The Amerks lost on Wednesday night and there’s two ways you could look at the standings after this game. The glass half empty way is that the Amerks are following the Buffalo Sabres lead and slowly sinking in the standings. There’s only four points that separates the Amerks from the Rockford IceHogs who are in last place in the conference. They’re also only six points from last place in the league. The glass half full way is that the Amerks are only two points from eighth place in the conference and four points from sixth place. The good news is that the Amerks play nine out of 12 games in February on home ice so if there was ever a time to really turn things around it’d be in February. The ship hasn’t sunk but there’s reason for concern.
The real downfall has been the inconsistencies. Everything from goal scoring to goaltending to wins and losses. This is a hard working group of hockey players with a lot of potential how much they can really accomplish is the question. The hope for any sports team is to get into the playoffs and then anything can happen. It’s going to take a lot for this team to get there with a group of hard working but inconsistent players. They are currently without Colin Stuart, Evan Rankin, Corey Tropp and Michael Ryan all out with injuries. They’re also without defensemen Brayden McNabb and TJ Brennan, both currently on recall to the Sabres but both are also injured. Those six players could make significant improvements to the team but that’s assuming the world is perfect and there were no injuries with the Sabres and that’s unrealistic for any NHL team.
So, you can point to injuries but you can also point to weaknesses in scoring that this team has had since July 1st and nothing was done about it. Second and third line players have been expected to play top six positions and minutes. That will not bring a team success.
As for the game itself, it went in the opposite direction of what the Rochester Americans needed to win. The Griffins scored three goals in two minutes and 22 seconds halfway through the first period and it was enough for the Griffins to eventually win the game by the final score of 4-1. Derek Whitmore scored his first goal in seven games early in the second period but it wasn’t enough of a spark to get the team back into the game.
The Griffins press release gives a pretty good description of the three goals:
The Griffins abused the glove of Rochester netminder David Leggio in the opening period, whipping three shots past it in a span of 2:22. Fabian Brunnstrom started the scoring at the 9:17 mark, bringing the puck across the Amerks’ line on a 2-on-1 and firing it high into the corner of the cage from the right circle.
Brent Raedeke and Johnson then combined for the Griffins’ fastest two goals this season. Wide-open in the right circle, Raedeke cradled a long cross-ice pass from Janik and snuck a shot just beneath the crossbar at 11:15. Only 24 seconds later, Johnson was alone in the slot when he took a feed from Chris Conner out of the left corner and deposited the puck inside the right post.
And that was more than enough to hold on to control of the game.
Derek Whitmore had not scored a goal or tallied an assist in seven games but broke that drought with the Amerks only goal of the game at 5:59 of the second period. Whitmore was near the front of the net and was able to bury a Drew Schiestel rebound. Phil Varone was also given an assist.
Zack Kassian had a great chance early in the third period trying to back hand the puck into an opening but Griffins goaltender Joey MacDonald robbed him with a super glove save. Shawn Szydlowski also had a couple of scoring chances but MacDonald made the save on those as well
Igor Gongalsky tried to create a spark in the game by getting into a fight with Sebastien Piche of the Griffins, as seen here (ignore Don Stevens saying Minard):
Travis Turnbull also tried to get feisty in an attempt to fight Trevor Parkes but Parkes didn’t want anything to do with him and Turnbull went to the penalty box by himself.
The Griffins made the score 4-1 thanks to a power play goal from former Rochester Americans defenseman Doug Janik. Janik rifled a shot from the blue line past Leggio. It looked as if Leggio was screened on the play so give credit to Janik for getting his through to the net without hitting anyone else..
Rochester was scoreless on four power play opportunities and have now failed to score in any of their 18 previous power play opportunities. They only had three shots total during their first three power play chances of the game. Everyone hates when someone yells “shooooooot it” but sometimes that can be the only way to create a scoring chance with a man advantage.
The Griffins defense and goaltending was better and it shows in the score. Leggio made 32 saves but was left vulnerable by the defense. Corey Fienhage and Drew Schiestel were on the ice for the first two goals, Biega and Crawford for the third and Finley and Morrisonn trying to kill the penalty on the fourth goal.
One of the things that Rolston has preached from his first day was that a team needs to win from goaltending on up and that just isn’t happening.
The Amerks left Grand Rapids on their sleeper bus for a long 10 hour bus ride home before they play Syracuse on Friday and Toronto on Saturday afternoon.