By Erica Whyte
For most Rochester Americans fans, the sting from last year’s playoff run still feels fresh.
After missing the postseason for four consecutive years, Rochester clinched a playoff spot, and were set to face-off against intrastate rival Syracuse in the first round. Then just as soon as they started, the Amerks’ playoff run was over. The Crunch swept the Amerks, dominating all three games in the best-of-five opening round series.
“I think last year we fell into a trap where we thought we were ready, but we didn’t really know what it took, said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor of the Amerks short-lived postseason.
With seven weeks left in the regular-season, this year’s playoff chatter has already started. And this year, Taylor insists the team will be ready.
WATCH: REMIE ELIE ADDRESSES THE MEDIA AFTER HIS FIRST PRACTICE ON FEB. 4
In preparation for the Amerks anticipated push for the Calder Cup, the team has acquired a few impactful new faces in recent weeks in two-time Stanley Cup-winning forward Scott Wilson, Taylor Leier, who has played 55 games as a forward in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers, and Remi Elie, a winger who has played over 100 NHL games and helped take the Texas Stars all the way to Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals last year.
“He has the body of a football player. He can go right through guys” said Taylor of Elie, the most recent addition to the Amerks roster. “His speed, grit and strength make him hard to contain.”
The 23-year-old Elie was assigned to Rochester after being placed on waivers by the Buffalo Sabres at the beginning of February.
WATCH: REMI ELIE ADDRESSES THE MEDIA AFTER PRACTICE ON FEB. 6
Although, admittedly, Elie expressed disappointment in being sent down, he is using his agility, skill, and new-found ice time to help the Amerks make the playoff push that both the team and the City is so hungry for.
“It was hard at first, then once I actually got here and got settled, I started to think positive and want to work hard to help this team,” said Elie of how his mindset has changed.
To help with the adjustment to his new team and city, the Cornwall, Ontario, native recounts that the Amerks went above and beyond to make him feel at home.
“They were all really welcoming, it’s a really good group. There are a lot of veterans and guys who have played in the league for a long time, lots of NHL experience, too. Everybody pushes each other.”
Now that Elie has settled into Rochester and has become accustomed to donning the Amerks crest, he has his sights set on one thing: to hoist the elusive Calder Cup.
“I was so close to winning the Calder Cup last year and ended up losing in Game 7, so it would be nice to make that run again, but actually win the trophy.”
Elie and the Texas Stars were defeated by the Toronto Marlies in Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals last year, giving him valuable in-game experience as a major Cup contender, and a taste of what it could be like to win.
“Work ethic is probably the biggest thing when it comes to playoffs,” said Elie of what he learned from the Stars’ playoff push. “It’s a battle every game, and you have to outwork the other team and try to score on your chances.”
Taylor insists that in order to go all the way this year, the team needs the help of players who have experience with playoff hockey.
"Anyone that has played in the American League playoffs, or the NHL playoffs, or even the OHL playoffs, it definitely helps."
Which is why the grizzly 6-foot-1 forward is such an asset.
And although he has only been part of the Amerks family for less than a month, Elie knows this team has the puzzle pieces it needs to make a major push for the Calder Cup.
“When you see our roster, and see the potential we have as a group, it makes me hungrier to get the Cup. And I think with the group we have, we have a really good chance at it this year,” he said.
"I know we can do it.”
The city of Rochester definitely agrees.