All season, it seems that the question lingering over every Amerks victory has been "Is this one it? Is this the one that triggers, finally, the gas on the pedal winning that this team needs?" Undoubtedly, the players are tired of hearing the question. I don't have a doubt that head coach Randy Cunneyworth is, as well. Maybe (maybe, let's not jinx it), they've finally found their chance.
"So turn it up loud now, it's about shaking up this town - break a few rules, let your hair down - come on, let's shake it up right ... nothin' but love in the big crowd." (Melodime, "Outlaws")
The Amerks certainly hoped that this magical game to light their fire would be their Buffalo debut on the 30th, when they hosted the St John's IceCaps. The Amerks won, but a lot of things weren't great about the game. The Amerks, in general, played extremely sloppily and were lucky to skate away with the shootout victory to the paltry crowd. The game, outside of the Amerks organization, wasn't highly advertised - and was up against a great Sabres/Washington Capitals matchup. The Amerks went on to lose their other two games that weekend, 4-3 in 38 seconds of OT at the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and 5-2 to the Providence Bruins.
The Amerks welcomed their longest rivals, the Hershey Bears, to downtown Rochester Friday night for their 60th Anniversary game. The game, surrounded with great memories of Amerks past, got off to a great start. Cal O'Reilly scored on the power play less than three minutes into the game, as Buffalo Sabres would-be #1 net minder Robin Lehner and forward Mark Pysyk began their conditioning stints. The Bears would answer, however, with three goals in less than five minutes. At least one, possibly two, were complete fluke goals, but things once again looked grim for the Amerks on this, one of their biggest nights on home ice - especially considering that the Amerks had only 2 (two!!) SOG until the last couple minutes of play
The second period proved to be one of their best of the season so far. Nick Baptiste and Phil Varone would add goals to tie the game, with a power play goal from Evan Rodrigues giving the Amerks the lead once again. It seemed like the Amerks had once again found that chemistry - that thing that they seemed to be missing, that one thing lacking. And having and NHL goaltender backing them up probably didn't hurt their situation. The Bears would score near the 15 minute mark, and the teams would head to the second intermission tied at four. Dan Catenacci would prove the deciding factor, scoring only 51-seconds into the third period, giving the Amerks a win at home in front of their biggest crowd of the season.
The Amerks headed to Binghamton on Saturday to face the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa Senators). In front of Nathan Lieuwen, who faced thirty-eight shots, the Amerks pulled out the 2-1 win in regulation. Both goals were scored on the power play, by Bobby Sanguinetti and Dan Catenacci.
Heading into Sunday's home game against the Syracuse Crunch - and top prospect Jonathan Drouin - five Amerks have multipoint weekends so far. Evan Rodrigues (1+3), Cal O'Reilly (1+3), Bobby Sanguinetti (1+1), and Dan Catenacci (2+0) - as well as Phil Varone (1+4), who is definitely making a campaign for himself against being a benched vet. Five other Amerks - Nick Baptiste, Jerome Leduc, William Carrier, and Jason Akeson - each have a point so far this weekend. You can expect to see Robin Lehner get the start again on Sunday, which should make for a great game against the Syracuse Drouins (Tampa Bay Lightning).
I am joining with #HockeyFightsDV again this season, to benefit the Willow Center in Rochester, NY. I have pledged $1/Patrice Bergeron goal, $5/Amerks Goalie SO, $1/Amerks win, $2/"Ryan Miller Shutout," $25/Amerks or Sabres goalie point, to be updated at the end of each month this season. You can pledge, too, at hockeyfightsdv.tumblr.com