TONIGHT’S GAME: The Rochester Americans bring the month of February to a close tonight as the Amerks travel across the border for a North Division showdown with the Toronto Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum. The 7:00 p.m. contest will be the seventh of 10 meetings between the two teams this season and will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 WHTK.
AMERKS FAN GUIDE
AUDIO: CHADD CASSIDY WITH DON STEVENS
2012-13 AHL STANDINGS 2012-13 NHL STANDINGS
ROCHESTER STATS BUFFALO STATS
TORONTO STATS TORONTO STATS
Last Game: Rochester vs. Syracuse – 2/26/13
Rochester (1) vs. Syracuse (4)
Goalie(s): Leggio (26 saves/29 shots, 57:51)
Special Teams: PP: 1/5 --- PK: 4/5
Shots: Syracuse 30 --- Rochester 27
PIM: Rochester 12 --- Syracuse 12
3 Stars: 1. Palat (SYR), 2. Desjardins (SYR), 3. Johnson (SYR)
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Toronto maintains the upper-hand in the season series having claimed five of the first six get-togethers with Rochester this season, with the only exception being a 5-1 loss to the Amerks in the teams’ most recent bout back on Feb. 1 at The Blue Cross Arena. Veteran forward Mark Mancari recorded his first hat trick of the season and David Leggio stopped 27 of 28 shots in the win. More interesting, though, is that only three of the last 19 combined regular-season and playoff games between the Amerks and Marlies dating back to last season have not been decided by one goal, including the first two tilts of the 2012-13 campaign.
AMERKS NOTES: Rochester (27-21-2-1, 57 points) enters the contest in the midst of a three-game skid after suffering a 4-1 loss to the Syracuse Crunch last night at The Blue Cross Arena. Nick Tarnasky scored the Amerks’ lone goal and Leggio made 26 saves as Rochester fell for the fifth time in the last six games, keeping newly appointed interim Head Coach Chadd Cassidy winless since taking over the bench last Wednesday against Texas. Despite the recent struggles, however, Rochester remains very much in the thick of what is shaping up to be a tight race to the finish in the all-too-close North Division standings, where the Amerks sit just three points back of second-place Toronto and two points behind Chicago for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Despite currently being on NHL recall with Buffalo, team captain Kevin Porter paces the Amerks with a team-high 44 points (15+29) in 48 games this season. He leaves the Amerks tied for 13th in scoring among the AHL’s top point-getters, while his team-best 29 assists rank 11th among league leaders. Leggio, who has now won eight of his last 12 starts and is just two wins shy of matching the career-high 28 victories he set last season with Rochester, currently leads all AHL netminders in wins (26), saves (1306) and minutes (2596:55).
TORONTO NOTES: Toronto (23-13-2-2, 50 points), playing just its third game of a season-long 10-game homestand, comes into the matchup fresh off its 5-4 win over the St. John’s IceCaps Sunday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum. Jake Gardiner scored on the power-play and added a pair of helpers while goaltender Mark Owuya made 36 saves to help the Marlies snap a three-game skid. The Marlies, though, have collected points in six of their last 10 games, including three of their last four, to climb atop the North Division standings. Toronto boasts the third-best home record in the AHL, picking up 17 of its 27 wins within the comforts of Ricoh Coliseum. The new-look Marlies enter play tonight with a refurbished lineup after seeing the departure of defenseman Mike Kostka and forwards Matt Frattin and Nazem Kadri to the parent Toronto Maple Leafs. The Marlies’ biggest loss came with the exit of perennial AHL All-Star Keith Aucoin, who paced Toronto’s balanced offense with a team-high 37 points (10+27) prior to being claimed off waivers by the New York Islanders on Jan. 17. Toronto’s offense, however, was bolstered with the welcomed addition of forward Tim Connolly. A veteran of 697 NHL games with the Sabres, Islanders and Maple Leafs, Connolly has made an immediate impact by a scoring a goal in each of his first three games with the Marlies and shows eight points (5+3) in 14 games with Toronto since being assigned to the team on Jan. 18.
UP NEXT: Rochester’s three-game road swing continues on Saturday, March 2 as the Amerks make their way to Syracuse to face the Crunch at the War Memorial at Oncenter. The 7:30 p.m. matchup will be the second meeting in five days between the intrastate rivals and will be carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK. The game will also be televised live on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel.
AMERKS QUICK HITS
- With 84 goals through their last 26 games, including 18 in their last eight, the Amerks are currently third in the AHL in goals for with 168, 22 shy of Syracuse’s league-leading 190 tallies. Rochester is also third in the league in goals-per-game, averaging 3.29.
- Rochester’s power-play has been one of the most effective in the league over the last 18 games as the Amerks have converted on 16 of their 82 man-advantage opportunities, including 11 times over the last 13 games. The Amerks rank fourth with 48 power-play goals and have the fifth-best power-play unit in the AHL with a 20.9% efficiency rate. Rochester has scored at least one power-play goal in 35 of the first 51 games this season.
- Though presently being on recall with Buffalo, T.J, Brennan, who left the Amerks riding a five-game point streak (2+3), ranks second among AHL defensemen in goals (14) and points (35). Seven of his goals have come on the power-play, tying him for 15th in the league in that category. The special teams extraordinaire is also tied for 15th in the AHL with 12 power-play assists and leads all rearguards in power-play goals (7) and shorthanded goals (2) and ranks third in shots (132).
- Kevin Porter and Mark Mancari, who are tied for 13th and 16th in scoring in the league, respectively, have combined for 25 multi-point outings between the two of them since the puck dropped in October. More impressively, the duo has also recorded at least one point in the same game in 23 out of 51 outings this season, including eight different occasions where they have each posted multiple points in the same game. Rochester is 19-3-1-0 when Porter and Mancari register a point in the same game.
- Back in the lineup after missing four games with an injury, Brian Flynn enters the contest 10th among AHL rookies with 32 points (16+16) in 44 games. The Amerks are 11-2-0-0 this season when Flynn scores a goal.
- Leggio, who’s won eight of his last 12 starts, continues to lead all AHL netminders in wins (26), saves (1303), minutes played (2598:02), shots faced (1425) and games played (43). He also boasts the fourth-best shootout record (4-1) among goaltenders, having stopped 20 of 25 shooters for a .800 save percentage. The native of Williamsville, NY, is 15-3 all-time in AHL shootouts and has won eight of his last 10.
- The Amerks have played the second-fewest games in the AHL with 51, which ties them with Toronto for the least among North Division opponents.
- The Amerks have allowed at least five goals in a game 11 times this season, but are 5-5-1-0 in those games.
ROLSTON TAKES OVER IN BUFFALO
The Buffalo Sabres promoted former Amerks head coach Ron Rolston to serve as their interim head coach for the remainder of the 2012-13 season last Wednesday. Rolston replaced Lindy Ruff, the all-time winningest coach in Sabres history and longest tenured coach in the NHL, who was relieved of his duties after 16 years behind the Buffalo bench. Rolston became the 16th coach in franchise history after compiling a 63-56-5 regular-season record over 1 ½ seasons with the Amerks, who he led to the Calder Cup Playoffs in just his first season as an American Hockey League coach. He officially made his NHL coaching debut in Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs last Thursday at the Air Canada Centre and earned his first win in the Sabres’ 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning last night. Rolston is 1-3-0 since taking over for Ruff.
CASSIDY APPOINTED INTERIM HEAD COACH IN ROCHESTER
The departure of Rolston to Buffalo elevated Amerks assistant coach Chadd Cassidy as the new bench boss in Rochester. Cassidy, who previously worked alongside Rolston for five seasons at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, becomes the 30th head coach in Amerks history and the first to take over the position as a midseason replacement since John Van Boxmeer was appointed the title midway through the 1984-85 season when he took over for Jim Schoenfield. Cassidy made his American Hockey League coaching debut in last Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to the league-leading Texas Stars, a mere four hours after being named the Amerks’ new head coach. Cassidy could get his first win tonight against Toronto.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
The end of the NHL lockout may have meant the departure of several key components to Rochester’s offense, but the recent flurry of roster moves has certainly been beneficial for the Amerks. Aside from the season-long mainstays in Mancari and Nick Tarnasky, the latest additions of high-end forwards Patrick Rissmiller, Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick, both of whom were reassigned to Rochester within 10 days of each other, give the Amerks five active veterans in the lineup for the first time this season while providing plenty of leadership. Along with established defenseman Adam Pardy, who is currently on recall with the Sabres, Rochester’s veteran class has combined for over 1,200 man games in the NHL, including 329 from McCormick, and have totaled 73 points (30+43) for the Amerks in 2012-13.
MANCARI MAKING HIS MARK
The return to Rochester has been quite the homecoming for Mancari, who is in the midst of what could perhaps be his best season as an Amerk since joining the organization as a rookie for the 2005-06 campaign. Entering this year, the eight-year pro ranked 46th all-time in scoring amongst forwards in franchise history with 156 points (62+94) in 215 career games in the red, white and blue, but has since jumped to 30th on the list, surpassing some notable names like Dane Jackson, Scott Nichol and Jason Pominville along the way. With 43 points (15+28) in 51 games already this season, Mancari is now just a point shy of 200 as an Amerk, which will tie the mark Peter Ciavaglia set in his two seasons with Rochester.
MAKE THAT THREE STRAIGHT FOR LEGGIO
Leggio recorded his 20th win of the season with a 21-save effort in a 6-3 victory over Hamilton on Jan. 21, solidifying the fifth-year netminder’s third consecutive 20-win season. Leggio began the impressive streak with 22 wins during the 2010-11 campaign with Portland before posting a career-high 28 victories last season with Rochester. With 26 wins to date, Leggio needs just another three victories to best his personal mark and is on pace to capture his first career 30-win season.
BRENNAN GETTING CLOSER
With his power-play goal at Syracuse on Jan. 12, Brennan is on pace to break Rick Pagnutti’s 40-year-old franchise record for most goals scored by a defenseman in a single-season. Pagnutti set the mark during the 1972-73 campaign, his first in Rochester, when he netted 18 goals en route to a 55-point season, which led all Amerks defensemen and placed him third on the team in overall scoring. After officially reaching the halfway point with a pair of shorthanded tallies against the Albany Devils on Nov. 23, Brennan is now within four goals of tying the mark and five away from setting a new record. The fourth-year pro fell just two short of the record last season, scoring 16 goals in only 52 games with the Amerks.
HOME, SWEET HOME
With half of the season already in the books, home-ice advantage has certainly been beneficial for the Amerks, who have won nine of their last 15 games within the friendly confines of The Blue Cross Arena and have outscored their opponents 88-80 in 28 games. Rochester boasts a 16-11-0-1 record in their downtown venue, making them the eighth-best home team in the AHL. Conversely, Rochester is 11-10-2-0 on the road and have won three of its last four games away from the Flower City.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Amerks are 15-8-1-1 (32 points) this season against North Division rivals, but show a 12-13-1-0 (25 points) mark versus non-divisional foes. The Amerks have scored the first goal in 32 of the first 51 games of the campaign and show a 22-8-2-0 record when doing so, including a 12-3-0-0 mark at home. Rochester is also 22-1-1-0 when leading after two periods, a streak that also shows an unblemished 13-0-0-0 mark at home. The Amerks are averaging 30.12 shots per game, the 16th-highest output among opponents.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Rochester set a new franchise attendance record by playing in front of a capacity crowd of 19,070 fans on Friday, Dec. 28 against Lake Erie at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y. The record-setting attendance also represented the ninth-largest crowd for a single game in American Hockey League history and the fifth-largest for an AHL game played indoors. The previous Amerks record for the largest crowd in the 57-year history of the franchise was 17,898, which was set eight years prior to the day on Dec. 28, 2004, when the Amerks defeated the Edmonton Roadrunners at the then-HSBC Arena in Buffalo.
More than a dozen different crowds of 7,500+ fans in attendance have taken in an Amerks game this season, including eight in the Flower City’s downtown hockey barn. The number is a vast improvement from the 2011-12 season, when only three crowds of 7,500 or more were on hand. Rochester is currently ninth in the AHL in total attendance to date and is averaging 6,530 fans per game through the first 28 home games of the 2012-13 campaign.
2012 IN REVIEW
Several Amerks players finished atop the AHL’s regular-season scoring leaders during the 2012 calendar year, including defensemen T.J. Brennan and Brayden McNabb, who each finished sixth and 10th in scoring among league blueliners with 44 points (22+22) and 37 points (6+31), respectively. Leggio, who played in a combined 62 games for the Amerks in 2012, including the final 23 of the 2011-12 season, led all netminders with 34 wins while totaling three shutouts throughout the year.
Flynn has collected 15 points (7+8) through his last 19 games and hasn’t gone longer than five games this season without a point… Newcomer Patrick Rissmiller, who is just nine games into his Professional Tryout, has seven points (2+5) and a pair of multi-point performances since re-joining the Amerks on Feb. 2… Porter, despite presently being on recall with Buffalo, has 31 points (10+21) over his last 29 outings, including 14 points (4+10) in his last 11, and has been held scoreless just six times in his last 16 showings… Despite being injured, Evan Rankin has four points (2+2) in five games, and more impressively, has only been held scoreless just 14 times in 37 games this season… Nick Crawford has been hot as of late, scoring two goals, both of which came on the power-play, and adding three assists in his last 11 appearances… Varone, who had a career-high four-point game (2+2) at Lake Erie on Feb. 12, shows eight points (2+6) in his last 11 games… Mancari enters the matchup with 30 points (12+18) over his last 29 games, a stretch that featured a season-long five-game point streak from Dec. 19 to Dec. 28 and his first hat trick of the season against Toronto on Feb. 1… More interesting, Mancari has posted 10 games with multiple points during the same stretch, including four straight outings between Jan. 21 and Feb. 2, recording 11 points (4+7) over that span… Pardy has collected two assists in his last three games and has totaled five points (1+4) through his first 11 games in the red, white and blue.
Former Amerk head coach Ron Rolston recorded his first NHL win in Buffalo’s 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning last night … Porter made his Sabres debut in Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs last Thursday, finishing with four penalty minutes and 14:34 of ice time… Rookie goaltender Nathan Lieuwen made his American Hockey League against Hershey on Feb. 17, stopping 17 of 21 shots through a full 60 minutes between the pipes… Pardy is two games shy of 400 pro appearances and Porter is four assists away from 100 career helpers … Adam is just one point away from reaching the century mark for his AHL career… Mancari’s next goal will be the 200th of his pro career and needs just one more point to reach 200 as an Amerk… Newcomer Matt Ellis, who notched his first point as an Amerk with an assist in last night’s 4-1 loss to Syracuse, is a mere 11 points shy of the 300-mark for his pro career and needs another nine games to reach 700 pro appearances… Rankin, meanwhile, needs another seven games to reach 300 for his pro career.