Recap: Syracuse Crunch @ Amerks, 4.13.12
“What are the odds, what are the odds this ends and we don’t meet again? What are the odds, what are the odds that I will miss your smile?” (Carbon Leaf, Changeless)
The Amerks welcomed the Syracuse Crunch to the Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester War Memorial for the tenth and final time on Friday night, with both teams looking to get major points in their quests for playoff positions. Rochester, having put themselves into must-win situations for both this game and Saturday night’s contest in Lake Erie, apparently got the memo: Score goals, score them often, and keep the Crunch out of your zone and you can win this game.
Rochester found themselves in a precarious position on Friday night: to keep their playoff hopes alive, they absolutely had to win. However, Syracuse was in the same position, only in the Eastern Conference. Rochester came in with an edge on games in the season series, having won five of the nine games against Syracuse this season, even though Syracuse had outscored Rochester 32-29. Rochester got the message: Captain Colin Stuart opened up scoring at 8:27 of the first, with an assist to Marcus Foligno. The Amerks also managed to keep their noses clean, as it were, only taking one penalty to Syracuse’s two in the opening frame, and took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The second period was a little more interesting, to say the least. A scrum (which I hate as a hockey term, but ok) broke out in Rochester’s end, leading to several penalties at the 4:58 mark. Rochester’s Brayden McNabb sat two for roughing and Corey Tropp sat five for fighting, while Syracuse’s Bell took a double minor for roughing and Bodie took five, as well, for fighting. These two teams were fired up, to say the least, and weren’t really afraid to take it out on each other, in true Rochester-Syracuse rivalry. Right after Paul Szczechura was stoned by Syracuse goaltender Bobkov on the break away, Marcus Foligno took it back to the Syracuse end and put the puck behind Bobkov, with the assist to Maxime Legault. Travis Turnbull got so excited about it, he beat the snot out of Syracuse’s Nick Schaus. Both were assessed five minute fighting penalties. 1:25 later, as Syracuse took a holding penalty, Evan Rankin got in on the scoring action, burying a pass from Derek Whitmore and Nick Crawford. Near the fifteen-minute mark, Foligno scored his second of the night, with assists to Tropp and Szczechura. The look on Foligno’s face as the puck crossed the line was pure, unadulterated joy. I forget sometimes, that it’s not only the fans who get so stoked when the boys on the ice score, but that they, too, are excited about it. I only wish I’d had a camera ready to capture the look on Foligno’s face. The Amerks took a commanding 4-0 lead in the second intermission.
The third period opened, and the Amerks continued to stay on top of things. Nick Crawford would score Rochester’s final goal of the game, on the power play, at 13:47, with Whitmore and Tropp getting their second assists of the night. Syracuse was quick to respond with their lone goal of the game, ending David Leggio’s shutout bid at 14:56, also on the power play. Unfortunately for Syracuse, one goal would be all they would get, and the Amerks would easily take this game, keeping their playoff hopes alive.
Game Notes: The Amerks handed out several awards prior to puck drop on Friday night. David Leggio won the Ricoh USA MVP award, voted on by his teammates. He is currently among the top five in the AHL in wins, saves, and minutes played. Friday night was his 21st consecutive start. He also was awarded the Most Popular Player Award by the Amerks Booster Club. Phil Varone was awarded the AT&T Most Improved Player award, voted on by his teammates, as well as being awarded the scoring title, with 52 points (11+41) in 75 games. The Rob Zabelny Award, which is voted on by the Rochester media and is awarded to the Amerks unsung hero, was presented to Shaone Morrisonn. Derek Whitmore earned the McCulloch Trophy for his work in the Rochester community over the course of the season. Captain Colin Stuart received the Fairand/O’Neil Sportsmanship Award, which is voted on by the off-ice officials. Additionally, the Booster Club awarded Marcus Foligno with the Rookie of the Year award for his 38 points (16+22) in 59 games with Rochester this season, and the Game-Winning Goals Award … Every Amerk on the ice on Friday registered at least one SOG, except (ironically) Phil Varone. All of the Amerks also finished even or better on +/-, with Foligno, Brennan, and Biega tied at +3 … Rochester was 2-for-5 on the power play, while Syracuse was 1-for-4. Rochester served 24 penalty minutes to Syracuse’s 26 … Rochester also held the edge in SOG, with 37 (11+18+8), while Syracuse ended with 31 (10-13-8).
Rochester travelled to Lake Erie to finish out the season against the Monsters, in a must-win situation for both teams. Prior to Saturday night’s game in Lake Erie, Rochester held a 4-1 advantage in games over the series and an 18-10 edge in goals. My family and I were multi-tasking Saturday, as we were at the Rochester Knighthawks (lacrosse) game, but listening to the Amerks/Monsters game on our respective devices. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried like a baby when Rochester won the game, eliminating Lake Erie from the playoffs and increasing their own odds for making the post season. However, Rochester did NOT get the help they needed from other teams in the West in order to clinch, so their fate is in the hands of four other teams heading into Sunday. In order for the Amerks to clinch a playoff spot, per the AHL’s twitter feed (@TheAHL), EITHER Milwaukee/Charlotte needs to end in regulation, OR San Antonio needs to lose in regulation, OR Houston needs to lose – or win by less than 9 goals. The odds are heavily in Rochester’s favor that we will be seeing PLAYOFF HOCKEY starting next week, it will be just a matter of where the team finishes in the standings. As we move into the playoffs, I will have a lovely playoff primer for you (because I’m awesome), and I will see you in the post-season!! Let’s go Amerks!!
(Ed. note: At the time of this post being published, Milwaukee is up 2-1 over Charlotte in the second intermission while San Antonio is up 1-0 in the second period versus Oklahoma City. The Amerks need either the Milwaukee/Charlotte game to end in regulation or for San Antonio to lose in regulation to clinch their spot in the dance.)
(2nd Ed. note: Yes, I know the clinching scenarios are listed in two different spots. Shut up, Stephanie.)