AMERKS INVADE THE FIRST NIAGARA CENTER FOR DAY ONE OF TRAINING CAMPNews | 9/28/2012 5:30:36 PM | Anthony Laurendi & Warren Kosel
The National Hockey League may be temporarily closed for business, but the American Hockey League is certainly in full swing. The Rochester Americans invaded the First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo for the opening day of training camp as 34 players took to the ice for agility and endurance training as well as two practice sessions.
Amerks Head Coach Ron Rolston and his staff wasted no time putting his team right to work beginning with early on-ice testing that saw his players endure a series of rigorous skating drills designed to determine levels of speed and overall fitness. From there, the team continued its training in the weight room before returning to the ice for their first official practice of the 2012-13 American Hockey League season. Rolston was pleased with the overall effort of the players, especially considering the high intensity of the practice for Day 1 of camp.
“The guys turned in a great workout this morning and it shows that they’re really eager to get things started,” said Rolston, who posted a 36-26-10-4 record and helped the Amerks secure a playoff berth in his first season behind Rochester’s bench. “It was great to see the guys working hard at such a fast pace and hopefully that’s a tempo we see throughout the duration of camp.”
With 34 players in this year’s camp, a rare oddity for several AHL clubs, Rolston and his staff have the upper-hand in identifying the needs of his team and the depth it provides within the organization.
“It’s a great scenario for us to have this many players and this much depth,” said Rolston. “When you look at the guys out there, we have 10 defensemen on the ice that can play in this league at a very high level. It’s the same up front; we’ve got a lot of depth up there. It’s a good situation for us because right off the bat it puts us in an environment where we have to be competitive, and the guys have to compete for jobs. That’s the kind of team we want to be – difficult to play against. I think this is just going to add to that because of the competition here. Our young defensemen and forwards will get better and better on a daily basis because they will be going against NHL ready players.”
Despite the absence of an NHL season as of now for the parent club Buffalo Sabres, many Amerks are looking forward to the opportunity to be back in Rochester. There were many familiar faces sporting Amerks’ sweaters, including one of last season’s top scorers in second-year pro Marcus Foligno.
“I’m excited to go down to Rochester and develop again,” said Foligno, who notched 39 points with the Amerks last season. “I’m still young… only 21. I got a lot of years ahead of me, but being back in Rochester, I have the opportunity to pick up right where I left off and I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Also making his first appearance in an Amerks uniform was Cody Hodgson, who spent his first morning in the red, white and blue skating between forwards Corey Tropp and Luke Adam. Hodgson, who spent all of last season in the NHL and played in 20 games for the Sabres, is equally thrilled about the opportunity to play in Rochester this season.
“I can’t wait to play, but more importantly, to have the ability to play meaningful games,” said Hodgson about joining the Amerks. “Yeah, it’s very unfortunate that the NHL is in the situation it’s currently in, but we have to look at it as a chance to continue playing hockey.”
“It’s not the most ideal situation for us or for me personally, but we still get the chance to play and I know a lot of guys out of jobs right now just sitting at home waiting for the chance,” added Adam about the lockout.
Sabres Head coach Lindy Ruff also skated with the Amerks during the afternoon practice and noted how the NHL lockout will be beneficial for the young developing Amerks.
“These young guys will be playing against a bunch of NHL talent and their development will be that much greater,” stated Ruff. “We will have one heck of a team in Rochester, as will others around the AHL, but its exciting for the fans because they will be seeing some great hockey.”
The Amerks take to the ice at First Niagara Center for Day 2 of camp in Buffalo again Saturday morning at 6:30 am. Practice is closed to the public. The Amerks will open the Rochester portion of training camp on Sunday at Blue Cross Arena at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.