After starting the season winning 10 out of their first 14 games the Rochester Americans suddenly found themselves in a bit of a slump with no one to blame but themselves. On November 16 the team traveled to Springfield where they were embarrassed in a 9-4 loss. Over a seven game span they found themselves finishing with a record of 3-3-1.
That’s not the type of team they want to be. The losses were concerning, the team knew they had to address it, and they had a meeting last Monday. The discussions worked as the team found themselves playing how they wanted to play and finished the weekÂ with three wins including a dominating win over Syracuse, a team that had played 13 games without a regulation loss.
The Amerks are currently in first place in the North Division with a record of 16-6-2-0. Last season through 24 games they were 13-5-3-3. They were finding ways to win in overtime, shootouts, and forcing games into overtimes. They were also talking about having fun playing as a hockey team. Fun may have been said too many times as the second half of the season caught up with them.
Talking to Chris Taylor about a change in tone and mindset he said, “Last year was a feel out year for everybody. New coaches, new general managers, new everybody in the organization. I think this year there’s more expectations. We’re trying build that culture that we’re a winning team winning every year and we keep improving each and every year. Our standards are a lot higher. Yea we love coming to work and still having fun but our standards are a lot higher.”
Standards being higher is what made some of the losses in November concerning.
“Last year was fun because we kind of came in, nobody really knew what to expect,” CJ Smith said after practice this week. “We had a huge turnover with staff and players. We kind of set a bar and standard for what we can play at, the level we can play at. Even just a couple weeks ago being a .500 team wasn’t good enough for us. We sat down, had a meeting about it, and got back to our game. It was really big for our confidence.”
Justin Bailey talked about recent games saying, “In the last couple of weeks we weren’t playing to our full potential, I think teams are starting to catch us and we see that. We had a meeting before last weekend and we wanted to make sure that in these games before Christmas that we really make it a point to get as many points as we can.Â We really started off on the right foot last weekend.”
That meeting was last Monday after a longer video session. The meeting worked.
CJ Smith said, “I thought we came out and played really well, obviously won all three games which is pretty big.” Smith also added, “That game against Syracuse was really big for us in the standings, now we have to keep rolling and get some points here.”
Justin Bailey talked about the win in Syracuse saying, “Just top to bottom we played one of our best games of the year.”
Those three games were a 5-2 win over Utica, 2-1 win over Providence, and 4-3 win over Syracuse.
That was last week. A lot of words that will have little meaning without continuing to win.
Chris Taylor said, “This week is really tough. It’s three division games where we can really separate ourselves from a lot of different teams and that’s what we want to do. You can’t get these games back so we have to take care of them, especially two at home on Wednesday and Friday. Saturday we’ll figure that out on the road.”
They’ll start the week tonight against Binghamton, a team they’ve played twice this season on the road. The last meeting was a 3-0 loss and before that a 4-3 win in Binghamton – a game they barely held on to for the win.
Friday night is home against Cleveland and then both teams play again Saturday night in Cleveland. The games will have a big impact on the standings for someone. The only game against Cleveland was a 5-2 win in Buffalo on November 7.
North Division standings as of 12/12:
Ending the weekend with six out of six points will make a big difference in the standings. The standards are higher and the Amerks want to continue to stay higher in the standings.
“Continue to play the right way,” Chris Taylor said when asked what the key to winning is. “Everybody’s been playing the right way. Doing what we ask, the little things, and sticking together. Everybody is competing hard and having fun.”
There’s that fun word again.
Jonas Johansson is expected to start in net for Rochester tonight. Scott Wedgewood was assigned back to the Amerks this week as well.
Myles Powell was called up from Cincinnati due to Kevin Porter being out with a lowed body injury.
Matt Hunwick is on a conditioning loan and will suit up tonight. Quotes and updates from him:
Dalton Smith will be out of the lineup serving a one game suspension. More on that:
Here’s more on the injuries, practice notes and some winning stats: