Recap: Lake Erie Monsters @ Amerks, 02.25.12
“I wanna be your three night stand, don’t want to be your hangover.” (The Alternate Routes, Rocking Chair)
The Amerks won 4-3 in the shootout. The shootout went fifteen rounds. That’s all. That’s my post. HA! Yeah, right.
The Amerks welcomed the Lake Erie Monsters back to the Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester War Memorial Saturday night, looking for a three-game home winning streak. It should’ve been a no brainer, with LEM on the third game of a three-in-three (welcome to the AHL, kids), and having undergone a brutal travel schedule prior to coming to Rochester. The Amerks were also looking for two huge points (aren’t all points huge at this time of the season, though?) against a divisional opponent. They got their points, and they got their three-game winning steak, but not without a hell of a lot of effort.
The Monsters came out, guns blazing. They did NOT look like a team that was coming off of a bus ride from Grand Rapids. They actually looked a lot like the Amerks who showed up to play the first period against the Hamilton Bulldogs on February 19. The Amerks looked like the sleepy team; the team at the end of a three-in-three. They looked almost like a team who expected to sit back and let a game be handed to them. The Monsters struck first, as Evan Brophey banged home a rebound at 7:12. That the score wasn’t worse at the close of the first is likely a miracle. The Monsters outmanned, outhustled, and outworked the Amerks, and the Amerks were really setting themselves up for an embarrassment.
The second period started off a bit better for the Amerks, however, with Rochester getting some pretty decent chances on LEM’s goaltender Coleman. Unfortunately, LE was able to sneak their second score past David Leggio. The #LegendOfJoeFinley was there to save the day, fighting all the Monsters who came to challenge him (or, at least, within his arm’s reach) and still managing to put the Amerks on the power play. Both Finley and his sparring partner, Evan Brophey, received two minutes for roughing, while LE’s Richmond received a two minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. On that power play, TJ Brennan got the Amerks on the board first, with a hard slapper dealt to him by Phil Varone and Brayden McNabb. Although it felt like a MUCH shorter time span, it was forty-four seconds later that McNabb tied the game at two, with Evan Rankin and Varone nabbing (heh) the assists at 13:34. The game would remain tied through the end of the second period.
At about the two minute mark of the third, I witnessed something I hadn’t before this game: Jacob Lagace dropped gloves with LE’s Luke Walker, which earned them both five-minute fighting penalties. I died a little, not just because I just love Lagace, but because he was able to really hold his own, even though he is not known on this team (or I’m guessing any other) for being a fighter. Three minutes later, Brennan scored his second of the game, with assists to Foligno and Varone. Lake Erie wasn’t just going to lay down and give this to Rochester, however, tying the game near the ten-minute mark. I was fairly convinced that the game was headed to disaster, as Luke Adam took a penalty for delay of game at 18:52, but Rochester was able to escape both the third period and overtime without giving up anything … but without scoring one, either. Then the fun began.
The way that the shootout works in the AHL is a bit different than the NHL. The AHL goes five rounds, where the NHL goes three, until a victor is decided. This usually makes for an interesting night, as I feel that a best-of-five leaves the whole skills competition open a little more than a best-of-three does (even though I hate the shootout no matter what). While both leagues play until a winner is determined, the AHL holds a record for most rounds in a shootout, with 16. Rochester opted to shoot second in each round. The five round rule definitely worked out to Rochester’s benefit, as LEM scored in the third round (Eric Hunter) and Rochester did not score until the fourth round (Phil Varone). Justin Mercier and Foligno both scored in the tenth round, with Igor Gongalsky closing out the game with his 15th round goal. At one point, my sister and I looked at each other, and she asked when they were going to pull Drew MacIntyre off the bench to take a shot. The Amerks were without Mr Automatic Shootout, Jon Parker, who was sent to the ECHL, along with Riley Boychuk and Shawn Szydlowski, around February 15. Parker lead all Amerks rookies, going 4-for-4 in the shootout.
Game notes: The Amerks went 1 for 4 on the power play, while Lake Erie went oh-for-four … Derek Whitmore looked WAY off his game against the Lake Erie club. He’s been on so much all season that it was hard to see him look a little out of place out there. He finished the night with zero points, 2 shots, and a -3. Phil Varone had 3 points, all assists, and was a +2. Varone was also the second star of the game. McNabb was third, and Brennan was first … Speaking of Phil Varone, he currently leads all Amerks players with 36 (8+28) points in 56 games.
The Amerks will host a season ticket holder skate with the players on Monday, February 27. You can check out my Twitter page for pictures and tidbits from the skate! Following that, they will head out on a 3-in-3, with the first stop in Grand Rapids to take on the Griffins on March 2. They have fared pretty well against the Griffs this season, posting a 3-1 record and outscoring them 14-10, including a 7-2 rout back in October. Then to Toronto on March 3, where they will take on the Toronto Marlies. The Amerks have only won against the Marlies once this season, and stand to collect up to four points in a home-and-home with Toronto. The Amerks will finish out against Toronto on March 4. Alas, I will be on vacation for this game, and will miss it – but I will be with the team in spirit, as that night’s theme on my cruise is “red, white, and blue.” Pretty perfect for this Amerks fan, wouldn’t you say!? I’ll be back with more for you on March 9, when the Amerks face the Binghamton Senators. See you at the game!
Update: The Amerks uploaded video of the 15-round shootout for all to see. Grab a snack and take a seat for 14 minutes…