The Rochester Americans got the job done on Friday night defeating the Toronto Marlies to clinch home ice advantage for their first round in the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs. It may not have been pretty as the Amerks gave up a three goal lead but they found a way to get the job done, and that seems to have been the story of the season.
There’s a couple different ways to look at the game. One of which is that it was an ugly victory and not the way you want to play during game #79 heading into the playoffs. Another way to look at it is that the Amerks had four players who’ve played under 10 professional games, are still missing a lot of others and that they fulfilled their goal of making the playoffs with a much needed win.
One game remains on the regular season schedule and that’s Saturday evening on the road against the Syracuse Crunch. According to Chris Taylor just because the team has clinched the playoffs and home ice don’t expect the team to take the night off.
“It’s good to see that even though we only played a solid period tonight we found a way to win,” Benoit Groulx said.
“It wasn’t pretty but at the end of the night we got the point that we needed,” Rory Fitzpatrick said after the game. “We definitely don’t want to play too many more games like that especially headed into the playoffs but we got that point and that’s all that mattered tonight.”
I asked Taylor if the team could start looking forward and he replied, “Beyond tomorrow no, it’s our last game of the year. We play 80 games, that’s what the schedule says. We’ve got to play it hard and continue to do good things and practicing. If we would’ve made the playoffs 10 games ago we still wouldn’t have taken 10 games off.”
As Taylor talked about the work ahead, Benoit Groulx was happy that the team reached it’s goal. “We are happy. Our first goal this year was to make the playoffs and we achieved that,” Groulx said. “And establish ourselves in the top 10 in this league and that’s where we are. It’s one step towards being a contender every year.”
Jeff Taffe opened the scoring at 3:42 of the first period picking the top right corner of the net after receiving a great cross ice pass from Jamie Johnson. The goal was the 28th of the season for Taffe as he continues his career season with goals scored.
Not wanting Taffe to get too far ahead in the team lead for goals scored, Jamie Johnson scored his own at 13:30 of the first period as he tipped in a pass from Jordan Henry in the corner. Chris Taylor scored his 17th goal of the season at 17:24 of the first after Jordan Henry fed the puck to the slot from behind the net.
“Seems like every time I’ve gotten one he gets one back,” Jeff Taffe said joking about the goal scoring race between him and Johnson. “It would’ve been nice if he tied me tonight, neither of us are big goal scorers so it’s kind of funny to both of us.”
Josh Engel put the Marlies on the board at 19:05 of the first period to make the score 3-1 after one period.
The second period was scoreless with Alexander Salak making nine saves and on the other end James Reimer only saw one shot on net by the Amerks.
Alexander Salak stood on his head making a number of big saves as the game went on that kept the Amerks in the game. On the other side of the ice Marlies goalie James Reimer did the same thing.
When asked about the outstanding play of Salak, Benoit Groulx said, “Outstanding for the fans but i don’t think it was outstanding for the coaches.” He went on to say, “It was interesting, it was spectacular but it’s not the way we want to play.”
Things heated up in the third period which showed a lot about the Marlies team. Even though they are not making the playoffs they did not give up and continued skating hard.
In the third period Tim Brent won a face off for the Marlies and immediately Greg Scott rushed the net with the puck but it was poked away by either Clay Wilson or Alexander Salak, it was tough to see who’s stick touched it. Ryan Hamilton was there to get the puck and shot it over the shoulder of Salak to make it a 3-2 game at 3:01.
Andre Deveaux tied the game for the Marlies at 4:26 of the third period as he did not quit after the initial shot and was able to knock in his own rebound.
The overtime session was intense with the Amerks registering eight shots against only two for the Marlies. The difference was the goalies at that part of the game.
Jeff Taffe, Mike York and Michal Repik all scored in the skills competition to give the Amerks the win and two points in the standings to lock in second place.
Second place in the division belongs to the Amerks but there’s still work to do.
“We’ve got to continue to improve on the little things that are going to help us win in the playoffs,” Chris Taylor said.
Even though the Amerks found a way to win Jeff Taffe said, “It’s not the way we want to be playing going into the playoffs. A 3-1 lead at home, there’s no excuse for that. That’s stuff that can’t happen come playoff time.”
The Amerks are on the road tonight against the Syracuse Crunch in the regular season finale. The Amerks have won all nine of the previous games between the two teams this season. There’s no love between these two teams, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens.
See you at the game if you’re going!