AMERKS LOOK TO REBOUND AS ANOTHER BUSY WEEKEND APPROACHES
News | 12/5/2011 4:55:13 PM | ROCHESTER AMERICANS


Photo: David Leggio (Micheline Veluvolu)

WEEKLY NOTES: In the midst of one of the busiest stretches of the season, and coming off their first of three consecutive three-game weekends, the Rochester Americans have little time to waste as they prepare for yet another arduous weekend ahead. After opening up December with three straight losses, the Amerks look to rebound this weekend where a crucial six points are on the line. Standing in their way, however, are some familiar opponents, one of which is a divisional rival, but all of whom the Amerks have faced a combined eight times already this season. Despite the recent skid, Rochester is still clinging on to second-place in the American Hockey League’s North Division, where only seven points separate the Amerks from the top spot in the division standings. Looking ahead, this week the Amerks take on intrastate rivals Albany and Adirondack before crossing enemy divisional lines in Hamilton to bring the week to a close.

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:
Friday, Dec. 2 vs. Houston – L, 4-3…
The Rochester Americans opened their busy December slate with a 4-3 loss to the Houston Aeros at The Blue Cross Arena, snapping Rochester’s two-game winning streak. The Amerks built a 2-0 in the first period, but the Aeros rallied for the win, marking their seventh consecutive road victory. Evan Rankin recorded his first career AHL multi-goal game with a pair of markers and Shaone Morrisonn saw his point streak reach a season-high three games with a first-period tally. Mark Voakes also finished the night with two assists as goaltender David Leggio finished with 22 saves in his seventh straight start between the pipes.

Saturday, Dec. 3 @ Hamilton – L, 3-2… Joonas Nattinen broke a 2-2 tie midway through the third period and the Hamilton Bulldogs held on for a 3-2 win over the Amerks at Copps Coliseum. Derek Whitmore and Colin Stuart each scored single goals for the Amerks, who also saw another two-point effort from Voakes. Former Bulldog Drew MacIntyre made 25 saves on 28 shots in his first game back with the Amerks since an NHL stint with the Buffalo Sabres.

Sunday, Dec. 4 @ Albany – L, 4-2… Rochester’s late rally in the third period fell short, and the Amerks dropped a 4-2 decision to the Albany Devils at the Times Union Center on Sunday to bring their first of three straight three-game weekends to a close. Trailing 3-0 in the third, Rochester battled back, scoring twice in the final five minutes of the period to pull within one goal, but the Devils added an empty-netter to seal the victory. Marcus Foligno and Drew Schiestel scored the Amerks goals, while Alex Biega, Morrisonn, Stuart and Jacob Lagace each collected an assist. MacIntyre, making his second straight start in goal for the Amerks, stopped 33 of 36 shots in the game, including 19 in the second period. 

SABRES RETURN FINLEY TO ROCHESTER: Re-joining the Amerks this week is defenseman Joe Finley, who was officially reassigned to Rochester on Sunday following a five-day stint with the Buffalo Sabres. Just 48 hours after signing a multi-year contract with the Sabres, Finley earned his first career NHL recall on November 30 before making his NHL debut two nights later in Buffalo’s 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on December 2 at the First Niagara Center. The 6-foot-8, 260-pound rearguard received 7:51 of ice time and recorded one hit, becoming the fifth Amerk this season to make his NHL debut and seventh to be inserted into the Buffalo lineup. A first-round selection of the Washington Capitals in 2005, the Edina, Minnesota, native has recorded two points (1+1) and a team-high 57 penalty minutes in 18 American Hockey League contests with Rochester this season.

KASSIAN MAKING AN IMPACT IN BUFFALO: Just five games into his NHL career, rookie forward Zack Kassian has certainly proven why he is considered one of the Sabres’ top prospects. Kassian, a 6-foot-3, 228-pound Windsor, Ontario, native, has produced three points (2+1) and nine penalty minutes in five games with the big club and his 12-day stay is the longest of any recall from Rochester this season. After recording his first NHL point with an assist in his NHL debut at Columbus on November 25, Kassian would score his first NHL goal the next night, helping Buffalo to a 5-1 home win over the Washington Capitals at the First Niagara Center. Kassian has also demonstrated the physical aspect to his style of play, as evidenced by his 12 hits and even a fight with New York Islanders forward Matt Martin.

THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS: The Amerks and Albany Devils meet for the second time in five nights as the back end of the home-and-home series shifts back to downtown Rochester. The 7:35 p.m. contest, which will be broadcast live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM Rochester’s Sports Talk, also marks the third straight week the intrastate rivals have exchanged pleasantries. The Amerks and Devils have split the season series thus far, with home ice proving to be the deciding factor. Rochester skated to a 4-2 win in the first meeting between the two teams before Albany reciprocated with a similar score in the latest get-together Sunday afternoon at the Times Union Center. The Amerks are 3-3-0 all-time against the Baby Devils.

Rochester’s busy weekend continues on Saturday, December 10 as it visits the Adirondack Phantoms for a 7:00 p.m. bout at the Glens Falls Civic Center. The matchup will be the second of four scheduled meetings this season between the Empire State foes and will be carried live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk. The Amerks dropped a 3-1 decision in the only other previous encounter with the Phantoms back on October 23 at The Blue Cross Arena. Rochester is 22-22-5 lifetime against the Philadelphia Flyers’ affiliate.

The Amerks head north of border on Sunday, December 11 as they take on the Hamilton Bulldogs for the third time in as many weeks at Copps Coliseum. The 3:00 p.m. afternoon matinee can be heard live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk. Rochester is in search of its first win of the season in Hamilton, where it’s dropped all four meetings this season in enemy territory. Though showing a mark of 1-2-1-1 this season against the Bulldogs, the Amerks maintain a 73-64-10 all-time record against Hamilton.

UPCOMING PROMOTIONS: Friday’s contest falls on the next installment of the “Ditch the Dorms” night. Beginning this season, the Amerks are encouraging all college students to “Ditch the Dorms” on Friday nights and bring the party downtown for Amerks College Nights.  Current students who show a valid school ID can get best available seating anywhere in the arena for as low as $10.00. In conjunction with Savor Catering at The Blue Cross Arena, fans can take part of “Amerks Happy Hour” from 6:30-7:30 in the Upper Atrium Bar with $2.00 drafts, courtesy of Molson and Coors Light.

The Amerks’ Toy Drive continues this weekend with the second of four nights fans can participate in to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester this holiday season. Fans that donate a new, unwrapped toy at a participating AT&T company-owned location in Monroe County between now and December 21 will receive a coupon to purchase a $12.00 ticket in the best available seating location for one of the next two upcoming Amerks home games (Friday, Dec. 9 or Wednesday, Dec. 21). Fans may also donate a toy at The Blue Cross Arena Box Office on any of the dates listed above and be able to purchase a “best available” $12.00 ticket to that night’s game. The Amerks will also donate $2.00 of each toy drive ticket sold to The Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester. Any fan that donates a toy will also be eligible to enter a raffle to win an Amerks autographed item.

AMERKS NOTES: Rochester (10-10-2-1, 23 points) enters the week on the heels of a three-game skid after coming up empty-handed in its first of three consecutive three-game weekends this month. Sunday’s 4-2 loss to Albany saw the Amerks rally from a 2-0 deficit thanks to two third period goals, including Schiestel’s first as an Amerk, but Albany’s Matt Anderson put an end to Rochester’s comeback hopes with the empty-net clincher in the closing minutes of regulation. Despite the rather unsuccessful weekend however, the Amerks have collected points in six of their last 11 games and boast a 5-5-0-0 record through their last 10 as they remain seven points behind division-leading Toronto for the top spot in the American Hockey League’s North Division.

HOME, SWEET HOME: Home-ice advantage has certainly been a factor in Rochester’s recent success as of late as the Amerks are 6-2-0-0 in their last eight games at home. Rochester’s season-long five-game homestand last month was highlighted by a four-game winning streak that saw Rochester outscore its opponents 15-11. After beginning the season with just two home wins, the Amerks show an 8-4-0-1 record (19 points) this season when playing in their downtown barn. Conversely, Rochester is 2-6-2-0 away from the friendly confines of The Blue Cross Arena.

TEAM AND LEAGUE LEADERS: Whitmore, last week’s Reebok/AHL Player of the Week, currently paces the Amerks with 11 goals and 81 shots on goal, while his 17 points are equal to that of Stuart. His 11 goals also rank him tied for eighth among the AHL’s top goal scorers. Despite currently being on NHL recall, Kassian presently ranks third on the team and 16th in scoring among AHL rookies with 14 points (7+7). Voakes, coming off a four-point weekend, leads the Amerks with 11 assists, in addition to owning a team-best plus-11 on-ice rating and being one of just four players to appear in all 23 games thus far. Leggio, who’s started six of the last eight games for Rochester, boasts a 7-6-0 record with a 2.97 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage in 13 games. His seven wins tie him for 12th among AHL netminders, while he ranks among the league’s top 20 goaltenders with 343 saves. MacIntyre shows a 3-6-1 record with a 2.80 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Amerks are 5-4-2-1 (13 points) this season against North Division rivals, but show a 5-6-0-0 (10 points) mark versus non-divisional foes. The third period has been the Amerks’ strong suit thus far as the club has accounted for 22 goals while allowing 17. The Amerks have scored the first goal in just 10 of the first 23 games of the campaign and show a 5-4-1-0 record when doing so, including a 4-2-0-0 mark at home. Rochester is also 5-0-1-0 when leading after two periods, a streak that also shows an unblemished 3-0-0-0 mark at home.

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: Seven of the last 11 games for the Amerks have been decided by one goal, including four of the last seven. Of Rochester’s 23 games thus far this season, 12 of them have been determined by a one-goal difference, a mark of 5-4-2-1 in favor of the Amerks.

WHO’S HOT: Coming off his first-period goal Saturday in Hamilton, and a week removed from his career-best four-goal game last weekend, Whitmore enters the week with seven points (6+1) in his last six games, a stretch that includes a three-game point streak (5+1) from November 19 to November 26. Rankin has recorded four points (2+2) through his first five games with the team, including his first career AHL multi-goal game Friday night against Houston. Voakes, fresh off his three-game assist streak, shows five points (0+5) over his last four appearances, in addition to posting back-to-back two-point outings to kickoff the month of December as the team leader in assists. Meanwhile, Biega has four assists through his last five showings and Morrisonn has collected five points (2+3) in as many games after notching just two points through the first 15 games of the campaign.

MILESTONE WATCH: Back for a second stint with the Amerks, veteran forward Michael Ryan is just two games away from his 400th professional game, 214 of which have been played in Rochester. A week after recording his 200th professional point with a goal against Albany, Stuart scored his 100th career goal Saturday night in Hamilton and captured another career milestone yesterday in Albany as he played in his 500th pro game. Voakes officially eclipsed the 100-point plateau in his pro career with his second assist of the game in Rochester’s loss to Hamilton.

SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWN: After some recent struggles on the power-play, the Amerks have gone 7-for-49 on the man-advantage over their last 10 games. On the penalty kill, Rochester has successfully killed off 77-of-96 (80.2%) shorthanded situations, including 50 of 57 at home for an 87.7% efficiency rate, good enough for the league’s sixth-best rating in that category. As a team, Rochester has allowed a league-most five shorthanded goals against, four coming at home and the other on the road.  

THIS WEEK IN AMERKS HISTORY: Former Rochester Americans netminder Darcy Wakaluk becomes the first-ever goaltender in North American professional hockey history to score a goal by shooting the puck the length of the ice into an empty net in a game against the Utica Devils on December 6, 1987. Rochester Americans Hall of Famer Bronco Horvath records the first-ever hat trick in team history on December 9, 1956, scoring three goals to help the Amerks to a 6-0 win over the Springfield Indians at the Rochester War Memorial. Horvath would finish the 1956-57 season as Rochester’s leader in goals (37), assists (44) and points (81) as the Amerks completed their inaugural American Hockey League season with a 34-25-5 record (73 points) and a second-place tie in the league standings.
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AMERKS WEEKLY SCHEDULE*
DAY                                         TIME                                        LOCATION
Monday, December 5             Day Off                                    ----
Tuesday, December 6             10:30 a.m. practice                 Blue Cross Arena
Wednesday, December 7       10:30 a.m. practice                 Blue Cross Arema
                                               4:00 p.m. reading                   Arnett Library
Thursday, December 8           10:30 a.m. practice                 Blue Cross Arena
Friday, December 9                10:00 a.m. gameday skate     Blue Cross Arena
                                               7:35 p.m. vs. Albany              Blue Cross Arena
                                               Leave for Adirondack immediately following game
Saturday, December 10          11:00 a.m. gameday skate     Glens Falls Civic Center
                                               7:00 p.m. @ Adirondack       Glens Falls Civic Center
                                               Leave for Hamilton immediately following game
Sunday, December 11             3:00 p.m. @ Hamilton           Copps Coliseum                    
                                                                                              
*schedule subject to change
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