AMERKS ENTER DECEMBER LOOKING FOR TOP SPOT IN NORTH DIVISION
News | 11/29/2011 3:07:09 PM | ROCHESTER AMERICANS


Photo: Micheline Veluvolu

WEEKLY NOTES: With the final month of the 2011 calendar year just around the corner, the Rochester Americans enter December still in close pursuit of the top spot in the American Hockey League’s North Division. After bringing a very successful November to a close as the league enters it third month of play for the 2011-12 season, the month of December brings with it a very busy schedule for the Amerks, one that features back-to-back trips to the Midwest and three consecutive stretches of three games in three nights straight through Christmas. A total of 13 games are on tap for Rochester in the next four weeks, with just four being played on home ice, where the Amerks finished November 6-1-0-0 in their seven games within the comforts of The Blue Cross Arena. Coming off another perfect weekend, and with points in six of its last eight games, Rochester looks to carry its momentum into December as the Amerks kickoff off the holiday season with its first three-in-three of the month this weekend. This week, Rochester hosts interconference rival Houston before visiting Hamilton and Albany in a rematch of last week’s meetings.

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:
Friday, Nov. 25 vs. Albany – W, 4-2…
After dropping back-to-back games to the Toronto Marlies as part of home-and-home series, the Rochester Americans returned to their winning ways on home ice Friday night by defeating the Albany Devils 4-2 in front of 6,313 fans at The Blue Cross Arena. With the teams tied 2-2 after two periods of play, Colin Stuart and Derek Whitmore each scored in the third period to help lift the Amerks to victory. Four different players recorded multiple points to propel the Amerks, including veteran defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, who scored his first goal as an Amerk, and rookie defenseman Matt MacKenzie, who notched the first two points of his professional career after being held scoreless the first 11 games of the season. In addition, the game also featured three Amerks earn their first points as members of the team, including newly acquired forward Evan Rankin, who completed his Rochester debut with a game-high seven shots and an assist on Stuart’s third-period game-winning tally. David Leggio made 27 saves in his fourth consecutive start between the pipes.

Saturday, Nov. 26 vs. Hamilton – W, 5-3… Whitmore saved his best performance of the weekend for Saturday night, scoring a career-best four goals (two in the first, two in the third), including two in the first 1:53 of the contest, to power the Amerks to a 5-3 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs. The game also featured Whitmore’s first career hat trick as he single-handedly outscored the Bulldogs on his way  to becoming the first Amerks player to net four goals since Jason Pominville’s five-goal outing against Cleveland on Oct. 21, 2005. The win also gave Rochester its first win of the season against its division rival and improved the Amerks to 6-1-0-0 in their seven home games through the month of November. Maxime Legault also scored his first goal as an Amerk while rookie defenseman Corey Fienhage suited up for his first game in the red, white and blue.

SABRES RETURN PAIR TO ROCHESTER: Re-joining the Amerks this week is defenseman T.J. Brennan and forward Corey Tropp, who were reassigned back to Rochester following Buffalo’s 5-1 win over the Washington Capitals Saturday night at the First Niagara Center. Brennan returns after a three-game stint with the big club that saw the third-year blueliner become the first Buffalo Sabres defenseman to score his first career NHL goal in his NHL debut since Buffalo Head Coach Lindy Ruff did so back on Oct. 11, 1979. Brennan has appeared in 17 games with the Amerks this season and ranks second in scoring among team defensemen with seven points (3+4). Tropp, who’s been with Buffalo the longest among the barrage of recent Rochester call-ups, has recorded two points (1+1) in 10 games over two NHL promotions. After making his NHL debut against Calgary on November 4, Tropp notched his first NHL goal two games later against the Winnipeg Jets, helping the Sabres to a 6-5 overtime win.

AMERKS MAKING IMMEDIATE IMPACT WITH SABRES: With nine regulars sidelined with various injuries, the Sabres turned to the Amerks to reinforce their depleted lineup. After Tropp earned Rochester’s first recall of the season back on November 3, five others have since joined him in Buffalo and all have made significant contributions to the Sabres’ recent success. This past week saw three Amerks make their NHL debuts in as many games, starting with Brennan’s first big-league appearance in Buffalo’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins last Wednesday night. Zack Kassian graced the lineup in Friday’s 5-1 setback to Columbus, but despite the loss, his NHL debut saw the rookie forward register his first NHL point as he assisted on Jordan Leopold’s lone goal of the contest. Saturday’s game against Washington featured all five of Rochester’s reinforcements, highlighted by the NHL debut of defenseman Brayden McNabb, Kassian’s first NHL goal and Paul Szczechura’s first NHL game in over two years that included a pair of assists. Goaltender Drew MacIntyre, called up to replace the injured Ryan Miller, has also appeared in two games for the Sabres, allowing just one goal in 43 minutes of service, marking his first NHL appearance since the 2007-08 season.

THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS: The Amerks take aim at their third straight win on Friday, December 2 as the defending Western Conference champion Houston Aeros make their first visit to The Blue Cross Arena in nearly three years. The 7:35 p.m. contest will be the first of two meetings between the two teams this season and will be broadcast live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk. The game marks the first time the teams have met since the 2008-09 season, when Rochester claimed both get-togethers and outscored Houston 5-3 through the season series. The Amerks are 5-8-3 all-time against the Minnesota Wild’s affiliate.
 
Rochester heads north of border on Saturday, December 3 as they take on the Hamilton Bulldogs for the second time in as many weeks at Copps Coliseum. Faceoff between the North Division rivals is slated for a 7:00 p.m. start and can be heard live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk. The Amerks are coming off their first win of the season against the Bulldogs on Saturday after Hamilton bested Rochester through the first three get-togethers of the season. Though showing a mark of 1-1-1-1 this season against the Bulldogs, the Amerks maintain a 73-63-10 lifetime record against Hamilton.

The Amerks play their third game in as many nights on Sunday, December 4 as they visit the state’s Capital District for a rematch with the Albany Devils at 4:00 p.m. at the Times Union Center. Rochester skated to a 4-2 win over Albany in the previous matchup with its intrastate rival this past Friday night at The Blue Cross Arena, marking its first-ever home win against the Devils. Fans can tune in for the live broadcast on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk.
 
UPCOMING PROMOTIONS: Friday’s contest falls on the next installment of the “Ditch the Dorms” night. Beginning this season, the Amerks are encouraging all college students to “Ditch the Dorms” on Friday nights and bring the party downtown for Amerks College Nights.  Current students who show a valid school ID can get best available seating anywhere in the arena for as low as $10.00. In conjunction with Savor Catering at The Blue Cross Arena, fans can take part of “Amerks Happy Hour” from 6:30-7:30 in the Upper Atrium Bar with $2.00 drafts, courtesy of Molson and Coors Light.

The Amerks’ Toy Drive continues this weekend with the second of four nights fans can participate in to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester this holiday season. Fans that donate a new, unwrapped toy at a participating AT&T company-owned location in Monroe County between now and December 21 will receive a coupon to purchase a $12.00 ticket in the best available seating location for one of the next three upcoming Amerks home games (Friday, Dec. 2, Friday, Dec. 9 or Wednesday, Dec. 21). Fans may also donate a toy at The Blue Cross Arena Box Office on any of the dates listed above and be able to purchase a “best available” $12.00 ticket to that night’s game. The Amerks will also donate $2.00 of each toy drive ticket sold to The Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester. Any fan that donates a toy will also be eligible to enter a raffle to win an Amerks autographed item.

AMERKS NOTES: Rochester (10-7-2-1, 23 points) enters the week in the midst of a two-game winning streak after capping the weekend off with a pair of wins to bring a very successful November to a close. The Amerks have now collected points in six of their last eight games and boast a 7-3-0-0 record through their last 10 games, seven of which have been played within the friendly confines of The Blue Cross Arena. The Amerks come into the final month of 2011 with a firm grip on their second-place standing in the American Hockey League’s North Division, where they remain four points behind the division-leading Toronto Marlies. Friday night’s game against Houston will end a stretch that has Rochester playing eight of nine on home ice before it enters its busiest month of the season where December has the Amerks home just four times over the course of the next 13 games.

WHITMORE NAMED REEBOK/AHL PLAYER OF THE WEEK: The American Hockey League announced today that Rochester Americans left wing Derek Whitmore has been named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 27, 2011. Whitmore scored five goals and compiled a plus-3 rating in two games for the Amerks. Whitmore recorded a big insurance goal late in the third period of Friday’s 4-2 win over Albany, but saved his biggest performance for Saturday’s contest against Hamilton. Whitmore scored twice in the first 1:53 of the game, and then twice more in the third period to break a 3-3 tie as Rochester grabbed a 5-3 decision over the Bulldogs. A native of the Rochester suburb of Greece, N.Y., Whitmore leads the Amerks with 10 goals and 16 points and is tied for the team lead among forwards with a plus-8 rating in 20 games this season. The fourth-year pro signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Sabres on Mar. 26, 2008, and has registered 67 goals and 53 assists for 120 points in 263 career AHL games with Rochester and Portland.

FINLEY SIGNS MULTI-YEAR DEAL WITH SABRES: Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier announced Monday that the team has signed defenseman Joe Finley to a multi-year contract. Finley (6’8”, 260 lbs., 6/29/87) has two points (1+1) in 18 games with the Amerks and leads the team with 57 penalty minutes. Finley is in his third professional season after spending parts of the 2008-09 and 2010-11 seasons with the Hershey Bears. In 26 career AHL games, Finley has three points (1+2) and 79 penalty minutes, posting a plus/minus rating of plus-16. The Edina, Minn. native was originally selected by the Washington Capitals in the first round (27th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He was signed to an AHL contract by the Rochester Americans on Oct. 4, 2011.
 
HOME, SWEET HOME: Home-ice advantage has certainly been a factor in Rochester’s recent success as of late. Currently in a stretch that has the Amerks playing eight of nine games on home ice, the Amerks are 6-1-0-0 in their last seven games at home. Rochester’s season-long five-game homestand earlier this month was highlighted by a four-game winning streak that saw Rochester outscore its opponents 15-11. After beginning the season with just two home wins, the Amerks show an 8-3-0-1 record (19 points) this season when playing in their downtown barn.
 
TEAM AND LEAGUE LEADERS: Coming off his four-goal game against Hamilton on Saturday, Whitmore currently paces the Amerks with 10 goals and 16 points, while leading the team with 74 shots on goal. Despite currently being on NHL recall, Kassian presently ranks third on the team with 14 points (7+7) and 12th in scoring among AHL rookies. McNabb, also on NHL recall, continues to lead all Rochester blueliners with 10 points (1+9), including a team-best nine assists. Finley, who scored his first AHL goal last week against Toronto, is first on the team and tied for 12th in the league with 57 penalty minutes. Leggio, who’s started the last five games for Rochester, boasts a 7-5-0 record with a 2.89 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage in 12 games. His seven wins tie him for eighth among AHL netminders, while he ranks among the league’s top 20 goaltenders with 321 saves.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Amerks are 5-3-2-1 (13 points) this season against North Division rivals, but show a 5-4-0-0 (10 points) mark versus non-divisional foes. The third period has been the Amerks’ strong suit thus far as the club has accounted for 20 goals while allowing 12. The Amerks have scored the first goal in just eight of the first 20 games of the campaign and show a 5-2-1-0 record when doing so, including a 4-1-0-0 mark at home. Rochester is also 5-0-1-0 when leading after two periods, a streak that also shows an unblemished 3-0-0-0 mark at home. 

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: Five of the last eight games for the Amerks have been decided by one goal, including two of the last four. Of Rochester’s 20 games thus far this season, 10 of them have been determined by a one-goal difference, a mark of 5-2-2-1 in favor of the Amerks.

WHO’S HOT: Fresh off his career-best four-goal night on Saturday, Whitmore has scored five goals in his last two games, which includes his insurance tally in Rochester’s 4-2 win over Albany the night before. Brennan has three points (2+1) over the last two games with the Amerks, including goals in back-to-back appearances, while Stuart continues his current point-per-game pace with eight points (4+4) in as many outings. MacKenzie broke an 11-game scoreless drought with a pair of assists Friday night against Albany and Morrisonn has three points (1+2) in his last two games after recording just two through the first 15 games of the season.
 
MILESTONE WATCH: Back for a second stint with the Amerks, veteran forward Michael Ryan is just two games away from his 400th professional game, 214 of which have been played in Rochester. Stuart recorded his 200th pro point Friday against Albany with his seventh goal of the season and needs just one more goal to reach the century mark in his pro career. He’s also three games shy of 500 pro appearances, a feat the eight-year pro will capture this Sunday in Albany. Paul Szczechura, who recently skated in his 300th pro game, collected his 100th pro assist with the first of two helpers in his Sabres debut over the weekend against Washington. Mark Voakes needs just four more points to reach the 100-point plateau.

SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWN: After some recent struggles on the power-play, the Amerks have gone 6-for-37 on the man-advantage over their last seven games. On the penalty kill, Rochester has successfully killed off 71-of-88 (80.7%) shorthanded situations, including 49 of 55 at home for an 89.1% efficiency rate, good enough for the league’s third-best rating in that category. As a team, Rochester has allowed a league-most four shorthanded goals against, three coming at home and the other on the road.  
 
THIS WEEK IN AMERKS HISTORY: Rochester scores five goals in the first period, four in the second and five in the third en route to a 14-6 rout over Cleveland on November 24, 1966 in what would become the highest scoring game in team history. Amerks Hall of Famer Dick Gamble posted a team-high five points (2+3) in the game for Rochester, assisting on the first two goals of the game before scoring a pair of third-period tallies. Four others players finished with multiple points, including Mike Walton (2+3), Darryl Sly (1+4), Stan Smrke (2+1) and Bronco Horvath (2+1) as the Amerks would go on to finish the regular season third in the AHL standings. Cleveland, however, would oust the Amerks in a two-game sweep of Rochester in the first round of the 1967 Playoffs.

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AMERKS WEEKLY SCHEDULE*
DAY                                         TIME                                        LOCATION
Monday, November 28           10:30 a.m. practice                 Blue Cross Arena
                                               6:30 p.m. reading                   Scottsville Public Library
Tuesday, November 29           10:30 a.m. practice                 Blue Cross Arena
Wednesday, November 30     10:30 a.m. practice                 Sports Centre at MCC
                                               6:30 p.m. reading                   Penfield Public Library
Thursday, December 1           10:30 a.m. practice                 Blue Cross Arena
Friday, December 2                10:00 a.m. gameday skate     Blue Cross Arena
                                               7:35 p.m. vs. Houston            Blue Cross Arena
                                               Leave for Hamilton immediately following game
Saturday, December 3            11:00 a.m. gameday skate     Copps Coliseum
                                               7:00 p.m. @ Hamilton           Copps Coliseum
                                               Leave for Albany immediately following game
Sunday, December 4               4:00 p.m. @ Albany               Times Union Center              
                                                                                              
*schedule subject to change
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VS.  Toronto Marlies  
        
 October 03, 2014 - 07:00 PM 1 2 3F
 Rochester Americans 0 0 00
 Toronto Marlies 0 0 00