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Up The 90: A Whole Mess Of Amerks News

08/31/11

It’s been quiet here at Black & Blue & Gold and there have been a bunch of developments we haven’t touched upon yet. With the Sabres all but wrapped up until camp starts in just over two weeks, it’s predictably been Amerks central. To the (old and also new) newsbits!


Regier Fleshes Out The Farm Team
While it’s widely assumed by fans and journos alike that Ales Kotalik and Shaone Morrisonn will be demoted to the AHL if they aren’t traded away, general manager Darcy Regier didn’t sit on his laurels and continued to sign players for the Amerks. He re-signed fan favorite (in Portland) Travis Turnbull and late-season addition Shawn Szydlowski, brought former Amerk and Sabre Michael Ryan back into the system, and added Paul Szczechura to the organization.

Turnbull plays a strong checking game and Szydlowski was brought in for his offensive game as a pivot but were both limited by injuries last season. Ryan is a jack-of-all-trades role player who can fill a spot with the big club if need be, as can the lesser-talented Szczechura. In addition to being the likely destination for Kotalik and Morrisonn, Rochester should see Matt Ellis returning to mentor the kids. With strength in numbers at offense and defense, all that’s left for the Americans is to earn their keep and learn their spots.

For salary numbers, visit the always-reliable CapGeek.com.

Rolston Plucked From NTDP To Coach Amerks
After Kevin Dineen was finally given his chance to coach an NHL team (one he earned after an AHL tenure marked by plenty of success), Regier knew he had the unenviable task of replacing one of the minor league’s best bench bosses. Instead of looking at out-of-work NHL veterans or displaced AHL assistants, he went to the United States National Team Development Program for his man. Enter Ron Rolston, a highly-sought after coach looking to make the jump.

From the Amerks’ official release on his hiring:

Rolston joins the organization after spending the previous seven seasons as a head coach with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (NTDP), where he led the U.S. Under-18 team to three gold medals and a silver medal in four stints as head coach at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Under-18 Championship, including the 2011 tournament in Germany. During the 2010-11 season, he also led Team USA to titles in the 2011 Five Nations Tournament and in the 2010 Four Nations Cup. In addition, Rolston’s U.S. National Under-18 Team posted a 12-9-1-2 (W-L-OTL-SOL) record in United States Hockey League play in 2010-11, helping the NTDP reach the USHL postseason for the first time. In June, he received the 2011 Bob Johnson Award from USA Hockey, which recognizes excellence in international competition during a season.

The longest-tenured and most decorated head coach in NTDP history, Rolston guided his teams to five medals and multiple tournament championships in international competition. He is the only coach in U.S. history to win three gold medals in the Under-18 World Championship (2005, 2009, 2011). His team also captured a silver medal in the 2007 Under-18 World Championship. Rolston’s teams never missed a championship game in either of the two major NTDP tournaments – the IIHF World Under-18 Championship and the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

The 44-year-old Rolston joined USA Hockey after serving as an assistant coach at four different NCAA Division I hockey programs between 1990 and 2004, winning National Championships in 1992 and 1994 with Lake Superior State University. Rolston was an assistant coach at Boston College from 2002-04 and also served as the top assistant at Harvard University from 1999-2002 and as an assistant coach at Clarkson University (1996-99) and Lake Superior State University (1990-95).

In addition to winning two national titles at Lake Superior State, Rolston also helped guide the team to three straight appearances in the NCAA National Championship game and four CCHA tournament titles in his five-year stint. He was elevated to associate head coach for the Lakers in 1994. Rolston’s younger brother, 16-year NHL veteran Brian Rolston, was a member of the 1992 and ’93 squads that Ron helped coach.

It will be interesting to see how he adapts his up-tempo attacking style to Lindy Ruff’s smarter, more controlled possession type of system, but if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s the talented Rolston. One man cannot coach a team alone, though, and after selecting their head coach for Rochester, Regier and Co. set about finding him some help…

McKee, Cassidy Reportedly Hired As Assistants In Rochester
Back on July 19th, I wrote this about possible AHL coaching candidates:

One possible candidate to coach in either city is Jay McKee, who I talked to earlier in the summer about how he might continue his hockey career. He’d said he told Regier about his desire to come on board with the coaching staff at the NHL or AHL level and remains hopeful that he can return to the organization he became a star with.

Turns out the Hockey Heaven Fairy may grant Jay’s wish, as numerous reports from The Buffalo News and the Democrat & Chronicle have him as one of two men tabbed to be Ron Rolston’s assistants in Rochester. The other? Former NTDP Rolston assistant Chadd Cassidy, already confirmed by USA Hockey as having left the development program for a job with the Amerks. (Side note: Ron Rolston and Chadd Cassidy? Who are these guys, Marvel Comics characters?)

Jay McKee needs no introduction to Sabres fans, who cheered on the defensive stalwart for almost a decade. But Chadd Cassidy is definitely an out-of-left-field name to anyone who doesn’t read Kevin Oklobzija’s blog for the Democrat & Chronicle.

From Cassidy’s biography page on the NTDP site:

During the 2009-10 campaign, Cassidy helped guide the U.S. National Under-17 Team to great international success. While serving as an assistant to Ron Rolston, Cassidy helped lead Team USA to its first title at the 2010 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge since 2002. He also helped pilot the squad to a first-place finish at the 2009 Under-17 Four Nations Cup in Trnava, Slovakia. The U.S. National Under-17 Team finished with a 9-1-1-3 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record against international foes under Rolston and Cassidy’s watch. In August, Cassidy served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Under-18 Select Team that finished second at the 2010 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Piestany, Slovakia.

In 2008-09, Cassidy helped guide the U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team to its fourth gold medal at the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Men’s Under-18 Championship in Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn. Additionally, he helped lead Team USA to a 15-1-0-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record against international opponents and a 13-13-1 record against college foes. Cassidy also served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team that earned the silver medal at the 2007 IIHF World Men’s Under-18 Championship in Tampere and Rauma, Finland.

Cassidy has been both an on-ice instructor and team coach at USA Hockey’s New York district camps and select festivals. In December 2005, he joined Rolston’s staff for the 2006 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Regina, Saskatchewan, where Team USA finished second in the 10-team event.

Prior to joining the NTDP, Cassidy served as the head coach for four seasons at the National Sports Academy in his hometown of Lake Placid, N.Y., where he posted a 124-71-15 record. His teams made the final of the Midwest Prep League playoffs every year in his tenure, and won the league championship in 2004. Cassidy served as an assistant coach at State University of New York at Cortland from 1999-2001 and Potsdam State for the 2001-2002 season.

(Judging by his headshot, he also looks like he knows something you don’t know)

As other writers have said, the lack of professional coaching experience from this trio is offset by the infusion of completely fresh blood behind the bench at the pro level. It’s going to be exciting to see what the two NTDP coaches and the former defenseman can bring to the farm team.

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