Game Notes: After meeting 10 times during the 2012-13 regular season, the Rochester Americans and Toronto Marlies kickoff the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs this afternoon in Game 1 of their best-of-five Western Conference Quarterfinals at Ricoh Coliseum. The 3:00 p.m. matinee will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 WHTK and will also be televised live on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel in Rochester (channel 98) and Buffalo (channel 87).
Amerks Punch Playoff Ticket: The Amerks have punched their ticket into the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs, marking the 43rd time in the 57-year history of the franchise that Rochester advanced to the postseason. It’s also the second straight season and the third time in four years the Amerks qualified for the Playoffs after going 7-3-0-0 in the final 10 games of the regular season to secure a berth, clinching on home ice in its final regular season tilt at The Blue Cross Arena on April 20 against Hamilton. The Amerks closed out the campaign with a record 43-29-3-1 and 90 points, representing the first time since the 2009-10 season Rochester reached the 90-point mark in a season.
Over The Years: Rochester has been a part of 80 playoff series over the years, in which it has compiled a 210-193 record in 403 games during that time. The Amerks are looking for their first Playoff series win since the 2005 postseason when they swept the Hamilton Bulldogs in four games before dropping a five-game series to Manitoba in the second round. Since then, the Amerks have only made three Playoff appearances, losing first-round matchups to Hamilton in 2007, Abbotsford in 2010 and, most recently, Toronto in 2012. This Playoff series is also Rochester’s sixth consecutive series versus a Canadian-based opponent.
We Meet Again: For the second straight year, the Amerks finished seventh in the American Hockey League’s Western Conference standings, setting the stage for another first-round matchup with the defending Western Conference champion Toronto Marlies. The Playoff series will mark just the second time ever the North Division rivals will square off in postseason play after the Marlies earned a three-game sweep of Rochester during the 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals a year ago. Toronto went on to advance to the Calder Cup Finals, where the Marlies were swept by the eventual champion Norfolk Admirals as part of the team’s historic run to its first-ever AHL title.
Series Notes: The game will mark the first meeting in eight days between the two teams since their last encounter just over a week ago on Friday, April 19 at The Blue Cross Arena. After playing Games 1 and 2 in Toronto this weekend, the series will shift back to Rochester for Game 3 on Wednesday, May 1, and if necessary, Game 4 on Thursday, May 2, before determining if a decisive Game 5 is needed back across the border on Saturday, May 4.
Head-to-Head: Rochester finished with a 1-7-1-1 record in its season series against the Marlies, with its only win of the season coming back on Feb. 1 as Mark Mancari’s hat trick powered the Amerks to a 5-1 victory. Toronto, however, has maintained the upper-hand against Rochester having claimed 12 of the last 13 get-togethers with the Amerks, including all three postseason games in the opening round of the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs. Additionally, dating back to last season, the heated North Division rivalry has seen 17 of the last 23 combined regular-season and playoff games between the longtime foes decided by one goal, including four of the last eight this season. Mancari (4+1) and second-year defenseman Brayden McNabb (1+4) each posted five points versus the Marlies in the regular season, while goaltender David Leggio manned the pipes for nine of the 10 matchups and finished with a 1-7-1 record to go along with a 2.77 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.
Toronto captain Ryan Hamilton was the top-point getter for the Marlies against the Amerks this season, scoring eight goals in 10 games, including a hat trick in Toronto’s 6-1 win over Rochester back on Mar. 16 at Ricoh Coliseum. Third-year netminder Ben Scrivens went 5-0-0 against the Amerks prior to joining the parent Toronto Maple Leafs at the close of the NHL lockout. Taking over the starting goaltending duties for the Marlies midseason was former Amerk Drew MacIntyre, who eventually earned himself an NHL contract with the Maple Leafs by the season’s end after originally coming to the Marlies on a Professional Tryout. In four games against his old team, MacIntyre, who appeared in 23 games with Rochester last season, posted a 4-0-0 record and an astounding 1.01 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage, allowing just four goals.
Amerks Notes: Rochester will see several of its team members officially make their American Hockey League playoff debuts this afternoon, while interim head coach Chadd Cassidy, who helped guide the Amerks to a playoff berth last season, is set to make his postseason debut as the Amerks bench boss. Cassidy, who took over as head coach on Feb. 20 after the promotion of Ron Rolston to the Buffalo Sabres, finished the campaign with a 16-11-1-0 record as the 30th head coach in franchise history, and since Mar. 2, guided the Amerks to an incredible 16-7-1-0 record down the final stretch. Cassidy earned his first win in a 2-1 overtime victory over the Syracuse Crunch on Mar. 2. Cassidy’s Amerks finished the regular season ranked seventh in the AHL in goals for with 234, 13 shy of Syracuse’s league-leading 247 tallies. Rochester also finished seventh in the league in goals-per-game, averaging 3.08. Among the eight Western Conference teams who locked up a Playoff spot, the Amerks boast the fourth-best offense entering the postseason while their 43 wins are the fourth-most among the 16 AHL clubs advancing to the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The return to Rochester has been quite the homecoming for Mancari, who had another successful season as an Amerk since joining the organization as a rookie for the 2005-06 campaign. The eight-year pro led the Amerks in all offensive categories in goals (22), assists (39) and points (61) and ended the season ranked 11th in scoring among the AHL’s top point-getters. Mancari also finished tied for ninth in assists, which included the 10th-most on the power-play with 18. His 279 shots on goal were also tops in the AHL and were 36 more than the next closest player.
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, becoming just 30th player in team history to reach the mark. After hitting 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, Mancari ended this season surpassing the 60-point plateau for the fourth time in his career.
A year after single-handedly guiding the Amerks into the postseason, Leggio again had another big year between the pipes for Rochester after making a repeat performance as team MVP. The 2012-13 campaign saw the fifth-year netminder finish the regular season as the AHL’s leader in wins (38), saves (1,957), shots against (2,119), minutes played (3,800), and games played (64) while ranking fourth with a .924 save percentage. In addition, the Williamsville, N.Y, native, also captured his third straight 20-win season and 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. Most recently, he turned in yet another memorable performance on Mar. 27 against Syracuse when he steered aside all 38 shots for his fourth shutout of the season, matching the career-high he set during the 2008-09 campaign with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. And just three nights later on Mar. 30 at Hamilton, Leggio earned his 35th win of the season, marking just the seventh time in the franchise’s 57-year history that a Rochester goaltender has won at least 35 games in a season.
Since Feb. 22, 2012, Leggio has started 90 of Rochester’s 102 regular-season and playoff games and has earned 51 of the team’s 56 wins. He ended the season having set new AHL career-highs in all goaltending categories, including goals-against average (2.56), save percentage (.924), wins (38), saves (1,957), shutouts (4), minutes (3,800) and games played (64) and led all AHL netminders with a 9-1 shootout record. He also challenged the AHL record for saves in a season (2,005), established by Mike O’Neill with the Baltimore Bandits in 1995-96, but came up shy 48 saves.
Toronto Notes: Toronto, which again finished the regular season atop the North Division for the second straight year with a 43-23-3-7 (96 points) record, earns its fourth postseason berth in six years and its second since 2009. The Marlies’ regular season finish was the team’s second-best since its inception in 2005 after the parent Toronto Maple Leafs relocated its AHL headquarters from St. John’s to Toronto. The Marlies were the only AHL team this season to repeat as champions in their respective division and are one of just two division-winners from last season to qualify for the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs. Toronto also completed the campaign with the fourth-best offense in the league, scoring 237 goals and averaging 3.12 goals per game. The Marlies were also the top home team in the AHL in 2012-13, finishing with a 26-8-1-3 record (56 points) within the friendly confines of Ricoh Coliseum, where they outscored the opposition 128-85 through 38 regular-season home games.
The high-powered Marlies were led offensively by seven-year veteran forward Ryan Hamilton, who paced Toronto with a team-high 30 goals and 48 points in just 56 games this season. The 28-year-old Oshawa, Ont., native, placed tied for fifth among the AHL’s top goal scorers and ranked third with three short-handed tallies. It would mark second straight season Hamilton led the Marlies in goals after netting 25 in 2011-12, including a team-high 11 power-play markers to finish tied for 13th in the AHL in that category. He also registered two assists in 10 NHL appearances with the big club this season, bringing his NHL career totals to 12 games and three assists.
The new-look Marlies enter the postseason with a refurbished lineup after seeing the departure of defenseman Mike Kostka and forwards Matt Frattin and Nazem Kadri to the parent Toronto Maple Leafs following the end of the NHL lockout. Toronto’s biggest loss, however, came with the exit of perennial AHL All-Star Keith Aucoin, who paced the Marlies’ balanced offense with a team-high 37 points (10+27) prior to being claimed off waivers by the New York Islanders on Jan. 17. The Marlies, though, were bolstered with the late-season additions of veteran forward Tim Connolly and established defenseman Mike Komisarek, both of whom began the season with the Maple Leafs and have considerable NHL experience on their resumes. A veteran of 697 NHL games with the Leafs, Sabres and Islanders, Connolly made an immediate impact by a scoring a goal in each of his first three games with the Marlies before closing out the campaign with 12 points (5+7) in 28 appearances. Komisarek, who was demoted to the AHL on Mar. 21, reinforced Toronto’s depleted defensive corps despite being held scoreless through just seven games with the Marlies.
MacIntyre, meanwhile, boasts a 27-22 record with 1.96 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in his Calder Cup Playoff career, including an 11-9 record with the Hamilton Bulldogs during the 2011 Playoffs.
Western Conference Quarterfinal – Series “F” (best-of-5):
7-Rochester Americans vs. 2-Toronto Marlies
Game 1: Saturday, April 27 at 3:00 p.m. at Ricoh Coliseum
Game 2: Sunday, April 28 at 3:00 p.m. at Ricoh Coliseum
Game 3: Wednesday, May 1 at 7:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena
Game 4: Thursday, May 2 at 7:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena*
Game 5: Saturday, May 4 at 3:00 p.m. at Ricoh Coliseum*