News | 10/9/2013 2:42:08 PM | ROCHESTER AMERICANS
| Photo: Micheline Veluvolu
THIS WEEK’S STORYLINE
Amerks Lift Curtain on 58th AHL Season – It’s been a little over five months since The Blue Cross Arena hosted an American Hockey League game, but hockey officially made its return over the weekend as the Rochester Americans ushered in the 2013-14 season against the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins. With the new season currently underway, and a revamped lineup that features a combination of several new faces and a significant number of returnees, the road to the postseason is already in plain sight as Rochester enters its 58th season in search of its seventh Calder Cup. Coming off a disappointing loss to kickoff the campaign, the Amerks look to rebound as the first busy weekend of the season approaches that welcomes the first-ever visit from the Utica Comets before a get-together with the all-too-familiar Syracuse Crunch on Saturday to bring the weekend to a close.
WHERE THEY CURRENTLY STAND
0-1-0-0, 0 pointsAway
: 0-0-0-0, 0 pointsOverall
: 0-1-0-0, 0 points
Overall: 22nd in the AHL
Western Conference: 14th
North Division: 5th
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS
Friday, Oct. 4 vs. Grand Rapids – 8-1 L
The Amerks opened the 2013-14 American Hockey League season with an 8-1 loss on opening night to the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins Friday at The Blue Cross Arena. Luke Adam scored the lone Rochester goal while Matt Hackett and Nathan Lieuwen combined for 29 saves in the loss for the Amerks, who have dropped five of their last six Home Openers dating back to the 2008-09 season.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS
Friday, Oct. 11 vs. Utica – Season Series: 0-0-0-0, 0 points
Rochester kicks off its first two-game weekend of the season on Friday, Oct. 11 as the AHL’s newest franchise, the Utica Comets, make their inaugural visit to The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be the first-ever meeting between the new North Division foes with all the action being carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK. Friday’s game also marks the first time in over 20 years Rochester has faced a Utica-based AHL franchise since the 1992-93 season, when the Utica Devils last inhabited the Memorial Auditorium in Central New York. The Devils, who were AHL members from 1987 up until their relocation to Saint John for the start of the 1993-94 campaign, and Amerks met 12 times during the regular season that year, including the final get-together between the intrastate rivals on March 9. Rochester and Utica would also go onto meet in the first round of the 1993 Calder Cup Playoffs, eliminating the Devils in five games before eventually falling to the Cape Breton Oilers in the Finals. This year’s edition of the revived cross-state rivalry will see the Amerks and Comets exchange pleasantries 10 times, with Rochester traveling east to Utica for the first time on Nov. 15. The reunion of the two teams also sees the return of former Amerk captain Colin Stuart and defenseman Alex Biega to Rochester, where they also served as teammates for the 2011-12 season. Stuart, who captained the Amerks to a berth in the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs, recorded 32 points (13+19) in 51 games for the Amerks in 2011-12 while also appearing in two NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres. Biega, meanwhile, played two seasons in Rochester and is coming off a banner year that saw the fourth-year blueliner capture career-highs in goals (5), assists (20) and points (25) in 72 games last season with the Amerks. Set to begin the season as the primary affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, the Comets’ inaugural campaign will be led by rookie head coach Travis Green, who is set to begin his first stint as an American Hockey League bench boss after leading the Portland Winterhawks to a WHL championship last season.
Saturday, Oct. 12 at Syracuse – Season Series: 0-0-0-0, 0 points
A night after welcoming the return of Utica back to the league, the Amerks resume one of their most heated rivalries on Saturday, Oct. 12 as Rochester travels to nearby Syracuse to take on the Crunch at the War Memorial at Oncenter. The 7:00 p.m. matchup will be the first of eight meetings between the longtime foes this season and can be heard live on Sports 1280 WHTK. Syracuse enters the new campaign fresh off one of the most successful seasons in franchise history. The Crunch finished the 2012-13 regular season atop the AHL’s East Division with a 43-22-6-5 record, good enough for third overall in the Eastern Conference standings, while their 43 wins were third-most in team history. After assembling what proved to be the best start in recent memory with 13 wins in its first 19 games, Syracuse’s surge atop the AHL standings was highlighted by an Eastern Conference championship that saw the Crunch post back-to-back sweeps over Portland and Springfield before dispatching the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in five games to send the team to its first-ever trip to the Calder Cup Finals. Guided by second-year head coach Robb Zettler, Syracuse returns 15 of its members from last year’s squad, including second-leading point-getter Brett Connolly, who registered 63 points (31+32) and a +19 on-ice rating in 71 games last season with the Crunch. Despite Syracuse’s success last season, the Amerks fared well in throughout 10-game season series, posting a 7-3-0-0 overall record, including a near-perfect 4-1-0-0 mark on the road, while outscoring the Crunch 32-27 and claiming 14 out of a possible 20 points. Rochester also won four of the first five meetings with Syracuse last season.
AMERKS STATISTICAL LEADERS
Goals: Luke Adam (1)
Assists: Phil Varone, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (1)
Points: Luke Adam, Phil Varone, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (1)
Power-Play Goals: N/A
Power-Play Assists: N/A
Shorthanded Goals: N/A
Shorthanded Assists: N/A
Plus/Minus: Several tied at 0
Shots: Luke Adam (5)
Penalty Minutes: Frederick Roy (16)
Games Played: Several tied at 1
Losses: Matt Hackett (1)
GAA: Nathan Lieuwen (5.13)
SV%: Matt Hackett (.800)
Saves: Matt Hackett (24)
Minutes: Matt Hackett (36:35)
AMERKS QUICK HITS
- Friday’s game against Grand Rapids featured the Amerk debuts of seven players, including defensemen Alexander Sulzer and Chad Ruhwedel, who led all blueliners with 23:51 and 23:32 of ice time, respectively.
- With an assist on Adam’s second-period goal on Friday, Varone, who led all forwards with 22:03 of ice time, has recorded points in back-to-back Home Openers for the Amerks.
- Roy currently ranks fourth in the AHL after piling up 16 penalty minutes against the Griffins on Friday.
- Rochester’s veteran class of Ellis, Zigomanis, Tardif, Gillies, Sulzer and Bagnall have a combined 728 NHL games between them.
HOME, SWEET HOME
Despite dropping an 8-1 decision to Grand Rapids in their Home Opener on Friday, the Amerks show a 34-18-6 all-time home-opening record and have outscored their opponents 238-186 dating back to when the puck first dropped on Rochester’s inaugural season in 1956. Additionally, Rochester boasts a 28-23-7 all-time record in season-opening games, outscoring its opponents 215-202 over the past 57 years.
Entering its 32nd year as the top development team of the Buffalo Sabres, Rochester returns 16 of its players that played at least one game with the Amerks last season, including forwards Phil Varone and Frederick Roy and defensemen Nick Crawford and Brayden McNabb. Led by team captain Matt Ellis, who is set to begin his first full season in Rochester, the Amerks’ veteran class features a wave of newcomers in the likes of defensemen Alexander Sulzer and Drew Bagnall and perennial AHL All-Star forwards Mike Zigomanis and Jamie Tardif. Zigomanis, a 13-year pro who spent the last three seasons across Lake Ontario as a member of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, brings close to 200 NHL games of experience under his belt to Rochester, including 22 during the 2008-09 season when he helped the Pittsburgh Penguins to their most recent Stanley Cup championship. The Amerks’ offense was also immediately bolstered with the offseason acquisition of Tardif, who is coming off a career-year with the Providence Bruins in 2012-13 that saw him earn AHL All-Star honors as well as make his NHL debut for the Boston Bruins. Rounding out the veteran class for the Amerks is seventh-year pro Colton Gillies, a former first-round pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2007 who spent all of last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Acquired at the 2013 NHL trade deadline in a deal with the Minnesota Wild that landed him and Johan Larsson in Rochester in exchange for former Amerk Jason Pominville, Hackett is primed to take over the starting goaltending duties for the Amerks in 2013-14. Hackett, who backstopped the AHL’ Houston Aeros the last three seasons, posted a 3-0-0 record with a 1.62 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage in three games with the Amerks last season. This year’s roster also features a host of incoming rookies set to make their professional debuts, including forward Johnny McGuire as well as defenseman and West Seneca native Alex Lepkowski.
Guided by second-year Head Coach Chadd Cassidy, the Amerks enter the season fresh of a successful 2012-13 campaign that saw the team finish with a 43-29-3-1 overall record (90 points) and advance to the postseason for the second straight season and third time in four years. Cassidy, who took over for Sabres coach Ron Rolston on Feb. 20, piloted Rochester to its second straight second-place finish in the AHL’s North Division while leading the Amerks to a franchise-record 10 shootout wins. He and his staff also assembled one of the AHL’s top specials teams units as the Amerks ranked second in penalty kill efficiency (87.0%) while having the fourth-best power-play in the league (20.3%).
LENDING A HAND
The Buffalo Sabres maybe just four games into the new season, but the NHL club has already enlisted the help of two of Rochester’s top scorers from a season ago. Second-year forward Zemgus Girgensons, who’s coming off an impressive rookie campaign with the Amerks in 2012-13, scored his first NHL goal in his NHL debut against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 2. Through four games with the Sabres this season, Girgensons is playing a regular shift and is averaging 13 minutes of ice time per game. Fellow second-year pro Larsson has also begun the season in Buffalo, having appeared in two games, including his Sabres debut against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 4. The Lau, Sweden, native led all Amerks rookies in scoring last season and finished third overall with 41 points (16+25) in 69 combined AHL games between Rochester and Houston.
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
This year’s edition of the Amerks features two players with lineage to former NHL goaltenders. Roy is the youngest son of Colorado Avalanche head coach and two-time Stanley Cup winner Patrick Roy while Hackett is the nephew of former Jack A. Butterfield Trophy winner Jeff Hackett, whose Springfield Indians defeated Rochester four games to two win the 1990 Calder Cup.
Friday’s game against Grand Rapids marked the 200th pro/AHL game for defenseman Nick Crawford… Adam is five games away from 100 as an Amerk while Bagnall needs another five games to reach the 400 mark in his pro career… Sulzer, who’s currently on recall with the Sabres, is four points shy of the century mark for his AHL career and needs another seven points for 200 pro points… Zigomanis is just a mere four assists away from 300 pro assists needs just three more games at the NHL to reach 200.
Score with Subway! – With an Amerks victory during any regular season home game during the 2013-14 season, fans can log onto amerks.com to download a coupon good for one free regular six-inch sub with the purchase of a 30 oz drink. If the Amerks do not happen to win, fans still score with Subway by logging onto amerks.com to download a coupon for two free cookies the following day at participating Subway restaurants in the Rochester area. Restrictions apply. The coupons are only good the day after each Amerks home game at participating Subway restaurants in the greater Rochester area.
Taco Bell In-Store – Fans can receive a coupon/voucher for a $15 best available ticket to Friday night Amerks home games during the 2013-14 season ($9 off box office price). Turn in in the coupon at the box office in order to purchase the discounted tickets or enter in the promo code (TACO) on ticketmaster.com to redeem the offer. Fans must turn in Taco Bell coupon at The Blue Cross Arena Box Office or enter the promo code on ticketmaster.com to purchase the discounted tickets.
Taco Bell “We Win, You Win” – For each home game the Amerks win, fans will be able to redeem their ticket stub at a participating Taco Bell location the following day to receive a free seasoned beef taco.
Moe’s Hot Player of the Game – At each home game, three Amerks players will be selected as the “hot players” of the game. If any of the three Amerks players scores a goal, fans will be able to redeem a coupon in the Amerks Stars & Stripes Roster Card (limited amount available upon entry) for 50% off your order at participating Moe’s locations the following day. If any of the three Amerks players scores a hat trick, fans will also be able to redeem a coupon in the Amerks Stars & Stripes Roster Card for an enhanced offer (free burrito) at participating Moe’s locations the following day.
Buckmans Car Wash – Amerks home game ticket stubs will be good at all Buckmans Car Wash locations for discounted car wash after all home games at all Buckmans Car Wash locations in the area.
Amerks Happy Hour – Prior to every Friday night home game this season, there will be an Amerks Happy Hour from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Upper Atrium Bar featuring live music and $2 Molson and Coors Light drafts for fans age 21 and over.
THIS MONTH IN AMERKS HISTORY
Oct. 6, 2006 – Mark Mancari scores the 14,000th goal in team history in a 6-0 win over the Albany River Rats.
Oct. 8, 1994 – Todd Simon nets the 11,000th goal in team history in an 8-5 loss to the Adirondack Red Wings.
Oct. 14, 1956 – The Amerks play the Cleveland Barons to a 2-2 tie in front of 6,306 hockey-starved fans in the first game in franchise history at the Rochester War Memorial. AHL Hall of Famer Mike Nykoluk and Earl Balfour scored Rochester’s first two goals of the 1956-57 season.
Oct. 18, 1955 – The Rochester War Memorial opens its doors to its first-ever event called “Rochester on Parade.”
Oct. 18, 1989 – Rochester wins its 1,200th game as Amerks Hall of Famer Jody Gage nets the game-winner in a 4-2 victory over the Utica Devils.
Oct. 21, 2005 – Jason Pominville becomes just the third Amerks in team history to score five goals in a game, tying the franchise record. Chris Taylor also made history in the same game, tying the franchise mark with six assists.
Oct. 26, 1984 – Gary Burns provides the game-winning tally in a 5-4 win over Hershey to give the Amerks their 1,000th win in franchise history.
THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE*
Monday, Oct. 7
10:00 a.m.: Practice, Blue Cross Arena
Tuesday, Oct. 8
10:00 a.m.: Practice, Blue Cross Arena
Wednesday, Oct. 9
10:00 a.m.: Practice, Blue Cross Arena
10:00 a.m.: Practice, Blue Cross Arena
Friday, Oct. 11
10:00 a.m.: Morning Skate, Blue Cross Arena
7:05 p.m.: Rochester vs. Utica,
Blue Cross Arena
Saturday, Oct. 12
7:00 p.m. Rochester at Syracuse,
War Memorial at Oncenter
Sunday, Oct. 13
*Schedule is subject to change