Rochester Americans 2012-13 Season Preview
“We don’t lie down on the job – or worse – because once we hit the top, there’s no stopping us!” (Jason Mraz, No Stopping Us)
I always look forward to the hockey season. Not like other people. Not like other fans. No fans I know, anyways. I’m different (my mom tells me I’m unique and special). I mean, you’re talking to the girl who specifically requested the first surgery of the morning last year on October 16, because there was no way she would miss the home opener. The girl who had no problems informing the surgeon and his office that, if the surgery couldn’t be in the morning, it would have to be rescheduled. It’s safe to say that I look forward to hockey season the way that small children look forward to birthdays and Christmas. As we moved into last week, I anxiously awaited a preseason game – the only one I’d catch – not only because I wanted hockey, but I wanted to get a look at these 2012-13 potential Rochester Americans.
I spent some time this off-season, particularly after the lockout became a real, official (stupid-headed) thing, giving some education out to my NHL-fan-friends who are now looking to the AHL to get their hockey fix. In the process, I learned some things about myself. The primary one is that I’m old. After being asked for the second or third time, “What do you mean they don’t play against EVERY team in the league?,” I realized that I remember a time when the league was small. Not just smallER, but small. I remember 82 game seasons when you played all of the 19 teams because what else was there to do? As I sit here and look at this season’s schedule, I see the same 15 teams that the Amerks faced off against last season. No new sweaters on the ice, as it were, and only five of those teams come from the Eastern Conference. Hamilton comes in on top, as the Amerks will face off against the Bulldogs 12 times – five each in Hamiltion and Rochester, once in Buffalo (10/23/12) and once in Montreal (02/22/13). Syracuse and Toronto will each compete ten times, Binghamton and Abbotsford will get eight each. Rochester will meet the Lake Erie Monsters six times. With two each comes Grand Rapids, Hershey, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, San Antonio, Houston, Texas, and Oklahoma City. In an effort to decrease the number of three-in-three and four-in-five sets, the AHL decreased the number of games to 76, and increased the season by a week at the start of the 2011-12 season. It’s easy to see, though, that the vast majority of games still remain on weekend days. In fact, the Amerks only have 22 weekday games (and one of those started out as a Sunday game). December “wins” for the Amerks, with eight home games.
Now that I’ve gotten though that stuff that I’m sure only I care about, on to the player stuff. With the NHL lockout still in full swing, The Amerks roster isn’t looking too shabby, although there are still cuts to be made, I’m sure. However, without a set ECHL affiliate, cuts are hard to come by, as the organization likely wants to send the boys to open, ice-ready spots. As of this afternoon, only two players have been sent to the ECHL. Corey Fienhage has gone to the Gwinett Gladiators and goaltender Nathan Lieuwen has gone to the Greenville Road Warriors. With Lieuwen’s departure, and the cutting of former RIT goaltender Shane Madolora, 6’5 Connor Knapp will be backing up David Leggio. Knapp is another local boy, born in York, NY. In four years with the Miami University Redhawks (CCHA), Knapp played 84 games, posting a 46-22-11 record with 13 shutouts. Another hot name on the Rochester ice will be (I know you’ve all been waiting for this) Zemgus Girgensons. I had a close eye on Gus during practice and the 10/3 game agains the WB/S Penguins. It’s hard not to. This kid is good. He’s good. He’s captivating, and he battles well. I won’t say he’s got grit, mostly because I don’t want to get into a “what is grit” conversation, but I can see a lot of really good things coming our way from Gus. In two years with the Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL), Gus played 113 games, and amassed 116 points (50+66), with 123 PIM for good measure. While I would be rather shocked if he had point-per-game progress in the AHL, I think he’ll be a bright star on the Rochester ice. Of course, Rochester fans welcome favorites Marcus Foligno, Corey Tropp, and TJ Brennan back, after making a splash for both Rochester and Buffalo last season, as well as entry-level-contract-holding Cody Hodgson and Kevin Porter.
Also back in the fray is Mark Mancari. Mancari played for the Amerks (and the Sabres) during the first affiliation, and transitioned into playing with the Portland Pirates when the Sabres affiliation changed. While with the Americans, from 2005 to 2008, Mancari posted 215 games and 162 points (62+94), along with 207 penalty minutes. I have heard the murmurings of concern about bringing him back into the organization, of his lack-luster NHL performances, his laziness, his attitude. I am hopeful that Mancari will be the breath of veteran air that the Amerks lacked last season. In any event, his eyebrows are more groomed than the last veteran we brought in, and he appears to know his name and where he is. He’s also older, (hopefully) more mature, and ready to put up the effort that will be asked of him in this arena.
As far as I can gather, the Amerks lines seem to make sense (shocking to me, since clearly I should be in charge), with Luke Adam, Cody Hodgson, and Corey Tropp earning first line honors. I’m hopeful that we’ll see better things from Adam this season. And I’m not lying about that, I really hope so. The remaining three lines look like they will likely be Nick Tarnasky-Rick Schofield-Max Legault, Marcus Foligno-Kevin Porter-Mark Mancari, and Girgensons-Phil Varone-Evan Rankin. Coach Ron Rolston also has eight healthy, active d-men to figure out, with a potential ninth depending on when rookie Jerome Gauthier-Leduc is healthy again. Perhaps most importantly, it was announced this week that Kevin Porter will wear the “C” for this Amerks squad, with TJ Brennan and Mark Mancari rockin’ the “A”s. Unlike last season, there are no home and away alternating leadership letters.
The Amerks kick off the 2012-13 season, and their trek to the Calder Cup, on Friday, October 12, at 7:05pm at home against the Syracuse Crunch. As always, I will be providing updates on Twitter (go follow me) and will have a post-game right here. I can’t wait to get this season started and see what comes our way, lovelies. As always, say hi if you spot me, and I’ll see you at the game!