Inside the Final 89 Seconds of Friday Night

After tying a league record for 29 overtime games and getting being swept in the first round of the playoffs last season the Rochester Americans coaching staff consisting of Chris Taylor, Gord Dineen and Toby Petersen knew they had to make some adjustments. There’s development for coaches as much as there is for players and they knew they had to try different things. Different practice plans, different game plans, and digging into the past.

This is a slightly different approach than most articles I’ve written here. Just digging into a unique play that many have probably never seen before.

On Friday night when the Syracuse Crunch were down by a goal heading into the final moments of the game they were met with a different approach by the Rochester Americans. The game plan is pretty standard for an attacking team at moments like that in a game. Dump the puck in, go get it, setup a play and start attacking.

Here’s how the final moments of the game went:

  • 1:19 Syracuse won the face off but it went back into their zone.
  • 1:06 they dumped the puck in and Kevin Porter emerged from behind Adam Wilcox to immediately play the puck.
  • Taylor Fedun [ Recently traded ] sent the puck out of the Amerks defense zone and it was tipped out by Syracuse so there was no icing.
  • With 46 seconds left Syracuse carried it up ice and dumped it in again.
  • For the second time, Kevin Porter emerged from behind Adam Wilcox to play the puck and cleared it out of the Amerks zone down the ice with 43 seconds left.
  • Eric Cornel won a race for the puck and with 38 seconds left on the clock icing was waived off.
  • Syracuse gained possession and dumped it in with 30 seconds left.
  • Adam Wilcox stopped the puck behind the net and Sean Malone cleared it with 24 seconds off the glass and out of play.

When I asked Kevin Porter about the sequence of events he showed a quick smile on his face acknowledging that the play was noticed and gave credit to assistant coach Gord Dineen for coming up with it.

Gord Dineen gave credit to a former co-worker for the new approach. He said, “It’s something, as a coach you steal everything, I took it from a guy I worked with in Toronto.” That guy he worked with in Toronto was Randy Carlyle, former head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and current head coach of the Anaheim Ducks.

“When you’re outnumbered it’s about getting puck control and retrieval,” Dineen said when I talked to him. “I don’t think you’re vulnerable through the neutral zone because basically they have to find a way to get the puck into the neutral zone through a wedge anyways.”

A new and creative approach to different situations has lead to success for the team. Dineen said, “It’s what you do after as far as the retrieval and how you want to execute things.”

Kevin Porter said the execution involved being able to send a winger out of the zone to chase the puck down, something that Eric Cornel was able to do. Rochester was able to take almost a minute off of the clock but it wasn’t enough. It was close. Danny O’Regan was alone at the face off circle to put the puck into an empty net if the puck had popped out.

Syracuse won the ensuing face off with 24 seconds left, and sent a shot over the top of the net. As the puck was cycled back around Danny O’Regan blocked a pass, Porter batted it out but was kept in by Syracuse. O’Regan blocked another shot. CJ Smith took a swing at the loose puck as he lost his balance and Syracuse was able to cycle the puck around to Cory Conacher. A blast by Conacher found an opening between the pads of Wilcox.

On broadcast Don Stevens let out a classic, “oh no they scored.”

The officials put 0.6 seconds back on the clock. It was a good goal, the puck went in before the buzzer and the game went into overtime.

Zach Redmond saved the night and scored his fifth game winning goal off of a pass from Alex Nylander at 2:37 of overtime for the win and they put everything else behind them.

There’s  62 games left in the season and it’ll be interesting to see what else the coaching staff pulls out of the archives in taking different approaches to different situations. Tightening up their game in the final moments, also known as playing to the buzzer, is something they’re aware of. The Amerks have had goals scored against them in five of their 14 games with 32 seconds or less left in the game. The good news is that the Amerks have won all five games including an overtime win and a shootout win.

There’s still work to be done and that’s why the team was on the ice for practice Sunday morning.

Here’s how the entire sequence played out in regulation. Apologies for the not so great quality copy off of of the AHLTV feed but it’s something.

Game winning goal from Zach Redmond:

Full game recap: