The AHL’s Rochester Americans are doing a lot of little things right. But even after sweeping a three-game weekend and despite holding the top spot in the division, Amerks head coach Chris Taylor is cautious.
”I always love winning, but I still think that our team can play better,” Taylor said after Sunday’s 6-1 win over the Binghamton Devils. “I thought we were sloppy at times. I thought that we turned the puck over a few times too many. We didn’t shoot the puck as much in the first two periods.”
”I know it’s 3-in-3 [three games in three days] and believe me, they’re tough games,” Taylor added. “We’ve still got to play the right way, though.”
Heading into the week ahead, the Amerks sit atop the North Division and are second overall in the AHL, so they’ve certainly been doing something right. Part of what’s been contributing to that success has been different players finding the scoresheet.
”I think we’ve been having good goal-scoring from a lot of different guys lately, feeding off each other,” Taylor said. “We’re getting some timely goals.”
Fifteen of 18 skaters on the Amerks registered at least a point over the 3-in-3 weekend series. Some of the big contributors are those you’d expect: Rasmus Asplund (3-4), Alex Nylander (2-1), Taylor Leier (3-1) and Danny O’Regan (0-4).
Victor Olofsson also had three points over the weekend and now leads the team with 51 points (23-28) in 58 games this season. C.J. Smith and Zach Redmond, each with 48 points, aren’t far behind.
But others have also been contributing, including Kevin Porter, who had three points (1-2) over the weekend; Lawrence Pilut (1-1), Will Borgen (0-2) and Andrew Oglevie (1-1).
For Taylor & co., it’s all about finding a way to win - even if the head coach “didn’t think we played that well” in a 6-1 victory.
”It’s always nice to get six points in a weekend,” Taylor said following Sunday’s win. “Friday was a really good game for us, but I didn’t really like our games the next two nights. We just weren’t connected all over the ice, but again, we found a way. We found ways to score some goals, did good on the penalty kill and our goalies came up big for us.”
The goalies certainly have. Scott Wedgewood has gone 24-10-2 this season with a 2.55 GAA and .914 save percentage, while Adam Wilcox has a 2.90 GAA, .897 save percentage and a record of 10-7-3. The duo combined for 75 saves on 79 shots faced over the course of this past weekend, including Wedgewood’s 18 saves on Sunday.
Another piece that’s also gone relatively well lately for the Amerks: the penalty kill. In just the last three games alone, Rochester successfully killed of 12 of 14 penalties and even managed one shorthanded goal.
For that, consistency has been key.
”We’ve been trying to keep the partners the same and get four groups out there for short shifts,” Taylor said. “Keeping everybody in the game, especially when you do take a lot of penalties. Guys are blocking shots; they’re determined, they’re committed to what we’re doing.”
”We’ve been working on it a lot,” said center Rasmus Asplund. “We were struggling at the beginning of the year. We’ve been having a lot of meetings about it [the penalty kill] and we’re trying to get together, be on the same page.”
Defenseman Lawrence Pilut hasn’t been back with the team long since being sent down from the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, but even he can see the strength in his team’s penalty kill.
”Our intensity on the PK is great so far,” he said. “We’re being aggressive out there and not giving them any dangerous chances against us.”
Throughout the locker room, there certainly seems to be confidence - although cautious.
”We’re a team that can win this division,” Asplund said. “We’re gonna take every game, try to get two points and try to get the number one spot.”
”Every game is important for us,” Pilut added. “We’ve just got to keep playing the way we are and scoring goals. Every point matters.”