Player Thoughts from the Amerks 2018 Locker Clean Out

The ice is gone, the bags are packed, the locker room is empty and players are making plans to go back home for the summer. Locker clean out’s are complete and with that comes end of season thoughts and looking forward. Getting swept in three games by Syracuse wasn’t how anyone wanted the season to end. It was a tight group of players and coaching staff with honest feedback within the room. The team kept the message the same after practices and games but internally they were honest with each other.

If you’re ever curious about the ice being cleared out of the arena here’s a short video of what they do.

Comments below from Will Borgen, Colin Blackwell, Hudson Fasching, CJ Smith, Sahir Gill, Danny O’Regan, Alexander Nylander and Sean Malone.

Also added Linus Ullmark, Brendan Guhle, Nathan Paetsch, Nick Baptiste, Kyle Criscuolo, Kevin Porter, Zach Redmond and Chris Taylor.

I left out the bits of everyone saying they want to get faster and stronger in the off season because everyone says it. The quotes are all verbatim without any additional story being told behind them. These were all from Thursday April 26 and Friday April 27.


Will Borgen

On how his first pro games went, “I thought it wasn’t too bad of an adjustment, I had a lot of help from the older guys. The defense corp was a really good group of guys so they helped me out a lot but obviously I still made some mistakes but overall it was good.”

On the mistakes, “Simple ones. I can fix them, the coaches can help me fix them. I just have to learn, I haven’t played pro hockey for long so I’m learning right now.”

On fitting in with the team, “The first week or so was a little uncomfortable, new team, new guys. You get used to it and the guys were really nice and welcoming so they helped me out a lot. After about a week I was close with most.”

The talk of the Amerks all season was needing to keep it simple and struggled and Borgen said, “That describes my game, I keep it simple for about 60 minutes. I’m not going to score, I’m not going to do anything too crazy.”

On wanting to play in the playoffs, “I think I wanted to play but it’s not up to me and I haven’t been here all year. This is their team, some of those guys have been here all year. It was cool to learn from it and see what playoff hockey is about.”

If there were any surprises playing pro hockey, “No, not really. I think I expected most of it. I expected the guys to be stronger, I expected it to be a little better hockey and smarter. Nothing really surprised me too much.”


Colin Blackwell

On the overall season, “Obviously from a team perspective it didn’t end the way we expected or hoped. It was a tough series and obviously hindsight is 20/20 but it’s one of those things where I thought we left it all on the ice but a couple of mistakes here and there was a result of the whole series. I thought we had a great season, I thought we came in and were off to a slow start. We were talking the other day that it’s a shame that it has to end so soon because everybody’s a tight knit group and hanging out all the time. Not too often you’re going to run into a group of guys like that. Just the way the team came together we had some ups and downs this year. We battled through it and it sucks that the season had to end that way but it’s a group of guys that’ll keep in touch a long way moving forward.”

On his individual season, “Individually I came as kind of a question mark. I came here every single day trying to show my stuff and work hard. I think I was able to prove myself that I was able to play at a high level. It’s going to be a big summer for me moving forward.”

At what point they realized it was a tight group, “Kind of from training camp. That’s one of the toughest parts of the year. It’s hot out there and we’re having those long practices, body aren’t accustomed to skating and doing all that much. I think going from there we realized we had a strong leadership group, not even just captains and assistant captains. We had some other veteran guys that stepped up and took a lot of guys under their wings this year. You saw a lot of younger guys that even though it was their first, second or third year pro, a couple years younger than I am and you saw them grow over the course of the year. That says a lot about the coaching staff and leadership group that we had where guys could look at the Nathan Paetsch’s, Kevin Porter and Gionta when he was here. The people to lean on in all aspects of the game.”

Honest feedback within the room, “I think that’s one of those things where you can run into leadership or coaching staffs that might say the things that people want to hear but everyone was holding everyone accountable. You heard when you were playing well and when you weren’t playing well. The coaching staff here what I was extremely fond of is that when you make a mistake you weren’t put at the end of the bench or something along those lines. He allowed you to grow and learn from your mistakes and it’s the kind of player coach/coaching staff that you want to play for. The leaders on the group whether we were struggling or not they let us know what the situation was and nobody was beating around the bush and that goes a long way. When I first got here it was everything about trying to reinstall the history that the Americans had here and this was the first step in that blue print and we have the guys here to grow. The future is bright with some of the guys that we have in this locker room.”

Asked about pride playing in the AHL, “Oh absolutely. I think you see it throughout the league. There’s some guys that do very well in the NHL but they might struggle in the AHL. It’s definitely a grind and sense of pride like you said because obviously everybody would like to play in the NHL but it’s one of those things where you’re going to have to go through the process and learn from your mistakes and maybe get the opportunity. We saw here with our team that so many guys had the opportunity to go up this year and were successful in doing so. That says a lot about the group we have with the internal pressure day in and day out from people pushing each other. When yo have a group of guys that are willing to do that on a daily basis it’s going to help not only with the team goals but individual goals as well and that says a lot about what we have here.”

On next season and contracts, “I haven’t really thought about that to be honest. Something that eventually we’re going to cross that door and I loved playing here and I’d love to be back but at the same time I’m not 100% sure what’s going to be said and what not. This is definitely a place where I’m comfortable and I enjoyed my time here from on the ice to off the ice. I’d love to be back, it’s definitely something I’d be excited about.”

Asked about the challenge of playing 60 mins for the team, “Throughout the course of a 76 game season mistakes are going to be made. I thought guys brought it every single day, practices and games. The nature of the beast of the game every now and then you might be trying to make a play and sometimes those plays connect, you have a goal or an assist and everything looks really good. Other times you might try to make that same play and it’s a turnover the other way. Over the course of a long season you learn from that. I think we had some ups and downs this year but looking back on it we went on a hot streak at one point in the year and maybe got points in 10 of 12 games but a lot of overtime losses in that stretch. We learned from that and it allowed us to grow at the end of the year and get us to where we were. Looking back you can always say maybe give more effort here and there but every single time especially playing at this level it’s a competitive nature that every single shift guys were giving everything they had.”

Asked about his game around his injury, “Obviously when I came back, even before I came back, I thought I was turning on the jets and getting to that point of the season where I was feeling a little more comfortable. When I came back everybody was kind of going through that grueling point of the season and I had a little bit of time to take care of myself and rest a little and I was able to make that push in the second of the year. It was one of those things where I came back I had great help and it allowed me to do everything I could.”

Something to work on this summer, “Face-offs are definitely something I’m going to key on this summer. I think I came in and was ok at face-offs and the whole season you have your ups and downs. Look at playoff hockey and face-offs are everything. It’s one of those things some guys make jobs and livings out of taking face-offs. It’s one thing I learned this year and in the playoff push and how vital it is and playing in all different situations.”


Hudson Fasching

On his individual season, “I think it was full of ups and downs. It was all over the place a little bit at the beginning. It was good and then it was bad. Finished the year pretty well and then the playoffs obviously weren’t what I wanted. It was a fun year and at the end of the day I got better as the year progressed and that’s the bottom line for me is to continue to get better and work on my game.”

On the feedback that he wasn’t going to be playing after game one in the playoffs, “It was just game one wasn’t good enough and that was pretty much. Wasn’t a whole lot to it.”

On the culture change he saw, “I think it was every day you came to the rink and you were excited to be there. It was a fun place to be. We worked hard and had good results. It was a fun time and that’s the biggest reflection for me is to have that winning culture. People wanted to be there every day.”

On the leadership group, “It was a lot better this year. It was stable. They were always there and so supportive of everyone and they were awesome. I have no other words to say other than they were awesome.”


CJ Smith

On his individual season, “Went well I think. Was pretty proud of the way my season started. I thought I had a pretty good first half, injuries were tough and derailed me a little bit. In the end it was a really good learning good experience even though we didn’t get the results int he playoffs. I feel like I didn’t play the wanted to play individually.”

Any surprises in his first pro season of hockey, “The long grind of the season was more shocking. The injury kind of took away from that too. I was pretty hurt overall. Being able to come every day to the rink and show up every day is kind of tough when you’re hurt. Just being able to overcome that was a pretty big learning curve too.”

Current health, “Obviously wasn’t 100% in the playoffs but I think everybody’s playing hurt too so I couldn’t really excuse it as an excuse at that point for my play I guess.”

Asked about how honest it was inside the locker room, “Everybody held everybody pretty accountable. That was one of the positives we had with our team. Everybody liked each other and respected each other so we were able to hold each other accountable and be able to be honest with each other in a respectful manner and not create separation in the locker room at the same time.”

I asked about the theme all season about needing to play 60 minutes when they weren’t winning games, “I think it’s just kind of mentally and as a team being play a full 60. I don’t know if it’s one specific night you can just blame it on being tired when you kind of doing it consistently. I just think it’s something we have to learn how to manage a full game.”

On who the leadership group is, “There’s a good mix of people but I think you can put Porter, Paetsch, Redmond, Fedun and MacWilliam. I think they contribute a lot and they’ve had a lot of experience in pro hockey and they were able to help younger guys such as myself.”

Asked if there’s a sense of pride playing in the AHL, “I think especially now. It’s important to play in the AHL nowadays especially the way drafting and developing players is so important to a team in the NHL. I think the AHL has made a pretty big step in the last couple years and I think teams have really started to use AHL more and more now in developing players and their young prospects. I think it’s helped me out immensely.”


Sahir Gill

On his career season, “I think I was given a pretty good opportunity here obviously and I was just trying to make the most of it. Regular season wise there was a lot positives to take out of it so I was happy.”

Coming back from injury to play in the playoffs, “If you’re able to play you’re going to play so it was obviously good to be out there with the guys and try to compete.”

“Like every team we had roster changes and things like that. Over the course of a year it’s a long year mentally and physically. I thought sometimes maybe we tried to do too much or working too hard instead of just being a little bit more patient and playing a little smarter. I don’t think it was ever for a lack of care of effort, I think every guy out there was trying to do the best that he could for the team and sometimes that’s not always going to go your way.”


Danny O’Regan

On his individual season, “I had kind of crazy season, obviously getting traded at the deadline. I thought it went well overall and learned a lot. Got some experience at the NHL level and learned a little bit more of what it takes. Overall I couldn’t be happier coming to this organization.”

First impressions coming into the organization, “It was a really easy transition. I knew a lot of the guys and the coaches were great. Everyone involved made it really easy.”

On the leadership group, “It was a really close group and a lot leaders in the room. A lot of guys who were pretty vocal and had that experience. Guys like Porter and Paetsch, you can go down the list. Guys who’ve played hundreds of games and know what it takes to win.”


Alexander Nylander

On his overall season, “I think I had a really good finish. A tough start there coming after the injury and took a while to come back. Never been injured like that before. I think I really made strides after All-Star break and was playing really good.”

On his playoff performance, “I thought I had good games but unfortunately I didn’t get so much ice time in all three games. I think that I played good just unfortunate that we lost.”

Asked if coming back from the injury was more of a mental or physical thing, “It was both, it was an injury that I was still feeling for a couple months even when I started playing. It finally went away towards All Star break and started feeling better. That thing is just mentally and physically just getting confident and getting your game back.”

Something to improve on, “Getting even more confidence in having the puck more and take it more to the net.”


Sean Malone

On his, “I thought coming off my injury at the start of the year was pretty tough and missing training camp and starting all over again and playing at a level that was a lot better than I played last year. I think it was a slow start for me but I tried to do the best I could with the role I was put in. I thought I continued to improve throughout the year and that’s what it’s all about. At the end of the year I was playing a lot more than I played at the beginning of the year so I think it went pretty well.”

On any surprises playing pro hockey, “The intensity. You have a lot less time with the puck and the defensemen are a lot better here than they are in college. They have better gaps, a lot quicker, faster, stronger.. totally different but defensively it’s a lot harder to shut guys down because they’re a lot better players.”

On the culture and atmosphere coming in, “I thought it was great and honestly didn’t expect that. Having a team where all the guys are pretty good guys and making it enjoyable to, as you’ve heard many times, coming to the rink every day. I think there’s value in that. Having an environment where you want to come here and you want to get better every single day definitely makes an impact on my game.”

On the honest feedback within the room, “Really honest I thought. They’re up front about everything. You get to develop relationships with your coaches which I didn’t really do much of in college. Especially leadership for sure, guys were held accountable and that’s really important for a team aspect.”

On Chris Taylor as a head coach, “I thought he was great. He expected certain things out of me, he’s a coach you want to play for and win games for.”

Asked why needing to play 60 minutes was a theme , “I honestly don’t know, I just try to control what I can control and I try to put out an effort for 60 minutes individually. When guys see that they want to step up their game as well. I couldn’t tell you, I don’t really know what it was. We had slow starts all year and playing down by a couple of goals isn’t a recipe for success and we saw that in the playoffs.”

Asked how familiar he was with the AHL before this season, “Not really much. I remember talking to Criscuolo when he came back to school after playing a couple of games in Grand Rapids in his senior season and he said it was a lot tougher to play in and he was right. You don’t have a lot of time with the puck and a lot harder to make plays.”

Improving his game, “In terms of my game I’d like produce more offensively. I think I can take on more of an offensive role and think I have that ability. I have the confidence in myself to do it and want to have a good training camp to start off next year.”

Asked about the foundation and culture being built in Rochester, “I think if you look at where our managements come from in Pittsburgh. They have a lot of guys that were AHL’ers that were able to step up in the NHL and play right away. Probably Bryan Rust is my best example. He was a more defensive player in the AHL, built his way up over the course of a year or two and next thing he’s riding shotgun with Sydney Crosby. Pretty cool it can happen just like that. With the culture we have here I hope that it eventually translates to Buffalo.”

Memorable moments of the season, “Obviously the playoffs. The last game here was the most memorable for me. Just coming out and seeing the fans and the towels waving was awesome. The support on a Wednesday night was unbelievable. Second is Brian Gionta’s goal against Toronto. Never heard a building louder and our fans screaming USA, that was pretty cool.”


Linus Ullmark

On looking back at the season, “Two things.. first of all I’m very happy and fortunate to have been a part of this group. I’ve had one of the best seasons I’ve ever been a part of. We didn’t get the Calder and that’s a shame but just to be a part of this group, to meet these people, these awesome players and persons and the staff around us has been a tremendous opportunity for me. It’s been an awesome experience. I have a lot of gratitude towards everybody in this organization.”

On the emotion after the playoff elimination loss, “I was sincerely sad about the whole thing. I’ve been dreaming about playing in the playoffs for three years over here and to come out there and have that kind of performance it stinks. I wanted to give more to the Rochester community and the organization and not do that it just hurts. And then you think of all the people that work around and in the team and you feel like you let everyone down. That’s the kind of things that felt most sad for me.”

On winning and playing for each other and the family atmosphere, “We just grew stronger and stronger and that’s why it was so painful to lose three straight against Syracuse because you want to win with this team. You want to win with the players, win with your friends. I’ve said before, we’re a family right from the start and we just grew stronger before every match and practice that went by.”

What made this year different than the last two years, “It was a combination of a lot of things. We had the right people at the right places. We had great coaches, great young guys who wanted to develop and strive forward. We also had older guys in Porters and Paetsch that really were pulling both forward and showed the way for the younger guys. We were always trying to compete against each other. For me and Coxy (Adam Wilcox), I told him during the season too, he was my favorite goalie partner of all time. It was one of those things where you have all these gems in this team and it’s been great fun.”

On the friendship and partnership between Wilcox and Ullmark, “It’s a lot easier to come to work everyday if you know that you’re a good friend with the goalie partner and there’s no hard feelings towards who’s starting in net and who’s not. We’ve always had each others backs no matter what. He had a great season too. If he was starting these three games in the playoffs I would not have been mad at him. I would have been more pissed off at myself for not being in the net. I wish him all the best, I really want to meet him sometime more in the future.”

More pride playing in Rochester this year that Porter and Paetsch brought in, “We came into the season, we had more stakes on the table. We had a lot more guys coming in that had been through and going further in the playoffs. The management told us that we wanted to create a winning culture down here so we knew that we also have to step up, there’s no days off. Those guys that came in really showed what it takes to be a winning team. It didn’t end up the way we wanted but we all got something out of it in the end.”

At what point did you go into games expecting to win, “Preseason. Right away when we beat Toronto in two straight games. I looked at the first game from the side and then I played one in Buffalo and I just felt right away this is such a big difference compared to last season. Two years before it’s been more of a hassle, struggle to not lose and it’s now more that we’re going to win at all times. Having all these come back wins early in the season we just grew that mindset bigger and stronger.”

Bringing that attitude to Buffalo, “I sure hope so. We know how much it stings now to lose in the first round when you really want to go all the way. It’s one thing if you play all these years and you never get to the playoffs you never really get to know how it feels to play on the bigger stage. Now that we’ve had the opportunity to do it we just want to go there even more.”

On how different/more intense the playoffs were, “It’s an eye opener. It’s a lot tougher to be out there. A lot more physicality and there’s a lot of things that wouldn’t really be part of the regular season that come into play later on. It’s tough. I think it’s way tougher for the players in front of me to play because they’re out there smashing bodies left and right. For me it’s more about stopping pucks and that doesn’t change if I go into playoffs or not.”

On Jason Botterill expecting him to be one of two goalies in Buffalo next season, “Right now it’s a nice thing for him to say. It’s nice to hear but it also gives me not only confidence but also gives me courage that when I go home now I have something to strive for. It’s not as easy that I might be one of two, I don’t have certain spot there. I still have to fight for it. I can’t just go home to Sweden and lay on my back all summer long. I have to go out there and work my butt off every day and be a professional. That’s what I’ve been trying to do and develop all these years, to be a professional every day. It’s going to be tough but it’s also going to be a fun summer that’s for sure.”

On how much Rochester has meant to him as a city, “To be honest when I came in here I heard a lot of bad things about Rochester as a city but when you get to know the community, get to know the city and know your way around here it’s like last year was an eye opener. I moved out and was closer to the guys and was a lot more fun. This year I lived out in Webster on Irondequoit Bay and I said to my wife how are we ever going to top this living in the states? We had everything we wanted and it was the perfect setup for us. It’s been a lot of fun and I appreciate everything the fans have done for us. Every time we have the Distillery meetings or anything like that. Every game they came to us and watch us and cheer for us it’s been a lot of fun. It’s one of those things you’re going to cherish later on in your career but right now I’m very thankful to all of them.”

On a highlight being in Rochester, “I would say the whole experience of it. Living here and saying that Rochester was my first home from home. No one is ever going to take that away from me. Rochester is always going to be a part of me, my wife and all of my family.”

Garbage plate, “Never. See I’m trying to be a professional and stay away from that stuff.”

Asked about being a goalie nerd, “You have to have an open mindset. There’s always going to be some new stuff on the market. For me it’s more about trying new stuff and see what it’s all about and all of the fuss. How is someone approaching a problem or how does something feel. You’re just trying to find tweeks that little bit of extra edge every time and every day in your preparation. That part of it is the equipment. I love gear, I’m a huge goalie gear nerd. Everything about it I love to just go see what everything is all about. The best thing for me is to get my hands on stuff and try it out. Do I switch? I don’t know. I have a full summer to decide if I want to switch or not.”


Brendan Guhle

On how he’ll look back at the season, “I think it was a positive season. We learned as a group and as it was the first time we’ve seen playoffs here in a while so it’s not like everybody’s going to know what to expect. It was good in that aspect. We learned how to win games at the start of the year. When we went through a tough stretch we were able to kind of climb out of that a little bit at the end of the season. We played a good Syracuse team in the playoffs, they’re a good team.”

On how much playoff experience will help, “It was good to get that experience and know that pace. They’re a good team. It’s not even just the playoffs, it’s how they play all the time.”

On how influential the guys in the room were in his first pro season, “They’re great guys. Hanging out with MacWilliam, Porter and Paetsch in the room. If I had any questions I could ask them or whether we were just talking in the locker room about everyday stuff. Those guys were welcoming with open arms and grateful to have them here.”

On wanting to win for each other and what it means, “Just not trying to do everything yourself. If you have to take a hit to make a play or willing to do that or if you have to block a shot and willing to do that. Just bearing down that little bit extra in those one on one battles I think are the key things.”

Asked if he was surprised by anything in his first pro season, “I think it was pretty smooth for the most part. I just worked every day and tried to improve my game which I know I did from the start of the season. I’m happy with how it progressed.”

On MacWilliam’s influence as a part of the leadership group, “I think you can just tell by the way he plays that he’s part of the leadership group. He’s always blocking shots, always taking hits, making hits and is vocal on the bench which is nice. He’s a great presence to have there.”

On a personal highlight of the season, “I think it was against Hershey, we won 7-6 in a shootout. It was the game where we were losing 3-0 in the first 10 minutes and then scored like five goals in the second period. I had my first goal of the season in that game too. Was just a fun game and that’s where I was like whoa we have a good team here.” (They actually scored six goals in the second period)

On what he’ll personally work on in the off season, “I’m going to try to improve my quickness, my first three steps. I’m going to get stronger and add some weight and I’ll be coming back in good shape.”

Anything specific to take from time in Buffalo, “Just knowing the preparation and how consistent you have to every day. I know what to expect next year, there’s no excuses.”


Nathan Paetsch

Looking back at this season, “I’m proud of the work we did and the group that we built. This room is special, the guys had a lot of fun this season. Obviously it’s disappointing not winning a playoff game. I think it’s a great look on things to come for this organization.”

On what he hoped young players took from the three playoff games, “I think they learned a lot. Obviously I’ve played a few playoff games in my day so I knew going on. You can try to tell guys and prepare them but it’s nothing like the real thing. Intensity ramps up a lot, level of play ramps up and it’s just a different beast. Emotions run high and you have to find that happy medium of controlling your emotions but playing with enough emotion. I think guys were kind of learning as they went and some of the Syracuse guys maybe figured out a little quicker and that might of been the difference.”

Had to learn to win but how much does the sting of a loss carry forward with you, “It hurts losing and you learn to win but yea I think guys learned what it takes in the playoffs. There’s going to be a lot of guys back next season and hopefully take this momentum forward and go into next year with their eyes wide open and ready to go.”

On how early the new culture took place, “Quicker than we had anticipated. The guys that were before were hungry for that. Some of the guys that had been here for three years they were just desperate for that team unity. They’re great kids, really wanted it and didn’t know how to go about it. I think it really came together a lot quicker than we hoped for and it was exciting. I think we started the season better than anyone would have ever imagined. Obviously we had a little dry spot there at the end but there’s a lot of ups and downs in the AHL season with guys getting called up and injuries. It was pretty consistent hockey all the way through. I thought the culture was expecting to win. ”

On how to instill that culture, “It’s day in and day out. It’s practice habits, it’s showing up every day to work and not just for the games. When you come in for practice, when you come into the weight room you take a professional mentality to it. Guys learned, it took some time. Guys were learning how to be pro’s and showing up on time, showing up early, doing a little extra. The way to treat people in the locker room and stuff. It came together real nicely and guys grew as a team and as individuals.”

On what it means to win for each other and what it looks like, “Even after we lost so many guys a lot of the comments I heard was that it was sad this group wasn’t going to be together. We wanted to win so bad to keep this group together and that shows the character in that locker room and what guys felt for each other. I think at times in the playoffs we maybe cared too much and we ran out of position and maybe it cost us, that’s part of the learning thing too. There was no a lack of caring in the playoffs, I’ll tell you that. Guys cared a ton and wanted to win so bad. Now that they learned you have to care a lot but do it smartly, it’s a teeter totter trying to figure out that emotion but not too much emotion.”

On the family atmosphere, “Tayls is probably the biggest part but also it starts with Randy too and Botts. They went out and targeted character people. Randy came in right off camp and had a speech to let guys know where everybody stood. That trickles down to Tayls. He’s an amazing coach. I’ve never seen a first year coach with such a great repertoire with the guys. Tayls is a real smart guy, let’s be honest he was the smartest guy when he played so obviously that’s why he’s such a great coach. The guys loved playing for him. You’ll see quotes from guys saying they came back because they wanted to play for Tayls. That’s huge and that’s how you get guys back in this league. The top end guys that maybe get an offer here or there but they’re going to come back to play for the coach. Our other coaches too, we had a great staff and training staff. All of that is important for that family atmosphere.”

On the balance Taylor had to have in being honest but being that players coach, “It’s tough but that’s the head coaches job. It’s not an easy job and it’s why a lot of people don’t want to do it. He cares a lot but he has to do what’s right for the person and for the team and sometimes that’s being brutally honest. Some guys need to hear it and it’s not an easy thing to do. Even as an older guy sometimes I have to say things to guys that’s uncomfortable but it’s for the best. The thing is they knew that it came from somebody that cared about them so matter how brutal in what he was saying they knew he wasn’t doing it out of spite or malice it was because he cared and wanted the best for them.”

On carrying the culture up to Buffalo, “Of course, that’s the whole point of what we’re trying to do here. We want them to learn what it is to be a family and be a family atmosphere, to care, to be a pro every day in practice and at the rink and during the games and how you do that and treat people. If it doesn’t carry up to there than we’re doing our job right here. They’re great kids and going to do a great job. Their time here was special and they’re going to take that with them.”

Asked him about community support and pride this season, “Look at that Wednesday game, I don’t know if I’ve seen a first round Wednesday game like that with that many fans. The support was incredible and want to let the fans know how much we care. That’s everything for us. The atmosphere was just rocking in here and want them to know that we care and it’s just making us work this much harder this summer to come back and give them more of that success and more playoff games.”

Asked him about want to play more in the playoffs, “Any hockey players want to play, I love the game, I want to play but I also understand my role. I also understand how good the other guys were that were playing, that’s just the reality of the situation. We had a D core that you don’t see very often in this league. We had a great balance, guys with a ton of NHL games just a year or two before. We were deep but you saw that we needed that depth.”

On his future, “I hope to keep going. I’m not ready to hang them up yet. Hopefully they’ll keep me around longer. Time will tell. I still have the passion to put the work in and I still love what I’m doing.”


Nick Baptiste

On how he’ll look back at the season, “One of the best teams I’ve ever been a part of in terms of just culture, guys and good people. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed. It’s just a great group of people here that made coming to the rink every day a fun time and it’s going to be one of those years you’re going to remember for a long time.”

On the playoffs being an eye opener, “It was exciting for me to get some playoff games. Obviously not the result we would have liked for the season to end the way it did but definitely a building a block for guys like myself and Guhles and Bailey and guys that are trying to make that transition to the NHL and Sabres. Playoff games and playoff hockey is always going to help with that transition.”

Biggest difference, “It’s just tighter checking, guys are more physical. You don’t have as much time with the puck. It’s also just more intense. Usually crowds are in it a little more and it’s just an exciting time and unfortunate we didn’t get to play a little longer.”

On the team expecting to win and when he began to notice, “For me it was definitely right before I was called up for that 30 game stint where I realized this team was going into every game expecting to win. It was just the precedent we set for ourselves. We expected nothing but to win. Talking guys today still upset with the whole Syracuse situation, I don’t think we played as well as we would have liked but that’s hockey, it’s a tough game and tough league and hats off to them for playing so well over there.”

On who was responsible for the family atmosphere, “I think it starts from the top down. Jason Botterill made it an apparent to guys in Rochester that it’s going to be important to set that culture here and win here. He started it and it was upon Chris Taylor and then translated to our leadership group with Porter and Paetsch and those guys to follow the winning culture and vibe down the lineup. When you have a group of guys as good as we did it’s easy to have fun and be a good team and be great people.”

On wanting to win for the older guys, “Of course, you always want to win for your older guys and guys that you never know how long someone’s career is going to be, everyone’s career comes to an end. It’s unfortunate that we got swept and lost the way that we did. I’ve learned so much from guys like Porter and Paetsch and older guys who’ve been through it. It’s only going to better me moving forward.”

Asked if that leadership is what was missing the last two seasons, “I think I’ve had great leaders my whole career, the past years have been great. I think it was just something different with this group. Winning helps a lot and I think we started winning pretty early in the season and it was a trend that kind of happened throughout the whole year. It’s easy to stay positive and in a good mind frame when you’re winning games. I think the first two seasons we didn’t win nearly as much so obviously things weren’t as positive and wasn’t as great of an atmosphere as it was this season.”

On how much he’ll carry all of this forward into the next step in his career, “Tons, tons, oh tons. I’ve already talked to younger guys that want to make the jump to the NHL next year. We’ve just talked about how much it’s helped us in terms of becoming professionals making the necessary steps and tweaks in our games to make it to the next level. Hats off to the older guys to really show us the way and guide us and help us out.”

“I think that was a big part of our success this season was our younger guys noticing how you have to act and how you have play as a professional down here and translate that winning culture up to Buffalo. We’ve talked about culture a ton here because it’s been so great here. It’s no secret we finished in last place in Buffalo, there’s no secret I was a part of it. It’s something that doesn’t sit well with me, I don’t like losing. I know Jack and BOGO and Ryan and guys that are coming back next year in Buffalo feel the same way. We’re tired of losing and we’re going to word to turn things around in Buffalo.”

On playing more of a defensive style and when it clicked, “I think for me it was learning what I had to do to get my foot in the door to make the transition to the NHL. You can’t expect to leave the AHL mid season and go up to the NHL and score 50 goals, it just doesn’t happen that way. Me and Chris Taylor talked a lot about how I have to change my game and how I have to mold it to a situation to where I can dependable up in Buffalo for Phil and be able and to do the things that allow him to put me out on the ice late in games and responsible. Just molding myself to be a more responsible 200 foot player was a focus after the season got kicked off.”

On how ready he thinks he is to make that jump, “I think I’m ready. I think it’s time for me to make that jump. The window of opportunity to play in the NHL is pretty slim. I think my window is now. I’m turning 23 years old in August and not getting younger so I have to make sure I have a great summer and come ready to play next season. I think for sure I’ve taken the steps and mentally I’m ready to go and be a big part of the Sabres.”

On highlight of being in Rochester, “Just the guys and being with them and the staff and the people around the city. It’s just a breath of fresh air to be in a place where you go to the rink and you’re happy to be there every day and excited to get on the ice.”


Kyle Criscuolo

Looking back on this team, “I think starting at the beginning of the year we were excited about the group that we had. Our goal was to sort of bring Rochester back into contention for a Calder Cup and I think we did a good job getting off to a good start and getting into the playoffs. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way but I think we can be proud of the year that we had for sure and build on it moving forward. There’s a lot more to gain and we’re going to continue building as a group and increase our run next season.”

On how the culture developed as the year went on, “I think it was just the way that this team was designed from the start. The people they brought in and the guys are around and the coaching staff and the way we went about the season every day. It allowed us to be a really close team and hold each other accountable and it didn’t matter what day it was. I don’t think we had to change anything, it was right from the hop we came together as a team and build and hold each other accountable and work hard every day.”

On the impression he has on this organization and the desire to win, “I think they’re doing everything they can to win. I think that’s apparent to me and guys that are working hard to do the right thing are getting rewarded. I think that they’re bringing in guys to make sure that this becomes a winning culture and that everybody here is going to be here for one reason and that’s to win hockey games. I’m glad I’m here and I’m excited to be here next year.”

On the internal competition, “Internal competition is very important but more than just everybody wanted to get better is just as important as internal competition. When you’re on a team and you want to win and that’s the goal. When you see your teammates trying to get better every day it pushes you to get better. I wouldn’t say it’s as much competition as it is you want to continue to grow everyday as a player and continue to get better. When teammates are pushing themselves as hard as they can it’s easy for you to do the same.”

His takeaway from time in Buffalo, “It’s definitely a little bit of a grind. There’s a different schedule up there than there is here. There aren’t as many weekends, more of an every other night and you really need to take care of your body and be ready for whatever they throw at you. It was a great experience for me and obviously a dream come true to play in the NHL this year but there’s still a lot more me to learn and grow on. I just want to keep getting better everyday and throughout the summer.”

On the teams challenge all season of needing to play 60 minutes, “There was definitely ups and downs. I think having different lineups every night had definitely plays a little bit of a factor but at the end of the day I think we need to continue to grow as a team and understand what it takes to win down the stretch. It’s a different animal with the second half of the year and heading into the playoffs. I think it’s good that we got some playoff experience and there’s going to be a lot of guys back that had it this season. I think we need to take from what it what we can and then forget about it and move forward. It’s definitely important to have a good second half and peak at the right time.”

Asked if the spot in the standings allowed anyone to get too comfortable, “I wouldn’t say anyone got too comfortable. Different parts of the season brings different obstacles and there’s a lot guys on this team that are good players. You sort of have to find your niche and find your role and do it well. I think we definitely we were a tight group and our division was a tough one. Even the teams at the bottom were difficult to play against. I don’t think we got comfortable, I think it was just the way the pro hockey goes. There’s good parity within our league and that shows.”

Asked about doing anything different at the start of next season, “I think if we do things the same way at the beginning of the season and continue to harp on the fact that we need to keep building and keep getting better and not a lull happen. I think one of the important things of winning is not losing more than one game in a row and making sure that home ice your advantage. At the beginning of the year we didn’t do a great job of protecting home ice and I think that’ll be something we harp on. In terms of showing up and preparing for the beginning of the season I think we did a good job and we’ll do that again and hopefully in the middle of the year try to keep it rolling.”

A takeaway of the season, “We have a good team here. The guys here are good and they’re doing a great job rebuilding and it’s exciting. The future is bright.”


Kevin Porter

On what was said at the start of the season, “We wanted to change the culture around here and it’s been said all year. Past years the team hasn’t done so well and we wanted to change that. We wanted to make the playoffs and we did that. Obviously didn’t go as far as we wanted to but still a pretty good season and step in the right direction.”

On his individual season, “I always think I can play better. I thought it was ok, not a horrible season but not bad either.”

Looking forward to next season and anything to bring different, “I think we need to be more consistent, me personally. I need to be more consistent. There’s times throughout the season the team had some ups and downs and same for me as well. There’s a lot of games but you have to be ready for all of them.”

On individual success following team success, “I told everyone right from the beginning that if the team does well it’s going to be good for everyone individually. If you go far in the playoffs there’s a lot of people watching. If you make the playoffs there’s a lot of people watching. It would’ve been nice to a little bit farther but the guys got a taste of it and realized that if the team is doing well guys are getting called up. If the team is doing well individuals are usually playing well. I think that’s the mindset we had and had a great group of guys and we’re looking forward to next year.”

Having pride playing in the AHL, “This is still a good league. It’s not the NHL but this is a good league and it’s hard to play in. You have to respect the league and the other teams and we started to learn that a little bit.”


Zach Redmond

Looking back at the season, “I think you can call this year a success even though we didn’t go quite as far as we wanted in the playoffs but making the playoffs is a big deal and it was something that the team didn’t do last year or years prior. For us we took a step in the right direction, we didn’t win a cup but we did take a step in the right direction so all in all pretty good.”

On being a leader and if that’s who he’s always been, “I think you keep playing and I’m getting to be one of the more experienced guys now so I think that is just naturally how things progress. You have answers to questions to some of the younger guys have it’s just inherited I guess.”

On consistency issues this season and how it can be fixed, “That’s just something teams strive for in general and it’s just holding yourself accountable to a man in the room. It’s really all that is, you have to want to win and bring that same effort to the rink every day.”

On if he thought he should have been given more of a look this season in the NHL, “I think it would have been nice but they have their plans but maybe I would have been a little more bitter at the beginning of my career but it’s my job to work for them. However they want to use me is how they want to use me so I just try and do the best that I can.”

On the pride the team appeared to have playing in Rochester, “We saw how special the city is. The fans how they came out Wednesday and showed up all year. It’s a special place to play and you can tell that the team has been here for a long time. It has some deep roots around here and it’s a good spot.”

Personal highlight of the season, “Truthfully getting traded here. The beginning of the year was kind of tough. Things weren’t going well in Montreal. It was time for a fresh start and you just never know if you’re going to get traded and where. For me to get the call that I’m headed here, I knew a few people and heard enough about it to be comfortable right away and it just couldn’t have been a better situation.”


Chris Taylor

On remembering this team, “The character is huge for me. I thought our leadership group was unbelievable bringing our team together. It was remarkable and pretty sad seeing guys pack up and leave. The biggest thing I’m going to take out is that we were family and it’s tough for a team to break up like that.”

On the emotion after the game 3 loss and what it says, “It speaks volumes and speaks volumes for the people we brought in here. I thought they did a great job not just on the ice but off the ice in the community. They did everything for the city and they got rewarded by the fans coming out to support them on Wednesday night.”

On the message to Linus as he looks forward, “He has to have a really big summer to make a difference for Buffalo. He has to make a statement at training camp. He still has to earn his sport there. Refocus, go home. He had a long year, was up and down, injured a little bit. A lot of games and a lot of minutes. There’s a reason players voted him MVP, he did a great job for us all year and got us to the playoffs. I’m excited for his future.”

Pride of being a Rochester American, “I think the guys really embraced it. They embraced the community. They did more than what they needed to do in the community and that means going to hospitals on their own time all the time. Doing a lot of stuff in the community. They wanted to change the culture and they did change the culture around here. They made me proud, each and every player that wore the uniform they did a great job with it and I couldn’t be more proud of our guys and this team.”

On the young guys carrying the culture forward, “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to create good job people, how to work and how to be a pro everyday. If this organization is going to change it has to start from here in Rochester where the young guys are going up to play in the NHL and they take that culture change up with them. There’s still a lot of work to do and we know that. We’re trying to build a better team every day.

On if they found a recipe moving forward, “We don’t want to break up the team and that’s the hard part. It’s a sad day for me, it’s tough. I’ve met a lot of great people the first year as a head coach. These guys worked hard for me everyday and they lead on the ice. The veterans did a great job, our young guys grew. It’s hard but we want those players that are good people first and foremost and a person that comes to work and is a pro every day. Other than that we can teach them anything else on the ice. We’re more than willing to do that. We just want really good people for our community and our team.”

On what he learned as a first year head coach, “The biggest thing for me is communication. There’s never enough of it. You always have to communicate with the guys and understand where they’re at. If you don’t ask you don’t know. I believe communication is big especially in this day and age the kids want feedback all the time. I learned that you have to ask questions to them and keep on them. My philosophy is to be honest and sometimes I was a little too honest and sometimes they didn’t like that but I think that’s the best way and I think I got some respect for being honest to them. You just learn everyday is a new day and you’re learning a lot. I’ve learned a lot from other coaches in this league. I’ve learned from Gord, Toby and Randy. I’ve learned from you guys the media what to say and what not to say, how to talk and not to say things when I’m not supposed to say things.”

On being different behind closed doors, “I say a lot of things to those guys behind closed doors because I feel like it’s for me it’s the right thing to do. It’s not for anyone else to hear. I’m hard on guys and I think guys respect that because they know where they’re at and it makes them better. I also like to have fun and laugh with these guys. It works both ways.”

On looking forward to next season already, “At the exit meetings guys said how much they loved coming to the rink everyday. That speaks volumes of what we changed here. First and foremost they love coming to the rink which means they’re going to play harder and do a good job. I miss it already. I wish we were playing tonight. I can’t even imagine what the crowd would have been like and that sucks. I think playing against Syracuse opened up a lot eyes for our young guys and older guys. It’s tough, it’s tough to win in this league. They’re a good team and good organization and that’s where we want to be.”

On what has to be added, “I think we have to add more toughness. A little more gritty. We have some playoff experience and they’ve already had playoff experience. They knew when to score the big goal, they knew how to respond after a goal against and come right back at us with a goal. That’s just the experience of playing in the playoffs and now we have some of that. A team like Syracuse never stops, they’re relentless on us. They’re a good hockey team and I believe they’re going to go pretty far.”

Talking more about that grit, “I think we expected them to be playing so tough. Because we didn’t have enough playoff experience we didn’t expect them to come as hard as they did and it’s a different level. We don’t have to bring in anybody, we just have to bring the grit out of us. Some points we had it in the game and sometimes we didn’t.”

On being more consistent next season, “We just teach them the same things and another year of experience. They understand where I’m coming from now. It’s nice to have stability in your coaching staff and that you’re not changing each year. We’re not building a different program. Most of the guys that were here this year will be back next year or in Buffalo so everyone knows what we expect and how expect things done. We already have a head start already next year.”

“Can I come back?” That’s what Taylor asked in response to a question about Gord Dineen and Toby Peterson returning as coaches, which they are expected to.

On the play of Justin Bailey, “He performed. He stepped for us and I thought he took huge steps in these playoffs. It’s good to see and that’s what you want to see, you want to see young guys come out and do things like he did. I thought he grew as a person this year and I think he grew as a player as well. He’s maturing and hopefully he’s ready for that next step. He has to have a big summer. All of these guys have to have big summers to work on things for next year at training camp. Everyone has a chance in Buffalo.”

Asked if those things were discussed with him, “We discussed it with him all the time, we discuss it with every player. You have to use your size and physicality. He’s a great athlete. He can skate, went into hard areas and he used his linemates very well. At the start of the year he was trying to do too much and hang on to the puck too much. He’s growing and maturing. It’s his third year now so it’s good to see him finally understand what he needs to do and when he does it he’s dominate. He can be a dominate player.”

There hasn’t been any update on Justin Bailey.

Asked about whether lingering injuries played a role in the playoffs, “No. We had depth and I’m not going to use that excuse for why we lost. It had nothing to do with it, was just Syracuse outplaying us.”

Personal highlight of the season, “Making the playoffs. I thought with all of the man game losses this year with injuries and call ups I feel that Randy did a great job getting a lot of depth for us. We didn’t have to go looking anyplace or with different teams. We called up within. Just making the playoffs. The best thing I had these the last two days was how everyone came into my office and said how happy they were to come to the rink and the atmosphere and the culture and how much they loved the city and everyone wants to come back. To me that means the world to me that they want to come back to Rochester to play.”

Talking about Randy Sexton and the partnership they have, “He’s a partnership for sure. Randy did a great job communicating everyday with what he wanted and what he expects from us. He created the culture too. He brought these guys in, he brought in good people. He’s visible around here which was nice, he gave us direction. We knew what we had to do and we focused on that. We focused on not only developing but focused on winning and creating a place where everybody wanted to come. I think we did that and he supplied all that stuff for us. The partnership that we have is great. He’s a guy I trust with everything. I know he trusts me and we have a good working relationship. I just can’t say enough good things about Randy and what he’s done for this organization, it’s great. He started it all off for us. When I say he’s visible he’s always around for the players. The players can ask him any questions for situations like why am I not getting a chance in Buffalo or why am I not playing and he’s there to answer all the tough questions. He’s not hiding. He’s around for fans if they need him and he’s been great with the media.”

On what Alexander Nylander needs to do for next season, “I thought he grew as a player. Again everyone’s going to probably say to me it’s his second year, how much more growing can he do, he’s 20 now. He’s young. What I like about him is that he’s improving everyday and he’s maturing everyday. He’s learning from the right people in the dressing room. He’s learning how to be a pro. He battled injury at the start of the year and he came back from that. He had to learn how to come back from the injury he’s never had before. Those are the things, intangibles people don’t understand. People just want the product on the ice to be go out there and do it. There’s a lot of things that are involved with that and I think he’s making huge steps.”

On learning from the playoff loss, “The biggest thing is that they all felt bad they let us down. I told them they didn’t let us down, they worked their butts off. I thought they gave everything they had and that’s all you can ask for. I thought our whole team competed every night. I don’t know if the scores really dictated how close the games really were. I thought we were in every game. I thought they were exciting and could have went either way at some points. We missed three breakaways in the first game. We didn’t score on a 5 on 3 in the other games. Those are the differences, small differences that we learned from now after we got eliminated that we have to bury those chances. That’s how small the difference in a game can be.”