GAME PREVIEW: AMERKS LOOK TO SPLIT WEEKEND SERIESFeb 10, 2024
TONIGHT'S GAME OVERVIEW
The Rochester Americans (21-16-4-1) and Syracuse Crunch (25-14-3-2) close out their weekend set as the home-and-home series shifts to downtown Syracuse tonight for a rematch at Upstate Medical University Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:00 p.m. start and will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM The Fan Rochester as well as AHLTV.
The Amerks, who have points in six of their last nine games dating back to Jan. 17. and collected points in nine of their last 13 overall, enter the weekend in fourth in the AHL’s North Division standings.
Syracuse, which has earned at least one point in 10 of its previous 13 games (9-3-1-0) since the turn of the New Year, currently is tied for first-place with Cleveland for the top spot in the North Division.
HEAD-TO-HEAD RESULTS AGAINST SYRACUSE
The season series has favored the visiting team as all six meetings thus far has been won by the road team. Rochester is also looking for its first regulation win over the Crunch this season.
The Amerks have scored at least one power-play goal in 25 of their 42 games (35-for-149) against Syracuse since Seth Appert took over as head coach prior to the 2020-21 season.
Isak Rosen, Lukas Rousek and Brandon Biro all four points in four, five, and six games respectively, for the Amerks. Veteran netminder Dustin Tokarski posted back-to-back road wins against his former team before suffering a 3-1 loss on Dec. 27.
LAST TIME OUT
The Amerks built a two-goal lead in the first period but the Crunch responded with game’s next three tallies, including the game-winner 38 seconds into overtime to steal a 3-2 win from the Amerks Friday at The Blue Cross Arena.
Brandon Biro (1+1) and Lukas Rousek (0+2) both tallied a multi-point effort for the Amerks while Mason Jobst scored once. Ethan Prow concluded the scoring as he was credited with the primary helper on Biro’s first-period goal.
Goaltender Devon Levi (3-2-1) made his sixth appearance of the campaign and second straight, turning aside 22 of 25 shots he faced.
THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE
Jeremy Davies and Kale Clague are among the AHL’s top scoring defensemen, having combined for nine goals and 39 points this season.
Davies, who scored a career-high 11 goals last season, including three game-winning tallies, is tied for 17th amongst all defensemen with 86 shots. He’s recorded at least one shot in all but three games this season. Davies, who closed out the month of October on a five-game point streak, has recorded one point in 16 of his first 36 games this season, never going more than four straight games without a point.
Clague, meanwhile, is tied for 23rd among all blueliners with 18 assists. With an assist on Jan. 27 against Laval, Clague has now reached the 20-point mark in all three seasons in which he’s played at least 35 games. He comes into tonight showing seven points (2+5) over his last 10 games.
ROUSEK RACKING UP THE POINTS
Lukas Rousek has been the team’s most consistent point-getter since the turn of 2024, having recorded points in 10 of his 13 games in that stretch.
Rousek, a sixth-round selection (160th overall) by the Sabres in the 2019 NHL Draft, currently leads the team with 22 assists and 30 points while his eight goals are sixth. Among all Amerks who have appeared in at least 30 games, he is tops in points per game (0.81).
NEW YEAR, NEW NEUCHEV
After producing just five points in his first 23 games, rookie foward Viktor Neuchev has unsurprisingly emerged as one of the team’s leading scorers through the first week of February.
Dating back to Dec. 29 and the turn of the New Year, Neuchev has erupted for 11 points on four goals and seven assists over his previous 11 games.
Neuchev has recorded at least one point in eight games over that span, including a season-long six-game point streak from Dec. 29 to Jan. 20 which saw him score three goals and record eight points.
Buffalo’s third-round selection (74th overall) in 2022, Neuchev’s most impressive performance of the season came back on Jan. 27, finding the back of the net for the third time in five games with the game-winning goal along with two assists in the 7-4 win over Laval. The three-point effort marked a season-high and was Neuchev’s third multi-point outing in seven games to begin the 2024 calendar year.
Of Neuchev’s six goals this season, five have been scored on home ice and three have come against Laval. Neuchev, who had a 40-goal season while playing for Russia’s junior league during the 2021-22 campaign, currently leads all Amerks rookies with 16 points (6+10) and 51 shots in 32 games.
The third-year pro and AHL All-Star saw his career-long point streak come to an end on Jan. 26, stopping at 13 games. He totaled 14 points between Dec. 20 and Jan. 20, the second-longest point streak in the league behind only Toronto’s Alex Steeves, who had a point in 16 straight games.
Rousek’s point streak was the longest by an Amerk in 24 years since Hall of Famer Domenic Pittis had points in 14 straight contests from Jan. 22 to March 4 during the 1999-2000 campaign. In 126 career AHL games with the Amerks, Rousek has amassed 90 points on 25 goals and 65 assists.
APPERT REACHES CENTURY MARK
The 3-2 win at Charlotte on Jan. 12 was a milestone win for Seth Appert, who became just the seventh head coach in the 68-year history of the franchise to reach 100 career victories with Rochester. He joins an impressive list that includes the likes of Amerks Hall of Famers Randy Cunneyworth, John Van Boxmeer, Joe Crozier, Mike Keenan, Chris Taylor and Brian McCutcheon.
On Dec. 16 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Appert also became the seventh head coach in team history to be behind Rochester’s bench for 200 games.
Since the 2020-21 season, Appert has guided the Amerks to a 105-87-19-8 record as well as two straight playoff appearances, which included a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2023.
It was the team’s deepest playoff run in nearly 20 years and their first to the Conference Finals since the 2004 Calder Cup Playoffs.
LEANING ON LEVI
Rookie goaltender Devon Levi has earned the start in four of the last seven games since being reassigned to Rochester on Jan. 20.
Levi, who boasts a 3-2-1 record in six appearances with the Amerks, joins, Eric Comrie, Michael Houser, Devin Cooley and Dustin Tokarski to man the blue paint for Rochester this season. It marks the third straight year Rochester has had five or more goaltenders play in its net and first since a three-year stretch between 1995 and 1998.
Levi has held the opposition to two or fewer goals in three of his six starts, including each of the last two. He’s 2-1-0 this season when allowing two goals or less.
Levi won the Mike Richter Award, given annually to the top goaltender in men’s college hockey, for the second straight year following the 2022-23 season.
The only two-time winner in the award’s history, Levi led the nation again with a .933 save percentage, one year after he set the second-best mark in NCAA history with a .952 save percentage. He tied for third in the nation in both shutouts (6) and saves (1,183). Levi’s 16-career shutouts are a Northeastern University school record.
TOKARSKI ON THE MOVE
Veteran goaltender Dustin Tokarski, who missed the first eight games of the season due to an injury he sustained in training camp, made his season debut back on Nov. 3 against Utica.
In doing so, the two-time Calder Cup winner and AHL All-Star became just the 18th goaltender in league history to play in 400 career games, a list that also includes former Amerks Bobby Perreault (512), Michael Leighton (507), Drew MacIntyre (440) and Ed Chadwick (417).
Tokarski, who’s in his second stint with the Amerks and 10th different AHL franchise, went 1-1-0 during a brief two-game stint with Rochester as part of the COVID-shortnened 2020-21 campaign. He went 12-20-7 in 42 appearances with the Buffalo Sabres from 2021-23.
Currently in his 15th season, he joins Marcel Paille and Michael Leighton as the only goaltenders all-time to play at least 15 seasons in the AHL.
Tokarski, who’s 7-7-2 in his first 16 starts, surpassed the 10,000-save mark for his AHL career following a 31-save effort against Utica on Nov. 10. He also reached the 12,000-save mark for his pro career the week prior when he made his season debut against the Comets.
Entering this weekend, the 34-year-old Tokarski is six wins away from tying Red Almas for 11th all-time in career wins (218). He’s also two games away from tying Ed Chadwick for 16th all-time (417) and will tie Yann Danis for eighth all-time on his next shutout.
A JOLT OF JOST
Rochester’s forward group was bolstered at the end of the 2023 calendar year with the addition of veteran forward Tyson Jost, a former first-round selection (10th overall) of the Colorado Avalanche in the 2016 NHL Draft.
The St. Albert, Alberta, native made his Amerks debut on Dec. 29 against Hershey and has since recorded 12 points (2+10) through his first 15 games, having earned at least one point in all but six games thus far. He is 10 assists are tied for ninth amongst all Rochester skaters.
Jost has totaled 19 points (7+12) in 27 career AHL games with the Amerks, San Antonio Rampage and Colorado Eagles over parts of three seasons. He’s also recorded 138 points (56+82) over 442 career NHL games for Buffalo, Minnesota and Colorado, including 29 this season with the Sabres.
Amerks goaltender Dustin Tokarski spent the 2012-13 season with the Crunch, going 18-8-4 with a 2.46 goals-against average over 33 contests.
Rochester defenseman Riley Stillman recorded three assists in five games for Syracuse during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign.
Crunch defenseman Devante Stephens, who was originally a fifth-round selection (122nd overall) of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2015 NHL Draft, played seven games with the Amerks over parts of two seasons (2017-19).
All six meetings thus far this season have been won by the visiting team.
Both Rochester and Syracuse come into the matchup with winning records when leading after the second period. The Crunch are a perfect 12-0-0-0 this season when carrying a lead into the third period while the Amerks are a near-perfect 16-1-1-0 in that regard.
Mason Jobst enters tonight with 11 points (5+6) over his last 13 games since the turn of the new year.