AMERKS LOOK TO ADJUST AND IMPROVE HEADING INTO GAME 2May 24, 2023
By Emily Wade
“We’re not trying to make statements,” Amerks head coach Seth Appert told the media after the Game 1 win. “We’re just trying to win hockey games.”
The Rochester Americans beat the Hershey Bears 5-1 in the first game of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals at the Giant Center on Tuesday night. Goaltender Malcolm Subban made 21 saves and extended the Rochester win streak to seven-straight games.
“Subby was excellent when he needed to be excellent,” Appert said. “He gave us a really calm, composed game tonight.” His calmness, paired with the lockdown on defense, was key in keeping the savvy Hershey veterans from getting many good looks on net.
“They try to look for screens and tips and back-door chances,” Subban explained after the game. “So for me, it’s just making that first save and trying to control the rebounds.” Subban applauded the defensive effort — especially all their blocked shots.
Now that's how you start game one of the Eastern Conference Finals 👏 pic.twitter.com/hKNqSGpj2R— x-Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) May 23, 2023
The defensemen also contributed on offense, factoring on each of the Amerks’ five goals. Joseph Cecconi, who was celebrating his 26th birthday, scored just 14 seconds into the contest, and deflated the home crowd.
Cecconi was quick to credit his teammates for his early goal, adding: “Everyone’s scoring right now for us, so it’s been a fun game to play in.” He’s not wrong.
During the seven-game win streak, the Amerks have outscored their opponents 41-21, including 12-3 in the first period. Mason Jobst and Jiri Kulich are on seven-game point streaks. Ethan Prow is on an AHL-best six-game assist streak.
Things seem to be clicking on offense. “People are really rising to the occasion and seizing the opportunity, doing whatever it takes to win,” Subban said after the game.
“When you look around, that’s the one thing we have in common: how bad we want to win right now.”
And while the 5-1 win felt dominant to fans watching, Appert sees room for improvement from his young squad. “I didn’t think we were great tonight,” he said, “but we were pretty good. We did a good enough job to give us a chance.”
Appert noted that Hershey had plenty of chances as well, so the game could have been way closer. “I thought we handled their pressure relatively well,” he added. “Now we have to reset, try to learn some things, and get better tomorrow.”
An adjustment the team made after the first two rounds was managing the lead in the third period, as they did last night. “I thought we did a better job managing it than maybe some of the other leads we’ve had in the playoffs,” Appert explained. “We didn’t sit back, but I’d still like us to attack more.”
12 points in 9 games for Mason Jobst 👀 pic.twitter.com/hL8ZTi57yH— x-Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) May 24, 2023
Managing a third period lead is a balance, which has been tougher to accomplish with the young team, though they are improving. “You need to stay aggressive, because we’re a better team when we’re aggressive, without playing risky and not managing the puck.”
Subban was happy with the defensive effort in the third period: “It was unreal, all the blocked shots they had. [Hershey was] trying to get traffic in front to get pucks through, and I couldn’t see much, but guys were selling out so it was awesome.”
The team was able to support Subban, as the netminder is always able to support his squad. “Every game, we know he’s going to be that guy,” Cecconi said. “We can count on him to make big saves throughout the entire game, so we feel a little more relaxed out there.”
The Amerks have an optional practice on Wednesday, as they’re using the day to make adjustments, something that’s been a strength of this team all season long. “At this time of year, you have to be willing and able to adjust,” Appert said.
“To be able to watch video and apply it the next day in the game, that’s a part of becoming a pro and playing well in the playoffs. Our guys have been exceptional at that, but it’ll be important that we get better tomorrow.”
Appert expects Hershey to be great in Game 2, just as Toronto was great in Game 2 of the North Division Finals. He knows they’ll have to increase their competitiveness and their puck management, but he also expects Hershey to increase the physicality.
“That’s what Syracuse tried to do once we won a game. That’s what Toronto tried to do when we won a game,” Appert said. “We might not be the most physical team, but we’re not scared.”
Cecconi agreed: “We expect every team we play to run around and play physical on us.” And how the team responds is simple. “We just do a good job of sticking to our system: playing aggressive, playing confident. You can obviously see what happens when we do that.”
The Amerks will square-off against the Bears for Game 2 in Hershey on Thursday night. The game can be streamed on AHLTV or heard on The Fan Rochester with Don Stevens and Brian Duff. Fans across New York state can also watch on MSG Network, while fans in Rochester can watch at The Distillery (all locations).
The series will return to Rochester for an almost sold-out Game 3 on Saturday and a Memorial Day match-up for Game 4 on Monday. Tickets to Game 4 are on sale now, but also selling quickly, so act now.
Amerks fans can get the playoff party started early at the pregame ROC the Block Party on Broad Street from 4-7pm on Saturday. There will be live music, food and drink specials, a bounce house, face painting, and plenty of other fun for the whole family outside of Blue Cross arena.
The first 10,000 fans will also receive Eastern Conference Finals rally towels, thanks to Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino.
For all playoff updates and for access to playoff ticket presales, fans are encourage to sign up at Amerks.com/Playoffs to not miss any of the action.