Amerks Start Quest for the Teams First Calder Cup Since 1996

The last time the Rochester Americans won the Calder Cup was on June 13, 1996 when they defeated the Portland Pirates in Game 7.  That season the team played their first home game on October 13, 1995.  This season the Amerks started the season at home on October 13, 2011.  During the 1995/1996 season there was a time when the team was in last place in the league.  There was also a time this season that the team came very close to being in last place before clinching a playoff spot on the last day of the season.  Do those comparions mean an instant Calder Cup championship?  Of course not but they’re fun comparisons to start the campaign tonight in Toronto against the Marlies for 15 more wins!

You can watch all of game 7 Calder Cup win here:

The Amerks were last in the post season during the 2009/2010 season and even though the team was loaded with talent it wasn’t a close knit team and they lost in the first round to the Abbotsford Heat.  Prior to that the Amerks lost in the first round of the 2006/2007 playoff race to the Hamilton Bulldogs who had Carey Price in net to lead the Bulldogs to victory.  That Amerks team was also hindered by injuries along with an unsettled locker room due to the dual affiliation of the time between the Sabres and Panthers.

What’s different this season?  They’re all one team under one affiliation and under one ownership.  There aren’t any distractions with potential sales or affiliation changes.  This has also been an interesting season covering the Rochester Americans as the team has played at times very well against the best teams in the league and at times they’ve also played like one of the worst teams.  That’s all in the past for now with the team in the post season where anything can happen.  A few weeks ago the idea of the playoffs looked very much out of reach but the team did what they’ve done all season, found a way to win.

Winning, winning and winning some more is more important than ever this time of year.  A long playoff run for the Buffalo Sabres prospects will not only help their development but also carry on a winning attitude to the NHL team next season.  This is why fans of AHL teams talk so much about having teams with deep rosters so the team can not only win for the fans and city but also give prospects a big boost in their career.

A year ago very few predicted the Binghamton Senators would go on to win the Calder Cup after they entered the playoff race as a 5th seed crossover.  They got players back from the Ottawa Senators towards the end of the season that gave the team a spark for a long run and eventual championship.

From the Toronto Sun:

As the Leafs look enviously upon the Ottawa Senators, they know a long Calder Cup run for the Sens’ Binghamton team last year paid huge dividends. The Sens not only rode the youth movement to an unexpected playoff spot, they’ve thrown a scare into the conference leading New York Rangers.

“That team in Bingo is the perfect example,” Kadri agreed. “The deeper we go, the more it will help everyone’s careers. Ottawa didn’t make the playoffs last year, but groomed their prospects and next thing you know, they make a big run and half the squad is with the big club.

Read more here.

Looking directly at this first round matchup, Rochester and Toronto played each other 10 times this season.  The Marlies won seven out of those ten games.  Three out of the ten games were decided in overtime and one was decided in the shootout.  All 10 games were decided by one goal which shows how close all of the games were.

From SportsNet:

Dallas Eakins knows a good hockey team when he sees one.

So when the coach of the Toronto Marlies dug in to do his prep for his team’s upcoming American Hockey League playoff series with the Rochester Americans, he had a little sense of déjà vu.

“When I watched their team and looked at their lineup, it was almost like looking at our team,” Eakins said. “They have depth up front; they have a couple of good puck-moving defencemen and their other defencemen are good in their own zone; they have team toughness and their goaltending was really good down the stretch. I’m sure if you asked them they would say the same things about us.”

There’s a lot more in the article linked above that’s worth reading about the Toronto Marlies.

It’s been a long season and looking back through post game articles I’ve written there’s a number of times where the words collapse were used and poor performance but there’s also a lot of talk about how the team has never given up and even at their worst times found ways to win.

Has this tired the team out at all?

From the D&C:

“Whenever you find out you’re in the post-season, everyone kind of gets a second wind,” Whitmore said after practice on Tuesday. “We know there’s more there and we want to do some damage.

“You’d be surprised how much professional athletes can raise their game when it means winning a championship.”

David Leggio started the last 23 games of the regular season and his role isn’t likely to change in the post season.  He finished the regular season tied for third in the AHL with 28 wins and also finished with a 2.63 GAA and .917 save percentage.

Looking at the rest of the Amerks roster anything is possible with Derek Whitmore, Colin Stuart, Paul Szczechura, Phil Varone, Marcus Foligno, Corey Tropp, Travis Turnbull, Joe Finley, Brayden McNabb, TJ Brennan and many more names including Evan Rankin.  Oh yea, there’s also Luke Adam who scored the game winning goal in Cleveland during the last game of the regular season.

The one key player that is questionable is Shaone Morrisonn who has been hindered by a recent injury.

It’s going to be a tough and competitive series and starts tonight at 7pm in Toronto.  You can watch the game live on Time Warner Cable SportsNet.  If you’re in Rochester a number of us fans will be going to The Distillery on Winton Rd and everyone is invited to join the fun.