Recap: Calder Cup Western Conference Quarterfinals Game 3 – Toronto Marlies @ Amerks, 04.23.12
“Discovering that, over time, all the could-have-beens … they blow your mind, and speak to you.” (Michael Tolcher, Waiting)
The Rochester Americans took on the Toronto Marlies in a do-or-die playoff elimination situation Monday night. The Marlies, coming in up two games in the best of five series, did. The Amerks, looking to force at least a game four … died.
Video curtesy of amerks.com
I’ve been struggling a bit, here, guys. I like to be optimistic when I write, and I like to try to find something positive about the game, even in a loss. While I can find a LOT of positives about the game (like that I got to enjoy it not only with my family, but with BBG’s own Phil and Alex, and the AMAZING video that the Amerks production crew put together up top there), it was clear that the Amerks were just gassed coming in. They played their behinds off to get into the playoffs, and blew their first two games against Toronto in the dying minutes of the third period of both games one and two. Despite those being one-goal games (surprise, surprise), the Amerks were clearly outplayed by a faster, more dominant Toronto club. I wish that I could say that I was surprised when Toronto’s Philippe Dupuis opened scoring at 3:59 of the first period. What I WAS surprised about, however, to take a step back, was that Michael Ryan started the game. Oh, no, you didn’t read that wrong. Mike Ryan (and his eyebrows) started this game. Do I need to say it again? I will: MICHAEL RYAN STARTED THE GAME. I know. I was all “WHAT THE …” too. I’m sure, if you follow me on Twitter (go follow me on Twitter), you noticed my confused ranting throughout the day. Because, clearly, the best thing for a team facing elimination is to PLAY THE GUY WHO PLAYED NINE WHOLE GAMES THIS SEASON. Following the game, in his press conference, Amerks head coach Ron Rolston stated, “It was hard, it was a hard situation. Evan Rankin got hurt and he’s been a goal scorer for us and a top-six forward, so we just – we needed a little bit of offence in there and we thought, you know … Michael has proven he can score in the league, it’s just tough because obviously he’s been out the whole season. Tough situation to put him into, but there was one were we were just, you know, kind of put into that situation where we wanted him out there.” Hard pill to swallow as a fan, and leads me into a whole mess of speculation as a blogger. Either way, Ryan appeared to at least be able to find his way to the arena, get into his gear, and suit up for the game. Unfortunately, the Marlies took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Second verse, same as the first. Toronto’s Jerry D’Amigo scored his FIFTH goal of the playoffs 1:36 into the second. Five. Five goals against the Rochester Americans for Jerry (ah ah ah). Because a one goal deficit wasn’t enough. Oh, two wasn’t either, because Nazem Kadri made it 3-0 Marlies 4:36 into the third. And, you know, it’s not like the Amerks didn’t have chances. They had lots of chances – they put up 29 SOG. They just couldn’t get anything past Toronto goaltender Ben Scrivens. After this season … this team, and all it’s adversary, all the injuries and B-S and craziness, and this is what it came down to. There is no doubt that the Marlies are a solid club. The Leafs would do themselves a service to utilize the talent across town, and it’s likely that this Marlies team will go far in the Calder Cup playoffs. They were bigger, faster, stronger, and just … better than this tired Rochester club.
I got the express pleasure of attending the coach’s post game press conference (ask and ye shall receive – thanks, Phil!). I expected a sad, disappointed Ron Rolston. I didn’t feel that that was the Ron Rolston in front of the media. Clearly, this was a disappointing situation, there is no doubt about that, but he continued to laud these guys for their hard work, despite an entire season of people – fans, media, whoever – saying that this was not a team that should make the playoffs. He said, “this was a team that never gave up,” and that is so incredibly true. This team didn’t phone it in. They didn’t sit back and expect things. The got in there, they battled, and they did it with an ECHL-roster (at best) for the majority of the season. He talked about the responsibility that the team has to go out over the summer and make themselves better for next season. But, I think, in my humble blogger opinion (ha!), the most important thing he said was this: “You have to look back on the way the guys played, and they sacrificed and competed for each other, and that’s a team to me. I think success rides in … can you get the potential out of the players and can the players give the sacrifice for each other and reach their potential. I think this is a hockey team that was very close to their potential. Our job as an organization and as the players in the room is to be a better hockey team next year. And that goes from the coaching staff all the way down to, you know, strength trainers or whatever it may be.” Just like the players not being satisfied with making the playoffs and being ousted in the first round, the fans aren’t, either. And we won’t be until there is a Cup hoisted in the Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester War Memorial.
The long and the short of it, loves, is that, as much of a long shot Rochester extending their season might have been, I was not (and am not) ready for Amerks hockey to end. I was not ready to see these guys on the ice for the last time, and for this crazy, unexpected season to come to a close. I met some super people, some great fans, had some interesting experiences (notably, a group of Catholic school children booing me in Toronto haha), and had some experiences I never imagined in all my years of hockey fandom (please see my bff Igor Gongalsky). From a team president who invited me to call him by his first name, a 6’8 defenseman who took a shining to my 4-year-old niece, a fantastic pair of Amerks interns that I met through the awesomeness that is social media, and a coach who singled me out at my first press conference as the new person who needed a voice, this whole season was a crazy ride for me, and I’m glad I brought y’all along (yes, ya’ll. Get over it). While I anticipate a rather quiet off season, I will keep you up on any and all Amerks news and I look forward to seeing what 2012-2013 might bring. We’re all Americans, and I’ll see you at the game!