First of all, website views from North Korea will be on the rise today thanks to this title. I could have called the Rochester Americans by their other name that they like using, Amerks, but that has always looked and sounded bad to me. … I digress.
The Admirals 7-5 thrill ride win in Rockford last night put them into sole possession of first place in the Midwest Division. They are now 27-13-2-4 (60 points) on the season which also puts them in third place of the Western Conference. The IceHogs don’t play until Friday when they get us again. The Ads have today and Wednesday to get a bigger cushion built up.
The Admirals not only lit up Scott Darling last night but also rocked CCM/AHL Goalie of the Month Michael Leighton for the second consecutive night. I felt the IceHogs were pretty harsh to yank Darling so quickly into the game. He had allowed two goals on three shots but consider what those goals were: Brendan Leipsic power-play goal right off the bat and a Viktor Stålberg shorthanded breakaway.
The decision to put Leighton in must have purely been a “wake up, guys” sort of move on the bench. In the end, Leighton allowed four goals from thirteen shots on goal. It’s the first time he has allowed four goals since Dec. 16 in Iowa. And it is his worst save percentage in a game (0.692) since Nov. 4 at Lake Erie (0.714) in a game that saw him get pulled. Two games into his month of February, fresh off his AHL monthly honor, and the Admirals tagged Leighton for two losses, 7 goals allowed, 3.78 goals against average, and a 0.829 save percentage.
Stålberg has been with the Admirals for thirteen games this season. He has the best points per game average on the entire team with a 0.85. He has scored 11 points (7 goals, 4 assists). As far as his weekend is concerned he already has four goals from two games. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him right back after it again later this afternoon.
Marek Mazanec has won seven straight games in net for the Admirals. In those games he has a 0.931 save percentage, 2.40 goals against average, and one shutout. There is a strong chance that Magnus Hellberg will finish off the three-in-three set this afternoon. In his last five home games Hellberg has a 1-2-0-1 record, was pulled from net once, has a 0.821 save percentage, 4.39 goals against average, and one shutout. As rough as pulling all three games of a three-in-three might be. We could possibly see one today.
The Rochester Americans have a record of 20-26-2-0 (42 points) which sees them sitting in last place of the North Division and thirteenth in the Western Conference standings. In their last ten games they have gone 5-4-0-1 (11 points) and enter on a three point streak.
Some slight good news as far as today is concerned. The Admirals are on the last of a highly emotional and physically draining three-in-three. You would think that they should be on fumes for today’s game. Well, joy of joys, so too could be the Americans! They are also on the last of a three-in-three and both of their games were overtime games played against the Grand Rapids Griffins. We know full well how difficult those games can be. These two teams should be exhausted come the third period of this contest.
The other thing worth noting about Rochester as a team? Today will be their seventh straight road game and it isn’t even the last of their road trip. They’ll play today in Milwaukee and finish off an eight game road trip close to their home with a game in Utica.
In this road trip so far the Americans have been outscored 23-18 in six games. Their special teams have also come up poor on this road trip. They’ve gone 5.0% (1/20) from the power-play and 72.0% (18/25) on the penalty kill.
~When Last We Met~
Remember that awful month of December? One of the few bright spots from that time came from a four game road trip where the Admirals won three games. One of those games was in Rochester when they won 4-2 over the Americans.
In that game the Admirals fell behind 2-0 before scoring four unanswered goals to get the win. They were almost doubled up in shots by Rochester, 30-16, and really battled it out to get that result. Like last night, everything was made up and the shot disparity didn’t matter. They scored twice in the third period on three shots to seal the win.
That game saw Joel Armia, Tim Schaller, Joe Pendenza, Leipsic, Colton Sissons, and Austin Watson score goals. That was also a Mazanec game and he stopped 28/30 shots on goal while Andrei Makarov was responsible for three goals from fifteen shots.
~Best of Team America~
The top scorer for the Americans is Phil Varone with 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists). He was a 2015 AHL All Star and notched a pair of assists in the game. Varone is followed in scoring for the Americans by Schaller who has 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists). During this current road trip they’ve both recorded a point per game average with 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists).
The goalie group right now in Rochester includes Matt Hackett and Nathan Lieuwen to the mix with the Russian youngster Makarov. Hackett was assigned to the AHL this past Wednesday and has played four games for the Americans this season going 2-2-0-0 with a 3.03 goals against average and 0.886 save percentage.
Lieuwen and Makarov have been the main battery for Rochester. Their combined work sees them have a 3.13 goals against average and 0.893 save percentage. Makarov has the team’s lone two shutouts this season. Considering Lieuwen is 23-years old and Makarov is 21-years old – it isn’t great but it also isn’t that bad.
Expectations for today’s game? Will there be anything left in the tank for these two teams? Would you start Mazanec or Hellberg? After the last two huge games against Rockford do you feel the sense of a dreaded let down game for this one?