For the seventh time this season, the Rochester Americans will face the Utica Comets in an AHL matchup on January 3. The teams will face off at the Utica Memorial Auditorium at 7 p.m. in their first game of the new year.
It’s been a while since the Rochester Americans have played a game on North American soil. The team just returned from the Spengler Cup and hasn’t played an AHL regular season game since December 21 – a span of 13 days.
Looking back, the Amerks are coming off a pair of one-goal losses to the Lake Erie Monsters, AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. They’re also facing the challenge of getting themselves reacquainted with the time zone change – Davos is six hours ahead of Rochester – and are being thrown right back into the mix of things with a pair of games this weekend while facing a number of injuries and call-ups.
The Rochester Americans won the first three meetings of the season before Utica won a pair. Rochester won the most recent meeting, a 6-1 home victory on December4. That game saw goals from Kevin Porter (2), Brayden McNabb, Kevin Sundher, Chad Ruhwedel and Nick Crawford. Eleven different Rochester skaters had at least a point, while goaltender Matt Hackett had 25 saves. On the Utica side of things, Ben Ferriero had the lone goal, while goaltending was split.
Overall this season, the Amerks have outscored the Comets, 22-13 despite being outshot 195-166. The Comets have outshot the Amerks in four of six meetings this season – but interestingly enough, only one of Utica’s wins has come when they outshout Rochester.
One area the Rochester Americans will have to focus on tonight is the power play. They’re scored on just eight of 29 opportunities against Utica this season. The Comets, meanwhile, are 5 for 25 on the power play against Rochester this season.
The Rochester Americans are missing several players from their lineup right now. Rochester Americans captain Matt Ellis is still up in Buffalo. Johan Larsson and Brayden McNabb are also up with the Sabres, as is defenseman Alexander Sulzer. Forward Luke Adam is going to miss this weekend’s games due to personal issues. Jamie Tardif is out for the weekend but could return as early as Wednesday. Mike Zigomanis is likely out until next weekend. Kevin Porter is also out with injury.
With all of the aforementioned injury issues and callups, the Rochester Americans have brought in a few reinforcements. Forward Jonathan Parker was recalled from the ECHL, while defenseman Nick Tuzzolino and forwards Brayden Irwin and Brandon MacLean were all signed to PTOs.
Parker has been playing with the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles, where he has eight goals and 12 assists in 21 games. He played 28 games in Rochester last year and had five points in that stretch, and also played a pair of games in Rochester earlier this season.
Tuzzolino, a Buffalo native, has nine games of experience with the Amerks already this season. He’s also played with the Elmira Jackals and Fort Wayne Komets, both of the ECHL. Irwin, 26, has played for the Greenville Road Warriors and Stockton Thunder (both ECHL) this season and also played five games with the Utica Comets. MacLean has played 28 games with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades, where has 28 points (10-18) this season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH FOR
Center Phil Varone leads the Rochester Americans with 27 points (6-21) in 30 games. His 85 shots on goal also lead the team. After that, you’ve got four players who are out for this evening’s matchup – Adam, Zigomanis, Tardif and McNabb. Next up is Chad Ruhwedel, who has 14 points in 26 games this season.
For Utica, center Pascal Pelletier is leading the way with 26 points (6-20) in as many games. Benn Ferriero and Colin Stuart lead the team with 10 goals each – and half of Stuart’s goals have come on the power play. Another player to watch for is rookie right winger Alexandre Grenier, who has 19 points (9-10) in 30 games.
Following tonight’s game, the Rochester Americans head to Hershey for a meeting with the Bears on January 4. The Amerks will face the Comets three more times this season: February 14 at home, then February 15 and April 16 in Utica.