The Amerks are on the road for the first time this season with back to back afternoon road games in Bridgeport. The attitude and mindset towards bus trips will change later on in the season but it’s good to get one out of the way early on.
“Road trips really help you bond a lot and I think it will be exciting to get on the road,” CJ Smith said after practice this week. “With training camp, living in hotels and people trying to find places to live everybody is so scrambled we really haven’t had too much time away from the rink as a team. It’ll be nice for everyone to be in the same spot and get that team bonding.”
Lawrence Pilut had the same thoughts saying, “It’s always fun to get on the road with all the guys and everything. Will be a fun experience and a lot of them this year, i’m looking forward to it.”
There’s already bonding off the ice with guys playing video games together online – mainly Fortnite. Lawrence Pilut said he’s a player, Victor Olofsson as well. When I asked who else played the game the response was it’d probably be easier to find out who doesn’t.
Talking about the road trip Chris Taylor said, “The biggest thing is getting a win Wednesday night and everyone happy going on the bus, that makes life a lot easier I’ll tell you that. We want everyone to be happy. The culture on our bus is bigger than in the dressing room. Confined spaces, everyone is talking, watching movies, laughing, enjoying each other and that makes the team a lot closer.”
A five and a half hour bus trip means there’ll be movies on the bus but what those movies are is often a closely guarded secret.
“The young guys control them but i don’t know, last year we didn’t have a great selection so we may have to go a different way,” Chris Taylor said this week. He added with a laugh, “we have a lot of Swedish guys so I don’t know if we’re going to get sub titles or not so we have to make sure we get the right movies.”
After three games there’s a three way lead for leader in points. Lawrence Pilut (2G+2A), Victor Olofsson (1G+3A) and Zach Redmond (1G+3A). Pilut also leads the team with a plus 4 rating. Yes, we know that’s an outdated stat in hockey but this isn’t the NHL with analytics available to break down.
Chris Taylor had this to say about Pilut so far, “He’s played for the world championships so he’s played against a lot of key NHL players. We know what he can bring, what he can add and we want him to get better. Get used to this ice surface, get used to his angles and his timing because it’s a big difference from the bigger surface to this surface. He’s doing a great job with that. On the power play he’s doing a great job just getting pucks through. Defensively he’s got a good stick, he’s kind of like the Nicklas Lidstrom, he doesn’t use his body as much but he’s got a great stick and his positional play is very well.”
Roster changes the first two games of the season set the tone that right now there’s competition for playing time. The team has six extra players that have been scratched through the first three games.
“I tried to set the standard right off the bat if you don’t play well,” Taylor said. “The accountability is there, we’ll put someone else in the lineup.”
Being a tough and gritty team to play against is the identity that the team wants to carry with them through the season and through the first three games and following practices they haven’t lived up to it. Taylor stopped practice at one point on Friday telling guys they need to practice the way they want to play which means bumping bodies.
“It’s not just for our defensive habits out there, its for our offensive habits too. If we’re not used to playing against guys that are hitting in practice and then all of a sudden we’re in a game and not used to it. We need to push each other every day. It’s not acceptable that we don’t practice like we play. We make sure we preached that and we want to make sure we’re doing that and it’ll make us that much better.”
The win on Wednesday night was better but everyone knows it was only one game. The first two losses were a result of nerves, being tentative and a lot of poor decisions with the puck.
CJ Smith had a big game with a goal and an assist. He said, “I’d rather have a slow start and pick it up later in the year instead of having a hot start and cooling off towards the playoffs like last year. It was a really good response and I think we’re slowly getting in the right direction we want to play and hopefully keep it rolling into the weekend.”
Kyle Criscuolo also had a goal and an assist on Wednesday night. The assist was on the goal from CJ Smith and the assist CJ Smith had was on the goal that Criscuolo scored.
When Taylor was asked about CJ Smith and Criscuolo he said, “It was chemistry but we made good smart changes and our defense stood up. We made some turnovers against their team. Those are goals we wish we would’ve scored Friday night with the crowd and it would’ve gotten the whole building going. Obviously when you lose the first two you’re not going to have a big crowd supporting you as much and that’s on us. We need to play exciting hockey for fans to come out and watch.”
With three road games before returning home next Friday the team generate some excitement with additional wins to interest fans in coming back.
The puck drops at 1pm Saturday and 3pm Saturday in Bridgeport. You can listen live on ESPN Rochester 95.7 FM/950 AM or watch on AHLTV.
For the off ice stuff, here’s some updates on concessions and the AHLTV feed for games out of Blue Cross Arena:
ICYMI, here’s the recap from the win on Wednesday: