TONIGHT’S GAME: Hockey returns to the Flower City tonight as the Rochester Americans open their 57th season in the American Hockey League with the first of 10 meetings against the intrastate rival Syracuse Crunch. The game, which is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start at The Blue Cross Arena, will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 AM WHTK.
AMERKS FAN GUIDE
Tonight's Downloadble Rosters
AUDIO: Ron Rolston Pregame
2011-12 AHL Final Regular Season Standings
2011-12 Rochester Stats
2011-12 Syracuse Stats
Friday's Weather Forecast
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Tonight’s contest marks the second time in four years Rochester will open the regular season against its cross-town foe. The Amerks posted a 6-3-0-1 record through 10 get-togethers with Syracuse last season, which included a 4-0-0-1 mark at home that saw the team capture nine out of a possible 10 points within the friendly confines of The Blue Cross Arena. More interesting, though, Rochester won its first three meetings at home against the Crunch in 2011-12, beginning with a 3-2 shootout victory on Oct. 18 and a 6-5 overtime win on Nov. 6 before a 3-2 regulation triumph on Nov. 16.
HOME, SWEET HOME: The Amerks enter the 2012-13 campaign with a 33-17-6 all-time home-opening record and have outscored their opponents 231-173 dating back to when the puck first dropped on Rochester’s inaugural season in 1956. Rochester, however, has dropped its last four home-openers stemming from a 4-3 setback to the Syracuse Crunch on Oct. 10, 2008. Additionally, the Amerks boast a 27-22-7 all-time record in season-opening games, outscoring their opponents 208-189 over the past 56 years.
WHO’S WHO: While last season allowed the continuation of hockey’s longest working NHL-AHL affiliation between the Amerks and Buffalo Sabres, the new campaign will see the return of several familiar faces to the Amerks lineup, including forwards Corey Tropp, Luke Adam and 2011-12 Rookie of the Year Marcus Foligno. Defensively, Rochester also brings back the tandem of Brayden McNabb and T.J. Brennan, each of whom made their NHL debuts with Buffalo last season. Coming off a career year between the pipes that saw him reach AHL career-bests in wins, goals-against average and save percentage, reigning team MVP David Leggio rounds out the list of players returning to Rochester after starting each of the final 23 games of the season to help the Amerks secure a berth in the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs. He also finished the campaign as the AHL’s saves leader with 1,579 total stops. In all, Rochester returns 16 players from last year’s squad. Tonight’s contest will also see the professional debuts of several up-and-coming Sabres prospects, including highly touted forward Zemgus Girgensons, who became the highest Latvian drafted in NHL history when Buffalo selected him in the first round (14th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft. Also looking to make a splash in his first professional season is defenseman Mark Pysyk, who became the second Sabres defensive prospect in as many years to captain his team to a WHL championship in 2012.
AMERKS NOTES: Led by second-year Head Coach Ron Rolston, the Amerks enter the season fresh of a successful 2011-12 campaign that saw the team finish with a 36-26-10-4 overall record (86 points) and advance to the postseason for the second time in three years. In his first year behind the Rochester bench, Rolston and his staff assembled the second-best offense in all of the Western Conference as Rochester finished the campaign scoring 224 goals. Additionally, the organizational commitment to player development was evidenced by a dozen different Amerks that joined the big club on NHL recall last season. Rochester also led the AHL in games decided after regulation with 24, showing a 4-10 mark in overtime while going 6-4 in shootouts.
SYRACUSE NOTES: The revamped Syracuse Crunch enter the 2012-13 season with a new-look roster thanks to an offseason affiliation change that relocated the Tampa Bay Lightning’s top developmental headquarters to upstate New York. With Syracuse now serving as home to the Lightning’s top NHL prospects, the Crunch inherited the Head Coach and much of the roster of the defending Calder Cup champion Norfolk Admirals, who last season set a new professional hockey record with a 28-game winning streak and went 15-3 in the playoff en route to the franchise’s first AHL title. Led by reigning AHL Coach of the Year Jon Cooper, the Crunch come into the matchup with one of the most potent offenses in the American Hockey League which features the 2011-12 AHL Rookie of the Year and MVP Cory Conacher. Conacher, a product of Canisius College and a former Amerk, finished second in the AHL in overall scoring last season, while leading all rookies with an astounding 80 points (39+41) in 75 games for Norfolk. The Burlington, Ontario, native also paced the league in goals while ranking tied for 12th in assists. Syracuse also boasts the 2011-12 Defenseman of the Year in Mark Barberio, who last season finished atop AHL blueliners with 61 points (13+48) in 74 games with the Admirals, while netminder Dustin Tokarski, who went 32-11-0 last season with Norfolk and finished as the AHL’s leader in wins, returns for his fourth season in the Tampa Bay system.
UP NEXT: The Amerks travel north of the border to take on the defending Western Conference Champion Toronto Marlies on Saturday, Oct. 13 at Ricoh Coliseum. The 5:00 p.m. contest will be the first of 10 meetings this season between the North Division rivals and can be heard live on Sports 1280 AM WHTK.
The special pre-game “Party in the Atrium” begins at 4:30 p.m. and will include a Red Carpet walk by the Amerks team, live music from Strictly Hip, the first Amerks Happy Hour of the season and more.
The Red Carpet walk for the team, which begins at 4:30 p.m. in the lower atrium of the Arena and is open for fans to attend, will be hosted by Amerks broadcasters Don Stevens and Ric Seiling. The Amerks Happy Hour gets underway at 5:00 p.m. in the Upper Atrium Bar and features $2 Molson and Coors Light drafts for fans ages 21 and older. Amerk Alumni members will be on hand to meet fans as well. Fans can receive a 2012-13 Amerks magnet schedule courtesy of Pulse Limos of WNY.
Strictly Hip (www.strictlyhip.net), a national touring musical act based out of Buffalo, will perform prior to the game starting at 5 p.m. as well as during the first intermission.
The Party in the Atrium will also feature several prize giveaways throughout the pregame event, including a 2012-13 team-signed Amerks jersey, an autographed stick, an Amerks 12-Pack of tickets for this season, a night in a suite at an upcoming Amerks game, tickets to Ringling Bros. presents Fully Charged! at The Blue Cross Arena on Oct. 24, gift cards from The Distillery and products from Molson/Coors. Fans can also get their picture taken in a Fan Photo Booth set up in the Atrium.
Friday’s Home Opener will also feature the first “Mystery Puck” of the season, where a limited number of specially-designed Amerks pucks, signed by various players, will be for sale. In addition, it will also be the first of seven “$5 Parking Nights” in the Civic Center Garage for the season.
Prior to the start of the game, there will be a Ceremonial Puck Drop honoring the rich history of the Amerks franchise.