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Amerks Weekly - Dec 10-Dec 16

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Amerks pick up three wins to take back control of first place

Off with his head! CJ Smith collects another prize during Wednesday night’s win at home vs Utica.
Micheline Velovolu | Rochester Americans

Amerks Games This Week

  • Wednesday 12/12 - 7:05pm - vs Binghamton Devils (10-14-3-0)
  • Friday 12/14 - 7:05pm - vs Cleveland Monsters (13-9-3-0)
  • Saturday 12/15 - 7:00pm - at Cleveland Monsters (13-9-3-0)

AHL North Division Standings as of December 10th

The Amerks went 3-0-0-0 last week to once again take control of the North Division, after seeing their lead technically disappear in the previous week to Syracuse. The Crunch still have three games in hand, but as of today the Amerks lead in both points and points percentage.

A full six out of six points last week also vaulted the Amerks back into second place in both the Eastern Conference and the league overall.

What Happened Last Week?

Record Dec 3-Dec 9: 3-0-0-0

After two consecutive weeks of mediocre hockey, the Amerks returned to playing strong hockey, claiming the full six possible points. Notably, the win vs Providence was their first against that team in eight meetings dating back to 2009. Also notable, the Amerks beat the Crunch for the third time in three tries so far this season, and the teams still have nine additional head-to-head matchups remaining on the regular season schedule.

Jonas Johansson was a surprise call-up early in the week from Cincy. Even more surprising was that he was given starts on both Wednesday and Friday night at home. He picked up right where he left off with his good season in Cincy, backstopping the Amerks to two wins.

The best news of the weekend is that the team didn’t blow their 3rd period leads*. On Friday night, they were up 4-2 in the third while the Bruins scored to make it 4-3 - but the Amerks played 8 minutes of defensively sound hockey to close out the win. On Saturday night, they carried a 2-0 lead into the third but the Crunch scored less than a minute into the period - but once again, the Amerks played nearly 20 full minutes of strong hockey to sustain the victory and hand Syracuse its first regulation loss in approximately six weeks!

*I’ll give them a break for the last ~5 minutes of Wednesday’s game. Down 3-0 late in the third, Utica pulled goaltender Thatcher Demko with over five minutes remaining. The bold move worked, with Utica scoring on the 6v5 advantage. They kept Demko pulled and the Amerks got an empty-netter back... but then Utica got another one... and then the Amerks got another EN goal, this time shorthanded to close out the game. Check out the official scoresheet - it’s a doozy in the last ~5 minutes.

Bright Spots

  • Victor Olofsson is warming up again and it should come as no surprise that the Amerks tend to win when he finds the scoresheet; they are 8-1 when he scores a goal and 12-3 when he registers a point.
  • Rasmus Asplund - Following a 10-game point drought, Ras3 now has points in five of his last eight games, including a 3-assist game on Wednesday night vs Utica.
  • Jonas Johansson - No one was expecting Jonas to get any starts this week. There was rampant speculation that his call-up was simply to give him some exposure and let the coaching staff get a closer look at his progress so far this season, but then Carter Hutton went down with a mystery ailment, forcing a recall of Scott Wedgewood and subsequently allowing “My Name Is” to get his first two starts of the season. He stopped 51 of 54 shots across two impressive starts. While the 23 year old is still buried on the depth chart, it’s good to know that he’s making progress and can be a viable plug-and-play option in Rochester as needed.
  • Will Borgen’s steady development is continuing. There has been a lot of chatter among both Amerks and Sabres fans that Borgen could actually be the next man up should Buffalo need yet another defensive recall, and I’d agree that it would be well deserved at this point.
  • Wayne Simpson went 2+2=4 over the past three games to continue his steady contribution for Rochester this season. He has played in an impressive 211 consecutive AHL games. He’s the current league leader in that regard and he’s been a consistent contributor for the Amerks so far this season, coming up with clutch goals on several occasions.
  • Brendan Guhle is beginning to look more like himself. He’s riding a three-game assist streak.
  • Justin Bailey was inches away from a hat-trick on Friday night, as he swept around from behind the net on a short-handed wrap-around attempt, but the puck just barely rolled off the tip of his stick as he attempted to go wide to the far post.
  • Dalton Smith is good at fighting. This isn’t news to anyone who has ever seen him scrap. I’m not a huge fan of fighting in hockey in general, but this guy makes me second guess my stance every time I see him throw down. Check out this battle from Friday night with Providence’s Austin Fyten (seriously, that’s his name).

Justin Bailey is clearly a big fan...

Micheline Velovolu | Rochester Americans

Room For Improvement

  • Special Teams still aren’t very special. The PK only ranks 23rd in the league and the PP is still middling around 14th position.
  • While they took a step forward by holding on to one-goal leads last week, they still allowed opponents to shrink multi-goal leads down to panic-inducing late game situations. Playing 5v6 or 4v6 for extended periods of time is not a sustainable recipe for success. I’d like to see the team play stronger and more aggressive with 2+ goal leads as well as find more opportunities to hit the empty net when given the opportunity.
  • The team could really use some help at the center position, particularly now that Kevin Porter appears to be injured and Kyle Criscuolo is still a few weeks away from a return. The most glaring hole on this roster is that of a creative, speedy, playmaking center. Criscy fills that role pretty well when healthy, but I hope Randy Sexton and Jason Botterill are considering all options for acquiring another guy. Myles Powell has put up 10+8=18 in 17 games in Cincinnati, so giving him another look in Rochester might also be worth a shot. There’s also the true Buffalo Super Fan, Vasili Glotov, who has quietly put up 4+13=17 in 21 games so far in Cincy. Those 13 assists are third on the Cyclones, and that could be a sign that he knows how to feed other players the puck.

Look Ahead

While November was a relatively quiet month (most weeks were only two games) December is in full swing. Every week in December includes a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday game for the Amerks. This is an another important stretch - all three games are against division opponents, including a home-and-home weekend series vs Cleveland, who currently sit second in the North Division.

On Wednesday night the struggling Binghamton Devils visit Rochester, followed by the aforementioned Cleveland series.

Transactions

  • December 2, 2018 - Jonas Johansson (G) ⬆️ from Cincinnati to Rochester.
  • December 4, 2018 - Matt Tennyson (D) ⬇️ from Buffalo to Rochester.
  • December 7, 2018 - Matt Tennyson (D) ⬆️ from Rochester to Buffalo.
  • December 7, 2018 - Scott Wedgewood (D) ⬆️ from Rochester to Buffalo.

Video Room

Game 22 - 12/5/2018 - Home Win vs Utica Comets

Game 23 - 12/7/2018 - Home Win vs Providence Bruins

Game 24 - 12/8/2018 - Away Win at Syracuse Crunch

Injury Report

  • Kyle Criscuolo - Lower Body - Week to Week
  • Andrew Oglevie - Concussion - Indefinite
  • Kevin Porter - Lower Body - Unknown

Farmville

The Cincinnati Cyclones are 15-5-2-1 and have climbed to first place in their division!

Jonas Johansson (currently in Rochester) is 7-3-1-1 with a 2.49 GAA and an .910 SV%.

Devante Stephens (D) has put up a respectable 4+9=13 in 21 games and his +16 rating is second on the team.

Old Friends

  • Matt Moulson: 6+12=18 in 22 games with Ontario.
  • Nicholas Baptiste: 4+3=7 in 27 games with Milwaukee.
  • Colin Blackwell: 4+0=4 in 11 games with Milwaukee.
  • Cliff Pu: 1+2=3 in 21 games with Charlotte.
  • Seth Griffith: 5+10=15 in 22 games with Manitoba.
  • Jordan Nolan: 7+8=15 in 24 games with San Antonio.
  • Hudson Fasching: 8+9=17 in 22 games with Tucson.
  • Taylor Fedun: 1+2=3 in 3 games with Texas / 1+0=1 in 5 games with NHL Dallas Stars.
    (17 games remaining in Dallas until he generates a seventh-round pick for Buffalo).
    Also notable: he’s leading the Stars in most advanced stats (obviously in limited and highly-sheltered minutes, small sample size, etc., but his numbers are still eye-popping).

An Awkward Announcement

Moments before the Beauts officially announced the firing of coaches Ric Seiling and Craig Muni, Seiling broke the news live on the air while performing his duties as color-analyst for the Amerks broadcast team... but the news arrived in perhaps the most awkward and unexpected way possible:

Don Stevens, the Amerks’ play-by-play man for the past 33 seasons, took the news in stride and remarkably jumped right back into his job calling the game. Kudos to both men for handling the exchange with an admirable amount of professionalism and respect for each other and the Beauts organization.

Question of the Week

With the Sabres in the midst of a five-game skid, which player(s) would you recall from Rochester to try to create a spark, and how would you deploy them? Put on your virtual GM and Coach hats and sculpt some Sabres lines.