AMERKS LONG ROAD TRIP CONTINUES THIS WEEK IN THE LONE STAR STATENews | 12/12/2011 6:10:45 PM | ROCHESTER AMERICANS
WEEKLY NOTES: After a rather lengthy and enjoyable homestand throughout the month of November, the Rochester Americans now find themselves in the middle of a very grueling December that has the team away from the comforts of home. Currently in the midst of its season-long five-game road trip, and a stretch that has Rochester playing just two of its next 12 on home ice, the upcoming weekend features the third straight three-in-three for the Amerks, who have had some struggles on the road as of late. Despite just coming up with three out of a possible six points this past weekend, Rochester is still clinging on to second-place in the American Hockey League’s North Division, where only eight points separate the Amerks from the top spot in the division standings. Looking ahead, this week the Amerks take their long road trip south to the Lone Star State to renew an old rivalry, begin a new one and avenge an earlier setback as Rochester visits San Antonio, Texas and Houston before returning home.
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:
Saturday, Dec. 10 @ Adirondack – OTL, 3-2… Newcomer Evan Rankin scored both goals for Rochester, but it was not enough as the Amerks dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Adirondack Phantoms Saturday at the Glens Falls Civic Center to kickoff off their season-long five-game road swing. Rankin broke a 1-1 tie midway through the third period to give the Amerks a one-goal cushion, but Garrett Roe’s game-tying tally minutes later would force the extra frame and Ben Holmstrom would seal the victory for the Phantoms just 2:06 into the overtime session on the power-play. The game was Rankin’s second two-goal outing this season since joining the Amerks on a professional tryout on November 25. Phil Varone assisted on both Rankin tallies and Foligno recorded a point for the third straight game with an assist as well. MacIntyre, making his fourth consecutive start between the pipes, finished with 25 saves for the Amerks.
Sunday, Dec. 11 @ Hamilton – L, 2-1… The Amerks closed out their second of three consecutive three-game weekends on Sunday afternoon with a 2-1 road loss to the North Division rival Hamilton Bulldogs at Copps Coliseum. By going 1-1-1-0 on the weekend, Rochester picked up three of a possible six points. After jumping out to a 1-0 lead early in the contest on a goal by Travis Turnbull, the Amerks allowed two goals in the second period and were unable to net the equalizer in the third period despite several quality scoring chances. David Leggio got the start in goal for Rochester, his first appearance since December 2, and stopped 33 of 35 Hamilton shots. Amerks captain Colin Stuart was back in the lineup after playing for the parent Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night while Turnbull, who returned to the lineup Friday night against Albany after missing nine games due to injury, scored his second goal of the season in Sunday’s contest and his first since November 6.
THE ROAD ‘MORE’ TRAVELED: The reunion between the Buffalo Sabres and Amerks not only restored hockey’s longest NHL-AHL affiliation, but it made the commute for those fortunate enough to earn a recall to Buffalo almost effortless to get there. The Amerks have seen eight different players make the 75-mile trek west down Interstate 90, including several on game day, with Stuart becoming the most recent call-up over the weekend to join the big club. The eight-year pro made his season debut for the Sabres on Saturday, earning 9:11 of ice time in Buffalo’s 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers at the First Niagara Center. In addition to Stuart, the Sabres have also required the services of goaltender Drew MacIntyre, defensemen Joe Finley, T.J. Brennan, Brayden McNabb and forwards Corey Tropp, Zack Kassian and Paul Szczechura, who along with McNabb, remain with Buffalo.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS: The Amerks continue their long road trip on Friday, December 16 when they travel to San Antonio to face the Rampage at the AT&T Center. The 8:00 p.m. EST contest will be the first of three straight in the Lone Star State for the Amerks and the first meeting in three years between the two teams. Fans can tune in for the live broadcast on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk. San Antonio earned a two-game sweep of Rochester in the season series during the 2008-09 campaign, outscoring the Amerks 5-3 through both get-togethers. Rochester, however, has the upper-hand with an 8-6-0 all-time record against the Florida Panthers’ affiliate. The game will be a walk down memory lane for some, especially for Rampage head coach Chuck Weber and assistant coach Jason Cipolla, who both shared the bench in the same capacity in Rochester last season. Cipolla served as the Amerks assistant coach for four seasons (2007-11), finishing his tenure in Rochester with a 128-172-20 record (287 points) in 320 career games. Several Rampage players also called Rochester their home in 2010-11, including Bill Thomas, Mark Cullen, Michal Repik, Colby Robak, Michael Caruso and Jacob Markstrom to name a few.
Rochester makes its way to Austin on Saturday, December 17 to take on the Texas Stars at Cedar Park Arena in the first-ever meeting between the interconference rivals. The 8:00 p.m. EST matchup will be carried live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk. The same two teams will meet again later this season as Texas makes its inaugural trip to Western New York on Friday, February 10.
The Amerks bring yet another busy weekend to a close on Sunday, December 18 as the visit the Toyota Center to battle the Houston Aeros in the second and final gathering between the team this season. Faceoff is slated for a 6:05 EST start and can be heard live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk. Houston skated to a 4-3 win over the Amerks in the previous matchup at The Blue Cross Arena on December 2. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes on goals by Shaone Morrisonn and Rankin, the Amerks surrendered three goals in the second period and eventually saw Houston score the game-winner early in the third as the Aeros left Rochester with their seventh straight road win. Rochester is 5-9-3 all-time against Houston.
UPCOMING PROMOTIONS: The Amerks return home on Wednesday, December 21 to host the North Division rival Lake Erie Monsters at 7:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena. Wednesday’s game falls on the next installment of the Amerks “WindDown Wednesdays”, Rochester’s midweek Business Persons Special that invites patrons to exchange their business cards at The Blue Cross Arena Box Office for an $11.00 ticket in the best available seating location anywhere in the arena.
Amerks Holiday Packs are still available as well! The Holiday Hat Trick Pack includes two tickets for the Amerks’ home game on Friday, Dec. 30 versus the Hamilton Bulldogs; four ticket vouchers that can be redeemed for any 2011-12 regular season home game; and one Amerks/Sabres “Reunited” knit hat. The package is available for just $59 for a savings of more than 50%.
In addition, the Amerks are also offering a Stocking Stuffer pack that includes two vouchers for any 2011-12 regular season home game and an Amerks travel mug for only $28.
All Amerks Holiday Packs can be purchased online at www.amerks.com, by calling 1-855-GO-AMERKS or at the Amerks Holiday Pack Table, located on the main concourse of The Blue Cross Arena during all Amerks home games through Dec. 21.
AMERKS NOTES: Rochester (11-11-3-1, 26 points) enters the week after earning three out of a possible six points over the weekend in a stretch that has the Amerks playing 10 of their next 12 on the road. Coming off 3-0 whitewash of Albany on Friday and gaining another point in an overtime loss to Adirondack the next night, the Amerks have now collected points in two of their last three games and eight of their last 14 to maintain their second-place standing in the American Hockey League’s North Division, just eight points behind division-leading Toronto.
TEAM AND LEAGUE LEADERS: Whitmore remains Rochester’s top point-getter with a team-high 12 goals and 18 points, in addition to a team-best 89 shots on goal. His 12 goals also rank him tied for ninth among the AHL’s top goal scorers as the Rochester native has now scored six goals in his last eight games. Mark Voakes, who shows five assists in his last six games, leads the Amerks with 12 assists, in addition to owning a team-best plus-nine on-ice rating and being one of just three players to appear in all 26 games thus far. Leggio, who’s started seven of the last 11 games for Rochester, boasts a 7-7-0 record with a 2.91 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage in 14 games. His seven wins tie him for 18th among AHL netminders, while he also ranks among the top 20 backstops in saves with 417. MacIntyre shows a 4-7-1 record with a 2.57 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 12 games.
BY THE NUMBERS: The Amerks are 5-5-2-1 (13 points) this season against North Division rivals, but show a 6-6-1-0 (13 points) mark versus non-divisional foes. The third period has been the Amerks’ strong suit thus far as the club has accounted for 23 goals while allowing 18. The Amerks have scored the first goal in just 12 of the first 26 games of the campaign and show a 6-5-1-0 record when doing so, including a 5-2-0-0 mark at home. Rochester is also 6-0-1-0 when leading after two periods, a streak that also shows an unblemished 4-0-0-0 mark at home.
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: Nine of the last 14 games for the Amerks have been decided by one goal, including six of the last 10. Of Rochester’s 26 games thus far this season, 14 of them have been determined by a one-goal difference, six of which were settled either in overtime or via the shootout, for a 5-5-3-1 mark.
WHO’S HOT: Whitmore enters the week with eight points (7+1) in his last nine games, a stretch that includes a three-game point streak (5+1) from November 19 to November 26. Rankin has recorded seven points (4+3) through his first eight games with the team and his four goals are the result a pair of two-goal games, including his first career AHL multi-goal outing two weeks ago against Houston. Varone has three assists over his last three games, sparked by his first career multi-point game (0+2) Saturday in Adirondack. Voakes shows six points (0+6) over his last seven appearances, in addition to posting back-to-back two-point games to kickoff the month of December as the team leader in assists. Meanwhile, Morrisonn has collected six points (2+4) in his last eight games and Foligno saw his three-game point streak halted Sunday afternoon in Hamilton, a stretch that included goals in consecutive games.
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. A week removed from skating in his 500th professional game, Stuart is on verge of yet another personal milestone, needing just 11 more points for 200 in his AHL career. Szczechura, though currently on NHL recall with the Sabres, needs just seven more assists to reach the century mark in his AHL career. MacIntyre is a mere four wins shy of 50 AHL victories.
SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWN: After some recent struggles on the power-play, the Amerks have gone 10-for-63 on the man-advantage over their last 13 games. On the penalty kill, Rochester has successfully killed off 90-of-110 (81.8%) shorthanded situations, including 56 of 63 at home for an 88.9% efficiency rate, good enough for the league’s third-best rating in that category. As a team, Rochester has allowed a league-most five shorthanded goals against, four coming at home and the other on the road.
AMERKS WEEKLY SCHEDULE*