After this weeks great negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA, I needed another hockey fix. My wife and I ventured up to Blue Cross Arena to watch the Amerks try to snap their 2 game losing streak against the winless Griffins of Grand Rapids.
I was really glad that throughout the night, I saw the Amerk’s defense join the rush. There was great awareness to recognize where everyone was on the ice. I also really liked the play of the line combination of Flynn, Porter, and Girgensons. I saw Girgensons head straight to the front of the net and screen the goalie on several occasions. I’ve been waiting for the Amerks or the Sabres to finally put a big body in front of the goalie. It’s nice to see that the first round draft pick for Buffalo isn’t afraid to camp out in front of the net. Plus, Rochester had a decent forecheck which resulted in goals tonight for them. I did see a lot of positive plays from almost everyone tonight for Rochester.
The Griffins got on the board at 5:48 with a goal by Tomas Jurco. Brennan left him standing alone in front of the net. He made an attempt to dive into the corner to keep the puck away from Trevor Parkes. Parkes took advantage of Brennan’s poor decision, and passed it to Jurco in front of Amerk’s goalie David Leggio. Jurco had a few great shots at the puck before he finally put one past Leggio. If Brennan had gone into the corner standing up, and tried to pin it to the boards, or just stayed on his skates period, the Griffins don’t get the scoring opportunity, and the Amerks have the chance to get back and defend their end. Instead, it cost them a goal.
The rest of the first period went by in an uneventful fashion. Phil Varone took 2 tripping penalties that the Amerks killed with ease. Biega made a horrid turnover that Leggio bailed him out of, flashing the pads making a great save. The period ended with a 1-0 Griffins lead.
At 3:08 in the 2nd period, Landon Ferraro scored to put the Amerks in a 2-0 hole. The Amerks played lax defense. 4 Amerks were screening Leggio instead of challenging the Griffin’s shooters. 3 of the Amerks were within a few feet of Leggio. The D just happened to go to sleep and things weren’t looking too good for the Amerks at this point in time.
Then, a minute and 13 seconds later, while I was contemplating whether I was going to need a 2nd beer to get through the game, the Amerks woke up. Kevin Porter made a brilliant play, poking the puck away from the Griffins defender in the Griffin end. The aggressive forecheck lead to a 2 on 1 in the Griffins zone. Porter threaded the needle to Brian Flynn, and we had a 2-1 hockey game. The captain of the Amerks made a brilliant play to stay with the puck, and it resulted in the 1st goal of the night for the Amerks. And no, I didn’t get another beer.
Another minute and 17 seconds later, the Griffins got a power play off a Mark Mancari slash. The Amerks penalty kill, which had looked strong early in the game, suddenly looked like a disaster. I believe I turned to my wife on several occasions and used the term “shooting gallery” while I watched. The penalty kill wasn’t as aggressive as I had seen it before. Luckily, the Amerks killed the Mancari penalty, and the Biega tripping penalty at 8:03 in the 2nd as well.
The Amerks then got their 1st power play of the game when Sheahan took an interference penalty at 12:16. The Amerks had a very strong power play tonight (which you’ll find out as this progresses). With 18 seconds left in the power play, McNabb set up TJ Brennan for the one-timer, and he didn’t hesitate blasting it past Griffins goalie, Jordan Pearce. This attack continued after a slashing penalty on Gustav Nyquist. The Amerks continued to try set up TJ Brennan for the one-timer, but they couldn’t connect again.
After 2, we were knotted up at 2.
At 6:54 in the 3rd period, one of the Griffins made a huge mistake. Triston Grant decided to cream Nick Tarnasky of the Amerks. The initial call was clipping on Grant. Tarnasky picked himself off the ice, and stuck right next to Grant as they skated towards center ice. Tarnasky kept chirping in Grant’s ear, until they dropped the gloves. 5he refs called it 5 minutes for fighting on both Grant and Tarnasky. It should have been 2 minutes for fighting for Tarnasky, and 5 minutes for receiving on Grant. Tarnasky delivered about 4 solid shots to Grant (most to the head), the last finishing blow put Grant on the ice. Grant will think twice before creaming Tarnasky again.
However, at this point we had a stoppage of play. While we figured out what was going on Grant vs Tarnasky fight, I heard the catchy beat of “Gangnam Style” starting to play on the sound system. To make it better, Marcus Foligno was on the scoreboard doing the infamous “Gangnam Style” dance, with other Amerks players and the Moose. Hilarious. If you haven’t seen this, climb out from the rock you’ve been living under, and youtube this video. Better yet, google “Amerks Gangnam Style”, and you’ll see what we saw at the game.
Back to the game. Grant’s little error gave the Amerks another power play. At this point in my blog, my cat Snupi is trying to help. Moving on, and maneuvering around my cat, with 20 seconds left in the power play, Mark Pysyk let a shot go from the point. Pearce made the initial save, but couldn’t stop as Luke Adam passed the rebound to Varone, and Varone gave the Amerks a 3-2 lead.
Just under 2 minutes later, the Amerks got another power play after a hooking penalty called on Adam Almquist. With 30 seconds on the power play, Cody Hodgson did the best thing he did all night long, and took a one timer from the point and Marcus Foligno redirected it into the net. The Amerks had a 4-2 lead with just over 7 minutes to go.
The Griffins made it interesting at the end of the game by scoring with 2:04 remaining in regulation. Leggio wanted a penalty and claimed he was interfered with, but no dice. The refs allowed it, and it was 4-3. However, that was as close as the Griffins would get as time expired in Blue Cross Arena. The Amerks snapped their 2 game losing streak to improve to a 2-2 record.
3 Stars of the Night
Brian Flynn with a goal
TJ Brennan with a goal and an assist
Kevin Porter with an assist
The Amerks power play got the job done tonight, scoring on 3 out of 5 power plays. They played a fairly solid game and looked strong throughout the night. They also didn’t get discouraged down 2-0. Hopefully they will keep this up as they travel to Hershey to take on the Bears.
Keep an eye out for my next blog. I’m going to give my take on the recent “proposals” by the NHL and NHLPA. Let’s just say I don’t share everyone’s optimism. I hope to have it up tomorrow.