By Suzie Cool (@SuzKewl) | Published on November 6, 2019
With October came the beginning of the 2019-20 American Hockey League season, and now it’s time to take a look back at the accomplishments and setbacks through the first month of the season for the Rochester Americans. The Amerks earned five wins, saw their first three-in-three road trip, a coaching change and much more in just the first month of regular-season play. Here are your top 10 takeaways for the Amerks successful start to the new campaign.
1. SWITCHING THINGS UP BEHIND THE BENCH
Just three days before the Amerks were getting ready to kick off their 64th AHL season, a major coaching change took place due to unfortunate circumstances with the team’s big club.
Sabres assistant coach Don Granato was forced to take a medical leave due to pneumonia-related complications. Amerks head coach Chris Taylor joined the Sabres coaching staff in the interim, opening the door for Amerks assistant coach Gord Dineen to assume the head coaching responsibilities in Rochester. The Amerks then added Adam Mair, one of the Sabres development coaches, to fill out the bench alongside Dineen and Toby Petersen for the start of the season.
With a similar coaching style and techniques that both Dineen and Taylor share, the transition seemed as flawless as possible after the Amerks first month of play. Dineen led the red, white and blue to five victories in the month of October and began to feel more comfortable in his newfound position as the interim head coach, really focusing on which strategies need to be implemented in order to get more wins on the board.
2. EARNING POINTS EARLY ON
With 20 possible points up for grabs through the first 10 games of the season, Rochester earned 12 in October.
Thanks to their five outright wins, the Amerks were able to take home 10 points before tacking on two more due to a couple of overtime sessions that may not have went in their favor. Taking a look back to last season, the Amerks earned 15 out of a possible 20 points in their first month of play in 2018-19, but only three of those tilts saw an extra frame of hockey.
3. ONE-GOAL GAMES
One-goal games – a common trend for the Amerks in the first month of play for the 2019-20 season.
Through the first 10 games, eight were decided by just one goal, including five straight one-goal games to start off the new campaign. Of those eight games decided by just one tally, the Amerks came out victorious in four of them and took home points in six with five tilts being decided in overtime action.
The most memorable one-goal game thus far – the Saturday night showdown between the Amerks and the Syracuse Crunch at the Oncenter War Memorial Arena back on Oct. 26. With a seesaw affair from start to finish, Rochester and Syracuse combined for 12 goals in regulation before heading into overtime thanks to a game-tying snipe from Jean-Sebastian Dea with 13 seconds to go. Down to the last minute in the extra frame, Lawrence Pilut notched his first marker of the year for the Amerks, sending them back to the Flower City with two more points.
4. DID ANYONE ORDER EXTRA HOCKEY?
A total of 10 games in the first month of play, and five of those went into an extra session for the Amerks.
At the end of October, Rochester was one of only two AHL teams (Hartford) to appear in at least five games that had been decided in overtime fashion and one of just two teams (Colorado) to have won two games in overtime as well as a shootout. Two of the extra sessions of hockey were decided with just, coincidentally, 13 seconds to go in regulation in both the games against Hartford on Oct. 13 and Syracuse on Oct. 26.
Two years ago, the Amerks tied an AHL record during the 2017-18 regular season with 29 overtime sessions. The catch? Only two of those overtime tilts came from the first month of that season, meaning the Amerks roster this go-around is more than on pace to match or exceed the AHL overtime record.
5. POWER-PLAY PRODUCTION
Rochester had 51 opportunities on the man-advantage to start out the first month of the year.
Unfortunately, the Amerks were only able to convert on five of those 51 power-play chances, which sat as one of the lowest conversion rates in the league at a 9.8% and last in the North Division.
With the new month already underway, Rochester will look to improve their power-play number tremendously. Through the first two tilts here in November, it seems as if things are looking up for their power-play production as the Amerks are already a fifth of the way there.
6. PRESSING ON THE PENALTY KILL
Flipping the perspective over to the penalty kill, the Amerks saw more success when shorthanded on the ice.
There were 43 times that the opposition had the man-advantage over Rochester, but they were unsuccessful more times than not. The Amerks killed off 30 penalties in their first month of play, and in four tilts they killed off four or more, helping raise this percentage to 69.8%.
Although the Amerks saw no shorthanded goals in October, they’ve already begun to take advantage when down a man on the ice in November, with two shorthanded goals in the tilt against the Utica Comets this past Saturday night.
7. SHOTS ON SHOTS ON SHOTS ON GOAL
Outshooting the opponent seems to be something that we’ll see more times than not with the Amerks this season.
Throughout the month of October, Rochester outshot its opponent in every single matchup, 362-273 through the first month of regular season. Their highest shot-total came against the Springfield Thunderbirds on Oct. 27 when they ended the night with 50 shots on goal, with 26 of those coming from just the first period alone.
Dating back to last season, the Amerks have only racked up 50 shots or more in three separate tilts. Coincidentally, each of those three tilts have seen an extra frame of hockey, with two of them ending in a shootout affair.
8. FROM START TO FINISH
Four – that’s the number of times that the Amerks lit the lamp in the first period of play in October. Just four goals in 200 minutes to begin their first 10 games of the season, with two of their first-period markers coming against the Providence Bruins in their only two matchups of the season.
Following the first frame of play, the Amerks found a groove to make their way onto the scoreboard through the final 40 minutes of regulation in each of their games. In the final two stanzas, Rochester combined for 24 goals, which included outscoring its opponent in the final period of play 12-11. Of their five first-month victories, the Amerks tallied three comeback wins in which two went down in the third period.
After the final game of October, the team noted on how they need to start as they finish. Turning a new leaf to November, it seems as if they’ve done just that, combining for four goals alone in the first stanza in just their two games played.
9. RUNS IN THE FAMILY
Casey and Ryan Fitzgerald had the chance to go head-to-head for the first time in their entire lives, not just once, but twice in October.
On Oct. 12, the Amerks made their way up to the Dunkin Donuts Center where the first of two matchups between the brothers took place. After playing with and supporting one another for the entirety of their existence, it was time for the brothers to face-off in none other than a professional hockey setting. With family and friends coming from all over to show their support, it was odd for the loved ones to pick a side before the battle began. Casey, the younger of the two, unfortunately falling to his older sibling but making just his second start of the season on the blueline for Rochester that night.
Later in the month, the Bruins made their way over to The Blue Cross Arena for the final showdown between the two clubs for the year. This time, though, Casey was a healthy scratch and didn’t necessarily get the redemption he may have been looking for as the Bruins closed out the season series with a sweep.
Don’t worry, though, maybe next time they meet on the ice they’ll both be on the big stage and the younger of the two can get his payback then.
10. NOVEMBER IS FOR NORTH DIVISION OPPONENTS
The month of November is already underway, which began a stretch in which the Amerks will face-off against North Division opponents in 10 of 11 games. With two tilts already marked off the calendar, Rochester is 2-0 to open up the brand-new month, defeating both the Binghamton Devils and Utica Comets on the weekend. The latter of the two was a 6-0 rout over the Comets, who opened the season with eight straight wins.
Looking ahead, the Amerks will see Binghamton two more times throughout the month of November while seeing the Crunch only once over this 11 game-span. To close out the month at home, the Toronto Marlies will finally make their way back to The Blue Cross Arena on Friday, Nov. 29 for the first regular season matchup in which the Amerks will look for redemption after last year’s Calder Cup Playoff sweep.
Let the rivalries begin.