The Rochester Americans are, in a word, struggling.
The team has lost four consecutive games, with their most recent win coming 10 days ago in a 4-2 victory over the Utica Comets. They haven’t scored in over five periods, have been outscored 15-6 in the past four games and are coming off a shutout loss to the Utica Comets on November 23.
The team that not long ago sat at the top of the division now sits fourth in the AHL North Division and 11th in the Western Conference, as the Amerks have a record of 7-7-2-2 and 18 points on the season. The lone team below them in the division is the Comets, with Toronto and Hamilton vying for the top spot and Lake Erie just a few points behind. It’s a close race – the Amerks are just three points out of first in the division – but it’s time to turn things around.
The Rochester Americans are facing a slew of division rivalry games in the coming week. Before the month ends, they’ll face the Hamilton Bulldogs (11/27), the Lake Erie Monsters (11/29) and the Toronto Marlies (11/30). Even once December rolls around, they’ll start the month against division foe Utica before a pair of away games facing the Grand Rapids Griffins, who currently sit second in the Western Conference.
The last win for the Rochester Americans came on November 15, when the team defeated the Utica Comets, 4-2. Luke Adam had his second consecutive two-goal game, with other Amerks goals coming from captain Matt Ellis and assistant captain Mike Zigomanis. Joel Armia notched an assist for the first point of his pro North American career. Defenseman Drew Bagnall and center Kevin Sundher were both a plus-2, while goaltender Nathan Lieuwen stopped 33 of 35 shots faced in 59:46 ice time.
Things didn’t go quite as well the following night, when the Binghamton Senators defeated the Rochester Americans by a commanding score of 7-3. Joel Armia scored his first AHL goal, with the other two Amerks goals coming from Mike Zigomanis. Phil Varone and Jamie Tardif were the only Amerks players with a plus-rating on the evening, both a plus-1. Eleven of the 18 skaters for Binghamton had a point or more. Matt Hackett was in net for the Amerks nearly the entire night, allowing six goals on 37 shots in 59:28, with Binghamton also adding an empty-netter.
Following that game, the Amerks had a few days off before meeting with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at home on November 20. The match-up saw Kevin Porter score the lone Amerks goal – and his first of the season since returning from injury. The Rochester Americans were without Brayden McNabb and Luke Adam, who were both called up to the Buffalo Sabres, but saw the additions of Rasmus Ristolainen and Johan Larsson. Despite all of this, the Penguins overpowered the Amerks and eventually won 3-1, with Jayson Megna solidifying the win with an empty netter. Matt Hackett had 21 saves in the loss.
This past week would add another pair of losses to the Amerks schedule, dropping both games of the home-and-home series with the Utica Comets.
First came a 3-2 loss on Friday at home, a game that saw the Amerks take an early 2-0 lead just seven minutes into the game. Goals from Dan Catenacci and Chad Ruhwedel would power Rochester through most of the first, but Utica scored three unanswered goals over the remainder of the game to carry the victory home. In his first game back in Rochester, Johan Larsson had a pair of assists. Nathan Lieuwen was in net for the Amerks, stopping 28 of 31 shots faced in 58:37 ice time.
Both teams traveled to Utica for another meeting on Saturday night – but this time, the Amerks would drop another defenseman, as Alexander Sulzer was called up to the Buffalo Sabres and didn’t travel with Rochester to Utica.
Joel Armia and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc led the Amerks with four shots each, while Kevin Porter racked up seven penalty minutes thanks in part to a fight with Comets defenseman Patrick Mullen halfway through the second period. Matt Hackett returned to the net for the Rochester Americans, where he stopped 27 of 29 shots faced in the loss.
As the preparations begin for the Frozen Frontier game that the Amerks will be hosting in just a few short weeks and the impending Spengler Cup trip that will see the Amerks travel to Davos, Switzerland, it’s time to hunker down and focus on what’s coming, particularly with a slew of division games in the next weeks. In fact, just three of the 11 games remaining for the Rochester Americans in the 2013 calendar year will be played against non-divisional rival teams.