It seems like forever ago, but March was the month that brought us our “new normal” and the last time that we saw the Rochester Americans in action prior to the suspension of the AHL season. Despite the Amerks playing just four games during the month, there were many positives to take away like sweeping the Belleville Senators in the series finale between the two clubs, rookie defenseman Jacob Bryson notching two more goals and the Amerks eventually closing out the year in second place spot in the North Division. Here’s a look back at the top five moments from the month of March.
1. SPRING CLEANING
The Amerks headed north of the border for a two-game set in Belleville to begin the month and returned home with four points after taking back-to-back wins as part of a weekend sweep over the first-place Senators.
During the first game of the weekend set between back on Mar. 6, forward C.J. Smith and defenseman Jacob Bryson each recorded a multi-point game to help the Amerks to a 5-3 victory.
Along with both Bryson and Smith scoring their third and 12th goals of the season, respectively, Kevin Porter, Andrew Oglevie and Scott Wilson all found the back of the net for the Amerks. Goaltender Andrew Hammond stopped 25 of the 28 shots he faced against his former team to improve to 16-12-3 in his 33rd appearance of the campaign.
The following night, Rochester faced a one-goal deficit going into the final period of regulation, but thanks to three unanswered goals, including a pair in the final 1:12, the Amerks completed their weekend sweep over the North Division leaders with a 4-2 victory in the season series finale between the two teams.
Forward Taylor Leier opened the scoring with his team-leading sixth power-play goal of the season and 10th overall, while Bryson scored his second in as many nights for the Amerks. Will Borgen notched his first goal of the season, which held as the game-winning goal, before Sean Malone sealed the win with his 12th of the campaign.
In his first AHL appearance since Jan. 24, goaltender Jonas Johansson (14-3-3) made 24 saves in his return to the Amerks lineup to earn the win having spent the previous month on recall with the parent Buffalo Sabres.
2. BRINGING IT TO BELLEVILLE
After defeating the Senators twice on back-to-back nights during that first weekend in March, Rochester closed out its season series against Belleville with a 4-1-1-0 record, including a perfect 3-0-0-0 mark north of the border. These four wins started with a regulation thriller back on Dec. 27 and ended with a weekend sweep. The Amerks have claimed at least one point in 13 of the first 18 meetings with the Senators dating back to the 2017-18 season and, even more impressively, hold an 8-0-2-0 record all-time in the road portion of the head-to-head series, having yet to lose in regulation.
3. BRYSON ON A ROLL
Going back to what would be Rochester’s final game of the season, the Amerks came out on the losing end of a 5-2 decision to the Binghamton Devils back on Mar. 11. For rookie defenseman Jacob Bryson, though, it was another step in the right direction in terms of his professional development. The first-year blueliner notched an assist on each of Rochester’s two goals, with both coming on the power-play, marking his fifth multi-point outing of the season.
Bryson had missed just one game all season, appearing in 61 of the 62 matchups while being paired mostly with two-time AHL All-Star and last season's Eddie Shore Award winner Zach Redmond. Over his last 10 games, Bryson seemed to be heating up as he tallied nine points (4+5), had three multi-point efforts and notched his first pro goal back on Feb. 19 against the Belleville Senators. He finished the season leading all Amerks rookies and ranked second among team defensemen in scoring with 27 points on four goals and 23 assists.
4. LOOKING AT THE STANDINGS
Despite Rochester’s final game of the season being a 5-2 loss against the Devils, the Amerks were the second-best team in the North Division and were in prime position to advance to the postseason for the third straight year under head coach Chris Taylor.
With a two-point lead over the Utica Comets and just six points back from the Senators in the standings, the Amerks still had 14 games to mark off their calendar before the Calder Cup Playoffs began. Seven of those final 14 regular season games were to be against North Division opponents and seven were scheduled to be played right here in the Flower City.
5. PUT ON PAUSE...INDEFINITELY
Following the Mar. 11 game against Binghamton, news began to spread that would ultimately halt the world of professional sports. The NBA had confirmed its first case of COVID-19, forcing the suspension of its season that night as well as the other leagues the very next day.
The AHL announced its suspension of play on Mar. 12 while also indicating a return-to-play would not even be considered until May 1. On May 11, the League made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the 2019-20 season and 2020 Calder Cup Playoffs, citing a continuation of play would not be feasible in light of current conditions pertaining to the pandemic.