Recap: Abbotsford Heat @ Amerks, 02/02/12
“Now, nothing’s adding up … and nothing’s making sense.” (Ben Folds, Missing The War)
There’s something to be said for a team who wins games against teams they certainly have no business winning games against. But, I write about the Buffalo Sabres farm team, so would you expect anything less?
The Amerks met the Abbotsford Heat tonight, for the first time this season, in the first of back to back homers in Rochester. The Heat, coming into this game, were 25-16-3-0 and were on a two-game losing streak. The Amerks have posted a less-than-stellar 19-17-5-3 record and the theme coming out of the locker room was “We need to be better and try harder.” Sound familiar, Sabres fans? Oh, and, let’s rub a bit of salt in that wound: The Amerks had ZERO goals on their last approximately 4 million power play chances. They won against a struggling Toronto team, but got shut out by the Syracuse Crunch. The Amerks went 1-2-1-0 against the Heat last season, and have never beaten them on Rochester ice.
A lot of things about that paragraph are no longer true as I sit and write this. The Amerks easily beat the Heat this evening. Oh, wait. We didn’t just beat the Heat (haha), WE SHUT THEM OUT. Well, not “we,” since they don’t let me play, but rather David Leggio did, and in his pretty fantastic David Leggio style. Leggio, sporting his fancy new helmet, stopped 33 shots in the 3-0 game. Unlike recent games, however, Leggio was NOT the only reason that the Amerks had their heads above water in this game. The Amerks opened scoring at 1:35 into the first, on a really pretty goal from Nick Crawford. Crawford would later be named the third star of the game. Right after that goal, D-man Alex Biega took a nasty late hit and wouldn’t return to the game until much later in the night. I can’t say it was dirty, but it certainly didn’t look clean from where I was sitting.
Phil Varone scored in the second, to bring the Amerks up 2-0. An interesting thing happened in the second period. The Amerks completely forgot they play professional hockey and that checking is allowed, if not encouraged. They just … weren’t finishing their hits. It was so bizarre. I even observed a couple of guys stopping before they even got close enough to get a guy off the puck. Luckily, it didn’t last long, but it was super strange. However, Abbotsford didn’t forget their checking “skills.” Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (who I will henceforth refer to as “Blondie,” because that’s a damn lot of letters in a last name) caught a boarding call after absolutely crushing McNabb into the corner. Finley pulled Blondie away from that and tried to get him to go, but they were quickly separated. I thoroughly hope that Finley destroys Blondie at some point Friday night, because he deserves it. I don’t usually like to point fingers at players who deserve a good beating, but Blondie had 334 PIM in 64 games for Albany last season. Dude is the Matt Cooke of the AHL.
Earlyish in the third, Leggio absolutely stone-walled Abbotsford on a short handed break away, that looked like a sure thing (Ed. note: The shooter Leggio stopped was former teammate Paul Byron, sent to the Calgary organization as part of the Robyn Regehr trade). Oh me of little goaltender faith. Then, at 16:01 of the third, the unthinkable happened. If you’re not sitting down, now’s the time to do it. The Amerks scored a power play goal. I know. I know. Calm down. The Amerks netted their first power play goal in 31 attempts. Travis Turnbull was the scorer, and it was a beauty.
Game notes … David Leggio was wearing a fancy-pants new mask which, among other things, has a portrait of Rick Jeanneret on one side. Leggio says that RJ is one of the best announcers ever. We all know that, but I wanted y’all to know he thinks so, too … Brayden McNabb played his first game since January 13 … Mike Ryan (and his eyebrows) continue to be a “healthy scratch” for the Amerks … With tonight’s win, the Amerks moved into 8th place in the West. If the playoffs started tomorrow, Rochester would be in, so let’s hope that keeps up … The Amerks play eight more home games in February, and seven in March, after only eight total home games in December and January.
The Amerks host the Heat again Friday, February 3, and then hit the road to Syracuse on Saturday.