Recap: Grand Rapids Griffins @ Amerks, 04.10.12
“In this heartbreak world, of just imagine – with tired talk of better days. In this heartbreak world, where nothing matters – c’mon, let’s make this dream that’s barely half awake come true.” (Matt Nathanson, Heartbreak World)
I am not a fan of the “loser point,” as I’m sure you’ve picked up if you follow me on Twitter. However, the loser point is likely what kept Rochester from mathematical elimination following Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins, although it certainly didn’t help them much.
As the regular season winds down, the Amerks welcomed the Grand Rapids Griffins to the Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester War Memorial on Tuesday night. It also brought and end to my hockey-during-the-work-week tradition of sitting somewhere other than where I normally do, as I joined my friend on the glass in her section. The Amerks looked pretty phenomenal from the jump, as they definitely came out with a certain hustle in their skates. Corey Tropp took the first penalty of the game, on a tripping call. However, it was quickly offset by GR taking a high-sticking minor. Tropp clearly decided he wanted to make it up to the fans, and scored the first goal of the night, off a pass from Nick Crawford, at 12:54. Three minutes later, he did it again, this time from Paul Szczechura and Marcus Foligno. Corey Tropp, don’t let anyone tell you we didn’t miss you. Or at least, don’t let them tell you that I didn’t miss you. Less than a minute after Tropp’s second goal (his 9th in an Amerks sweater), GR netted their first of the night, with Garnet Exelby getting credit (no, really. His first name is Garnet). GR would tie the game at the 17:30 mark, with the second goal going to Tomas Tatar, and the teams would take a 2-all tie into the first intermission.
Oh … fall apart in the second period? Don’t mind if we do! Oh for … never mind, I’m told this needs to be SFW. Dang. The Amerks had a LOT of chances in the beginning of the second period, but it was GR’s Fabian Brunnstrom who broke the tie at 6:26. Tatar netted GR’s fourth goal at 9:55. The Amerks took some penalties in the second – with both TJ Brennan and Tropp taking minors – and Travis Turnbull and Brent Raedeke being assessed five a piece for fighting. The Griffins took a 4-2 lead into the second, and I have to admit … I saw the season slipping away. I blame this on a lot of things, namely Lindy Ruff being in the building, rendering the Amerks incapable of registering even ONE SHOT on a 3-on-1 situation. I offered to help a member of the Buffalo media (the only member of the Buffalo media I LIKE) remove him from the building – I’m quite sneaky – but we were unable to accomplish that goal. I also saw something I’ve seen a lot this season: The Amerks second period fall apart. They are nothing if not a team run by the Buffalo Sabres organization, and the second period is, at times, downright painful to watch. I’m not saying I can do it better, I’m not saying I have a solution, but SOMETHING (ANYTHING, really) needs to be done – and quick! – if this team would like to make and be successful in a playoff berth.
The third period opened with my hope shot, but a full beer in my hand (and no dinner in my belly). I said a little prayer to the hockey gods, who we all know don’t particularly care for these organizations, and off we went. Luke Adam. No, really. Luke freaking Adam answered my prayers (someone show him that, because it may never get said again), scoring Rochester’s third goal at 3:42 of the third, with assists to McNabb and Rankin. It. Was. Awesome. Adam was so very much in the right place at the right time, and had a wide open net in front of him, with GR’s McCollum busy on the other side not paying attention to Luke. Even the most rampant of Luke Adam haters would have to agree he did a lot right in this situation. TJ Brennan was the hero of the third period, tying the game at 5:23. Shocking to no one, Phil Varone got the assist. With neither team able to break the tie, the game would head into extra time for the eleventybillionth time (or league-leading 24th time, whichever you prefer) this season. The most bizarre of things happened in OT. And apparently it happened RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME and I missed it. Varone threw his stick to prevent a Doug Janik breakaway. Subsequently, Janik was awarded the penalty shot (although, Luke Adam had a clear breakaway early in the game, was hauled down, and was NOT awarded a penalty shot, so …). Janik scored, and the game was over.
Game Notes: Both teams failed to convert on the power play. While Rochester was 0-for-5, GR was 0-for-3 … Only one of Rochester’s starting skaters (Alex Biega) has not played a game for Buffalo this season … Rochester’s “loser point” helped them remain in 10th place in the AHL West. Think the NHL playoff races were tight? They didn’t have ANYTHING on the AHL West. The Amerks are currently in a five-way tie for sixth place, with 82 points. However, tie-breakers keep them penned at the bottom of the heap. A win against Grand Rapids would’ve propelled them into sole possession of fifth place. Like I said, the Amerks are not mathematically eliminated, but they have put themselves into must-win situations for their final two games, and they will need help from other teams to get into the playoffs.
The Amerks welcome Eastern Conference rival Syracuse Crunch to the Arena on Friday, for their last home game of the season. I feel like the season just started, and here we are at the end. The Crunch are also fighting for their playoff lives, holding onto seventh in the east by only one point. All 30 teams in the AHL will play on Friday, making scoreboard watching even more stressful. Far as I can tell (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, as I know you will), Rochester needs to win, and help could come from the Chicago Wolves, Hamilton Bulldogs, Oklahoma City Barons, and Rockford Ice Hogs. The Toronto/Abbotsford match will not impact Rochester, as both teams have secured playoff berths, and the Texas/San Antonio match-up won’t impact Rochester, either. Let’s hope the roof collapses on the Charlotte/Peoria game, though. While puck-drop is scheduled for 7:35pm (the AHL and their crazy start times!), it’s likely that will be delayed for season’s end awards. Additionally, the Amerks organization is celebrating fan appreciation night and will be crowning their 7th man for the first time that I can EVER remember. It’s the last home game of the season, loves. Let’s pack the barn, and send our boys to Lake Erie on Saturday on a good note!!!