Apr 15, 2024

1.pngBy Andrew Mossbrooks | @Mossbrooks48


After splitting a weekend series with the Belleville Senators, the Rochester Americans are playoff bound for a fifth straight year.


Despite a 6-3 loss Friday, the Amerks secured their place in the Calder Cup Playoffs that night, thanks to a Utica loss in Providence. The next day, a motivated Amerks team took to the ice to dominate Belleville by an 8-2 final.





Rochester built itself a 4-0 lead through 20 minutes Saturday against the Sens, but a recent cautionary tale proved to be a valuable lesson for the Amerks. Just six days prior, the team yielded a 4-0 advantage on Bridgeport, who are tied for the fewest point totals in the American Hockey League. Despite that, a lapse in play allowed the Islanders to tie the game and force a shootout, where the Amerks eventually won, 5-4.


“We talked about it,” said Amerks head coach Seth Appert. “You can get worried about bringing it up because it’s a bad memory, but I think it’s really important throughout the season that you learn from adversity and from failures and that you grow from it. We let Bridgeport back in that game because we were sloppy with the puck in the second period. That’s what we talked about (against Belleville). Let’s not give them free offense. We did a pretty good job with that.”


The Amerks went on to net two more in the second period, increasing the lead to six en route to an 8-2 win. In Bridgeport, the Amerks let off the gas. At home against Belleville, they hammered the peddle to the car floor.





Jiri Kulich led the charge in front of 8,560 Amerks fans at Blue Cross Arena Saturday night, scoring a hat trick as part of a four-point game for the Sabres’ prospect who turned just 20 years of age the following day.


“It’s great because yesterday (Friday) I had 11 shots and no goals,” chuckled Kulich when speaking after Saturday’s win. “It’s great to score a hat trick, but we played great as a team, too. That’s why I (was able to) score. Playoffs are coming, so we have to do the right things to play the right way. We have to be ready. It’s so important.”



Kulich leads the team in goals with 25 and is third on the team with 43 points, but Appert has praised the young star’s approach even on nights when he doesn’t find the scoresheet.


“Something we’ve been talking to all of our young guys over the last three years about is the process. So much of their life, they judge their worth through points only. The reality is, say you’re a guy with 50 or 60 points in the NHL. Hopefully all these guys end up getting more than that, but that’s a lot of points and you’re probably going to get those 60 points in 40 or 45 games. There are another 35-40 games in an NHL season, so what are you doing in those games where you don’t score to help us win? If the answer’s nothing, then you’re of no use to us. Kulich is playing winning hockey and he’s getting rewarded because of it.”





A bow gets put on the 2023-24 regular season, the 68th of its kind for the Rochester Americans, following the next week of games. Despite securing a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs, Rochester has yet to clinch a definitive position in the standings. First place in the North Division is very much up for grabs, with the Amerks trailing the division-leading Syracuse Crunch by only a point.


The North Division crown has turned into a four-headed race. Syracuse (84), Rochester (83), Cleveland (82), and Toronto (80) are all separated by just four points with each team having three games left in their schedule. The Amerks can largely control their destiny with games on home ice Wednesday against the Marlies, followed by the home regular-season finale Friday against the Monsters. Rochester then ventures to Utica Sunday afternoon for game 72 of 72 against a Comets team that could also still be vying for a playoff spot, as they sit three points out of the top five in the North.


Should the Amerks secure first place, it would be the first time the team has won the division in 19 years, dating back to the 2004-05 season.

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