The headline sounds like one I would have written two seasons ago during one of the worst seasons the Amerks have ever played. The game we witnessed tonight resembled one of those games more than it did the Rochester Americans of the 2009/10 season. I don’t really blame Dylan Hunter and don’t really think that he brought bad karma, but it makes for a good headline.
I don’t get the sense that Amerks fans are hitting the panic button yet, but signs of frustration are part of every conversation and for good reason. The Panthers called up Michal Repik after the game which leaves the team short another player. This is a shell of a team we saw a month ago.
They gave a good effort but fell short.
“I thought we were a second behind,” is what Benoit Groulx said after the game. I think that line sums it up perfectly. That’s all it takes to decide any sporting event, sometimes even less than a second. That’s what happens when you go from a team that was playing four consistent lines to playing two.
The game was only decided by one goal but an early 2-0 deficit was too much to eventually overcome. The Heat played a better game than the Amerks and were helped out by a number of shots off the posts and a few bad calls from ref Jamie Koharski.
A positive way to look at this game is that the Amerks did not get blown away by an Abbotsford Heat team that basically has their entire roster compared to the Amerks shell. It was not an exciting game to watch at all but I didn’t get the feeling that the team quit playing like we’ve seen them do before. They just didn’t have enough offense to get the puck behind the opposing goalie.
The only goal of the game for the Amerks was scored by Graham Mink off of a lucky bounce. Mink chased the puck into the Heat zone on the power play and as goaltender Matt Keetley attempted to clear the puck he shot it right at the shins of Mink and it bounced into the net.
Brett Sutter had scored the first goal of the game for the Heat at 9:21 of the first period after what appeared should have been a tripping penalty against his teammate John Armstrong. During the play it looked like Armstrong tripped Caruso and was able to take the puck but upon watching the replay it does look like Armstrong hit the puck first, which would explain the no call.
The Heat went up 2-0 at 3:11 of the second period off a goal from Cam Cunning. Brad Cole took the initial shot from the blue line which Alexander Salak made the initial save on. Unfortunately Cunning had no problems skating right in front of the net and tipping in the rebound.
Both of those goals were scored with Amerks defensemen Michael Caruso and Ville Koistinen on the ice. Caruso should have done a better job clearing the puck on the first goal and the second goal he was out of position. It looked like Dylan Hunter was the cause of the goal but it was really Koistinen and Caruso leaving the front of the net wide open. That brings up one of this teams weak areas, guarding the front of the net.
After that second goal Caruso spent the rest of the game on the bench. If he skated one shift it was a quick one. I asked Benoit Groulx after the game about Caruso and he said that Caruso has not been playing good hockey lately. Something anyone who has watched this team could have said as well, but it’s reinforced by the coach. Heading into this season I had expected Caruso to be a player that stepped up to join the high expectations of Ellerby and Garrison but he has done the complete opposite.
I thought that Dylan Hunter played well in his return to the Amerks. I don’t think he played bad and the coach was able to rely on him for a regular shift. He certainly seemed to contribute more than Jordan Fox and Ernie Hartlieb.
A disappointment in the game was Steve MacIntyre. I don’t understand this guy. There’s two possibilities being tossed around about his play. One possibility is that Benoit Groulx is telling him not to fight. The other is that he does not want to fight and just wants to play hockey and not risk any type of injury. Either way he seems to be playing a role that he does not do well. He’s not going out and hitting players with big checks. He’s not drawing the other team into penalties. At one point I think it was in the second period it looked as if Matt Pelech dropped his helmet and gloves to fight and Big Mac just skated away.
We’ll see what happens on Tuesday night when the Syracuse Crunch return to town.
The Amerks left Rochester on Friday night and will be arriving in Hershey in the middle of the night for their game against the Hershey Bears on Saturday night. It’ll be a tough game and a real test for this team. The live chat should be up and running.