Amerks Gameday Notes, Defense to Get a Look

The Rochester Americans play their one and only exhibition game tonight at 7pm at The Sports Centre at MCC (formerly ESL Centre) against The University of Western Ontario Mustangs.  Tickets to the game will be available for $5 at the door.  Free admission will be granted to kids wearing their youth hockey jersey or to any high school or college student with a valid school ID.  Doors open at 6 p.m.

Heading into training camp the team had a number of scenarios they were working on for exhibitions and this is the one that worked out.  One of the many scenarios included a game against Syracuse but that fell through.  The Mustangs last season were the 5th ranked mens hockey team in Canadian Interuniversity Sports.  What does that mean?  They’re not just some small college team expecting to be rolled over.

Amerks Coach Ron Rolston said that the game is expected to be competitive which is what they want.  “We still have some guys that we need to get a better look at in game situations,” he said.  “This will give them an opportunity to really show what they can do and where they fit in within the organization.”

When asked who’s going to be playing Rolston said, “players that were in Buffalo’s camp and didn’t get in a game.  It’s not fair for them to go through two camps and not play in a game, gives them that opportunity to play and really show what they can do.”

I should be able to post a roster of who’s playing Friday morning after the skate.

The defensemen will be one position doing everything they can to prove they should earn a spot on the Amerks roster.  Rolston said that the Amerks will carry eight defensemen through the season which means guys will be working hard to stay.  There are currently 10 defensemen in camp, two will be headed to Gwinnett or home by the beginning of next week.

A competitive game will put pressure on the defense and make them play well if they want to stick around.

Joe Finley is one player that will be playing, he’s here on a tryout and trying to earn a contract.  Finley had been skating with the Sabres in Minnesota over the summer and asked for a spot in training camp.  He was drafted in the 1st round (27th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft but injuries have held him back.

I asked Ron Rolston about Finley and he said, “Joe came in and really impressed a lot of people there (in Buffalo).  The way he moves, his size, it’s the first thing you see.”  He continued, “Watch him skate and his hands, he has a lot of things there.  He wasn’t put into any game situations, playing will give him that opportunity to show this is the place to play.”

Finley only has eight American Hockey League games on his resume but when it’s time to pick who stays and who goes that’s not something looked at.  The coaching staff will be looking at who has earned a spot on the roster.  With Shaone Morrisonn, Dennis Persson, Drew Schiestel, T.J. Brennan, Nick Crawford and Alex Biega practically assured spots on the roster it only leaves two openings for the last four defensemen.  Finley will be playing to take a position away from Corey Fienhage, Matt MacKenzie and Brayden McNabb.

Showing the true spirit of the Buffalo Sabres organization (not trying to rush players to the NHL but to develop them) Rolston said, “Finley needs an organization to really put some faith in him and give him an opportunity.  We wanted to give him that opportunity.  He’s a great person in the room and a great teammate.”

One of the things I’ve noticed in watching Finley at training camp is the way he can skate for being 6’8″ and also easily push the offensive player off of the puck.  That strong defenseman who can skate is something that’s been missing from recent lineups.

The goalies for the game will be Drew MacIntyre and Jeff Jakaitis.  MacIntyre is expected to join the Buffalo Sabres after the game to fly with them to Europe as the teams third goalie just in case.  David Leggio is expected to join the Amerks next week.

I’ll try and post a full roster after the morning skate.

After this weekend the roster will be trimmed and Rolston said that he wants to be in a game week scenario.