Preview: Amerks Home Tonight Before Weekend Road Trip

Another set of games is ahead for the Rochester Americans starting tonight on home ice against the Hershey Bears. There was a time when it was an event when these two historic franchises played (this is the 459th game between them) but now that they only play twice a season it’s just another Wednesday game.

Hershey arrived in town with a 4-2-1-0 record to face Rochester with a 3-2-0-1 record through early October. The bigger difference this early in the season is the goal differential. Hershey has outscored opponents 25-17 through seven games meanwhile Rochester has been outscored 19-14 through six games. The 7-1 beat down that Rochester took in Utica this past Saturday night had a direct impact on that differential.

The message following that Utica game was to take an early season lesson from it. Two goals within 44 seconds halfway through the first period had a demoralizing effect on the bench and it carried over through the rest of the game.

Rochester is averaging 36.7 shots a game but also only averaging 2.3 goals a game.

Eric Cornel talked about shot attempts so far this season and said, “That’s something we’ve talked about this week in practice. Getting shots is def a good thing, sometimes our shot selection needs to be a it better and maybe get more guys going to the net to get second and third opportunities off those initial shots.”

As a side note, this will be the 100th consecutive regular season start for Eric Cornel.

“It’s optimizing where you’re shooting from. Sometimes when you shoot the puck and there’s nobody driving the net or no screens it’s basically a turnover,” Gord Dineen said when asked about shots. “We have to make sure we’re shooting from the right areas and turning those into more opportunity.”

One player who tries to make an attempt to get to the front of the net (and often take a beating doing so) is Tage Thompson who spent time this morning working on redirects. Thompson is also the only player that is taller than goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen so he gives him a challenge as well. In case you missed it, Luukkonen is about three weeks away from playing.

Another lesson learned from this past weekend, and this early in the season, is that special teams needs a lot of work. The good news is that it can’t really get any worst. Currently the Amerks power play is 28th in the league at only 6.7% and the penalty kill is 23rd in the league at 78.6%. The team has only scored two power play goals on 30 opportunities.

“It’s not where we want it and if you look at the statistical results they’re not even close to where we want them and where they’ve been in years past,” Gord Dineen said this morning when I asked about special teams. Dineen continued, “It’s something we’ve focused on and talked about as a group. We don’t want to place too much emphasis on six games. There’s going ups and downs and ebbs and flows of the season and we’ve started with a bit of a downside to our numbers but we are getting our opportunities. You hate to mention bad bounces but we’re going to turn those bounces into things that go our way if we keep doing the right things.”

Early season points through six games have come from Tage Thompson (3G+3A), Scott Wilson (1G+3A), and Zach Redmond (1G+4A) but they aren’t exactly adding up for anyone else yet. It’s not for a lack of effort but points are evading CJ Smith early on. CJ Smith is tied in points with the other Smith on the team, Dalton Smith. They each have one goal. Curtis Lazar has only played in four of the six games but only has one assist.

Pointing out the numbers that are lacking is only an indication of where things are at right now, not a prediction of where things are going. Including tonight there’s still 70 games to be played which means it’s still real early in the season.

Hershey features a familiar name on their roster – Matt Moulson. After being loaned out by the Buffalo Sabres and playing two seasons with the Ontario Reign he signed with the Hershey Bears. Former players always score and Moulson already has 2G+4A in seven games so there’s a good chance his name will be mentioned.


For those going to the game tonight make note of a new 585 Wednesday night promotion.

After tonight the Amerks will practice Thursday and Friday before playing Saturday night in Syracuse and then a late Sunday afternoon game in Springfield. Syracuse currently has a 2-2-1 record through five games and Springfield has a 3-4-0-0 record through seven games. Rochester has already beaten both teams once this season.