Going into tonight’s game, I told more than one person (okay, it was two, but two is more than one) "The Amerks will be lucky to score one goal on Markstrom. He’s too good. His numbers are too good." The Amerks did get lucky – they scored two goals on Jacob Markstrom, greasy as they were – and, despite the loss, still looked better than they had in many games.
"I think I’ll break everything and start again." (The Alternate Routes, Who Cares?)
The defense looked fresher. Without defenseman Drew Bagnall, out day-to-day with an upper body injury, two reinforcements were brought in. Matt MacKenzie was brought in as a 4th line winger slash seventh defenseman and Brady Austin was brought into bolster a sleepy D-core from the night before. The team, as a whole, looked terrific in the first and third periods. And Coach Chadd Cassidy agreed. It was that pesky second period that got to them.
Utica’s Wacey Hamilton opened scoring less than a minute into the second period. He was followed not long after by Ronalds Kenins. It definitely looked bleak for the Amerks, as they appeared to be well on their way to giving Jacob Markstrom his fifth shutout of the season. Luckily, Luke Adam broke the bid at 2:36 of the third period. A messy play, at best, but you take what you can get when goals are that tough to come by. When asked after the game why goals are so hard to come by now, after such an explosive start for the team, Adam had a simple answer: "I don’t know."
The fans had an answer for Utica’s third goal, scored by Bobby Sanguinetti, late in the third period: They started to leave. I hope they were walking slowly, though, because Zac Dalpe scored a rather unusual goal to bring the Amerks back within one. After the game, Dalpe was quick to note that the goal came off the shaft of his stick – not a high stick, mind you – due to a need to make sure the puck wasn’t going to hit him in the face. He termed the goal "greasy," and I think that’s a decent word for it. He had some great looks at the net the night before and couldn’t connect. Maybe one sneaky little "greasy" goal is what it will take to break the ice (ha!) for Dalpe.
Now, at the risk of agitating some of the townsfolk, I need to talk about goaltenders, because … well, I love goaltenders. Also, two of my favorite goaltenders to watch played tonight. Markstrom, a former Amerk (from The Time That We Do Not Speak Of) is just HUGE in net. The Amerks finally learned, nearly too late in the game, to put the puck in his feet, and get him looking down in order to get him a little off his game. Both Adam and Dalpe spoke to Markstrom’s lateral game, and how deep he plays in net. That’s easy to see. It’s easy to see that Makarov plays a similar game – he can make himself big when he needs to be big. However, the problem (?) that Makarov and Nathan Lieuwen have that drives me bananas is puck control. They’re rebound machines. Markstrom rarely, if ever let’s one go.
What do Markstrom and Makarov have in common that I love (and also drives me bananas), though? They love to stray from their crease. They take walks. Sometimes, it gets them in trouble. A few times, Makarov nearly played the puck to a Utica stick. Early in the first, Markstrom got bowled over and drew a goaltender interference call for Jordan Samuels-Thomas. Here’s my issue, and it will always be my issue until something is changed: If you’re going to leave your crease, you should be fair game. If you want to take a walk, you should then become a player. I spend a hefty amount of my time, when I’m not at Amerks games, rooting for my Rochester Knighthawks. I don’t claim to know everything about lacrosse. But I do know that, once the goaltender leaves his crease, he’s fair game. I would like to see some sort of adaptation of this rule in hockey, plain and simple. If you want to wander, you’re no longer an object of great protection. Markstrom was well outside of his crease and JST took a healthy shove from a Utica player to help with that interference penalty. That some … junk right there. Just my two cents.
Either way, the Amerks looked leaps and bounds better in this game, against the top team in the AHL, than they did again Binghamton Friday night. I’m crossing the crossables that they will allow this to propel them to a win over Adirondack Monday and give them some confidence back. I think they need it. Cassidy alluded to a feeling of a cake walk season in his post-game, based on those first games, and the number of goals that just seemed to be coming like rain. Then, as Dalpe said, they "couldn’t put the puck in the ocean." You found the ocean, boys. Now try for the lake.
The Amerks face off at 7:05 on Monday against the Adirondack Flames (Calgary). This is a change from the previously advertised 3:05 start. It’s Military Appreciation Night, so if you’re a Veteran, or know someone who is, check out the offer that the Amerks are offering. And, if you’re not, please don’t try to take advantage of them because that’s a jerky move and wicked uncool. I will be fanning it up on Monday (woo!), so if you see me, say hey and, as always, keep your eyes peeled to the Twitters where I will be keeping you as up to date as possible with all the Amerks news I know.