AMERKS OPEN 66TH SEASON THIS WEEKENDOct 13, 2021
By Ryan J. Harr
With the 2021-22 National Hockey League season getting underway last night, and the American Hockey League preseason completed, the Rochester Americans have officially set their sights on their 66th season in the AHL.
Following an off day on Monday, the team returned to the ice on Tuesday at The Blue Cross Arena in preparation for Sunday’s 3:00 p.m. season-opener at the Adirondack Bank Center against the Utica Comets.
Second-year Amerks head coach Seth Appert along with assistant coaches Michael Peca and Mike Weber, all put the group through their first official skate of the 2021-22 season after a week of training camp. The trio were also joined by Adam Mair, who spent last season as an assistant coach with Appert and Weber and now serves as the director of player development for the organization, and former Amerks Tim Kennedy and Nathan Paetsch, both of whom are in their first seasons as player development coaches with Buffalo. Jason Payne and Alex Bezzera of the Cincinnati Cyclones also accompanied the team.
In the first of a two preseason games on the weekend, Rochester took on the Comets, who began a new as the primary affiliate of the New Jersey Devils. While the Amerks scored a late goal to force overtime, it was Utica who prevailed in the shootout for a 4-3 victory.
Rochester scored twice in the middle frame on the strength of goals from Jack Quinn (1+0) and Dominic Franco (1+0), while Ethan Prow (1+0) provided the game-tying marker in the closing minutes of regulation. Rookie forward Linus Weissbach (0+2) ended the night with a pair of helpers, while forwards Brett Murray (0+1), Matej Pekar (0+1), Brent Gates, Jr. (0+1) and defenseman Josh Teves (0+1) all added assists on the night.
Goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen got his first nod in the crease for the Amerks since Apr. 10 of the 2020-21 campaign and suffered the loss, stopping 32 of the 35 shots he faced.
Sunday afternoon in the final tune-up for Rochester, Murray and Sean Malone each scored twice to lead to the Amerks to a convincing 5-2 win over the intrastate rival Syracuse Crunch at The Blue Cross Arena
Ryan MacInnis rounded out the scoring while also adding an assist for a two-point night and Quinn collected two assists in the victory. Netminder Aaron Dell was nearly perfect in net for Rochester, stopping all but two of the 17 shots he faced in his unofficial debut as an Amerk.
The Amerks finished the preseason earning three out of a possible four points. Of the 26 different players to appear in at least one exhibition contests, 14 recorded one point and seven tallied a pair of points or more.
Murray (2+1), last season’s scoring champion, Quinn (1+2), who appeared in 15 games with the Amerks during his first year with the club, and Weissbach (0+3) all had three points in two tilts.
WATCH: SETH APPERT AFTER TUESDAY’S PRACTICE
Peterka Assigned to Rochester
Earlier this week, Buffalo Sabres head coach Don Granato announced that rookie JJ Peterka will begin the season in Rochester. The 19-year-old winger tallied three goals and one assist during five preseason games with the Sabres before being loaned to the Amerks.
The addition of Peterka, who posted 20 points (9+11) in 30 games with Munich of the DEL, gives the Amerks Buffalo’s top two picks in the 2020 NHL Draft to begin the season. All eyes will surely be on he and Quinn, the Sabres eighth overall pick in 2020, as one of the top point-producing duos in the American Hockey League.
During the 2020-21 slate, the Muenchen, Germany, native spent the year between Salzburg (Austria) and Munich (DEL). Between the two clubs, he recorded 36 points on 16 goals and 20 assists in 42 games. Additionally, he represented his native country at the 2021 IIHF World Championship, where he scored one goal in six games for the German national team. He also produced 10 points (4+6) in five games at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, which tied for third in tournament scoring.
WATCH: JJ PETERKA AFTER TUESDAY’S PRACTICE
Season Starts Sunday, Home Opener Next Week
The Amerks are slated to open the season on the road on Sunday, Oct. 17 at Utica before returning home to host the Syracuse Crunch in their 2021-22 Home Opener on Friday, Oct. 22.
It marks the first time in 10 years Rochester will open the season on the road since a 5-2 loss at Hamilton to begin the 2011-12 campaign.
The Amerks enter the new season with a 33-25-7 all-time record in season-opening games while outscoring the opposition 242-222 over the past 65 years. Additionally, Rochester enters its 66th campaign with a 33-25-7 all-time home-opening record and have outscored its opponents 265-206 dating back to when the puck first dropped on Rochester’s inaugural season in 1956.