Expectations are notably high for the Rochester Americans, heading into their 62nd American Hockey League season, despite a growing playoff drought.
On Friday night, a raucous crowd filled the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, greeting the Americans for the first time this season. It was clear - both fans and players were ready for hockey.
“The fans were unbelievable tonight,” said head coach Chris Taylor. “I think the guys felt it. I know I felt it. It was nice to see. The more people that come, the more energetic the guys will be.”
Justin Bailey opened scoring for the Americans late in the first period, when Zach Redmond found him alone in the slot. Bailey flicked a shot past the lunging Michael Leighton for his first goal of the season.
“I wanted to use some momentum from coming down to help me get a fast star,” Bailey said postgame. “It was just awesome hockey to play tonight.”
Rochester wouldn't waste much time taking a two-goal lead when the second period action began.
Steve Moses took a pass from Kyle Criscuolo in the slot and deposited the puck into the net with little struggle. Moses was showing off his real nice release on his first Americans goal in his franchise debut.
To many in the building, it appeared as if Rochester might have let off the gas a little when the third period began. Syracuse started to not only out-chance Rochester, but their chances were becoming increasingly more dangerous.
Amerks defenseman Nathan Paetsch begs to differ.
“The guys bought in tonight,” Paetsch said. “We got a 2-0 lead and didn’t sit back.We got that third goal and guys clamped down. I thought that was real winning hockey in the third. That’s the sign of a smart hockey team.
Speaking of that aforementioned third goal, Justin Bailey would just not be denied on this night. Almost three-quarters through the final period, Bailey would put home his second goal of the season and second goal of the night.
“It was a great bounce,” Bailey said. “It rang around, hit the stick (on the ice) in the corner, and jumped over the defenseman’s stick. I grabbed it and took it.”
Despite his two-goal evening, Taylor kept things into perspective for Bailey.
Syracuse would add a late goal with a 6-on-5 advantage but Rochester’s lead would not be relinquished.
This one goes in the book as a 3-1 season-opening victory for the Rochester Americans. For Rochester, their season-opening record moves to 38
Following the game, Taylor was asked about his first career coaching victory.
“It feels great, I couldn’t be more estatic,” Taylor said. “First game as head coach and first win but it’s only one game and there’s 75 more (this season).”
1. How did the prospects look?
For the most part, the prospects looked very good tonight. Headlined by Justin Bailey’s two-goal evening, he clearly stuck out. To single out a few more, the games played by Nicholas Baptiste and Brendan Guhle were very evident.
Baptiste’s speed and drive drew two penalties throughout the contest. Guhle’s speed is almost breathtaking to watch in person. To watch him go stride-for-stride with forwards and beat them out can really blow your mind. He also seamlessly would join the rush, which seems like a very big adjustment to be made. Guhle is comfortable enough with the system and damn near scored a few times because of it.
C.J. Smith was flying all over the ice – seems like he might have a NHL future if he keeps working at his craft.
2. Was Ullmark really worth losing Carrier in the expansion draft?
Absolutely and we’re not just judging on tonight’s performance. Buffalo indeed has a developing gem in Linus Ullmark.
How do we judge that?
After playing a phenomenal 55+ minutes, the first goal of the evening got by Ullmark. His response postgame?
“No big deal”, with a smile.
3. Will Rochester FINALLY be good this season?
Pre-game, the responses were telling. People in the organization are just as excited as the fans are for the Americans this season.
One Americans staffer was talking about how this is one of the best Americans team “on paper” in many years. It is hard to disagree with that.
Even if Rochester is not good, they’ll at least be entertaining.