Amerks' hot start to 2018-19 season continues

Despite having their five-game winning streak snapped on Saturday, the Amerks remain as one of the best teams in the AHL

Brayton Wilson
October 22, 2018 - 1:15 pm

Photo: Micheline Michaelina - Rochester Americans


The Rochester Americans had its five-game win streak snapped on Saturday night with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Belleville Senators, but they continue to stand as one of the strongest teams in the entire American Hockey League.

After a dominating 6-1 win over the Utica Comets on Wednesday, the Amerks captured win No. 5 in a row at Blue Cross Arena with a 5-4 shootout win over the defending Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies. The Amerks jumped out to a 4-2 lead on the Marlies more than halfway through the second period, only to see that lead squander away with 10-seconds left to play when Sam Gagner ripped a shot past Scott Wedgewood for the game-tying goal.

After an extra five minutes of overtime was not enough, the Amerks and Marlies went to a shootout, where Rochester got three goals from Victor Olofsson, C.J. Smith and Wayne Simpson to bury the Marlies and secure the win.

Then on Saturday, the Amerks held the lead on three separate occasions, including a 3-2 lead heading into the third period. However, penalties got the Amerks into trouble in the third period as the Senators were able to capitalize on two of their three chances to tie the game at 3-3, and then 4-4. In overtime, it was Chase Balisy who streaked in toward the net, snuck behind Olofsson, and tapped in a pass from Christian Wolanin to sink the Americans.

Despite the loss, the Amerks came out of last week with five of a possible six points, and currently sit at the top of the North Division standings with a 5-2-1-0 record. With the team's 11 points in the standings, Rochester also sits tied atop the overall standings in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals and the San Jose Barracuda.

Through the first eight games of the 2018-19 season, the Amerks' offense has found its groove as it leads the AHL in scoring with 32 goals for this season. Rochester's power play has also been a huge factor in the team's success, converting at a 35.5-percent rate, which tops the AHL by 3.7-percent. Of the 34 power play opportunities the Amerks have had on the man advantage, they have scored 12 power play goals.

However, the Amerks' penalty kill has been a major problem through the first eight games of the season. Rochester currently sits with the third-worst unit in the AHL with just a 68.6-percent kill rate, and they have given up a league-high 11 goals against while shorthanded. The team is also one of the highest penalized teams in the division, but are only tied for the 12th-most penalties in minutes in the league. On Saturday, the penalty kill and the lack of discipline cost the Amerks a win against a Belleville team that did not look like they could have beaten Rochester while playing at even strength.

Although the penalty kill has been the Achilles' heel of the team in the early part of the season, the Amerks continue to get some stellar play from a number of players in the lineup.

Olofsson continues to lead the way for the Amerks with 14 points (5+9) in eight games, with 13 of those points (5+8) coming in the last six games. The 23-year-old winger continued his red-hot production following his AHL Player of the Week nod with a four-point game (2+2) on Wednesday in Utica. On Friday and Saturday, Olofsson added an assist in each game to continue his six-game point streak. Of his 14 points this season, Olofsson has eight power play points (1+7) and is tied for the league lead in that department. The young Swedish forward also leads the Amerks with 27 shots on goal this season.

Another red-hot player for the Amerks early in the season has been defenseman Zach Redmond. The 30-year-old leads the AHL in scoring among defensemen with 12 points (4+8) in eight games, and is currently tied with Utica's Reid Boucher for second in league scoring. He is also riding a seven-game point streak with all of his 12 points coming in that span. Redmond is also tied with Olofsson for scoring on the power play with all four of his goals coming on the man advantage, along with four assists.

As for Alex Nylander, he continues his strong play after just missing out on making the Buffalo Sabres' roster this preseason. The 20-year-old just had a streak of six games with at least a point snapped on Saturday, but is still fourth in team scoring with eight points (3+5) in eight games. This week saw Nylander scoring a goal in Utica on Wednesday and in Rochester on Friday, while also adding an assist in the Amerks' win over the Comets.

As for Lawrence Pilut, his point streak of eight points (1+7) in four games remains in tact as he missed the weekend's action with an upper-body injury. Head coach Chris Taylor said following Friday's win over Toronto that Pilut suffered the injury on Wednesday night, and didn't want him to take the chance of worsening the injury. Taylor said that he would rather have Pilut sit out 1-2 games to get right instead of 2-3 weeks if he had injured himself more.

Here are some other news and notes surrounding the team from this past week:

  • Danny O'Regan scored three goals this week, including a two-goal performance on Friday night against the Marlies. The 24-year-old now has four goals and six points this season as he skates on a line with Olofsson and Rasmus Asplund.
  • Brendan Guhle notched his first two goals of the season this weekend in identical fashion. On both goals, Guhle joined the offensive rush and skated through the two defenseman covering for partial breakaways. In both cases, Guhle managed to slide the puck through the goalie's five-hole. The 21-year-old is currently riding a five-game point streak of his own with two goals and four assists in that span.
  • Both defensemen Brandon Hickey and Will Borgen notched their first professional goals in Belleville on Saturday.
  • The Amerks announced their television schedule for the 2018-19 season as they will broadcast three games this year on MSG. The first of which will be on Wednesday, December 5 when the Amerks host the Comets at Blue Cross Arena with Don Stevens, Ric Seiling and Mike Catalana on the call of the game. Here is the full schedule:
    • Wednesday, December 5 - Amerks vs. Utica Comets - 7 p.m.
    • Friday, January 25 - Amerks vs. Utica Comets - 7 p.m.
    • Sunday, March 10 - Amerks vs. Binghamton Devils - 3 p.m.

The Amerks will return to game action on Friday against the Comets when they kick off a three-game homestand at Blue Cross Arena. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. and can be heard on 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.

Also, in case you missed it, the first episode of the All-Americans Podcast has been released featuring Victor Olofsson. You can listen to it below:

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