22 PLAYERS HIT THE ICE AS AMERKS OPEN TRAINING CAMP MONDAY AT BLUE CROSS ARENANews | 9/23/2013 4:26:32 PM | Warren Kosel
Hockey returned to Rochester for the first time in over four months earlier today as 22 players hit the ice at The Blue Cross Arena, where the Rochester Americans opened Training Camp for the team’s first official practice for the 2013-14 American Hockey League season.
An abundance of Western New York talent headlined the start of the camp as four players from the region, including two invitees, took part in the on-ice session this morning. A native of York, goaltender Connor Knapp returns for his second season with the Amerks after splitting his rookie campaign between Rochester and Greenville of the ECHL.
Signed to an American Hockey League contract by the Amerks earlier this summer, rookie defensemen Alex Lepkowski is among the wave of new talent coming to Rochester this season. The West Seneca native recently completed his junior career with the OHL’s Barrie Colts, recording nine assists and racking up 78 penalty minutes in 60 games. Lepkowski’s NHL rights are also owned by the Sabres, who drafted the 6-foot-4, 203-pound rearguard in the fifth round (137th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Joining Lepkowski on the blueline is fellow defenseman Tom Janosz, one of five invitees to attend camp this season. Janosz, the younger brother of Amerks goalie coach Bob Janosz, played his college hockey at the University of Connecticut, guiding the Huskies to two Atlantic Hockey Tournament appearances, including one most recently during his senior season in 2012-13. Janosz, who still resides in the Buffalo suburb of Elma, was signed to an ECHL contract by the South Carolina Stingrays earlier this summer.
Headlining the list of local participants is Rochester native Ryan Grimshaw, who returns for his second in Rochester. Grimshaw joined the Amerks for three regular season games in 2011-12 following the end of his senior campaign at Harvard before appearing in all three playoff contests for Rochester. Grimshaw, who grew up in nearby Greece, split last season between the Toronto Marlies and Trenton Titans (ECHL) while also spending some time overseas with the Mannheim Eagles of the German professional league.
“He’s a guy that we feel very comfortable with and what he brings to the table,” said Cassidy about Grimshaw. “We’re obviously very familiar with the kind of player he is, but right now it’s still a numbers game.”
The Amerks dressed three goaltenders in Day 1 of camp today, including two that spent time in Rochester last season. In addition to Knapp, second-year netminder Nathan Lieuwen and rookie backstop Andrey Makarov rotated between the pipes. With two preseason games on the schedule later this week, Cassidy said that he and his staff will deliberate on playing time, but at this point it’s still up for grabs.
Now that Matt Hackett has officially been assigned to the Amerks, the competition in net becomes much more demanding with a fourth netminder in the mix. However, it also presents a unique opportunity for each to showcase their own individual strengths.
Hackett, who posted a 2-0-0 record with a 1.62 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in three preseason games with the Buffalo Sabres, and Lieuwen, who recently helped Buffalo to a second-place finish at the 2013 NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, are the likely frontrunners for the top job.
“I think at this point we’ll sit down as a staff and talk about how we want to divide the exhibition games, who we feel we need to get prepared and who we feel needs some more opportunities so we can get an evaluation on him. There’s still a lot to discuss, but as of now, it’s still wide open.
The Amerks get right back to work for Day 2 of camp Tuesday morning at The Blue Cross Arena. Joining the group will be Hackett, Brayden McNabb, Chad Ruhwedel and Mike Zigomanis. Drew Bagnall and Matt Ellis will also be assigned to Rochester, pending waivers, leaving Rochester with 16 forwards. nine defensemen and four goalies.
Training Camp Notes
Rochester will open its 2013 preseason slate with the first of back-to-back tilts against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at Bills Gray’s Iceplex on the campus of MCC. It’ll be the second straight year the Amerks and Baby Pens squared off in preseason action. General admission seating for the 7:05 p.m. contest is available for $5 at the Amerks Office or at Bill Gray’s Iceplex. The Amerks will conclude their preseason schedule as the home-and-home series shifts to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza for Game 2 on Friday, Sept. 25 in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.