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Recap: Syracuse Crunch @ Amerks, 03.21.12

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“My name is hope, luck just ran out – he said he’d return without a doubt, oh, but don’t you believe him.” (Carbon Leaf, This Is My Song!)

80 degrees. Sunny. Spring. Reminds me of playoff hockey. A near-perfect setting for a Wednesday night game in Rochester between the Amerks and the Syracuse Crunch. Except for one thing: One of these teams didn’t play like they actually WANT to play hockey when it’s playoff time.

The Amerks welcomed the Syracuse Crunch to sunny downtown Rochester, and the puck dropped on the 200th meeting between the two teams. Prior to this game, the Amerks were 100-84-15 all time against the Crunch, and 4-3-0-0 this season, including the 4-3 loss suffered Friday night. David Leggio lead the Amerks onto the ice for warmups, and took his 11th straight start for this Rochester club. Now, I’ve watched a lot of Syracuse/Rochester games in my day. They’re almost always physical, they’re almost always exciting, and they’re almost always just good, quality hockey. This game was not really any of these things and, although it had it’s moments of good Amerks hockey, they appeared few and far between. Early in the first, I had a moment of de ja vu. I don’t know if anyone else remembers way back when (it may have been before my time here with B&B&G) Joe Finley flubbed a play and nearly scored on ‘tender Leggio. Well, Dennis Persson took a page from the book of Finley (unfortunately, it wasn’t the “do awesome things and beat people up” page), and nearly scored on Leggio himself. Luckily, it was not an actual made-it-behind-the-goalie goal, and the game moved forward. Igor Gongalsky and John Kurtz squared off off of a face-off in what might be the least productive hockey fight I’ve ever seen. It was more like poorly organized ice dancing, and ended with a draw. By the time the Amerks scored at 9:27 of the first, I felt like I had watched a whole period of hockey – it was a physical and interesting game, although it didn’t leave a lot to write about. Rochester’s first goal was scored by Shaone Morrisson, with assists to Captain Colin Stuart and Evan Rankin. Two minutes later, Syracuse’s Luca Caputi tied the game at one, when he was left alone on Leggio’s open side during a scuffle down around the net.The first period ended with the teams tied at one a piece, but Rochester just dominating SOG, 21-14.

The second period was quite bizarre. There was a large chunk of time where there was a lot of play and not a lot of whistle. Not any whistle, actually. This isn’t how I like to watch my hockey, but they don’t ask me (they should). There was, however, a horn following a sick pass from Phil Varone to Nick Crawford at 7:08 to put the Amerks up by one. When I tell you this was a sick pass … I mean, I need to find a thesaurus, because there just aren’t the right words in my extensive therapist vocabulary to cover how awesome this pass was. I have not seen a more perfect play from this team all season. Seriously. I’ll stop gushing now, I just really wanted to get the point across. Brayden McNabb also got a point across at 13:17, when he buried a pass from Mark Voakes, to put the Amerks up 3-1. Syracuse responded with a goal of their own with :27 left in the second period. There have been some pretty fantastic goals that weren’t for Rochester this year. This goal was UGLY, and should be on the list of “goals that aren’t,” as there was some serious holding going on of the Amerks defensemen. It was really poor officiating from the refs (both of them), and the goal never should’ve counted. The Amerks and Crunch went into the second intermission with the Amerks leading in both goals and SOG.

The third period was oddly reminiscent of prior Amerks falling apart periods. They looked tired. They looked slow. They looked like they were getting run ragged by the Crunch team. At 8:48 of the third, Peter Holland rang it off the post and it fell behind Leggio, tying the game at 3-all. That’s how it would remain through the end of the third period, and through the overtime frame, leading us into a shootout situation. Now. I am NOT a fan of the shootout (or, as my sister and I call it (along with other hockey fans, I’m sure) the “skills competition.” I don’t have another suggestion to make it better, and I don’t want to go back to a tie situation, but I really dislike the shootout. Apparently, Coach Ron Rolston wanted to assist me in my hatred of the skills competition, as he seemed to have started from the bottom of the “people we should play in the shootout” list instead of the top. While Syracuse sent out Holland, Jacques, Caputi, Sexton (who scored the lone shootout goal), and Holzapfel, Rochester provided Szczechura, Varone, Gongalsky, Brennan, and Szydlowski. I understand that performance during practice shootouts get you on the list of in-game shootouts, but … gosh. I can’t imagine a worse line up, and that sentiment was reflected in Rochester Democrat & Chronicle Kevin O’s write up, that hinted that Rolston wished that more players shot instead of deking – only Szyd actually shot on Syracuse’s Tarkki. The Amerks took one point against this eastern team, and are still sitting in 8th place in the AHL West, with 72 points.

Game notes: All three Rochester goals were scored by blue-liners. While it’s great that our defense is able to help produce, what does it say about our forwards that they could not bury the puck? … Varone’s assist during this game increased his team-leading assists to 36. He is well on pace to pass 40, barring any unforeseen circumstances … The Amerks went 0-for-3 on the power play, while Syracuse went 1-for-3, with both teams totaling 11 minutes in penalties … The Amerks ended the game with 41 (21-12-6-2-0) SOG to Syracuse’s 44 (14-11-13-5-1).

I would say that the Amerks welcome the Binghamton Senators back to the Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester War Memorial on Friday, but there is a LOT of bad blood between these teams, and I don’t think we’ll be rolling out the red carpet for the B-Sens. While my preview blurb would normally include something about everyone’s favorite Sen, Tim Conboy, coming back to town. However, it was noted by the B-Sens beat writer that Conboy left the Senators’ Wednesday night game with a shoulder injury.

He was not present at practice the following morning, but will likely at least travel with the team. Whether he plays or not (and gets pounded on some more by Rochester), will remain to be seen. This will be the eighth and final time that these teams meet, with the Amerks winning all but the first contest – a 3-1 loss on Bingo ice. The Amerks have outscored Binghamton 23-13 over the series, and the two clubs have amassed 236 PIM between them. It should be an interesting game, no matter what, and I’m looking forward to Friday! See you at the game!!

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