis Turnbull has a team-high 11 penalty minutes through the first three games of the season.
Special Teams Breakdown: The Amerks currently own the 13th-best power-play unit in the league with a 23.1% efficiency rate and are also one of 11 teams whose penalty kill at home remains unblemished.
Milestone Watch: Back for a second stint with the Amerks, veteran forward Michael Ryan is three games away from his 400th professional game, 213 of which have been played in Rochester. Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn is just five games shy of 650 pro appearances. Fresh off scoring his first goal of the season, eight-year pro Colin Stuart sits just seven goals away from reaching the century mark in his pro career while second-year blueliner Drew Schiestel will reach 100 AHL games in his next two outings. Rochester native Derek Whitmore needs just four more games for 250 in his pro career.
Appearances Can Be Deceiving: At an average age of just 23 years and eight months, this year’s Amerks are the fifth youngest team in the American Hockey League. Of the 26 current players on Rochester’s active roster, 10 were born in 1990 or later, while eight players are at least older than 25. At 31 years of age, Ryan is the Amerks’ oldest player.
Grand Rapids Notes: Grand Rapids (1-1-0-0, 2 points), kicking off a season-long five-game road swing tonight, comes into the matchup after claiming its first win of the season on Friday night, a 3-2 decision over the Toronto Marlies. Willie Coeztee, Gustav Nyquist and former Amerk Doug Janik each scored for the Griffins as Joey MacDonald earned the win between the pipes with a 27-save effort.
The Griffins return 16 of their 22 players currently on their active roster, including two former Amerks in both forward Jamie Johnson and defenseman Doug Janik. Most notably, Grand Rapids retains two of its top three offensive weapons from last season in Tomas Tatar and Francis Pare, who finished the 2010-11 campaign second and third on the team in scoring, respectively. The Griffs also return one of the most dynamic goaltending duos of veteran netminder Joey MacDonald and second-year Jordan Pearce. MacDonald, who spent the majority of last season with Detroit, boasts a 1-1-0 record with a 2.52 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in back-to-back starts this season for Grand Rapids. Pearce had a productive rookie campaign for the Griffins in 2010-11, appearing in 44 games and finishing with a 20-15-5 record to go along with a 2.89 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage.
Familiar Faces Return: Johnson returns to Rochester after spending the 2009-10 campaign with the team. During the season, Johnson posted his best season in professional hockey, capturing career-highs in goals (27) and assists (44), in addition to recording a personal-best 71 points, reaching the 70-point plateau for the first time ever in his career. Johnson was also just one of just two skaters to play in all 80 games throughout the regular season. A three-time Amerks player of the month, Johnson performed at just under a point-per-game pace, en route to earning team MVP honors and the Amerks scoring champion award. The eighth-year pro finished the 2009-10 season 12th among the AHL’s top scorers, while his 44 assists were 14th best in the league.
Janik played parts of five seasons with the Amerks, finishing his tenure in Rochester with 91 points (18+73) in 376 career games in the red, white and blue. Janik still currently ranks 29th all-time among Amerks blueliners while his 686 career penalty minutes are 12th-most among franchise leaders.
Road Warriors: Following a two-goal showing to open the season in Rockford on October 8, the Griffins’ road power-play unit is presently operating at a 40% efficiency rate, good enough for fourth in the AHL.
Game Promotions: The game falls on the first installment of the “Red Hot Sunday Funday” promotion, which again features the Zweigle’s Family Four Pack. For the third straight year, fans can purchase four hot dogs, four sodas and four 200-End tickets to any Sunday home game for the low price of just $44.00. In conjunction with Savor Catering at The Blue Cross Arena, fans will have five opportunities to take advantage of this family-friendly promotion this season.
Next Game: The Amerks remain at home on Tuesday, October 18 as the Syracuse Crunch venture west down the I-90 to The Blue Cross Arena for the first of 10 encounters this season between the longtime intrastate rivals. The 7:05 p.m. contest can be heard live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk.