Amerks head coach Chadd Cassidy will not tell you that he thinks his squad played their best game Friday night against the Iowa Wild, but he will give them a lot of credit in their first two game winning streak since October. "The guys that we need to be better, have been," he said in his post-game. Good thing, too, when you’re finally staring at an upswing on the leaderboards and a plague of injuries and recalls.
Don’t you worry now – it’s all about to change. (Hayden Calnin, "Summer")
One of those guys who is stepping up? Winger Dan Catenacci. Catenacci was awarded the band hat following the game – the team’s award for the "leader of the band," the best on the ice – and it was well deserved. Catenacci is working on finding his confidence, "I’m making plays, and I know I can now." He’ll also tell you that he’s getting the encouragement (if you want to call it that …) from all over the place to put himself in the position to be a better player. "I’m not stupid," he said after Friday night’s win over Iowa, "I read the articles, I get it from my dad, I get it from my coach. You’re not gonna score goals from the corner." While he didn’t find the back of the net tonight, he did set up Brodie Reid on a beauty of a goal to put the Amerks on top early in the first. They would remain there, with some extra help from Jerry D’Amigo and Tim Schaller for insurance.
The true shining star Friday night was, of course, netminder Andrey Makarov. The Russian was sure to give his American-born teammates some friendly chirps following the Russian’s World Junior victory earlier in the day, but he gave them more than enough credit following his shutout of the Wild. He’ll tell you that he’s taking advantage of the increased playing time, with Nathan Lieuwen sidelined with a lower body injury, and it’s very easy to see that in action. Makarov and the Amerks have now won five of their last eight, and their last two in a row. They have what looks like an easy synchronicity, playing well off of and because of each other. It’s clear to see that the players in front of the goaltender they call Makki trust their netminder, which allows them to function better in their given positions.
Which begs the question about what might happen Saturday night in Glens Falls. Cassidy has said time and time again that there’s consistent research that indicates (wow, the research student in me is coming out) that young goaltenders don’t perform well on the second game in back to back nights. However, that would leave tomorrow night’s starting goaltender as the unproven Pat Nagel, who has only played in two prior AHL games. Fully understanding what the research says, sometimes it makes more sense to throw the research into the wind and ride your hot hand. As I said, it’s clear that the players trust Makarov and that he plays well behind them. It will be interesting to see what Cassidy’s final decision is, but he did make statements suggesting that Makarov wouldn’t be the one getting the start.
The Amerks hit the road to take on the Adirondack Flames in Glens Falls Saturday (while my Rochester Knighthawks will be raising the banner on their third consecutive NLL championship, thankyouverymuch). They return home Wednesday to take on the San Antonio Rampage, Friday to host Lake Erie again, and Saturday to see the Oklahoma City Barons come to town. They then take to the streets, I mean, hit the road for a three game road trip! I have learned my lesson, so I will NOT be at the game on Wednesday, but I’ll keep you as posted as possible with Amerks news as I learn it.
I have committed to Hockey Fights DV, donating $1 for every goal scored by Patrice Bergeron, $2 for every Amerks win, $1 for every Amerks PPG, and $10 for every Amerks shutout to Alternatives for Battered Women, in Rochester, NY. Through January 2, I have donated $79. You can help, too. Find out how at hockeyfightsdv.tumblr.com/about