By Suzie Cool (@SuzKewl) | Published on May 20, 2020
The Rochester Americans were four games into their last full month of the 2019-20 season. They won two of their last three games and again were in prime position to lock up a playoff spot for the third straight season.
Then everything came to a screeching halt.
The outbreak and subsequent spread of COVID-19 put the AHL season on hold before the pandemic would ultimately force the cancellation of the remainder of the season and playoffs.
And just like that, the Amerks season was over. Not the most ideal way to bring the end of the season, especially for rookie defenseman Jacob Bryson, who in the days leading up to the stoppage, was slowly starting to find his stride in the American Hockey League.
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 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.
WATCH: JACOB BRYSON AFTER THE FEB. 19 GAME AGAINST BELLEVILLE
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 reigning 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.
After putting in an abundant amount of work to appear in almost every single game on the season, for the year to officially come to a close was an unfortunate circumstance to Bryson and his team.
“It’s definitely unfortunate and we played quite a bit of games to get to where we were. For that to end, it’s definitely not what you want to see. But I think it’s safe to say that everyone is excited to get back to playing hockey again.”
Unfortunate is an understatement as we’re now over two months into what has sadly become our new reality, meaning that players have been back home and adjusting to life without hockey over this span of time. For a lot of the Amerks players, this time period has meant more time with family, loved ones and Zoom calls with friends from afar. For Bryson, he’s gotten into the groove of helping his parents cook dinner, spend more than enough time with his mini goldendoodle, Ava, and play video games while he’s lounging around.
More importantly, though, the time away from the game has allowed him to reflect on his personal success over the course of those last 10 games during his first year in the AHL.
“Through the first 50 games I didn’t score a goal, and that was in the back of my mind, and it was tough,” recalled Bryson. “Once I did get one, I think everything kind of let loose and my confidence was there and that’s why everything was just going to the net.”
With a year of professional hockey now under his belt, Bryson immediately seemed to make an impact on the Amerks roster during his rookie campaign. Skating alongside Redmond for most of the year certainly had its advantages, too. At the end of the day, Bryson wouldn’t have been consistently paired with Redmond, a veteran of more than 500 pro games, including 373 at the AHL level, if he couldn’t keep up with his skillset and composure while out on the ice.
“I think he kind of taught me how to just have confidence in myself and how to stay composed on the ice. Don’t do anything too special and just be simple. He definitely taught me what to do on the ice and that was a big help which always made me confident while playing with him,” stated Bryson when asked what he took away from being paired with Redmond this past season.
WATCH: JACOB BRYSON AFTER THE FEV. 21 GAME AGAINST LEHIGH VALLEY
As the unfortunate-but-not-expected cancellation of the AHL season has become official, it’s time to look ahead to the 2020-21 season for the Amerks. As this year has come to a close, Bryson finished out his rookie campaign with four goals and 23 assists in 61 games. All four goals were scored over his last 10 games, including a shorthanded tally back on Mar. 6 against the Belleville Senators.
A successful rookie campaign that came to an abrupt end only seems to have made Bryson want to come back better and stronger when it comes time for next season.
“I want to come back in better shape than I was at the end of this year and I’m going to work towards that every day. I think I need to work on my strength, and I need to come back stronger and maintain that throughout the entire year.”
With a work ethic to come back better than he already was, it should come as no surprise that Bryson is ready to get back out on the ice in front of all you fans here in Rochester come next season.
“I can’t wait to get back on the ice and I’m sure all of the guys are saying the same thing. We love playing in front of you all and we can’t wait to get back and hear The Blue Cross Arena as loud as it always is come next season.”
The feeling is definitely mutual, Jacob.