The Amerks, in the midst of a five game stretch against North Division opponents, beat the Toronto Marlies in front of a several thousand Amerks fans as well as probably 50 or so Marlies fans who made the trip. With the win, the Amerks have now won 5 games in a row - their longest winning streak since April of 2014. They remain alone atop the North Division and with each win over a division rival they extend their lead and send a message that they expect this year to be different. The goal is no longer simply getting to the playoffs, the goal is to win, and win now.
It’s tough to be sure about why the Marlies are struggling so much this season after completely dominating the AHL last year, but the easiest place to start is in net. Remember that a few short weeks ago, Toronto lost both of their AHL goalies to waivers... on the same day.
The game started very similarly to the Amerks’ previous home game, as the Marlies commanded play for the first 10 minutes before the Amerks would break through and score the first goal of the game, with Danny O’Regan deflecting a long Zach Redmond shot. This wasn’t pretty, but it counted.
Toronto’s Pierre Engvall would tie the game a few minutes later following two beautiful long passes. It’s tough to see from this gif, but he tips the puck in one-handed.
When Engvall tied it up 1-1 pic.twitter.com/PzndDOA55E— Let's Go Amerks (@LetsGoAmerks) October 19, 2018
The Amerks got the lead back just before the end of the period as Alexander Nylander scored his third of the season, burying a soft rebound after William Borgen tossed a hard shot on net. It’s great to see Alex getting dirty in front of the net.
A wild second period saw the teams trade goals back and forth with O’Regan scoring his second of the night and fourth of the season to give the Amerks a 3-1 lead. Toronto answered five minutes later, closing the gap to 3-2. Then Brendan Guhle was the recipient of some great passes from C.J. Smith and Justin Bailey to score his first of the year and give the Amerks back their two goal lead.
The Marlies scored their second power play goal of the period a few minutes later and the teams entered the second intermission with Rochester leading 4-3.
The third period was a tense sparring match with both teams sharing puck possession. Rochester looked like they were on the way to victory before Toronto’s Sam Gagner scored his fourth goal of the season with just 10.2 seconds remaining in the game. The Marlies had pulled the goaltender and setup a dense screen in front of Wedgewood who never saw the perfectly placed shot coming.
Rather than deflating, the Amerks came out swinging in overtime and Victor Olofsson used his speed to race down the right wing and draw a holding penalty. Despite playing a full two minutes of 4v3 hockey, the Amerks couldn’t find the back of the net and the majority of the OT period was played at 4v4 after the penalty expired. Each team had a few chances to put the game away, but the game would ultimately wind up in a shootout.
This was our first opportunity to see Victor Olofsson in a shootout, and he did not disappoint. A few dekes before roofing a backhand from a nearly impossible angle in tight on the crease.
Toronto’s Sam Gagner scored to tie the shootout at 1.
Then CJ Smith stepped in and beat Jeff Glass clean, going bar down with a wrister.
Shootout goal #2 from CJ Smith pic.twitter.com/9ZwXULWkV4— Let's Go Amerks (@LetsGoAmerks) October 20, 2018
Scott Wedgewood came up big and stopped Envgall’s attempt, giving first-year American Wayne Simpson a chance to win the game. He made no mistake, skating in smoothly and going top shelf for the OT GWG.
Overall, the Amerks showed a lot of resilience in constantly fending off Toronto’s attacks; this was a “bend but don’t break” type of game. While a win is a win, hopefully the team will address its below average penalty kill, which has not looked good so far this season (now-departed Colin Blackwell was a key part of last season’s PK). They also will want to avoid playing overtime games against divisional opponents, because those bonus points could very well be the difference in playoff seeding in the spring; last year they benefitted from that fact, but they could just as easily be on the wrong side of the coin this time around. That won’t matter though for as long as they keep winning games.
Final Score: Rochester 5 - Toronto 4 (OT - SO)
Final SOG: Rochester 41 - Syracuse 42
PP/PK: Rochester PP 0-for-4 and PK 2-for-4
Rochester Goals: O’Regan (3), Nylander (3), O’Regan (4), Guhle (1)
Toronto Goals: Engvall (2), Timashov (2), Grundstrom (2), Gagner (4)
Rochester Shootout: Olofsson (G), CJ Smith (G), Simpson (G)
Toronto Shoutout: Gagner (G), Engvall (NG)
Three Stars of the Game (Media)
- Danny O’Regan (2G)
- Sam Gagner (1G, 1A)
- Zach Redmond (2A)
Three Stars of the Game (steelopus)
- Danny O’Regan
- Alexander Nylander
- Zach Redmond
Full Amerks Recap Video
My Miscellaneous Notes
- Lawrence Pilut was scratched shortly before game time. The Twitter Speculation Train was full speed ahead within seconds as fans assumed he was on a flight to LA for this weekend’s Sabres games. A few minutes later the Amerks tweeted that PIlut was scratched due to an upper-body injury - dashing the hopes of Sabres fans everywhere. Of course... you could just stop worrying about the Sabres for a little while and focus on the Amerks...
- This was, by far, the best game I’ve ever seen Alex Nylander play as a member of the Amerks. I’ve been as much of a critic of his play as anyone else in the past 3 seasons, but tonight he played with the intensity, commitment, and defensive awareness that I’ve been looking for for a long time.
- Victor Olofsson only scored a single assist tonight but I particularly noticed his defensive play. It’s noticeably improving from game to game.
- Scott Wedgewood deserves some recognition here. He stopped a whopping 42 shots, many of them off odd man rushes. His rebound control looked great too; he was directing everything away from Marlies players. Very strong night during which for long stretches the Marlies had complete control of the game.
- Justin Bailey only earned a single assist, but I was once again happy to see out there making positive contributions in both zones. It seemed as though every time he’d step on the ice, it would eventually end up in an offensive zone face off.
- Rasmus Asplund got muscled off the puck in a battle in the second period and maybe it sparked something in him, because I don’t think he lost another battle for the rest of the game. As he grows stronger, he’s going to grow into a force to be reckoned with. His hockey IQ seems very high, so it’s just a matter of making his body catch up to his mind.
- In my weekly recap, T McGee asked me to watch William Borgen’s D to O transitions. I was watching but I didn’t notice many. He did score his first point of the year with an assist on Nylander’s goal (see gif above). What I did notice about Will was that he has excellent footwork, he never - ever - shies away from contact, and the Amerks gave his pairing (w/Andrew MacWilliam) a lot of O-zone starts at 5v5. I found that somewhat surprising, as they are unquestionably the stay-at-home defensive pairing, neither player being expected to contribute offensively. Will was credited with 2 shots on the night.
- Brendan Guhle got the monkey off his back with his first goal tonight and it was a beauty, sneaking one through the five-hole following a beautiful pass from Bailey and CJ Smith. I wish the gif (above) started a little sooner so you could see the great first pass, but it should be captured in the Highlights video.
- Matt Tennyson... got a surprising amount of power play time tonight... and... well... I just don’t know what to make of that. Despite taking a cross checking penalty on his very first shift of the season, he wasn’t actually awful tonight, and I guess that’s more than anyone expected.
- After going 4/5 on the PP on Wednesday in Utica, the Amerks went 0/4 tonight, including a full 2 minutes of 4v3 in the overtime period.
No rest for the weary as the Amerks will look to extend their win streak to six games with a 7pm game in Belleville on Saturday night before getting a rare six day break until their next game.