Rochester recap: Barons find fortune in Rochester

Rochester comes up blank against Oklahoma City in Matt Hackett's first game back.

I can’t seem to see the Amerks winning. I read about them winning. I see tweets about them winning. But I missed Friday’s game against Lake Erie and, subsequently, missed the win. What I didn't miss on Saturday night, however, was Matt Hackett’s season debut and boy, was that something to behold.

"… But he told us where to stand." (Richard O’Brien, Science Fiction/Double Feature)

No, that’s not sarcasm. I know sometimes it can be hard to tell with me, but I promise. Matt Hackett played like it was just another game Saturday night. You would’ve been hard-pressed to know that it had been nearly nine months since his last "real" hockey game. He said, after the game, that he had some nerves heading into the match, but that it felt good. "I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shaking before the game," he said, "I thought the boys battled hard, we just couldn’t catch a break tonight." And catch a break they couldn’t. The closest the Amerks came to an actual goal was one that was very, very quickly disallowed in the second period, when referee Terry Koharski waved it off saying it was played off of Allan McPherson’s high stick. Numerous replays showed that there was, indeed, a high stick … belonging to Oklahoma City Baron Connor Jones. Unfortunately, that is not a reviewable play in the AHL, and the Amerks would get shut out against the Barons’ stellar goaltending.

Here we go again? It’s hard to win games when you don’t do the obvious: score goals. You can’t exactly play to a 0-0 tie and walk away with two points, of which Head Coach Chadd Cassidy and his crew are very aware. Both Hackett and Cassidy decided that the referee made the right call, as far as they could tell, but what else are they going to say? Hackett went as far as saying, "I thought he did a great job reffing the game tonight." Trust me, Hack. No one has EVER said that about someone named Koharski in Rochester, NY. But still, it wouldn’t have been the decider – one goal wouldn’t have been enough tonight. As for the major producers, Mikhail Grigorenko and Phil Varone were playing their fourth game in five nights, and looked it. The rest of the team didn’t look bad, but the Barons certainly looked better. A song I’ve written many, many nights before.

The Amerks leave Tuesday morning for a three-game road trip, starting in Cedar Park, TX, against the Texas Stars. It’s an uphill climb for the Amerks, not that it hasn’t been for quite some time, who have only won two games all season on the road. That’s … not such a great stat. Cassidy made no indication Saturday night who might get the start, but did say that he would look toward the goaltender who’s winning. Hopefully, the Amerks will now find themselves in a situation they’ve looked for all season – too much fantastic goaltending. They hoped Hackett would be that man last season, and he was ousted by Nathan Lieuwen near mid-season, who was then called up to Buffalo, injured, and replaced with Andrey Makarov. If nothing else, Makarov has been consistent for the Amerks, in a season where, quite literally, nothing else has been. He’s been the goaltender who’s making the big saves, who is standing on his head, and who is feeding off of his teammates. Hopefully, he and Hackett will become a nearly-unstoppable duo. But I know better than to hold my breath.

The Amerks continue on their trip with stops Saturday in San Antonio against the Rampage and Sunday to Oklahoma City to faceoff against the Barons once again. They return home January 23, against Adirondack, before taking a short break for the AHL All-Star Classic on January 25 and 26, where Phil Varone is slated to represent the Amerks. Hopefully the tides will turn all over the place for the Amerks, because there isn’t much season left to cling to, and the AHL doesn’t offer benefits for not finishing well in hockey. As always, I’ll have all of your Amerks news as soon as I know it and I’ll keep you as up to date as possible about this fantastic roadtrip the Amerks are embarking on.