A three game weekend comes to an end for the Rochester Americans and the main question is, what’s happened to this team? The good news is that even on the current pace they’re still guaranteed a playoff spot. Once you’re in anything can happen but that doesn’t mean losing is acceptable.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the Amerks were briefly tied for first place in the North Division while sitting comfortable in second place. Those were fun games to recap. Those were easier interviews. By the end of the week the team could be sitting in fourth place.
“Home ice is extremely important when it comes to the playoffs,” Nathan Paetsch said after the game. “We have to be desperate these last 23 games that we have.”
In the last 15 games the Amerks are 3-5-4-3. That’s not the way any team wants to play heading into the last quarter of the season.
(Featured photo: Justin Danforth. Taken by Amerks team photographer Micheline Veluvolu)
The Binghamton Devils won again on Sunday afternoon, this time in a shootout. At least the Amerks scored a goal in this game.
A stat that is nearby for every game is the number of games that have gone beyond regulation. 23 of 53 games have gone into overtime this season for the Amerks. They are now are now 7-8 in overtime and 2-6 shootouts. Three overtime losses and one shootout loss to the last place Binghamton Devils. The record for most overtime games in a season is 29. A record well within reach.
There’s no way a team near the top of the standings for over half the season could be happy with two straight games into overtime against the last place team in the league. The Amerks scored one lonely goal in approximately 127 minutes of hockey plus a shootout. All of this after scoring a massive 12 goals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday in what can now be labeled as a total fluke of a game.
“We know it’s not good enough, we’re too good of a team to be losing back to back. We just have to be better,” Nathan Paetsch said after the game. “The effort has to come up. The guys know it in this room.”
“Just because they’re in the basement doesn’t mean doesn’t mean that we should absolutely kill these teams,” Chris Taylor said. “Am I disappointed in how we played? Yes. But not disappointed because they’re in the basement.”
“I felt that after Friday night’s game we felt that it was going to be easy and every team plays hard.”
One line that showed up ready to play the entire game was the fourth line that consisted of Dalton Smith, Justin Danforth and Arvin Atwal. They were winning battles for the pucks, putting shots on net and playing a physical game. Adam Krause was banged up from the game on Saturday so with the team short on forwards Atwal was moved up. A spot that he may find more time in after the game he played.
The same thoughts about that being the best line were echoed in post game interviews.
Kyle Criscuolo scored the Amerks only goal redirecting a shot from Taylor Fedun at 8:50 of the second period. The lead only lasted for two minutes. Jake Walman fired a rocket at the net from the point that beat Linus Ullmark through the five hole. As the shot was fired Ryan Penny skated across the front of the net taking Ullmarks eyes away.
Criscuolo had an opportunity to be the hero on a penalty shot a short 12 seconds into overtime but the puck got away from him as he went to make a move. Partial blame to bad ice at that time in the game but Criscuolo owned up to it saying, “I have to find a way to score that goal and get us an extra point.”
In the shootout the only player to score was Jake Walman the third attempt for Binghamton. He went wide and beat Ullmark high blocker side for the win.
“I think we should’ve won all three games,” Alexander Nylander said after the game. He was the third player tapped to go in the shootout. The puck got away from him before he could try the backhand. “We’re struggling a little bit now and we need to get back to the way we can play and be more consistent.”
Chris Taylor talked about how Nylander played this weekend and said, “I thought he played well on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday he didn’t pick up where he left off. He has to get hungrier. I’ve talked to him about it. It’s a tough league. If you don’t shine in this league where else are you going to go?”
Some honest words right there. Nylander lost an edge on Saturday night that resulted in the Devils going the other way and winning in overtime [ Saturday night overtime loss recap ]. He has an even bigger spotlight on him after 100 professional games but Taylor said that every player has to be better.
“We shouldn’t be going into the shootouts anyways with the hockey team we have.”
Two other players being noticed are Justin Bailey who hasn’t scored a goal since opening night and Hudson Fasching who has gone 16 games without a goal.
Insert every hockey cliche and it fits right now for this team. They have to be tougher, grittier, win 50/50 battles, block shots, shoot the puck more, drive pucks deeper and care about each other. Those were all mentioned by Taylor after the game.
He added, “We had a meeting about it after and we have to take care of it.” The losses have been a team effort, not because of three players not performing.
The Amerks only had 42 shots in the back to back games against the Devils. Not good enough. That was 24 shots less than the 66 that the Devils had in the two games.
“Nope.” Simple answer when Taylor was asked if he’s happy with 4 out of 6 points.
“It’s not good enough. We’re not here to get one point,” Paetsch said. “Especially at home in front of fans, they deserve better than that and we don’t feel like we’re that kind of team.”
The next game is a big one against the Syracuse Crunch, a team desperate to climb out of fourth place. No one in the North Division wants to finish in that last spot and have to play against Toronto in the first round. The last time the Amerks and Crunch played was 15 games ago when the Amerks were blown out in a 4-0 game.