OCTOBER’S TOP FIVE MOMENTS
Bringing it all the way back to the crisp month of October we saw the beginning of the 2019-20 American Hockey League season begin to unfold. The Rochester Americans were embarking on their 64th season, which began with five wins, five overtime matchups and a different face leading the charge behind the bench. Let’s take a look back at some of the Amerks’ top five moments during the first month of regular season play.
1. TAYLOR TAKING HIS TALENTS TO THE SHOW
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-league club.
Buffalo Sabres Assistant Coach Don Granato was forced to take a medical leave from the team due to complications with severe pneumonia.
Immediately following, Taylor got the call-up to the National Hockey League to serve as Buffalo’s interim assistant coach while Gord Dineen assumed the head coaching duties. Additionally, Sabres development coach Adam Mair was added to the Amerks coaching staff for the beginning of their regular season.
With the 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 Rochester to five victories in the month of October and began to feel more comfortable in his newfound position as interim head coach with each new game behind the bench as he began really focusing on which strategies needed to be implemented in order to get more wins on the board.
2. OPENING NIGHT IN THE FLOWER CITY
It seems so long ago now, but Opening Night back on Oct. 4 was the night the Amerks ushered in a new year with their first of several overtime tilts of the season against the Syracuse Crunch at The Blue Cross Arena. And if you forget how that Friday night back in early October went, well let’s jog your memory because it went a little something like this.
On the strength of a pair of goals from forward Tage Thompson, including the game-winner with 43 seconds left in overtime, Rochester opened its 64th season in the AHL with a 3-2 win over the Crunch.
Along with Thompson, who had 11 points in his previous nine AHL games dating back to last season prior to Opening Night, Rasmus Asplund and Zach Redmond each added two assists for their first points of the season. Second-year forward Andrew Oglevie completed the scoring for Rochester while goaltender Andrew Hammond earned the victory as he made 27 saves in his Amerks debut. Jarrett Burton, Curtis Lazar, Jean-Sebastien Dea all sported a Rochester jersey for the first time ever, while rookie defenseman Jacob Bryson dressed in his first professional contest.
3. 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 to 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 lone trip to Rochester for the final showdown between the two clubs. 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.
4. COMEBACK KIDS IN HARTFORD
The overtime trend rolled throughout the month, leading to Rochester’s first shootout win of the season back on Sunday, Oct. 13 against the Hartford Wolf Pack.
By scoring twice in the final period of regulation, the Amerks closed out their first of two three-in-three weekends of the season with an incredible come-from-behind shootout victory over the Wolf Pack at the XL Center. Rochester scored with only 13 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime, the first of two occasions during the month in which they did, before ultimately prevailing in the shootout.
Thompson picked up his second multi-point effort of the season with two assists to lead Rochester to its first shootout win of the campaign while also being the lone Amerk to capitalize during the shootout. Remi Elie also turned in a two-point performance with a goal and an assist, igniting the comeback early in the third period while also setting up Zach Redmond’s game-tying goal with 13 seconds remaining. Goaltender Andrew Hammond improved to 3-0-0 on the year while making 33 saves and stopping all three Hartford skaters in the skills competition.
5. HIGH SCORING AFFAIR IN SYRACUSE
One of the most memorable one-goal games still to this point in the season remains the Saturday night showdown between the Amerks and the Syracuse Crunch at Upstate Medical University Arena back on Oct. 26.
With a seesaw affair from start to finish, Rochester and Syracuse combined for 13 goals in regulation on that Saturday night before heading into overtime thanks to a snipe from Jean-Sebastian Dea with 13 seconds to go in regulation. 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.
Dea and Curtis Lazar each posted a pair of goals and two assists in the comeback, with Dea’s second of the night coming with just 13 seconds remaining to force overtime. Fitzgerald, Pilut and C.J. Smith all recorded multi-point efforts on the night as well. Sean Malone netted his second marker of the campaign in the second period to close out the scoring. Veteran netminder Andrew Hammond made his sixth appearance of the year in the crease and notched 15 saves before Jonas Johansson came in and finished the final 12:38 of regulation and the overtime period with three saves on all three shots he faced to earn his second straight victory.