Today’s Game: The Rochester Americans kickoff a two-game trek through the Empire State tonight as the Amerks make their first trip to Utica in over 20 years to face the Comets at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The 7:00 p.m. contest will be the third of 10 meetings between the intrastate rivals this season and will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 WHTK.
AMERKS FAN GUIDE
AUDIO: Chadd Cassidy with Don Stevens
2013-14 AHL STANDINGS 2013-14 NHL STANDINGS
2013-14 ROCHESTER STATS 2013-14 BUFFALO STATS
2013-14 UTICA STATS 2013-14 VANCOUVER STATS
Head-to-Head: Tonight’s matchup also begins a stretch in which the teams will see other three times over the next five games, including a home-and-home series slated for next weekend. The game will be the first in Utica for the Amerks since a 4-2 loss at the hands of the old Utica Devils back on Mar. 9, 1993. Rochester carries a perfect 2-0-0-0 record against Utica and has outscored the Comets 10-5 throughout the season series thus far, including 6-4 in the teams’ most recent get-together on Oct. 19 at The Blue Cross Arena. Mike Zigomanis recorded four points (2+2) in the win, which saw the Amerks post season-highs for most goals in a win (6) & goals in a period (3).
Amerks Notes: Rochester (6-3-2-2, 16 points) enters the contest after snapping a brief three-game winless streak courtesy of a hard-earned 3-1 victory over the North Division rival Hamilton Bulldogs Wednesday morning at Copps Coliseum. Luke Adam continued to stay hot, scoring twice in the third period, including the eventual game-winner, and Matt Hackett made 26 saves to garner his fourth win of the season. Phil Varone rounded out the scoring, recording a goal to go along with an assist. The win, which also gave Rochester points in nine of its last 10 games, provided the Amerks with a two-point cushion over second-place Lake Erie atop the American Hockey League’s North Division standings. After being held scoreless in the same game for just the first time this season Monday against Lake Erie, the dynamic duo of Varone and Adam remain one of the most elite offensive pairings in the AHL. Varone has recorded at least one point in 11 of his first 13 games this season, a stretch that still features the AHL’s longest active assist streak and the eighth-longest point streak over that span. Varone, who currently leads the Amerks with 12 assists and 16 points, has also recorded five multi-point games in his last 10 outings and enters play tonight tied for fourth in the AHL in assists and tied for 10th in overall scoring. Adam, despite seeing his six-game point streak halted last weekend, shows 12 points (8+4) over his last nine games, including goals in seven of his last 10. More impressively, the former AHL Rookie of the Year is off to the best start in his pro career, having scored a goal in nine of Rochester’s first 13 games thus far and still owning the AHL’s longest goal-scoring streak of five games. Adam’s team-leading 11 tallies are presently third-most in the league, including an AHL-best six on the power-play. Coming into today’s game, four of Rochester’s top 10 scorers are defensemen, who have collectively recorded 30 points (8+22) over the last 10 games. The most of which have come from Brayden McNabb, whose 11 points (2+9) tie him for fifth in scoring among league blueliners.
Utica Notes: Utica (2-8-1-1, 6 points), playing its first of a brief two-game homestand tonight, comes into the matchup the winners of two straight following a 3-1 win over Hamilton last Sunday at Copps Coliseum. The Comets struck twice in the third period, including one from former Amerk captain Colin Stuart, and Joacim Eriksson stopped 29 of 30 shots to grab his second win of the season. The back-to-back wins come after Utica opened its inaugural campaign on a 10-game losing streak before defeating Lake Erie last Friday for the first win in franchise history. Guided by first-year head coach Travis Green, the Comets remain in the basement of the AHL standings, owning a league-worst two wins and being one of just two teams to remain winless at home this season. Utica’s offense has also struggled as of late, scoring the second-fewest amount of goals with 26 while averaging the least amount of goals per game in the league with 2.17. Veteran forward Pascal Pelletier, who returned to the AHL this season following a three-year stint with the SCL Tigers of the Swiss-A league, currently paces the Comets with 10 points (2+8) in eight games.
Up Next: The Amerks wrap-up their busy stretch of seven games in 11 days on Saturday, Nov. 16 when they travel to the southern tier for the second time in as many weeks to take on the Binghamton Senators at Veterans Memorial Arena. Puck drop is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start and can be heard live on Sports 1280 WHTK.
AMERKS QUICK HITS
- Varone currently leads the Amerks with 12 assists and 16 points, ranking tied for fourth and tied for 10th in the AHL, respectively.
- Adam, who remains at a close second behind Varone with 15 points (11+4), ranks tied for third in the league with a team-high 11 goals, including a league-best six on the power-play.
- The Amerks currently own one of the league’s elite offensive pairings in Varone and Adam. Through 13 games this season, the duo has combined for nine multi-point outings between the two of them. Even more impressively is that the pair has recorded at least one point in the same game nine times already since the puck dropped in October, including five straight between Oct. 18 and Nov. 1, when they totaled 17 points on seven goals and 10 assists. Rochester is 5-2-1-1 when Varone and Adam register a point in the same game.
- Second-year forward Frederick Roy currently fourth third in the league with 52 penalty minutes, while first-year forward Johnny McGuire is eighth among AHL rookies with 27 penalty minutes.
- Mike Zigomanis, who has been plus-one or better in five of his last seven games, is tied for third in the AHL with plus-nine on-ice rating.
- With nine points (1+8) over his last nine games, including a career-high four-point night (1+3) at Syracuse on Nov. 1, McNabb is third on the team and tied for fifth in scoring among AHL blueliners with 11 points on two goals and nine assists. The third-year pro is also leads all defensemen and is tied for second overall with seven power-play assists.
- Coming off a season-high 32:41 of ice time against Lake Erie on Monday, rookie defenseman Chad Ruhwedel has averaged over 28 minutes of ice time over his last five games, while McNabb, who also skated a season-high 30:40 Monday against the Monsters, has averaged exactly 27 minutes of ice time over that span.
- Second-year defenseman Jerome Gauthier-Leduc has significantly increased his offensive production to an impressive five points (1+4) in 13 games, having already matched last season’s total in assists and moving within two points of the seven he captured in 48 games as a rookie in 2012-13.
- Hackett, whose started 10 of the first 13 games this season, including six of the last seven, enters the contest boasting a 4-3-2 record with a 2.96 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.
- As a team, the Amerks lead all Western Conference clubs with 272 total penalty minutes, while also averaging the 11th-most PIMs per game in the AHL with 20.92
- 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.
THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE: Much of Rochester’s recent success can be attributed to the increase in offensive contributions from its defensemen. Over the last 11 games, Amerks blueliners have collectively recorded 30 points (8+22), the most of which from McNabb, whose 11 points (2+9) are fifth-most among AHL rearguards. The Amerks are 3-0-2-1 so far this season when a defenseman scores a goal.
SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWN: Rochester’s power-play has been one of the most potent in the AHL over the last 12 games, scoring 18 times on 66 man-advantage opportunities for a 27.2% efficiency rate over that span. The Amerks, who have scored at least one power-play goal in 10 of their first 13 games this season, including nine in their last seven, currently have the third-best power-play in the league with a 25.8% overall success rate. Rochester also has the third-best unit on the road (27.3%) and the sixth-most productive power-play at home (24.1%).
BY THE NUMBERS: The Amerks are 6-0-1-1 (14 points) this season against North Division rivals, but show an 0-3-1-1 (2 points) mark versus non-divisional foes. The Amerks have scored the first goal in nine of the first 13 games this season and show a 6-0-1-2 record when doing so, including a 4-0-1-1 mark at home. Rochester is also 5-0-0-1 when leading after two periods, a streak that also shows an unblemished 4-0-0-0 mark at home.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE: With points in each of their last six home games, including a four-game winning streak from Oct. 11 to Nov. 6, the Amerks currently have the third-best home record in the AHL with a mark of 4-1-1-1 (10 points) through their first seven home matchups of the season. Rochester has also scored 23 goals within the friendly confines of The Blue Cross Arena, tying for sixth-most in the league.
LENDING A HAND: The Buffalo Sabres maybe just 20 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 and notched his first assist in a 2-1 loss to Minnesota on Oct. 14. Through 19 games with the Sabres this season, Girgensons has notched five points (1+4) and is averaging nearly 13 minutes of ice time per game. Fellow second-year pro Johan Larsson also began the season in Buffalo, having appeared in 17 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. Larsson recorded his first NHL point with an assist against Anaheim on Nov. 2.
WHO’S HOT: Veteran forward Patrick Kaleta enters tonight’s game with two points (1+1) in his last four games after scoring the lone tally in Rochester’s 2-1 shootout loss to Lake Erie on Monday… The goal, Rochester’s first shorthanded marker of the season, was Kaleta’s first as an Amerk since a three-point showing (1+2) against the Chicago Wolves on Dec. 13, 2007. With points in all but two games this season, Varone remains Rochester’s most consistent point-getter. After seeing his eight-game point streak snapped earlier this month against Hamilton, Varone picked up right where he left off by collecting four points (2+2) over his last four games. Varone’s eight-game assist streak also remains the longest in the AHL to date and he is also one of just three Amerks playing at a point-per-game pace, joining Adam and veteran defenseman Alexander Sulzer. Adam, who shows 12 points (8+4) through his last 10 contests, has found the back of the net in nine of Rochester’s first 13 games this season, including five straight outings between Oct. 18 and Nov. 1, which still stands as the longest stretch in the AHL. Sulzer, meanwhile, is currently riding a six-game point streak of two goals and five assists despite missing the last four games with injury. Although having his four-game point streak cut short in Monday’ shootout loss, Jamie Tardif has six points (1+5) in as many games. Ruhwedel has registered six points (2+4) over his last 10 games, including the first two goals of his professional career last Wednesday against Hamilton. After adding two assists in a loss to Binghamton on Saturday, Kevin Sundher has five points (1+5) in six games and 13-year pro Mike Zigomanis has recorded 10 points (4+6) in his nine eight outings, a stretch that includes a four-point (2+2) against the Utica Comets on Oct. 19 and the game-winning goal in his return to Toronto on Oct. 26.
MILESTONE WATCH: After appearing in his 400th pro game at Hamilton on Oct. 25, veteran defenseman Drew Bagnall is six games away from 400 for his AHL career… Sulzer notched his 200th pro point with an assist vs. Hamilton last Wednesday, while the same game also saw Zigomanis record his 300th pro assist and Varone capture his 100th career AHL assist… Forward Alex Hutchings needs four more points to hit the century mark for his pro career… Kaleta is nine games shy of 100 in the red, white and blue and needs just three more tilts to reach 400 for his pro career.