FITZGERALD READY TO EMBRACE LEADERSHIP ROLE THIS SEASONSep 25, 2021
By Suzie Cool
With Buffalo Sabres Training Camp getting underway this week, we’re already seeing several Rochester Americans players that have cracked the training camp roster. One of the familiar faces up in Buffalo currently is that of defenseman Casey Fitzgerald, who stepped into more of a leadership role last season despite it being just his second full year in the American Hockey League.
The young defenseman jumped from starring in just a little under half of the Amerks contests in 2019-20, to appearing in almost all the squad’s matchups in 2020-21 and getting a call up to Buffalo’s taxi squad midseason.
"It's good to see a lot of familiar faces and go out and battle with them." pic.twitter.com/QHVB5DnXMf— Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) September 25, 2021
“It was a good taste of it last year to come up and be with the guys. It’s definitely fuel for the fire this year coming in and it’s good to see a lot of familiar faces and to be able to go out and battle with them,” commented Fitzgerald when asked how he used his time on the taxi squad to fuel his offseason production.
In his third season with Rochester, Fitzgerald posted a career-high nine assists and 11 points while tying a personal-best two goals in 22 games. Prior to missing the final six games of the 2020-21 season due to injury, Fitzgerald had six assists in his last nine games and recorded the first multi-goal game of his career, and the first by an Amerks defenseman since Nov. 1, 2019, with a two-goal effort in a 4-2 win over Utica back on March 3. Additionally, Fitzgerald tied the bow on his third season in the Flower City by being given the team’s Rob Zabelny Unsung Hero Award.
As tough as it may have been to have to step up and take on a leadership role during such an unprecedented season in the Flower City, Fitzgerald attributes much of his success and acclimation to the great group of players that he was surrounded by.
“We had a great group of guys last year, so it really made it easy for all of us to step up, including myself. This year is no different, we got a really tight group coming back and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
Fitzgerald’s first full season in the pros was back in 2019-20, when the season was halted and eventually canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through 25 games, Fitzgerald recorded eight points while splitting time at both defense and forward. Additionally, Fitzgerald recorded the “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a goal, assist and fight in the 7-6 come-from-behind overtime win at Syracuse on Oct. 26 before missing the last 18 contests of the shortened season.
As Fitzgerald is most definitely trying to crack the Sabres roster heading into the 2021-22 campaign, he’s equally excited for the opportunity to be able to play in front of the fans at The Blue Cross Arena again.
“I’ve been missing going out and walking around East Avenue, Park Avenue and seeing all of the sites there. The fact that we’ll actually have fans this year will be pretty awesome, so I’m definitely excited to get back to Blue Cross and see all the people there.”