Things haven’t been exactly easy for the AHL’s Rochester Americans lately, as they’ve dealt with COVID protocols impacting their team, their NHL brothers calling up players left and right - and then returning them, postponed games and more.
With two games under their belt in 2022, I thought it might be a good time to check in on the Buffalo Sabres’ younger brothers and how they're doing as of late.
The Amerks won two straight games on December 18 & 19, beating Lehigh Valley and Hershey by scores of 4-3. (The Phantoms game was won in a shootout). Rochester was finding their stride after a pair of tough losses in Charlotte - including a cringeworthy 11-1 decision.
Unfortunately, their holiday break began early with a postponement of a scheduled game against Utica. With that, the Amerks went 10 days between games before returning to the ice against the Providence Bruins on December 29.
Before they got the chance to hit the ice, the Amerks lost JJ Peterka, Peyton Krebs and Arttu Ruotsalainen to the Sabres. They recalled a handful of players from the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones - Lukas Craggs, Matthew Cairns, Nick Boka & Mat Robson.
Despite losing three big-name guys, thanks to a pair of goals from captain Michael Mersch, the Amerks took a 5-3 win over the Bruins. Mersch also added two assists, while Oskari Laaksonen, Brandon Biro and Ara Nazarian also scored. Michael Houser made 28 saves in the victory.
Then Laaksonen & Biro, along with Ryan MacInnis & Ethan Prow, were recalled by the Sabres. Rochester found itself down in net with Aaron Dell away for the birth of his child and another netminder in COVID protocol, so they signed a local native (Bryan Haude) for one game as a back-up.
Ah, the perks & perils of being an AHL club.
They’ve since signed goaltender Hayden Hawkey (yes, that’s actually his name) and got back Peterka, Ruotsalainen, MacInnis, Biro and Laaksonen. It’s a big boost for the Amerks lineup, who had also dealt with several players in COVID protocol recently.
With the new additions, the Amerks split this past weekend, falling to Springfield before beating Hartford.
Peterka had three points (1-2) in the loss to the Thunderbirds. Linus Weissbach & Mason Jobst also scored, but the Amerks blew a 3-2 lead and gave up three goals in the first five minutes of the third period. Houser made 26 saves in 54:43.
Rochester rebounded with a 4-3 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack on Sunday afternoon. Once again, Peterka had great game - one goal, one assist - while Ruotsalainen scored and added two assists. Biro also scored, while Ryan Scarfo had the other goal for the Amerks.
SCARFO FROM SOMEWHERE IN THERE pic.twitter.com/LeX3cX0iCJ— Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) January 2, 2022
The Amerks currently sit second in the AHL’s North Division with 34 points and a record of 17-9-0-0. They’re 7-3-0-0 in their last ten games. The division-leading Utica Comets are 18-1-3-0 with 39 points.
Mersch is second in the AHL in scoring with 30 points; only WNY native Andrew Poturalski (Chicago Wolves) is ahead of him, with 34 points. Peterka is ninth in scoring in the league.
Rochester is back in action on Wednesday as they host the Syracuse Crunch. The Wolf Pack then come to town on Friday before the Amerks head to Syracuse on Saturday night.