Game Notes: The Rochester Americans return home from their season-long five-game road trip tonight as they host the Lake Erie Monsters at The Blue Cross Arena before a brief holiday break. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be the second of six scheduled meetings between the North Division rivals this season and will be broadcast live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk. The game will also be televised live on Time Warner Cable SportsNet Channel 26.
AMERKS FAN GUIDE
AUDIO: Jay McKee with Don Stevens
2011-12 AHL Standings
ROC Stats LE Stats
BUF Stats COL Stats
Wednesday's Weather Forecast
*Roster Update: Rookie forward Marcus Foligno has been reassigned to the Rochester Americans and is expected to be in the lineup tonight.
Head-to-Head: Tonight’s game marks the first meeting between the two teams since they exchanged pleasantries back on October 14 at Quicken Loans Arena, where the Amerks earned their first win of the season with a 3-1 victory over the Monsters. Despite facing a 1-0 deficit late in the first period, Rochester scored three unanswered goals to give Head Coach Ron Rolston his first win as an American Hockey League bench boss. Three different goal scorers found the back of the net for the Amerks, who also received multiple point efforts from forward Michael Ryan (1+1) and Corey Tropp (0+2). David Leggio notched his first win of the season with a 34-save performance en route to first star honors.
Whitmore and Foligno Make NHL Debuts: A day after earning their first-ever NHL recalls from the Buffalo Sabres, Amerks forwards Derek Whitmore and Marcus Foligno became the latest to make their NHL debuts last night in Buffalo’s 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators at ScotiaBank place. Whitmore, who finished the contest with two shots on goal over 14:08 of ice time, waited over three years to become the first Rochester native to play for the Sabres since former Amerk Rory Fitzpatrick laced up his skates for the 2005-06 season. The game also featured a family reunion for the Foligno family as Marcus’ first NHL game saw him skate opposite his older brother Nick, who’s currently in his fifth season with the Sens. The game was all the more special as the brothers played in front of their family and father Mike Foligno, a former Sabre who both Folignos honor with the No. 71. The younger Foligno wasted no time adapting to the NHL game either, as he was inserted into Buffalo’s starting five by Head Coach Lindy Ruff and recorded one shot in 13:19 of ice time.
Amerks Sign Pair to Professional Tryouts: In order to reinforce a depleted lineup due to a plague of injuries and recalls to the big club, the Amerks have signed forwards Scott Campbell and Igor Gongalsky (guhn-GAHL-skee) to 25-game professional tryouts. A first-year pro from Navan, Ontario, Campbell joins the Amerks after appearing in 27 games with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers, where he leads all rookies with 16 points on nine goals and seven assists. He made his professional debut last season after a four-year career at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, playing in six games for the AHL’s Houston Aeros. Gongalsky, currently in his sixth pro campaign, comes to Rochester after recording three assists in a combined 16 games this season between the Portland Pirates (AHL) and Gwinnet Gladiators (ECHL). A native of Kiev, Ukraine, Gongalsky, who attended Amerks training camp in 2010, played in 54 games with Portland in 2010-11, recording 10 points (4+6) and 77 penalty minutes. He also dressed for six postseason appearances with the Pirates.
Amerks Notes: Rochester (12-12-4-1, 29 points) enters the contest fresh off its recent five-game road trip, which included a three-game tour of the Lone Star State this past weekend. The Amerks capped the road swing with a 6-3 win over the Houston Aeros, currently the AHL’s second-best team, Sunday evening at the Toyota Center to snap their four-game winless skid and an eight-game road losing streak. The Amerks got goals from six different players in the win while Whitmore and Jacob Lagace led the way with two points apiece. After falling behind 1-0 in the first period, the Amerk offense exploded, scoring the game’s next five goals, including three in the second period, to take a 5-1 lead into the second intermission. In addition to Whitmore and Lagace scoring, T.J. Brennan, Alex Biega, Travis Turnbull and Maxime Legault also tallied goals for the Amerks. Leggio got the start in goal and stopped 25 of 28 shots to earn his eighth victory of the season. With Sunday’s win, Rochester finished its Texas swing with a 1-1-1-0 record. Brennan’s goal extended his point streak to four games, giving the defenseman five points (2+3) in that span and Mark Voakes also picked up an assist and finished with a game-high +4 rating. The Amerks have now collected points in four of their last six games and remain one point ahead of Lake Erie for second place in the American Hockey League’s North Division. The Amerks tonight will be without the services of veteran defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, who was levied a one-game suspension by the AHL Tuesday for his actions in a game against Texas on Saturday.
Team and League Leaders: Despite currently being on NHL recall, Whitmore remains Rochester’s top point-getter with a team-high 13 goals and 20 points, in addition to a team-best 99 shots on goal. His 13 goals rank him tied for 11th among the AHL’s top goal scorers as the Rochester native has now scored seven goals in his last 11 games. He also ranks seventh in the AHL in shots on goal. Voakes, who has collected seven assists in his last 10 games, leads the Amerks with 13 assists while owning a team-best +13 rating and is one of just three players to appear in all 29 games thus far along with Whitmore and Phil Varone. Foligno, also on recall with the Sabres, ranks tied for sixth in the AHL with three game-winning goals this season. Leggio has posted an 8-7-0 record with a 2.92 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage in 15 games. His eight wins tie him for 18th among AHL netminders. His counterpart, Drew MacIntyre, who’s started six of the last eight games for Rochester, shows a 4-9-1 record with a 2.84 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage in 14 games between the pipes.
Who’s Hot: Since joining the Amerks on November 25, Evan Rankin has produced at nearly a point-per-game pace, recording 10 points (6+4) in 11 games and having been held scoreless in just four outings during that span. Over the last six games, he has collected six points on four goals and two assists, including a two-point night at Texas on December 17. His six goals already rank him tied for fifth on the club. Brennan enters play tonight riding a four-game point streak (2+3) and shows goals in back-to-back games for the second time this season. Brennan has registered eight points (4+4) through his last seven games in a stretch that was interrupted by a recall to Buffalo and an injury absence. He has also taken over the team scoring lead among defensemen with 12 points (5+7) on the season. Varone, who collected an assist Saturday night and scored his first professional goal on Friday, has five points (1+4) in the last six outings. Morrisonn has collected seven points (2+5) in his last 11 games while Biega has registered six points (2+4) over the last eight appearances.
By The Numbers: The Amerks are 5-5-2-1 (13 points) this season against North Division rivals, but show a 7-7-2-0 (16 points) mark versus non-divisional foes. The third period has been the Amerks’ strong suit thus far as the club has accounted for 25 goals while allowing 21. The Amerks have scored the first goal in just 13 of the first 29 games of the campaign and show a 6-6-1-0 record when doing so, including a 5-2-0-0 mark at home. Rochester is also 7-0-1-0 when leading after two periods, a streak that also shows an unblemished 4-0-0-0 mark at home.
Too Close For Comfort: Ten of the last 17 games for the Amerks have been decided by one goal, including six of the last 12. Of Rochester’s 29 games thus far this season, 15 of them have been determined by a one-goal difference, seven of which were settled either in overtime or via the shootout, for a 5-5-4-1 mark.
Home, Sweet Home: Home-ice advantage has certainly been a factor in Rochester’s recent success as the Amerks are 7-2-0-0 in their last nine games at home. Rochester’s season-long five-game homestand last 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 a 9-4-0-1 record (19 points) this season when playing in their downtown barn. Conversely, Rochester is 3-8-4-0 (10 points) away from the friendly confines of The Blue Cross Arena.
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 10 different players over 16 total recalls make the 75-mile trek west down Interstate 90, including several on game day, with Whitmore and Foligno becoming the most recent call-ups to join the big club. In addition to Whitmore and Foligno, 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, Paul Szczechura and Colin Stuart, who along with McNabb, remain with Buffalo. The Sabres currently have four of Rochester’s top six scorers, three of which have made their NHL debuts this season and two who are rookies.
Special Teams Breakdown: The Amerks have gone 11-for-75 (14.7%) on the power play over their last 16 games. On the penalty kill, Rochester has successfully killed off 100-of-121 (82.6%) shorthanded situations, including 56 of 63 at home for an 88.9% efficiency rate, good for the league’s third-best rating in that category. As a team, Rochester has allowed a league-most seven shorthanded goals against, four coming at home and the other three on the road.
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. Two weeks removed from skating in his 500th professional game, Stuart is on the 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. Rankin is six points shy of 200 points and seven assists away from 100 assists.
Lake Erie Notes: Lake Erie (13-14-1-1, 28 points) comes into the matchup on the heels of a 3-0 win over the North Division rival Grand Rapids Griffins at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night. Greg Mauldin, Justin Mercier and former Amerk Patrick Rissmiller all scored goals for the Monsters, who are 2-3-0-0 through their last five games coming into tonight. Cedrick Desjardins stopped all 37 shots in the win to earn his second shutout of the season.
Team and League Leaders: With forward David van der Gulik currently on NHL recall with the Colorado Avalanche, Mauldin (7+10) and rookie forward Tyson Barrie (3+14) share the team lead with 17 points through the first 29 games of the season. Barrie also leads the Monsters with a team-high 14 assists, 11 of which have come on the power-play, and ranks tied for 15th among AHL freshmen in overall scoring. Former Amerk Hugh Jessiman paces Lake Erie with 11 goals, including four on the power-play, while also showing a team-best 50 penalty minutes. Ryan Stoa ranks 18th in the AHL with 86 shots on goal while defenseman Cameron Gaunce’s +8 rating is the best among Lake Erie skaters. The Monsters’ best asset, however, can be found between the pipes in sixth-year veteran netminder Desjardins, who currently ranks among the league’s elite at his position. Desjardin, who boasts a 7-4-1 record in 12 games, comes into the contest with an AHL-best 1.49 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage. He also places fifth among league backstops with two shutouts despite playing in four games less than his equivalent, Trevor Cann. Cann shows a 6-10-0 record in 16 games this season, ranking 18th in minutes played (939) and saves (423).
WindDown Wednesdays: Tonight’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 ticket in the best available seating location anywhere in the arena.
Wednesday Holiday Festivities: The Amerks will be getting into the holiday spirit tonight with a variety of festivities, including a toy drive, 12 Days of Hockey Prizes, a visit from Santa Claus, Mystery Pucks and a “Festive Sweater” ticket promotion. Fans that show up to The Blue Cross Arena Box Office prior to the game wearing a festive holiday sweater will be able to purchase a ticket in the best available seating location for just $10. The team has 12 prizes to give away, including gift cards from The Distillery, Legends Sports Bar & Grille, The Radisson Hotel Rochester Riverside, Tim Horton’s, Tops Friendly Markets, Wendy’s, The Zone Team Store and Zweigle’s, along with a Coors Light prize pack that includes a snow board. There are also prizes from Yancey’s Fancy and the Amerks. The Grand Prize will be an Acer Iconia Tablet courtesy of AT&T. In addition, the game will feature pregame Christmas carols played by the Spencerport High School Jazz Band, “bell ringers” from The Salvation Army on location to collect donations for the annual Red Kettle Campaign and the premiere of this year’s rendition of the “12 Days of Hockey” video. The Amerks will also be selling autographed, Holiday-themed “Mystery Pucks” to benefit The Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester.
Amerks Toy Drive Continues: Tonight’s game also marks the final day of the Amerks Toy Drive to benefit The Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester. Fans that donate a new, unwrapped toy at The Blue Cross Arena Box Office prior to the game will be able to purchase a best available $12 ticket to the game. The Amerks will also donate $2 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.
Next Game: The Amerks get right back to work after a brief holiday break as they visit the Oklahoma City Barons on Tuesday, December 27 in the first of back-to-back tilts at the Cox Convention Center. The 8:00 p.m. EST matchup will also mark the first-ever meeting between the interconference rivals and will be broadcast live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk.
TONIGHT'S WARM-UP MUSIC PLAYLIST
Rick Derringer - I Am A Real American
Chris Brown - Beautiful People
Bad Meets Evil - Fast Lane
Cold Play - Fix You
Volbeat - Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood
Young The Giant - My Body
Kayne West and Jay Z - Paris
Nadia Ali, Starkillers and Alex Kenji - Pressure (Alesso Remix)