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Rochester Americans Report: Opening Weekend

The Rochester Americans, AHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres, split their opening weekend series with the Toronto Marlies. The Amerks handily won 4-2 on Friday night before falling 3-1 on Saturday evening. Two games into the season, the Amerks are in fourth place in the North Division with a record of 1-1.

Friday Night Victory

The Amerks fell behind early in Friday’s home opener, as Alex Steeves slapped home a shot from the slot to beat Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen just 3:30 in. As the period went on, several penalties were called in Rochester’s favor, and eventually, they were able to capitalize. Linus Weissbach tallied on the power play, backhanding in a rebound amid chaos in front of the net.

“Probably one of the first backhand goals I’ve scored in a year,” he said after the game.

Before the first period ended, Brett Murray also scored on the advantage to give Rochester its first lead of the night. Jiří Kulich took the initial shot, recording his first AHL point as a result. Murray came around the back of the net and was able to capitalize on the rebound.

Less than halfway through the game, Marlies netminder Erik Källgren was run into by Ethan Prow and exited the game. He made 16 saves on 18 shots faced before leaving. Dylan Ferguson, who came in relief, had five saves on seven shots.

The penalty-filled affair continued as Chase Priskie scored shorthanded early in the third, picking up a feed from Brandon Biro. Just over two minutes later, Isak Rosén scored his first AHL goal on a one-timer from the right circle.

Although Logan Shaw would score for the Marlies late in the game, the Amerks held on for the win. Sean Malone recorded two assists, while Aleksander Kisakov had four shots on goal in his first North American game. Luukkonen recorded 22 saves while the Amerks went 3-for-6 on the power play.

Saturday Evening Loss

While the Amerks had some luck on the power play Friday night, all that luck seemed to go to the Marlies on Saturday. Toronto went 2-for-4 on the advantage (while Rochester went 0-for-3) en route to the 3-1 win.

Lukas Rousek scored the lone goal for the Amerks, near the midway point of the first period. Rousek scored off a feed from Filip Cederqvist, getting the goalie moving and out of position to make a stop. The assist was Cederqvist’s first AHL point.

The second period was a rough one for the Amerks. They were outshot 12-6, but recorded only three shots on goal in the first (approximately) 16 minutes of the period. Luckily for them, it’s the ones that go in that count, and they came out unscathed.

Toronto’s Nick Robertson tied the game with less than 14 minutes to play in regulation. Robertson was left all alone below the circle to Luukkonen’s left and was able to slap home a cross-ice pass. The Marlies then capitalized on the power play later in the period, as Alex Steeves beat Luukkonen from the top of the circle. Adam Gaudette added an empty-netter with 16 seconds to play.

Luukkonen had 37 saves on 39 shots faced in the second half of the back-to-back. I asked him after Friday’s game if he preferred the heavy workload or would like a rest in these sort of situations, with one game at 7 pm and another the next day at 4 pm. As I’m sure many goalies do, Luukkonen said he prefers to play more minutes & noted that it’s something he and the team have talked about.

“It’s the best way to learn,” he said. “Every game, especially in the AHL, is going to be different… The more minutes, the better.”

Upcoming Games

Wednesday, October 19 vs. Belleville (7:05 pm)

Friday, October 21 vs. Syracuse (7:05 pm)

Saturday, October 22 at Syracuse (7:00 pm)

Talking Points