Tonight’s Game: The Rochester Americans open an eventful December tonight as the Utica Comets make their fourth visit of the season for a North Division showdown at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be the sixth of 10 meetings between the intrastate foes this season and can be heard live on Sports 1280 WHTK.
AMERKS FAN GUIDE
AUDIO: CHRIS TAYLOR WITH DON STEVENS
2013-14 AHL STANDINGS 2013-14 NHL STANDINGS
2013-14 ROCHESTER STATS 2013-14 BUFFALO STATS
2013-14 UTICA STATS 2013-14 VANCOUVER STATS
WEDNESDAY'S WEATHER FORECAST
Head-to-Head: Tonight’s matchup marks the third meeting in six games between the two teams. Rochester maintains the upper-hand in the season series with a 3-2-0-0 record despite dropping the previous two get-togethers in a recent home-and-home series against Utica. The Amerks, however, opened the campaign with three straight wins over the Comets, outscoring Utica 16-7 over that span, including a 6-4 victory on home ice back on Oct. 19. Veteran forward Mike Zigomanis registered a game-high four points(2+2) in the win, which also saw the Amerks post season-highs for the most goals scored in a game (6) and the most goals scored in a period (3).
Amerks Notes: Rochester (9-8-2-2, 22 points) enters the contest after seeing its two-game winning streak halted following a 3-2 setback to the North Division-leading Toronto Marlies Saturday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum. Jamie Tardif and Matt MacKenzie provided the Rochester goals, while Matt Hackett stopped 26 of 29 shots in his first game back between the pipes for the Amerks, who ultimately could not overcome a two-goal deficit. Tardif found the back of the net for the third straight game, while forwards Colton Gillies and Johan Larsson each collected assists to extend their respective point streaks to three games. With four points (1+3) over his last three games, third-year forward Phil Varone has quickly taken over the team lead in scoring with 21 points (5+16), while being one of five Amerks to appear in all 21 games thus far this season. Varone has recorded at least one point in 14 of his first 21 games this season, a stretch that still features the AHL’s longest assist streak and the eighth-longest point streak of the year (8 games). He currently ranks sixth in the AHL with a team-high 16 assists and is tied for 12th in scoring among league leaders. In addition, Varone is tied for fourth with eight power-play assists. Presently on recall with the parent Buffalo Sabres, forward Luke Adam continues to lead the Amerks with 13 goals and ranks second with 18 points. Adam’s impressive start to the 2013-14 season has the fourth-year pro tied for second in the league lead in goals, in addition to pacing the AHL with seven power-play tallies and four game-winning markers. The former AHL Rookie of the Year is off to the best start in his pro career, having found the back of the net in 10 of his 15 games with Rochester, and is already just two goals shy of matching the 15 he scored in 67 games last season.
Utica Notes: Utica (6-11-1-1, 14 points) comes into the matchup with four wins in its last five games, including the franchise’s first-ever win at home over Rochester on Nov. 23, and is coming off a two-game sweep of the Abbotsford Heat most recently. Kellan Lain scored twice in regulation, but it was leading point-getter Pascal Pelletier who netted the game-winner 2:07 into overtime to lift the Comets to a 4-3 win as Utica claimed all four points in its inaugural trip to Western Canada. Additionally, the Comets are in the midst of a five-game road winning streak dating back to 3-2 triumph over Lake Erie on Nov. 8. Despite their recent success, however, the AHL’s newest members remain in the basement of the league standings with an AHL-worst six wins, while its offense continues to struggle with a league-low 40 goals thus far this season. Guided by rookie head coach Travis Green, the Comets return to Rochester fueled by Pelletier, who shows a team-high 18 points (5+13) and a plus-five on-ice rating in 15 games with Utica this season. Pelletier, who returned to the AHL this season following a three-year stint in the Swiss-A league, carries a five-game point streak into tonight’s game and has notched a goal and an assist in each of his last two outings. The 10-year pro opened the campaign with at least one point in each of his first six games and has been scoreless just twice this season. Pelletier currently ranks tied for 15th in the AHL in assists and is averaging a point-per-game.
Up Next: Rochester makes its way north on Friday, Dec. 6 for the first of back-to-back tilts against the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena. The 7:00 p.m. contest will be the second of just four meetings this between the interconference rivals and will be carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK.
AMERKS QUICK HITS
Varone paces the Amerks with 16 assists and 21 points, good enough for sixth 12th in the AHL, respectively. The third-year pro is also tied for fourth in the league with eight power-play helpers.
Despite presently being on NHL recall with Buffalo, Luke Adam is currently tied for second in the league lead with 13 goals, including a league-best seven power-play tallies and four game-winning markers.
Second-year forward Frederick Roy is currently 13th in the league with 52 penalty minutes.
Zigomanis, who has been plus-one or better in seven of his last 15 games, shows a team-best plus-seven on-ice rating.
With 10 points (1+9) over his last 11 games, including a career-high four-point night (1+3) at Syracuse on Nov. 1, Brayden McNabb is fifth on the team and tied for 16th in scoring among AHL blueliners with 12 points on two goals and 10 assists. The third-year pro is also second among defensemen and is tied for fourth overall with eight power-play assists.
Second-year defenseman Jerome Gauthier-Leduc has significantly increased his offensive production to an impressive six points (1+5) in 21 games, having already matched last season’s total in assists and moving within one point of the seven he captured in 48 games as a rookie in 2012-13.
Hackett, who’s started two of the last four games, enters the contest boasting a 4-7-2 record with a 3.06 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage. His 396 saves rank fifth among AHL netminders, while his 804 minutes between the pipes are eighth-most.
As a team, the Amerks are third among Western Conference clubs with 384 total penalty minutes, while also averaging the 13th-most PIMs per game in the AHL with 18.29.
This year’s edition of the Amerks features two players with lineage to former NHL goaltenders. Roy is the youngest son of Colorado Avalanche head coach and two-time Stanley Cup winner Patrick Roy while Hackett is the nephew of former Jack A. Butterfield Trophy winner Jeff Hackett, whose Springfield Indians defeated Rochester four games to two win the 1990 Calder Cup.
ROSTER SHAKE-UP: The Amerks’ roster was bolstered by two following the recent reassignment of Larsson and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to Rochester after the pair began the season with the parent Buffalo Sabres. Ristolainen, whose 19 games with the Sabres were the most among the two, is in his first North American season after spending the previous three years playing in the Finnish league with his hometown TPS Turku. Larsson makes his first return to Rochester, where he joined the Amerks for the final seven games of the regular season in 2012-13 and finished third overall with 41 points (16+25) in 69 combined AHL games between Rochester and Houston. With the recent influx of talent, the Amerks now have three first-round draft picks in their lineup, including Ristolainen (8th overall in 2013), Armia (16th overall, 2011) and Gillies (16th overall, 2007).
ONE, TWO PUNCH: The Amerks have one of the more elite offensive pairings in Larsson and Ristolainen. The duo has been the Amerks’ most consistent point-producers since their arrival to Rochester on Nov. 19, combining for 13 points (4+9) over their first six games, including back-to-back outings with multiple points each. Larsson and Ristolainen have recorded at least one point in the same game twice this season, helping the Amerks go 2-0-0-0 over that stretch.
THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE: Much of Rochester’s recent success can be attributed to the increase in offensive contributions from its defensemen. Over the last 19 games, Amerks blueliners have recorded 43 points (13+30). The Amerks are 4-2-2-1 so far this season when a defenseman scores a goal.
SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWN: Rochester’s power-play has been one of the most potent in the AHL over the last 20 games, scoring 24 times on 100 man-advantage opportunities for a 24.0% efficiency rate over that span. The Amerks, who have scored at least one power-play goal in 14 of their first 21 games this season, including three in last Wednesday’s win over Hamilton, currently have the third-best power-play in the league with a 22.9% overall success rate. Rochester also has the fifth-best unit on the road (20.8%) and the fourth-most productive power-play at home (25.0%).
BY THE NUMBERS: The Amerks are 9-3-1-1 (20 points) this season against North Division rivals, but show an 0-5-1-1 (2 points) mark versus non-divisional foes. The Amerks have scored the first goal in 14 of the first 21 games this season and show an 8-3-1-2 record when doing so, including a 5-1-1-1 mark at home. Rochester is also 7-0-0-1 when leading after two periods, a streak that also shows an unblemished 5-0-0-0 mark at home.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE: With points in eight of their last 10 home games, including a four-game winning streak from Oct. 11 to Nov. 6, the Amerks currently have the seventh-best home record in the AHL with a mark of 6-3-1-1 (14 points) through their first 11 home matchups of the season.
WHO’S HOT: Tardif is currently riding a three-game point streak (3+1) and has found the back of the net in each of his last three games… Larsson is also in the midst of a three-game point streak (2+3), a stretch that features consecutive multi-point efforts of a goal and an assist… Gillies, meanwhile, has recorded an assist in each of his last three appearances… Fresh off a three-point (2+1) game against Hamilton last Wednesday, Porter has collected five points (3+2) over his last six contests and Ristolainen shows four points (2+2) over his last five games… With points in all but seven games this season, Varone remains Rochester’s most consistent point-getter. After seeing his eight-game point streak snapped last month against Hamilton, Varone picked up right where he left off by collecting nine points (3+6) over his last 12 games. Varone’s eight-game assist streak also remains the longest in the AHL to date.
MILESTONE WATCH: After appearing in his 400th pro game at Hamilton on Oct. 25, veteran defenseman Drew Bagnall is slated to skate in his 400th AHL game Wednesday vs. Utica… Amerks captain Matt Ellis is four games away from 400 in the AHL and needs another eight goals to reach the 100-mark for his AHL career… Forward Alex Hutchings needs four more points to hit the century mark for his pro career… Larsson is 15 games shy of 200 pro appearances and needs another seven points for 100 in his career… Tardif needs just another 10 games to join the 500-club.
Toy Drive – The Amerks will hold a Toy Drive prior to tonight's game vs. Utica. Fans are encouraged to donate new, unwrapped toys in the Pirate Toy Fund donation boxes located in The Blue Cross Arena’s lower atrium prior to Wednesday’s game. Any fan that donates a toy will be eligible to purchase “Buy One-Get One Free” tickets to any Wednesday home game this season.
Score with Subway! – With an Amerks victory during any regular season home game during the 2013-14 season, fans can log onto amerks.com to download a coupon good for one free regular six-inch sub with the purchase of a 30 oz drink. If the Amerks do not happen to win, fans still score with Subway by logging onto amerks.com to download a coupon for two free cookies the following day at participating Subway restaurants in the Rochester area. Restrictions apply. The coupons are only good the day after each Amerks home game at participating Subway restaurants in the greater Rochester area.
Taco Bell In-Store – Fans can receive a coupon/voucher for a $15 best available ticket to Friday night Amerks home games during the 2013-14 season ($9 off box office price). Turn in the coupon at the box office in order to purchase the discounted tickets or enter in the promo code (TACO) on ticketmaster.com to redeem the offer. Fans must turn in Taco Bell coupon at The Blue Cross Arena Box Office or enter the promo code on ticketmaster.com to purchase the discounted tickets.
Taco Bell “We Win, You Win” – For each home game the Amerks win, fans will be able to redeem their ticket stub at a participating Taco Bell location the following day to receive a free seasoned beef taco.
Moe’s Hot Player of the Game – At each home game, three Amerks players will be selected as the “hot players” of the game. If any of the three Amerks players scores a goal, fans will be able to redeem a coupon in the Amerks Stars & Stripes Roster Card (limited amount available upon entry) for 50% off any entrée at participating Moe’s locations the following day. If any of the three Amerks players scores a hat trick, fans will also be able to redeem a coupon in the Amerks Stars & Stripes Roster Card for an enhanced offer (free burrito) at participating Moe’s locations the following day. Tonight's Moe's Hot Players are Phil Varone, Mike Zigomanis and Kevin Porter.
Buckmans Car Wash – Amerks home game ticket stubs will be good at all Buckmans Car Wash locations for discounted car wash after all home games at all Buckmans Car Wash locations in the area.
Eats and Seats - The Amerks and The Distillery have teamed up again for the 2013-14 season to give our fans delicious food and the opportunity to enjoy the best hockey the Rochester area has to offer with the Amerks! The Distillery “Eats & Seats” package costs $22.00 and includes one 'best-available' ticket and one $10 Distillery Gift Card. The certificates can be used at The Distillery's four locations: 1142 Mt Hope Ave. (Rochester), 3010 Winton Road South (Brighton), 300 Paddy Creek Circle (Greece) and 10 Square Drive (Victor).