Rochester Americans head Coach Chadd Cassidy said that his team Friday night did not play as well against the Utica Comets as they did during their last meeting. He also said that makes the night’s decisive 7-4 victory even more impressive.
"Make me reminisce true like deja vu! I’m rubba, [y’all] is like glue." (Wu-Tang Clan, Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin Ta F’ Wit)
And, let me tell you, Friday night’s Amerks were impressive. What else can you say about a team that handed stellar Utica goaltender Jacob Markstrom his first loss of the season? The Amerks wasted no time getting on the board. Only twenty-nine seconds, actually, before defenseman Mark Pysyk was able to lift the puck past said netminder. Four minutes later, another defenseman – Matt MacKenzie – did the same thing. And, with under a minute remaining in the first, Joel Armia got in on the action. Quietly (or maybe not so much) providing the generous help to Pysyk and MacKenzie? Tim Schaller.
Tim didn’t want to miss out too much, though. He put up two goals of his own – one in the second and one in the third – and added another assist, this time to Jordan Samuels-Thomas’ first professional goal, an empty netter late in the third. JST would score his second goal, as well, the "right way," as he called it, putting one past Markstrom with less than a second left in the third. Seven goals past Markstrom is no small feat, believe me. Going into tonight’s game, he posted an intimidating 7-0-1-0 record, including four shutouts, a 1.24GAA and a .955sv%. The Amerks did some damage, that’s for sure, adjusting him to a 1.77GAA and a .937sa%. Still impressive, don’t get me wrong.
Andrey Makarov, at the other end of the ice, was as intimidating as Markstrom wasn’t. To say that the Amerks netminders, including recent call up Nathan Lieuwen, have had struggles is a vast understatement. Numbers aren’t everything, but going into tonight’s game, Makarov was 4-4-1-0, with one shutout, a 2.92GAA, and a .908sv%. While his record improved tonight, his numbers … well. One of the concerns that Cassidy continues to have is the quality of shots that get past his goaltenders. They’re not always the … best shots that are finding the back of the net. Tonight, however, Makarov was stellar. He was on his game, and made several humungous saves against the Comets that likely kept the Amerks in the game. But the defense has a long way to go, and both of the goaltenders are young and still have a lot of growing to do. There has also been some speculation about whether this Lieuwen call up will leave Makarov with number one status, given Lieuwen’s play as of late. There’s also been speculation about what’s causing Lieuwen’s play lately. I can’t say, although I’ve had some great conversations about what my theories are (and please don’t ask me).
What Chad Cassidy will tell you is that he’s not necessarily worried about goal scoring, and I can see that. As it stands right now, with the active skaters on the Amerks current roster, only three players haven’t scored goals and only one doesn’t have any points. That’s pretty impressive. Phil Varone has 18 (5+13) in seventeen games, and Luke Adam is on a point per game trajectory (7+10=17 in 17 games). Cassidy simply beams when he talks about Joel Armia, and his development in this young season. Armia, simply put, is a play maker. "He’s as good as it gets in terms of keeping the play alive," Cassidy said after the game. "You’ll think the play is over and all of a sudden it’s back on his tape. He’s a really good pick-pocket."
The Amerks headed out late Friday night to Glens Falls to take on the Adirondack Flames Saturday night. The Flames are nothing to sneeze at. They are on a seven-game winning streak right now, and that is tough momentum to top, but those would be two well-deserved points for the Amerks. They have some confidence right now and they’re in their stride. They don’t get cocky when they have their game, and there’s something to be said for that. The team will return to Rochester Wednesday and Friday to face the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings) in a delicious, hockey-style Thanksgiving sandwich. As always, I will have all of your Amerks news as soon as I know it, so keep your eyes peeled to the Twitters.