TONIGHT’S GAME: Fresh off their recent season-long five-game road swing, the Rochester Americans return home tonight to take on the Eastern Conference-leading Syracuse Crunch in a 7:05 p.m. matchup at The Blue Cross Arena. The contest will be the ninth of 10 scheduled meetings between the intrastate rivals this season and will be carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK and televised on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel 26.
AMERKS FAN GUIDE
AUDIO: CHADD CASSIDY WITH DON STEVENS
2012-13 AHL STANDINGS 2012-13 NHL STANDINGS
ROCHESTER STATS BUFFALO STATS
SYRACUSE STATS TAMPA BAY STATS
WEDNESDAY'S WEATHER FORECAST
2013 CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS PRIMER
Last Game: Rochester at San Antonio – 3/24/13
Rochester (3) at San Antonio (0)
Goals: Legault (GWG), Ellis, Tarnasky
Goalie(s): Lieuwen (39 saves/39 shots, 60:00)
Special Teams: PP: 1/3 --- PK: 3/3
Shots: San Antonio 39 --- Rochester 25
PIM: San Antonio 23 --- Rochester 13
3 Stars: 1. Lieuwen (RCH), 2. Tarnasky (RCH), 3. Adam (RCH)
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Despite Syracuse’s surge atop the American Hockey League standings, the Amerks have fared well against the Crunch this season and maintain the upper-hand with a near-perfect 6-2-0-0 record through the first eight games of the season series. Rochester earned a 2-1 overtime win in the teams’ most recent get-together back on March 2 in Syracuse, when Phil Varone netted the game-winner with just 10 seconds left in the extra session as the Amerks improved to 4-0-0-0 on the road against the Crunch. The Amerks are 8-3-0-0 in their last 11 games against Syracuse dating back to last season, a stretch that has produced a win for Rochester in seven of the last nine meetings between the cross-town foes.
AMERKS NOTES: Rochester (35-25-3-1, 74 points) enters the contest coming off a successful road trip that ended with a 3-0 whitewash of the San Antonio Rampage Sunday at the AT&T Center. Rookie goaltender Nathan Lieuwen turned aside all 39 shots sent his way to earn his first career AHL win and Nick Tarnasky scored for the second straight game on his way to establishing a new career-high for goals in a season with 15. The Amerks finished their 10-day out-of-state trek with a 3-2-0-0 record and took six out of a possible eight points in their four-game swing through the South Division to move within a point of Houston for fifth place in the Western Conference. The weekend also saw Mancari, Rochester’s leading scorer, score his 20th goal of the campaign in Friday’ loss to Texas, making him the first Amerk this season to reach the 20-goal mark, a feat he’s accomplished in each of his last seven seasons. Mancari has registered 15 points (5+10) over his last 13 games and leads the Amerks in all offensive categories in goals (20), assists (38) and points (58) and enters the matchup tied for fourth in scoring among the AHL’s top point-getters. He also ranks fourth among league leaders in assists, including a league-best 18 helpers on the power-play. His 239 shots on goal are also tops in the AHL. Leggio, who has won seven of his last 10 starts, continues to lead all AHL netminders in wins (33), saves (1669), minutes (3274:00) and shots against (1811), while ranking seventh with a .921 save percentage. He leads all goalies with a 7-1 shootout mark.
SYRACUSE NOTES: Syracuse (39-18-3-5, 86 points), playing its first of three straight on the road, comes into the matchup as the second-best team in the AHL following a 3-1 win over the Albany Devils Saturday on home ice. The Crunch built a 3-0 lead before surrendering a power-play goal to Albany’s Matt Anderson in the final minute of regulation. Syracuse, which enters play tonight with wins in three of its last four and points in six of its last seven, is presently the AHL’s best team on the road with a 23-8-0-2 record having accounted for more than half of their league-best 39 wins and 86 points away from the War Memorial at Oncenter. Guided by former bench boss Jon Cooper, who took over as head coach for Syracuse’s NHL affiliate in Tampa Bay on Monday, the Crunch currently lead the AHL in goals scored (218) and boast the league’s best winning percentage (.662). Syracuse’s well-balanced offense is led by second-year pro Tyler Johnson, whose 32 goals and 58 points place him first and fourth among the AHL’s top scorers, respectively. A Calder Cup winner with Norfolk in 2011-12, Johnson also ranks tied for fifth in the league with 11 power-play goals in 59 games.
UP NEXT: The Amerks remain at home on Friday, March 29 when they host the first-place Toronto Marlies in a North Division showdown at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be the ninth of 10 meetings between the two teams this season and will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 WHTK. The game will also be televised live on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel 26.
AMERKS QUICK HITS
- With 33 goals through their last 12 games, including 27 in their last nine, the Amerks are currently fourth in the AHL in goals for with 202, 16 shy of Syracuse’s league-leading 218 tallies. Rochester is also fourth in the league in goals-per-game, averaging 3.16.
- Rochester’s power-play has been one of the most effective in the league over the last 31 games as the Amerks have converted on 26 of their 130 man-advantage opportunities, including once in Sunday’s 3-0 win over San Antonio to snap a four-game drought. The Amerks currently rank second in the AHL with 58 power-play goals and have the third-best power-play unit in the AHL with a 20.9% efficiency rate. Rochester has scored at least one power-play goal in 42 of the first 64 games this season.
- The Amerks also own the top penalty kill in the AHL, successfully killing off 228 of 261 short-handed situations (86.7%), including 13 of 14 over the weekend, and have allowed a league-low 33 power-play goals against.
- With 15 points (5+10) through his last 13 games, Mancari leads the Amerks in all offensive categories in goals (20), assists (38) and points (58) and enters the contest tied for fourth in scoring among the AHL’s top point-getters. Mancari also ranks fourth among league leaders in assists, including a league-high 18 helpers on the power-play. His 229 shots on goal are also tops in the AHL.
- Brayden McNabb ranks third and sixth among AHL defensemen in assists (31) and points (36), respectively, and has since set new career-highs in each category. McNabb also paces all blueliners with three short-handed assists.
- The duo of Mancari and Amerks captain Kevin Porter, who is currently on recall with the Sabres, have combined for 30 multi-point outings between the two of them since the puck dropped in October. More impressively, the duo has also recorded at least one point in the same game in 23 of 64 outings this season, including eight different occasions where they have each posted multiple points in the same game. Rochester is 19-3-1-0 when Porter and Mancari register a point in the same game.
- Also presently on recall with the big club is rookie forward Brian Flynn, who enters the week ranked 17th in scoring among AHL rookies with 32 points (16+16) in 45 games. The Amerks are 11-2-0-0 this season when Flynn scores a goal.
- Leggio, who’s won seven of his last 10 starts, continues to lead all AHL netminders in wins (33), saves (1669), minutes played (3274:00), shots faced (1811), while placing seventh with a .922 save percentage. He also boasts the best shootout record (7-1) among goaltenders, having stopped 35 of 45 shooters for a .778 save percentage. Leggio is 18-3 all-time in AHL shootouts and has won 11 of his last 13, including a pair of shootout victories over Rochester’s recent road trip.
- The Amerks have played the second-fewest games in the AHL with 64.
ROLSTON MOVES UP TO NHL
The Buffalo Sabres promoted former Amerks head coach Ron Rolston to serve as their interim head coach for the remainder of the 2012-13 season. Rolston replaced Lindy Ruff, the all-time winningest coach in Sabres history and longest tenured coach in the NHL, who was relieved of his duties after 16 years behind the Buffalo bench. Rolston became the 16th coach in franchise history after compiling a 63-56-5 regular-season record over 1 ½ seasons with the Amerks, who he led to the Calder Cup Playoffs in just his first season as an American Hockey League coach. He officially made his NHL coaching debut in Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 21 at the Air Canada Centre and earned his first win in the Sabres’ 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 26. Rolston is 7-7-2 since taking over for Ruff on Feb. 20.
CASSIDY APPOINTED HEAD COACH IN ROCHESTER
The exit of Rolston to Buffalo meant the elevation of Amerks assistant coach Chadd Cassidy as the new bench boss in Rochester. Cassidy, who previously worked alongside Rolston for five seasons at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, became the 30th head coach in Amerks history and the first to take over the position as a midseason replacement since John Van Boxmeer was appointed the title midway through the 1984-85 season when he took over for Jim Schoenfield. Cassidy made his American Hockey League head coaching debut in Rochester’s 5-1 loss to the Texas Stars on Feb. 20 and earned his first win in a 2-1 overtime victory over the Syracuse Crunch on March 2. Cassidy is 8-7-1-0 since his promotion to head coach and has guided the Amerks to an 8-3-1-0 start through the first 12 games of March.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
The end of the NHL lockout may have meant the departure of several key components to Rochester’s offense, but the recent flurry of roster moves has certainly been beneficial for the Amerks. Aside from the season-long mainstays in Mancari and Nick Tarnasky, the latest additions of high-end forwards Patrick Rissmiller, Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick give the Amerks five active veterans in the lineup for the first time this season while providing stability and plenty of leadership. Along with established defenseman Adam Pardy, who was recently reassigned back to the Amerks after a recent NHL stint with the Sabres, Rochester’s veteran class has combined for over 1,200 man games in the NHL, including 329 from McCormick, and has totaled 110 points (44+66) for the Amerks in 2012-13.
LENDING A HAND
The Amerks have had a total of six players make the 75-mile trek west down Interstate 90 to Buffalo this season with rookie defenseman Mark Pysyk being the most recent to join the Sabres on recall. In addition to Pysyk, who made his NHL debut in Buffalo’s 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on March 17, the Sabres have also required the services of forwards Marcus Foligno, Cody Hodgson, Porter and Flynn along with defenseman T.J. Brennan, who all began the season in Rochester. The group has totaled 48 points (20+28) in 103 combined games with the Sabres. Buffalo has also sent reinforcements to Rochester in the form of veteran forwards McCormick and Ellis as well as defenseman Pardy, all of whom have also seen time with the Sabres this season.
MANCARI MAKING HIS MARK
The return to Rochester has been quite the homecoming for Mancari, who is in the midst of what could perhaps be his best season as an Amerk since joining the organization as a rookie for the 2005-06 campaign. Entering this year, the eight-year pro ranked 46th all-time in scoring amongst forwards in franchise history with 156 points (62+94) in 215 career games in the red, white and blue, but has since climbed to 24th on the list, surpassing some notable names like Dane Jackson, Scott Nichol, Jason Pominville and most recently, Wally Boyer, along the way. Mancari added another personal milestone at Toronto on Feb. 27, scoring his 200th pro career goal and recording his 200th point as an Amerk. With two assists last Tuesday against Oklahoma City, Mancari reached the 57-point mark for the third straight season with the Amerks, a feat he also accomplished during the 2006-07 and 2007-08 campaigns in Rochester.
THE STREAK CONTINUES
With the lone goal in the Amerks’ 2-1 loss to Texas on Friday, Mancari became the first player this season to net 20 goals on the way to posting his seventh consecutive 20-goal season over his eight-year professional career. In doing so, Mancari continues Rochester’s 57-year tradition of having at least one player from each season since the team’s inception in 1956 to score 20 or more goals, a streak that was sparked by Bronco Horvath’s team-leading 37 tallies during the Amerks’ inaugural 1956-57 campaign.
Over the first two and a half years of his professional career, defenseman Alex Biega played in 21 shootout games and was never called on to attempt a shot. That changed earlier this month, and Biega’s prowess has brought the Amerks valuable standings points down the stretch. On March 10, Rochester turned to Biega in the bottom of the 10th round of a marathon shootout vs. Abbotsford, and the third-year blueliner snapped a shot home to give Rochester the win. On March 19, Biega got the call in the fifth round and netted the only goal of the shootout, sending the Amerks to victory in Oklahoma City. And on March 23 in Houston, Biega’s goal in the last half of the fifth round made Rochester triumphant again – and made him 3-for-3 with three game-winners, trailing only Grand Rapids’ Chad Billins for tops in the AHL in shootout efficiency. Rochester, now 7-1 in shootouts this season, finished the week in sixth place in the Western Conference, five points ahead of the four teams who are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot.
LEGGIO’S CAREER YEAR LEADING THE WAY… AGAIN
A year after single-handedly guiding the Amerks into the postseason, Leggio is again having another big year between the pipes for Rochester and making a strong bid to repeat as team MVP. The 2012-13 campaign has already seen the fifth-year netminder capture his third straight 20-win season, but Leggio has since added some more career achievements to an already impressive resume. The Williamsville, NY, native was nearly flawless in a recent two-game sweep of the Abbotsford Heat, beginning with a 44-save shutout on March 8 that produced his career-high 29th win of the season, besting the 28 victories he set a year ago with the Amerks. Leggio followed that up with another brilliant performance, stopping 35 shots in regulation before denying seven of 10 shooters in a rematch against the Heat two days later that garnered his first career 30-win season. He also became the first Amerks netminder to post 30 wins in a single season since Ryan Miller’s incredible 41 victories during Rochester’s historic 2004-05 campaign.
HOME, SWEET HOME
Home-ice advantage has certainly been beneficial this season for the Amerks, who have won 12 of their last 19 games within the friendly confines of The Blue Cross Arena, outscoring their opponents 101-86 in 32 total games. Rochester boasts a 19-12-0-1 record in their downtown venue, making them the 13th-best home team in the AHL. Conversely, Rochester is 16-13-3-0 on the road and has won seven of its last 12 games away from home.
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT
The Amerks have seen nine of last 14 games decided by one goal dating back to a 3-2 setback at Hamilton on Feb 22. Rochester is 12-11-3-1 in 27 one-goal games this season after finishing the 2011-12 campaign with 42 such outings. Of those 27 one-goal decisions, 12 have been determined in overtime or via the shootout, for an 8-0-3-1 mark.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Amerks are 18-10-1-1 (38 points) this season against North Division rivals, but show a 17-15-2-0 (36 points) mark versus non-divisional foes. The Amerks have scored the first goal in 39 of the first 64 games of the campaign and show a 28-9-2-0 record when doing so, including a 15-3-0-0 mark at home. Rochester is also 28-1-1-0 when leading after two periods, a streak that also shows an unblemished 16-0-0-0 mark at home.
Ellis has been Rochester’s most consistent performer as of late, scoring a goal in five of his last nine games… Mancari, who recently strung together an eight-game point streak, enters the contest with 15 points (5+10) over his last 13 games and has collected 45 points (17+28) over his last 42 games… The same stretch featured an additional five-game point streak from Dec. 19 to Dec. 28 and his first hat trick of the season against Toronto on Feb. 1… Flynn has collected 15 points (7+8) through his last 20 games and hasn’t gone longer than five games this season without a point… He also shows four points (3+1) in his last seven games with the Sabres… Rissmiller, who is just 16 games into his Professional Tryout, has collected five assists over his last eight games and shows 11 points (2+9) and a pair of multi-point performances since re-joining the Amerks on Feb. 2… Porter, though presently being on recall with Buffalo, has 31 points (10+21) over his last 29 outings, including 14 points (4+10) in his last 11, and has been held scoreless just six times in his last 16 showings… Phil Varone, who had a career-high four-point game (2+2) at Lake Erie on Feb. 12, shows six points (3+3) in his last nine games and Maxime Legault has produced six goals over an 11-game stretch… Pardy has collected one goal and three assists in his last seven games and has totaled nine points (2+7) through his first 18 games with the Amerks… Tarnasky, meanwhile, has three points (2+1) in his last two games, including goals in back-to-back outings.
Lieuwen earned his first AHL and shutout when he stopped all 39 shots in Rochester’s 3-0 win at San Antonio on 3/24… The same game also saw Tarnasky set a new career-high for goals in a season with his 15th of the campaign… Rookie defenseman Mark Pysyk made his NHL debut against the Washington Capitals on March 17, recording one shot and 14:55 ice time… Ellis skated in his 700th professional game at Toronto on 3/16 and is a mere four points shy of the 300-mark for his pro career… Mancari, who is the only player to appear in every game thus far this season, is slated to dress in his 600th professional game at Albany on April 7 and needs another 10 points to reach the 500-point benchmark … Porter registered his first point as a Sabre with an assist at Philadelphia on 3/10… He also needs just another two assists to reach the century mark for his pro career… Rankin needs another seven games to reach 300 for his pro career… McNabb appeared in his 100th game as an Amerk at Binghamton on March 9… Adam registered the 100th point of his AHL career with a goal at Lake Erie on March 3… Flynn made his NHL debut in the Sabres’ 4-3 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils on March 2, earning 8:50 of ice time… The same game also represented the 400th professional appearance for Pardy… Mancari scored the 200th goal of his pro career at Toronto on Feb. 27, becoming the 30th player in franchise history to record 200 points with the Amerks.
AMERKS POINTS OF INTEREST
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Rochester set a new franchise attendance record by playing in front of a capacity crowd of 19,070 fans on Friday, Dec. 28 against Lake Erie at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y. The record-setting attendance also represented the ninth-largest crowd for a single game in American Hockey League history and the fifth-largest for an AHL game played indoors. The previous Amerks record for the largest crowd in the 57-year history of the franchise was 17,898, which was set eight years prior to the day on Dec. 28, 2004, when the Amerks defeated the Edmonton Roadrunners at the then-HSBC Arena in Buffalo.
More than a dozen different crowds of 7,500+ fans in attendance have taken in an Amerks game this season, including eight in the Flower City’s downtown hockey barn. The number is a vast improvement from the 2011-12 season, when only three crowds of 7,500 or more were on hand. Rochester is 10th in the AHL in total attendance to date and is averaging 6,369 fans per game through the first 32 home games of the 2012-13 campaign.
2013 ALL-STAR CLASSIC RECAP
Amerks defenseman Brayden McNabb became just the fifth AHL player ever to crack triple digits in the CCM Hardest Shot contest, winning the event with a blast of 101.8 miles per hour as the Western Conference All-Stars earned a 12-11 win over their Eastern Conference counterparts in the 2013 AHL All-Star Skills Competition. McNabb also became just the second Amerk to top 100 miles per hour in the event, finishing behind current teammate Mark Mancari, whose blast of 102.8 during in 2008 is still an AHL record.
2012 IN REVIEW
Several Amerks players finished atop the AHL’s regular-season scoring leaders during the 2012 calendar year, including McNabb, who finished 10th in scoring among league blueliners with 37 points (6+31). Leggio, who played in a combined 62 games for the Amerks in 2012, including the final 23 of the 2011-12 season, led all netminders with 34 wins while totaling three shutouts throughout the year.
Zweigle's Family 4-Pack – For just $48, fans can purchase four lower level tickets, four hot dogs and four sodas.
Business Persons Special – For any Sunday through Thursday game, fans who present their business cards at The Blue Cross Arena Box Office can purchase a $17 ticket for best-available lower level seating.
Eats & Seats – The Distillery “Eats & Seats” promotion returns for another season, where for just $20, fans can purchase one ticket (best-available) and a $10 gift card to The Distillery.
Moe's Hot Players - Tonight's Moe's Hot Players are Zemgus Girgensons, Luke Adam and Alex Biega. If any of these Amerks players score a goal tonight, your roster card is worth 50% off your order the following day at any participating Moe’s restaurants. If one of those players scores a hat trick, bring your roster card to any participating Moe’s restaurant the next day and receive a free burrito. Eat at Moe’s!