Losing streak? What losing streak? The Rochester Americans return to action tonight following the All-Star break to kick off the final 33 games of the season riding a three game winning streak. Two of the last three games had some moments but each game was a couple steps in the right direction following a dreaded seven game losing streak.
The Amerks are home tonight, January 31, hosting the Syracuse Crunch. The two teams played this past Saturday that resulted in an Amerks 3-2 win. Below is a recap of the past week and a half and where they’re at moving forward.
Quick Recap of the Last Three
3-2 overtime win at Cleveland – Lawrence Pilut broke the losing streak with an overtime game winning goal. The Amerks had a two goal lead following the first period but Cleveland scored once in the following two periods to force overtime. A pass from Mittelstadt to Pilut won the game to change the course heading into the break. [ Game Recap at Amerks.com ]
5-2 win vs Laval – Goalie Keith Kinkaid helped the Amerks by essentially scoring on himself while trying to clear the puck. Sean Malone had tossed the puck in on net and was given credit. Take the bounces when they go your way. Andrew Oglevie (x2), CJ Smith, and Scott Wilson had scored the other four goals. Jonas Johansson made 31 saves in the win. [ Game Recap at Amerks.com ]
3-2 win at Syracuse – JS Dea scored the game winning goal when Crunch goalie Martin Spencer poorly played the puck behind the net allowing Dea to steal it and score short handed. Eric Cornel and CJ Smith scored the other two goals. A solid team game almost fell apart in the final three minutes but it didn’t and the team went into the All-Star break on a positive note. Two late penalties provided the Crunch with a power play when they scored to get within a goal with less than two minutes to play. [ Game Recap at Amerks.com ]
Will the losing streak be a thing of the past? The team started playing that grind it out, be on top of every puck style of hockey again that brought them success and will hopefully continue. Games this weekend against Syracuse and Binghamton will be a new testing ground following the week off.
The North Division Race
There’s a lot of hockey remaining to be played between now and April 11 when the regular season ends and it’s going to be a race in the North Division. Despite a seven game losing streak the Amerks have remained at the top of the division.
Rochester is in second place and four points out of first place with two games in hand (they’ve played two less games than first place Belleville). Utica is tied with Rochester at 54 points but Utica has played three more games than Rochester.
Fourth place Laval is five points behind Rochester but they’ve also played two more games than Rochester.
Games in hand is going to be a factor in this final stretch and Rochester has the chance to gain ground on the other teams.
While Belleville, Rochester, and Utica have been the top teams in the division the race for fourth place can be considered close. There’s only five points separating fourth place and eighth place in the division. Every game is going to matter to every team, no one is out of the playoff race.
Jonas Johansson was called up to the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday morning. Linus Ullmark was injured (lower body) Tuesday night and will be out approximately three to four weeks.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has been called up to Rochester from Cincinnati.
JS Dea was called up to the Buffalo Sabres today, Friday morning, following an upper body injury to Kyle Okposo during the game Thursday night.
Hall of Fame Night
Domenic Pittis is being inducted into the Amerks Hall of Fame tonight (January 31) as the class of 2020.
Set to become the 65th member of the exclusive club, Pittis quickly evolved into one of the franchise’s most prolific scorers during his three seasons in Rochester, reaching the 20-goal mark twice and recording at least 65 points on all three occasions. In 204 career games with the Amerks, Pittis produced 246 points, placing him among the top 20 forwards all-time in franchise history, and ranking 17th all-time with 171 assists. He also added 70 points (16+54) in 57 postseason appearances while leading the Amerks to the playoffs in each of his three seasons, including back-to-back trips to the Calder Cup Finals in 1999 and 2000.
“I’m extremely honored to have been inducted into the Rochester Americans Hall of Fame,” said Pittis.
“I played with so many great players, but it really was the group and the Amerks culture that made my time in Rochester so memorable.”
Five Questions for the Final Stretch of the Amerks Season
- Another season where the Sabres are a mess. Can the Amerks finish out the second half of the season while dealing with roster moves and potential trades? They’ll have no choice, that’s life in the American League, but history has shown the last few seasons that it can have a direct impact on chemistry and performance. Sometimes players return and they ‘just aren’t the same.’
- Will Casey Nelson remain on the Amerks through the playoffs? He’s unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and is having a stellar year on the Amerks blue line. It’d be a big loss to lose him but history shows that teams don’t often want a player to simply walk away. It’s clear that he isn’t in the long term plans for the Sabres and he’s still young enough to make a push for an NHL contract somewhere. If I had a vote for the unsung hero aware of the 2019/2020 season it’d go to Casey Nelson.
- What impact can a healthy Taylor Leier have? Before a freak injury sidelined him he had five goals in five games. Leier is an impact player that can change a game, the type of player every team needs. The guy has had some bad luck with injuries but can hopefully get back on the right track to finish the season strong.
- Who will step up and lead the way? JS Dea and Andrew Oglevie are the only two players with double digits in goals scored, each tied for 13. Can anyone else go on a streak and start scoring in abundance? Will Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen step into the crease and begin to steal games? Maybe those scenarios aren’t necessary. This team has found success as a team this season with scoring spread out along with wins shared between the goalies.
- This is a playoff team but can they win a playoff game though? Through six games over the last two seasons they haven’t won a game yet. Being a playoff team isn’t good enough anymore, time to win one game. And then two more and advance to the second round. Most fans are enjoying the season but this lingers in everyone’s mind – it’s all for nothing if they’re swept in the first round again.
And in case you missed it…