There are goaltenders and then ... there are goaltenders. Jacob Markstrom is one such goaltender. He's huge, coming in a full five inches bigger than Amerks netminder Andrey Makarov, and he is very, VERY good at his job.
I have often joked that the Amerks are frequently stymied in some way, shape, or form by a former one of their own, and Markstrom Saturday night was no different. He's a throw back to The Dark Time in Rochester hockey: when the Sabres were nowhere in sight, the Florida Panthers were the parent organization, and there was constant rumor and fear that our beloved team would be relocated somewhere else because, quite frankly, no one wanted to own us or do anything with us. Markstrom was the goaltender of choice, and there wasn't a whole lot to say about him. He was passable, but not fantastic. And, a lot like the team in front of him, he wasn't going to go anywhere or win any trophies any time soon.
My, how things have changed. Despite Rochester's best efforts, only Brayden Irwin got anything past Markstrom, on a beautiful, perfectly timed centering pass from Jerry D'Amigo. But things have changed for the Amerks, too. In just a few short weeks, they have gone from being just a step behind their opponent at almost all points of the game, to being on point and on par. Neither Markstrom or Makarov stood on their heads last night, but the big saves were there. Neither team outplayed the other. This was as even a match as I've been privy to all season.
So, what was the deciding factor? Johan Larsson would tell you that it was just a "tough night." This was a game with the luckiest of breaks getting the goals. Utica's ultimate lucky break? Late in the third period, Jake McCabe got called on a questionable kneeing call and sent Utica to the power play. Questionable because, while he did make contact with his opponent's knee, the initial point of contact was shoulder to chest. Either way, it gave the Comets a power play that crossed into overtime and gave them a 4-on-3 advantage. A lucky chip and tired penalty killers were the Amerks ultimate demise.
After the game, Head Coach Chadd Cassidy said that he understood the call, saying that it was a close one, and that it wasn't a penalty that he was going to fault McCabe for. It's the kind of call, he said, that he can understand referee Terry Koharski calling, but it was still questionable, since McCabe was playing exactly the way he was supposed to. "It was an unfortunate call ... and unfortunately, it cost us the game."
You pick up your toys and you move on to the next party. Wednesday, the Amerks will be in Hamilton before returning home for games against the Texas Stars and Syracuse Crunch on Friday and Sunday, respectively. As always, I'll have all of your Amerks news on Twitter as soon as I know 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 February 15, I have donated $112. You can help, too. Find out how at hockeyfightsdv.tumblr.com/about