Regardless of how it ended, the 2013-2014 season was quite a year for the AHL’s Rochester Americans.
The Rochester Americans played in 20 different arenas in three different countries throughout the season, including an outdoor game in Rochester, a Spengler Cup tournament in Switzerland and the rest of the season scattered throughout the United States and part of Canada.
The Amerks faced 16 AHL squads and three international teams during the season, and although they faced a first-round Calder Cup Playoffs elimination, there’s many positives to come out of this season.
ROCHESTER AMERICANS: SEASON STRETCH
Rochester finished the regular season with a record of 37-28-6-5. The team’s 85 points were enough to land a seventh-place finish in the AHL’s Western Conference. They allowed just one more goal-against than they scored all season (217 to 216) and finished the season with a home record of 22-16.
Despite all the call-ups and injuries the team faced throughout the season, they were generally able to put together a solid effort.
The Amerks’ best stretch came from January 17 until February 1, when the team put together a season-long seven-game winning streak. The low point came just over a month later, in the form of a nine-game losing stretch that lasted from March 9 until March 28. Despite the struggles, Rochester was able to come back, win seven of their last nine games and secure a playoff spot.
CALL-UPS, INJURIES & ROSTER MOVES
Throughout the season, Rochester faced many injuries and call-ups. In the end, just one player – rookie forward Dan Catenacci – appeared in all 76 games during the regular season.
Fifteen different players were recalled by the Buffalo Sabres at one point or another during the season, and there were 35 unique instances in which recalls were made. A lack of consistency in the roster would make it challenging to put together a consistent performance on the ice; at times, the Amerks certainly struggled with that.
Thirteen players were signed to either ATOs or PTOs during the season, including right wing Alex Hutchings, center Brayden Irwin and defenseman Nick Tuzzolino, who all remained with the team long-term for the season.
ROCHESTER AMERICANS: GOALTENDING CAROUSEL KEEPS SPINNING
One spot where the Amerks had a high rotation of players was in the net. Eight different goaltenders dressed for Rochester during the regular season and playoffs, with six of them seeing playing time in at least one game.
Nathan Lieuwen proved his worth early in the season and went on to carry a heavy load of the Amerks games midway through the year, eventually earning him an NHL call-up.
Andrey Makarov, eventually recalled from the ECHL due to injuries and call-ups, made a name for himself and quickly became a staple of the Rochester lineup, carrying them through the end of the regular season and through the playoffs.
Matt Hackett was also a part of the Amerks goaltending rotation, also serving numerous call-ups to the Sabres until he was injured late in the year. Rochester native Billy Sauer, ECHL call-up Connor Knapp, plus a trio of other goaltenders: Mark Guggenberger, Kevin Kapalka and Garrett Bartus all dressed at one point or another. Only Kapalka and Bartus never saw playing time.
Center Phil Varone led Rochester with the best season of his AHL career to date. Varone had 61 points, including a team-high 43 assists, in 69 games played with the Amerks. He also saw the first NHL action of his career, notching a goal and an assist in nine games with the Sabres.
Left wingers Luke Adam and Nick Deslauriers also had solid seasons of their own, finishing with 49 and 42 points each, respectively. Deslauriers was a newer addition to the Amerks lineup after being traded to the Sabres by the Los Angeles Kings.
Rookies Joel Armia and Tim Schaller both had respectable seasons in their first years in the AHL. Armia scored seven goals and 20 assists in 54 games, while Schaller ended up with 18 points (11-7) in 72 games.
Tuzzolino would end up being a solid investment for the Rochester Americans. He’d become a mainstay on the blueline; now, we’ll just have to wait and see if they bring him back for next season. The same goes for veteran Mike Zigomanis, who was signed to a one-year deal with the Amerks. He missed parts of the season with injury, but was on point and productive when he did play.
A SEASON OF OPPORTUNITY
It was certainly a unique season for the Rochester Americans. While most other AHL teams played their entire seasons indoors in North America, the Amerks had some other ideas in mind.
This season included the first outdoor game in Rochester with the Frozen Frontier on December 13. The Amerks hosted the Lake Erie Monsters in a winter wonderland and eventually came out on top 5-4 in a shootout thanks to the game-winning goal by Matt Ellis, who was recalled to the Sabres immediately after the game.
The Rochester Americans also played overseas in Davos, Switzerland as part of the Spengler Cup tournament from December 26 until December 31. This meant a condensed schedule the rest of the season for Rochester but also offered the team a unique opportunity to play against international clubs. The Amerks lost all three games they appeared in during the tournament.
MATCHING UP AGAINST THE AHL
Overall throughout the regular season, the Rochester Americans faced 16 different AHL clubs. Their best record was against the Utica Comets, who they won seven of 10 games against. The Amerks also put up winning records against the Hamilton Bulldogs (6-2) and Iowa Wild (2-0). Rochester split the season series with the Toronto Marlies, with each team winning five games.
One team Rochester struggled against was Grand Rapids, who won all four games of the season series. This wasn’t helped by the numerous injuries and call-ups that the Amerks faced throughout the year, so it would have been an interesting playoff matchup since Rochester had most of their roster back when the regular season ended.
The Amerks also lost six of eight against the Binghamton Senators and failed to put up a win in two games against the Milwaukee Admirals.
Although Rochester was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs against the Chicago Wolves, the Amerks posted their first playoff win since 2010. Toronto swept Rochester in both of their last two playoff series prior to this year.
As the Rochester Americans pack up after another season, the AHL continues its playoffs, with round two of the Calder Cup Playoffs continuing in the next few days.
The Amerks may face a number of changes in their roster next season, with several players who need to be re-signed, some who may find themselves in Buffalo, and other newcomers who may be brought in from minor leagues or via free agency or trade. It’s only a matter of time until next season begins, but in the meantime, Amerks fans — it’s going to be an interesting offseason.