A CRITICAL WEEKEND AWAITS FOR THE AMERKS
News | 2/14/2012 10:07:02 AM | ROCHESTER AMERICANS


Photo: Micheline Veluvolu

WEEKLY NOTES: The Rochester Americans are in the midst of one of the most demanding stretches of the season, but the days ahead are about to get a little more challenging for the Amerks, as they embark on yet another busy weekend of three games in as many nights. With two-thirds of the 2011-12 American Hockey League season already in the books, and in the thick of a tight race to the finish, the Amerks continue their uphill climb looking to close the seven-point gap that separates them from the first-place Toronto Marlies. More importantly, however, are the two points that stand in the way of Rochester’s bid for postseason contention. This weekend’s slate of games sees the Amerks going up against two North Division rivals over the course of three nights where a crucial six points can provide distance in the standings among other teams with their sights set on the Calder Cup Playoffs. Looking ahead, the Amerks will exchange pleasantries with Lake Erie on back-to-back nights as part of a home-and-home series before closing out the weekend on Sunday when Hamilton comes to town for the final time this season.

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:
Wednesday, Feb. 8 at Toronto – L, 4-3…
Despite seeing the highly anticipated return of forwards Michael Ryan and Corey Tropp to the lineup, the Rochester Americans fell to the Toronto Marlies by a score of 4-3 in an afternoon matinee at Ricoh Coliseum. Zack Kassian netted two goals for Rochester in the contest, while Brayden McNabb provided a pair of assists. Ryan and Tropp were also able to find the scoresheet as they each contributed an assist in their first action since October 14 and January 8, respectively. Maxime Legault also tallied a goal for the Amerks and David Leggio turned away 21 of 25 shots between the pipes.

Friday, Feb. 10 vs. Texas – W, 9-4… Rochester used an explosive offensive performance on the way to a 9-4 rout over the Texas Stars in front of 5,675 fans Friday night at The Blue Cross Arena. The Amerks would score two goals in the first period to build a 2-0 lead and then erupt for five in the second en route to a season-high nine-goal outburst, marking the first nine-goal game since Rochester scored 10 in a 10-4 rout over the Binghamton Senators on December 16, 2006. Rochester received multiple-point efforts from eight different skaters, led by Travis Turnbull (2+1), Mark Voakes (1+2) and Tropp (0+3), who each chipped in three points. Kassian (2+0), Corey Fienhage (0+2), McNabb (0+2), Legault (1+1) and Derek Whitmore (1+1) all finished with two points apiece in the win. Jonathan Parker and Paul Szczechura also scored for the Amerks. Drew MacIntyre turned aside 24 of 28 shots to earn his eighth victory of the season, giving the netminder a pair of wins in his last two starts.

Saturday, Feb. 11 vs. San Antonio – L, 4-1… A two-goal effort from former Amerk Michal Repik and strong goaltending by Dov Grumet-Morris paved the way for the San Antonio Rampage to defeat the Amerks 4-1 on Saturday. T.J. Brennan, back from an NHL stint with the Sabres, produced the lone goal for Rochester in his first action since January 14, with the assists going to Szczechura and Drew Schiestel. Leggio finished with 22 saves in the loss. The game also featured the Amerks debut of the AHL’s reigning Rookie of the Year Luke Adam, who was assigned to Rochester by the Buffalo Sabres earlier in the day. Adam would finish his first game in the red, white and blue with four penalty minutes and two shots on goal in 17:26 of ice time.

THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS: The Amerks kickoff their busy three-game weekend on Friday, February 17 as they host the North Division rival Lake Erie Monsters in the first leg of a home-and-home series at The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:35 p.m. start. The two-game set will then shift to downtown Cleveland the following night for a 7:30 p.m. tilt at Quickens Loan Arena. The games will mark the third and fourth of six meetings this season between the two teams and both will be broadcast live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk. Rochester is 2-0-0-0 this season against Lake Erie and has outscored the Monsters 7-2 through both get-togethers, including a 4-1 victory in the Amerks’ previous encounter with Lake Erie back on December 21 in Rochester. Despite having the upper hand in the season series thus far, Rochester is 12-15-2 all-time against the Colorado Avalanche’s affiliate.

Having already met eight times this season, the Amerks return home to The Blue Cross Arena on Sunday, February 19 to renew their heated divisional rivalry with the Hamilton Bulldogs as both teams play their third game in as many nights. The puck drops at 5:05 p.m. with all the action being carried live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk. The teams have yet to meet since a January 14 engagement in the Flower City, where Rochester skated to a 3-1 win over a Hamilton team that has claimed six of the first eight meetings this season. The Amerks, however, sport a 74-66-10 lifetime showing against the Bulldogs.

UPCOMING PROMOTIONS: Friday’s contest falls on the next installment of the “Ditch the Dorms” night. 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 in the “Amerks Happy Hour” from 6:30-7:30 in the Upper Atrium Bar with $2.00 drafts, courtesy of Molson and Coors Light.

Friday’s game is another Seneca Casinos Legends Night, featuring former Amerks player, coach and general manager Joe Crozier, who was recently inducted into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame. The Seneca Casinos Legends Series is now in its third year and will feature appearances by different hockey greats at two more Amerks games this season, including Friday, Mar. 9 and Friday, Mar. 30.  The featured guests for these Legends Nights will be announced at a later date.

On Sunday, fans can take advantage 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 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 just two more opportunities to take advantage of this family-friendly promotion this season. Immediately following Sunday’s game, fans can head down to The Distillery’s Greece location (300 Paddy Creek Circle) for the official postgame party to meet your favorite Amerks players.

The Amerks will offer free admission to youth and high school hockey players who are registered with USA Hockey for Sunday's game as part of the nationwide "Hockey Weekend Across America" celebration. USA Hockey’s “Hockey Weekend Across America” initiative runs from Feb. 17-19 and is designed to celebrate the game of hockey and all involved in the sport while also providing opportunities for those who haven't played hockey to try it, resulting ultimately in more people playing the game at all levels. Family members of USA Hockey registrants will be able to purchase additional tickets to the Feb. 19 Amerks-Bulldogs game for just $10. To take advantage of this offer, visit www.amerks.com/promo.asp  or call 1-855-GO-AMERKS.

AMERKS NOTES: Rochester (22-19-6-3, 53 points) enters the week still in hot pursuit of the first-place Toronto Marlies, who remain seven points ahead of the Amerks for the top spot in the American Hockey League’s North Division. The Amerks are also presently ninth in the Western Conference’s overall standings, trailing a mere two points behind the Peoria Rivermen for the eighth and final playoff spot. Despite just taking two out of a possible six points this past weekend, Rochester comes into the new week having claimed seven out of a possible 12 points since the 2011-12 season resumed after the All-Star break. The Amerks have also won four of their last seven games and have collected 17 points over their last 18 outings. 

WHO’S HOT: Saturday’s setback to San Antonio saw the end of several point streaks for a few Amerks, including Foligno’s season-high six-game point streak of eight assists. The rookie forward has amassed 18 points (3+15) over his last 21 games, a stretch that includes five multi-point appearances, as he surpassed Whitmore for the team lead in points and became the first player this season to eclipse the 30-point plateau. Turnbull, too, had his five-game point string of four goals and three assists cut short, one that was highlighted by a three-point, +5 performance Friday against Texas. With an assist on Saturday, Szczechura, last week’s Reebok/AHL Player of the Week, has recorded 11 points (6+5) in his last 12 games and has already moved into fourth on the team in scoring with 26 points (10+16) in just 31 games this season. Varone, meanwhile, shows 22 points in his last 27 games for a total of 28 points (7+21) on the season. Despite currently being on NHL recall, Kassian is in the midst of a three-game goal scoring streak and has back-to-back games with multiple goals, giving him 12 points (8+4) in his last 12 games with the Amerks. McNabb has recorded eight assists over his last six games since his return from the Sabres, including three consecutive appearances with multiple points from February 4-10. Tropp, with three helpers Friday night against Texas, has four points in his first three games back in the lineup following a 10-game injury absence, while Legault has also posted four points (2+2) in his last five outings. Brennan, who carried a career-best seven-game point streak (3+5) into 2012, shows 11 points (4+7) in his last 12 games and has only been held scoreless three times during that stretch.

TEAM AND LEAGUE LEADERS: With impressive numbers through their last six games, Foligno and Varone have quickly found themselves to be Rochester’s top two point-getters with 30 and 28 points, respectively, placing them both among the league’s top 20 rookies in overall scoring. Foligno, who currently ranks tied for 13th in the AHL with a +14 on-ice rating, is also one of nine league rookies to currently pace his team in scoring. In addition, Foligno also sits tied for 10th in the league with four game-winning goals this season, which are the second-most among first-year skaters. Whitmore, who snapped a four-game scoring drought on Friday night against Texas, shows a team-best 18 goals, including five on the power-play, and is on pace to become the first Amerk this season to net 20 goals. His 18 goals rank him tied for 17th among the AHL’s top goal scorers, while he also ranks 10th in the AHL with 155 shots on goal. With 11 helpers through his last 19 games, Varone has taken over the team lead with 21 assists and is one of just two Amerks players to appear in all 50 games thus far along with Voakes. Defenseman Joe Finley leads Rochester with 85 penalty minutes. McNabb (1+17) and Brennan (8+10) continue to lead all Rochester blueliners with 18 points apiece with the Amerks this season.

Leggio, who has started six of the last eight games for the Amerks, boasts a 14-14-1 record with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in 29 games. Coming off his first shutout of the season in a 33-save effort against Abbotsford on February 2, he presently ranks seventh among AHL netminders in saves (837) and tied for 16th in wins. He’s also 12th in minutes played (1,720) and 19th in save percentage.

ROOKIES STEPPING IT UP: The transition to the professional ranks for the Amerks’ freshmen this season has undoubtedly been a successful one for the young Buffalo Sabres prospects. Entering this week, three of Rochester’s top four scorers are currently in their first pro season, two of which are separated by just two points for the team lead in scoring. The Amerks have scored 143 goals through the first 50 games this season, but more impressively, 39 have been netted by a rookie, which equates to more than 25% of this year’s total offense. On a team that features eight different first-year players, four have made their NHL debuts with Buffalo and even spent significant time with the big club.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Amerks are 9-8-3-1 (22 points) this season against North Division rivals, but show a 13-11-3-2 (31 points) mark versus non-divisional foes. Rochester has outscored its opponents 75-64 at The Blue Cross Arena this season. The third period has been the Amerks’ strong suit thus far as the club has accounted for 49 goals while allowing 36. The Amerks have scored the first goal in 25 of the first 50 games of the campaign and show a 16-7-1-1 record when doing so, including a 9-3-0-0 mark at home. Rochester is also 12-0-1-0 when leading after two periods, a streak that also comes with an unblemished 8-0-0-0 mark at home.

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: Twelve of the last 20 games for the Amerks have been decided by one goal, including four of the last seven. Of Rochester’s 50 games thus far this season, 27 of them have been determined by a one-goal difference, 15 of which were settled either in overtime or via the shootout, for an 11-7-6-3 mark in favor of the Amerks.

HOME, SWEET HOME: Home-ice advantage has certainly been a factor in Rochester’s recent success as the Amerks are 9-6-2-0 in their last 17 games at home, including 3-1-1-0 in the last five. After beginning the season with just two home wins in the first five outings, the Amerks show a 13-8-2-1 record (29 points) this season when playing in their downtown barn. Conversely, Rochester is 9-11-4-2 (24 points) away from the friendly confines of The Blue Cross Arena.
SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWN: The Amerks have gone 25-for-162 (15.4%) on the power-play over their last 37 games, which includes going 2-for-4 Friday against Texas. On the penalty kill, Rochester has successfully killed off 167-of-210 (79.5%) shorthanded situations, including 87 of105 at home for an 82.9% efficiency rate, good enough for the league’s 13th-best rating in that category. As a team, Rochester has allowed eight shorthanded goals against, four coming at home and four on the road.

MILESTONE WATCH: Back from a four-month injury absence that sidelined him for 44 games, Ryan played in his 400th professional game Saturday against San Antonio, 216 of which have been played in Rochester. MacIntyre’s next win will represent the 50th of his AHL career while injured Evan Rankin is four points shy of 200 professional points and six assists away from 100 assists. Recently reassigned to Rochester from the Buffalo Sabres, team captain Colin Stuart is on the verge of yet another personal milestone, needing just 11 more points for 200 in his AHL career. Tropp needs just six more games to reach the century mark for his AHL career.

THIS WEEK IN AMERKS HISTORY: Check out what happened this week in Amerks history over the years.

February 13, 1972 – Barry Wilcox scores the 4,000th goal in franchise history in a 15-3 loss at Providence.

February 14, 1988 – Exactly 24 years ago today, Bob Logan nets franchise goal No. 9,000 in a 6-3 Valentine’s Day win over the Utica Devils at the War Memorial.

February 15, 2002 – Ales Kotalik inserts his name in the record books by scoring Rochester’s 13,000th goal in a 4-2 win over the Norfolk Admirals.

February 18, 1987 – Ray Sheppard scores the game-winning goal as the Amerks topped the Newmarket Saints by a 5-3 score at home to celebrate Rochester’s 1,100th franchise win.
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AMERKS WEEKLY SCHEDULE*
DAY                                         TIME                                        LOCATION
Monday, February 13             Day Off                                    ----                  
Tuesday, February 14             10:30 a.m. practice                 Blue Cross Arena
Wednesday, February 15       10:30 a.m. practice                 Blue Cross Arena       
Thursday, February 16            10:30 a.m. practice                 Blue Cross Arena
Friday, February 17                 10:30 a.m. gameday skate     Blue Cross Arena
                                               7:35 p.m. vs. Lake Erie           Blue Cross Arena
Saturday, February 18            7:30 p.m. @ Lake Erie            Quicken Loans Arena
Sunday, February 19               5:05 p.m. vs. Hamilton          Blue Cross Arena
                                                                                              
*schedule subject to change
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