JANUARY’S TOP FIVE MOMENTS
Not only did January bring us a brand-new decade but it brought us all another month full of Rochester Americans hockey right here in the Flower City. January was a month that saw some lows and began the highest of highs, the annual AHL All-Star break, the halfway point in the 2019-20 season and much more. Here’s the top five moments for your Amerks during the first month of 2020.
1. OH, WE’RE HALFWAY THERE
The American Hockey League season usually consists of 76 regular-season games for most of the 31 member teams.
On Jan. 17, the Amerks hit the halfway point in their season with their 38th game coming against the North Division rival Cleveland Monsters at The Blue Cross Arena. That particular Wednesday night face-off unfortunately wouldn’t end in the Amerks favor, but coincidentally, it marked the last loss that Rochester saw in January as they embarked on a six-game win streak – their longest of the season – that trickled into the first week of February.
At the halfway point in the Amerks regular season, they were sporting a 21-11-2-3 overall record.
2. CRUNCHING THE COMPETITION
Following the Friday night face-off against the Syracuse Crunch back on Jan. 31, the Amerks had seen their North Division rival for six of 12 matchups scheduled for the 2019-20 regular season.
Back on Oct. 4, the Amerks started off the year with their first of two overtime wins against the Crunch in the first month of the regular season. The month of November brought just one matchup between Rochester and Syracuse, in which this 4-3 regulation win for the Amerks would kick-off their five-game win streak.
After not seeing Syracuse at all during the final calendar month of 2019, Rochester would have three matchups against them come the new first month of the new decade.
After claiming the first three meetings of the season series, Rochester was unfortunately handed its first loss against Syracuse back on Jan. 11 in yet another one-goal game. The Amerks were sure to bounce back against their North Division foe come the last two games of the month. On Jan. 25, Rochester headed to Upstate Medical University Arena and emerged victorious with a 3-2 decision, heading into the All-Star break on a three-game win streak.
Then, Rochester would round out the month of January as the home-and-home series shifted to The Blue Cross Arena, getting a 4-2 win over the Crunch on the final day of January. Scott Wilson led the way in scoring with a pair of goals an assist, while first-year goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen evened his season record to 1-1-1 while making 31 saves in net. Rochester concluded the month with its fifth win of the year against Syracuse and fourth straight in January.
Notably, after going 4-5-1-0 against the Crunch during the 2017-18 campaign, the Amerks had posted an 11-5-1-1 record against Syracuse over the last 18 contests at that point in the season.
3. UKKO-PEKKA LUUKKONEN RETURNS TO THE FLOWER CITY
After the promotion of fellow goaltender Jonas Johansson to the Buffalo Sabres back on Jan. 29, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen returned to Rochester for his third recall of the season and second during the first month of the new calendar year.
In three games with the Amerks, he showed a 1-1-1 record with a 2.93 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. Luukkonen also boasted a 12-6-3 record in 22 games with Cincinnati. The 20-year-old rookie netminder also ranked third among all ECHL goaltenders with a 2.16 goals-against average and was eighth in the league with a .916 save percentage while also being tied for third with three shutouts prior to his third recall to Rochester.
Luukkonen earned his first professional win with Rochester after stopping 32 of the 34 shots he faced in his pro debut in the season-ending win at Belleville back on Apr. 14 of the 2018-19 season. During the 2018-19 campaign, he was named the OHL’s MVP and top goaltender after posting a 38-11-2-2 record in 53 games with the Sudbury Wolves, leading the league in both wins (38) and shutouts (6).
4. HEY NOW, HERE’S OUR ALL-STARS
On Jan. 3, the American Hockey League announced the playing rosters for the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Ontario International Airport. Goaltender Jonas Johansson and defenseman Lawrence Pilut were named Rochester’s two representatives, joining head coach Chris Taylor, who secured the honor of coaching the North Division squad. Taylor, an Amerks Hall of Famer who’s now in his third season at the helm of the Amerks, became Rochester’s first All-Star coach since John Tortorella in 1997.
After earning his second straight AHL All-Star selection, Pilut was unable to attend the event for the second year due to NHL recall. Prior to his third recall of the year, Pilut had played in 30 games for Rochester, notching a career-high six goals. The Amerks defenseman was also tied for 18th among all AHL blueliners with his 22 points prior to his AHL All-Star nod.
Johannsson earned his first AHL All-Star selection since posting a career-best 13-3-3 record with two shutouts in 20 games played at that point in the season. He also had the third-best goal-against average in the league (2.19) and ranked fourth among all netminders with a .925 save percentage. A third-round pick (61st overall) of the Buffalo Sabres in 2014, the 6-foot-5, 219-pound netminder has spent parts of the last four seasons with the Amerks, boasting a 25-11-6 record with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage in 41 career games.
5. JOHANSSON TAKES ON CALI
The 2020 AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Sunday, Jan. 26 pitted the All-Stars from the two Eastern Conference divisions against those from the two Western Conference divisions in seven different skills events. In those seven events, Johansson made an appearance in three.
For his first event, Johansson made five saves against both Tyler Benson (Bakersfield Condors) and Brennan Menell (Iowa Wild) during AHLTV Rapid Fire. Next up was the Greater Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau Pass and Score in which Johansson allowed two goals while making one save against the trio of Kale Clague (Ontario Reign), Chris Wideman (San Diego Gulls) and Kyle Capobianco (Tucson Roadrunners).
The final event was the Upper Deck Breakaway Relay and arguably Johansson’s best event of the day. The Amerks goaltender faced five different Western Division opponents in which he allowed just one goal on five shots from some of the best in the league.
The following day during the 2020 AHL All-Star Challenge, the four teams participated in a 3-on-3, round-robin tournament which featured six games of 10 minutes each with Johansson getting time in two of the three games that the North Division took part in. In a three-game set, the North Division unfortunately took three straight losses.