Game Notes: After meeting 10 times during the 2011-12 regular season, the Rochester Americans and Toronto Marlies kickoff the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs tonight in Game 1 of their best-of-five Western Conference Quarterfinals at Ricoh Coliseum. The 7:00 p.m. contest will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 and 107.3 WHTK and will also be televised live on Time Warner Cable SportsNet Channel 26.
Viewing Party: The Distillery will host a Viewing Party tonight at 7 p.m. for Game 1 of the Amerks’ first round Calder Cup Playoff series versus the Toronto Marlies at the restaurant’s Winton Road location. The game, which will be televised on Time Warner Cable SportsNet in Rochester and Buffalo, will also be on at The Distillery locations on Mt. Hope Avenue, in Greece and in Victor. Tonight’s Viewing Party will feature ticket giveaways and other prizes throughout the game at the Winton Road Distillery. There will also be drink specials, including $2.50 Molson and Coors Light pints, two-for-one margaritas, as well as half-price appetizers after 9 p.m.
AMERKS FAN GUIDE
AUDIO: Don Stevens with Ron Rolston
2011-12 AHL Final Regular Season Standings
ROC Final Stats TOR Final Stats
BUF Final Stats TOR Final Stats
Amerks Punch Playoff Ticket: The game marks the Amerks’ return to the postseason for the second time in three years and the 42nd playoff appearance overall in the 56-year history of the franchise. Rochester has been a part of 79 playoff series over the years, in which it compiled a 210-190 record in 400 games during that time. The Amerks finished with a 13-5-4-1 record over their last 23 games, including a 4-0-2-0 run over their final six, to secure a postseason berth on the final day of the season. Rochester is looking for its first playoff series win since the 2005 postseason when the Amerks swept the Hamilton Bulldogs in four games before dropping a five-game series to Manitoba in the second round. Since then, the Amerks have only made two playoff appearances, losing first round matchups to Hamilton in 2007 and Abbotsford in 2010.
Series Notes: The game will mark the first meeting in nearly three weeks between the two teams since their last encounter back on March 31st at The Blue Cross Arena. It’s also the first-ever time in the history of both franchises that the teams will meet in the postseason. After playing Games 1 and 2 in Toronto, the series will shift back to Rochester for Game 3 on Monday, and if necessary, Game 4 on Wednesday, before determining if a decisive Game 5 is needed back across the border.
Head-to-Head: Rochester finished with a 3-4-3-0 record in its season series against the Marlies, with two of its three wins coming in Toronto, including the Amerks’ 2-1 victory back on March 3. Additionally, all 10 regular season contests between the North Division rivals were decided by a single goal, four of which were taken beyond regulation time. Derek Whitmore (4+3) and Brayden McNabb (0+7) each posted seven points versus the Marlies during the regular season, while goaltender David Leggio manned the pipes for all 10 games, finishing with a 3-7-0 record with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. Toronto’s Mike Zigmoanis was the Marlies’ top point-getter this season against Rochester, collecting eight points (3+5) and a +6 on-ice rating in 10 games.
Amerks Notes: Rochester will see several of its team members officially make their American Hockey League playoff debuts tonight, including first-year head coach Ron Rolston, who guided his club to a 36-26-10-4 (86 points) record and a seventh-place finish in the American Hockey League’s Western Conference standings. He also assembled the second-best offense in all of the Western Conference as the Amerks finished the campaign with 224 goals, the most of any fellow conference foe who qualified for postseason play.
Despite a rather quiet first half of the season, rookie forward Phil Varone came to form at the turn of the New Year and never looked back as he cruised to the top of Rochester’s scoring leaders. Varone, the Amerks’ top point-getter on the season with 52 points (11+41), finished his first professional season with 11 points (3+8) in his last 15 games, giving the rookie forward 24 points (4+20) in the last 26 games and at least one point in 20 of the last 32 games. After starting the season with just six points in the first 23 games, Varone recorded an impressive 46 points in the last 53 games to rank fourth in the AHL in scoring during that span and was held scoreless just 13 times over the last 34 contests. His team-high 52 points ranked 10th among AHL freshmen and he was also one of just four AHL rookies to lead their respective teams in scoring. Varone also led the team with 41 assists and was the only Amerk to appear in all 76 games in the regular season. Varone’s 41 assists were also the most among league rookies, good enough for 12th overall in the AHL.
Whitmore certainly made the most of his homecoming this season, finishing third on the team in scoring and being just one of two Amerks to net 20 or more goals. With his team-leading 28th goal of the season April 7 in Hamilton, Whitmore, who finished tied for 13th in the AHL in goals, set a new career-high and fell two goals shy of becoming the first Amerk to reach the 30-goal mark since Thomas Vanek (42) and Jason Pominville (30) both topped the 30-goal plateau during the 2004-05 campaign. Whitmore also came within three points of matching his career-high of 47 (27+20) he captured last season with the Portland Pirates.
Selected as this year’s MVP by his teammates, Leggio’s consistent and focused play between the pipes keyed Rochester’s postseason run. Leggio, who started a career-long 23 straight games between February 22 and April 14 to end the regular season, finished the campaign showing a 28-24-2 record with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 54 games. Only Milwaukee’s Jeremy Smith and Adirondack’s Michael Leighton have played more games than any other AHL goaltender with 56 this season. Leggio closed out the season the AHL’s leader in saves (1,579), while finishing second in minutes played (3,243) and third in wins (28). He was also tops among league backstops with six shootout wins. With a win in Rochester’s regular season finale against Lake Erie on April 14, the fourth-year netminder also set a new single-season career-high with his 28th win of the season, surpassing the 27 victories he notched with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades during the 2008-09 campaign.
Toronto Notes: Toronto, who finished the regular season atop the North Division with a 44-24-5-3 (96 points) record, earns its third postseason berth in five years and first since 2009. The Marlies’ regular season finish was the team’s best since its inception in 2005 after the parent Toronto Maple Leafs relocated its AHL headquarters from St. John’s to Toronto. The Marlies were the only AHL team this season to maintain a first-place standing in their respective decision since Rochester and Toronto exchanged pleasantries on November 19. Toronto also finished the campaign with the best penalty kill in the league with an 88.1% success rate, including the best unit at home (89.2%) and third-best on the road (86.7%). The Marlies were also the AHL’s third-best team at home in 2011-12, finishing behind only Norfolk and Bridgeport with 24 wins and 52 points within the friendly confines of Ricoh Coliseum.
The high-powered Marlies were led offensively by 11-year veteran forward Mike Zigomanis, who finished with a team-high 42 assists and 61 points in 68 games this season. Originally a second-round selection (64th overall) of the Buffalo Sabres in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, the 31-year-old Zigomanis placed tied for 14th among the AHL’s top point producers in overall scoring, while his 42 assists ranked 10th among league leaders. Zigomanis, who began the season on a seven-game point streak, also accumulated 19 of his helpers this season on the man-advantage, which tied him for 14th in the AHL. Zigomanis, who averaged .90 points per game, registered 19 points (7+12) in his last 25 games, including 11 points (3+8) over his last 13 outings. He also compiled 10 multi-point efforts since the turn of the New Year for a season total of 18 such performances. Team captain Ryan Hamilton, who made his NHL debut with the Maple Leafs this season, led the Marlies with 25 goals, including a team-high 11 power-play tallies to finish tied for 13th in the AHL in that category.
Toronto’s defense this season was anchored by goaltender Ben Scrivens, who was honored with the Harry “Hap” Holmes Award after being part of a Marlies team that surrendered a league-low 175 goals against throughout the campaign. In his second professional season, Scrivens posted a 22-15-1 record and four shutouts in 39 appearances for the Marlies, leading the AHL with a 2.04 goals-against average and ranking fifth with a .926 save percentage. Scrivens also made his National Hockey League debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011-12, going 4-5-2 in 12 outings.
Western Conference Quarterfinal – Series “F” (best-of-5):
7-Rochester Americans vs. 2-Toronto Marlies
Game 1: Thursday, April 19 at 7:00 p.m. at Ricoh Coliseum
Game 2: Saturday, April 21 at 3:00 p.m. at Ricoh Coliseum
Game 3: Monday, April 23 at 7:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena
Game 4: Wednesday, April 25 at 7:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena*
Game 5: Saturday, April 28 at 3:00 p.m. at Ricoh Coliseum*