The Amerks were all smiles in the locker room following last night’s dramatic 3-2 overtime victory over the rival Syracuse Crunch.
But rather than excitement, I think the smiles were more of a nervous relief that they managed to claim two points in a sloppy game that they almost let slip away. The team was badly outshot on home ice by an inferior opponent, they gave up a last-second game-tying goal, and they looked generally out of sync for the duration of the game.
A scoreless first period was largely an uneventful back and forth affair during which the Amerks successfully killed off two penalties. Their PK, among the league’s worst early in the season, has steadily improved to become a dependable and at times aggressive unit that creates shorthanded chances. The confidence to do that comes from being backstopped by two quality goaltenders, including Adam Wilcox’s stellar performance last night.
Justin Bailey, fresh off a breakout two-goal performance on Wednesday night in Buffalo, picked up right where he left off. A few first period chances were stymied by Syracuse as Justin tried to be a little too fancy with the puck. In the post game interviews it became clear that coach Chris Taylor advised Bailey to use his size and speed and take the defense wide, and that exact move is what led to the Amerks first goal of the game, as Bailey streaked down the left wing, leaned off the defender to his right, and buried his third goal of the season.
It’s nice to see Bailey finally being rewarded with points. He’s put up an impressive fourteen shots in the past two games while continuing to play his aggressive, always-north style. More on Bailey’s adjustment this season can be found in Melissa Burgess’ recent story here at Die By The Blade.
Early in the second period, Syracuse’s Taylor Raddysh took advantage of a defensive lapse to tie the game, 1-1. Will Borgen threw a hip-check as the Crunch entered the zone and in doing so he put himself out of position. A miscommunication saw both Sean Malone and Andrew MacWilliam skate in to take Borgen’s defensive position, leaving Raddysh all alone in front of the net. Alexander Nylander made an effort to get back in support but it was too late and the puck rattled past Wilcox. The period would end still tied, 1-1.
They tied it early in the 3rd. Someone coasting in.. pic.twitter.com/CGZNKyJXgs— Let's Go Amerks (@LetsGoAmerks) November 10, 2018
The third period was a wild one, highlighted by a questionable Amerks goal which sparked a major scrum, with Nylander in the center of it all. Taking a nice long feed from Taylor Fedun, Nylander used his speed to drive the net before he was shoved into the goal by Syracuse’s rookie defenseman Cal Foote (#14 overall - 2017 Draft). As Nylander was flying into Eddie Pasquale, Oglevie followed up and wristed the puck over the goal line. Both he and the referee signaled a goal before all hell broke loose. With Pasquale collapsed on top of Nylander, Foote came back and got several jabs in before the two stood up and smelled each other’s gloves for a minute while the rest of the players on the ice gathered to hug it out in a full scrum. Nylander commented after the game about how he thought the scrum was “fun,” while coach Taylor joked that Alex “doesn’t like the nicks on his nose.”
Goal? It's a goal! Fedun sends Nylander down ice, Oglevie puts it in. Ref signals a goal! pic.twitter.com/o0KOLtY47b— Let's Go Amerks (@LetsGoAmerks) November 10, 2018
No review was called for and the goal counted. That’s Oglevie’s first professional goal - surely not how he imagined it would look, but hopefully it’ll spark him to continued offensive success. Surprisingly, the only penalty to come of the scrum was a 10-minute game misconduct to the Crunch’s Andy Andreoff (former L.A. King) for “abuse of officials.” I didn’t notice anything obviously physical, so he must’ve said something particularly nasty. Full coverage of the incident can be seen (multiple angles) in the game video linked below.
The Amerks carried their 2-1 lead all the way into the final second of the game until, with the Crunch net empty and the extra attacker on the ice, a series of strong passes drew Lawrence Pilut slightly out of position. Old friend Cory Conacher capitalized with a powerful low one-timer from the bottom of the right circle that snuck past Wilcox with .6 seconds remaining in the game. The large crowd for Military Appreciation Night was shocked and deflated.
0.6 seconds left they say. Buzzer beater and the Crunch tied it up. pic.twitter.com/SIKjbtRarZ— Let's Go Amerks (@LetsGoAmerks) November 10, 2018
To their credit, the Amerks came out with intensity for the overtime period and after a few scoring chances for each team, they finally connected for the game winner. With Syracuse center Ross Colton carrying the puck in his own end, Redmond and Nylander teamed up pressure him into a poorly timed turnover. Nylander grabbed the loose puck and slid a perfect pass to the wide-open Redmond who buried it top shelf for his astonishing tenth goal of the season (fifth game winner).
Final Score: Rochester 3 - Syracuse 2
Final SOG: Rochester 25 - Syracuse 32
PP/PK: Rochester PP 0-for-6 and PK 5-for-5
Rochester Goals: Bailey (3), Oglevie (1), Redmond (10)
Syracuse Goals: Taylor Raddysh (2), Cory Concacher (4)
Three Stars of the Game (Media)
- Zach Redmond (1G)
- Cory Conacher [Syracuse] (1G)
- Justin Bailey (1G)
Three Stars of the Game (steelopus)
- Zach Redmond
- Justin Bailey
- Adam Wilcox
Full Amerks Recap Video
My Miscellaneous Notes
- The Amerks are now 2-0 vs Syracuse this season, but the teams will face each other another ten times before the regular season is through. Things are getting chippy already... so this could get ugly by the end.
- Despite skating away with the victory, the Amerks followed up last Wednesday’s win (which was by most accounts their best performance of the season) with what I found to be a sloppy game overall. Off target passes, players frequently out of position, and lazy penalties will not win you many games. They are lucky to be as talented as they are and to have a strong netminder.
- Adam Wilcox is having an incredible start to his season. 4-0-1-0, 6th in the league with a 2.29 GAA, and 11th with a .915 SV%. Coach Taylor pointed out that Wilcox has earned the team points in 9 straight games going back to last season. His performance last night should not be overlooked; he frequently made big saves while the team in front of him hung him out to dry. He’s well on his way to earning an unsung hero award if he keeps this up.
- Credit where due: Alex Nylander finished the night with two assists and his first professional scrum. This wasn’t his best game of the season but it was still far better than we have seen from him in past years. There was a point in the last 10 minutes of the first period where he was glued to the bench, leaning back while the rest of his team leaned forward eagerly, and I was admittedly screaming at him in my mind to show some intensity. Well, that overtime play was perfect and all is forgiven for now.
- As pointed out on Twitter by Jay Garbs, Zach Redmond is too good for the AHL. He now has 10 goals in 14 games. He finished last season with 15 goals in 66 games. He might be regretting signing a two-year AHL contract... and Jason Botterill might be regretting not offering him an NHL contract. Either way, this is a good thing for the organization and it will surely help dull the pain for when the Sabres inevitably call up...
- ...Lawrence Pilut. Aside from a slight misplay on the last second game-tying goal, Pilut was stellar again last night, picking up another assist (giving him a total of 17 points - 6th in the league, 2nd among defenseman behind only Redmond) and another +1 (putting him an astounding +14 on the season - 4th in the league) in only 12 games. I’ll be very sad to see him go and I’m going to cherish every moment I get to watch him play now.
- Brandon Hickey has only suited up for seven games so far this season and last night was not a great performance. Considering he was essentially an even swap for Hudson Fasching, I can’t be too upset to have him around as defensive depth, but the Matt Moulson look-alike has yet to live up to expectations. It could be a lack of playing time, a problem that might get worse with Matt Tennyson and Jack Dougherty both due to return from injury this week.
- Eric Cornell’s most impressive stat so far is that he has yet to take a penalty in 14 games this season playing a tough 3rd/4th line roll. That’s a good thing, because...
- ...team captain Kevin Porter has 16 PIMs in 14 games. The Amerks will need him to be more responsible and avoid putting the team in short-handed situations. Last night brought a slashing penalty with under three minutes to play in the first period... and a cross-checking penalty less than a minute into the second period - that’s not Porter’s finest sequence of the season.
- There is growing frustration among Amerks fans on Twitter, as the team has given up five goals in the last minute of games this season. I’m not ready to panic, but it’s certainly something the team should look at tightening up.
- The Amerks now lead the league with 21 points heading into their second long road trip of the season next weekend.
- I found myself sitting next to two Chicago Blackhawks scouts at the game... I wonder who they had their eyes on most...
There are a couple Blackhawks scouts in attendance tonight in Rochester. pic.twitter.com/aXUFTaLupa— steelopus (@steelopus) November 10, 2018
The Amerks will have a week of practice to prepare for next weekends three-game road trip, where they’ll face a talented Springfield Thunderbirds team on Friday night, the struggling Providence Bruins on Saturday night, and finally the floundering Hartford Wolf Pack on Sunday afternoon. This is the team’s first of five three-in-three weekends of the season and it’s the only one in which all three games are away.