Amerks Weekly - Week of April 8
VIEW NEAR THE TOP
Following a pair of wins over the Syracuse Crunch and Cleveland Monsters to close out the week, the Amerks sit just one point behind Syracuse for the AHL's North Division lead going into this weekend's final three games of the regular season. Rochester sits eight points ahead of third-place Toronto and has a 15-point lead on Cleveland, which currently has a one-point lead on Belleville for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division coming into the final week of the campaign. The Amerks have earned 50 out of a possible 72 points in their last 36 games heading and among all AHL teams, only the Charlotte Checkers (49) and Crunch (45) have more wins than the Amerks (45), who are third overall in the AHL with a .658 points percentage.
RACE TO CLAIM THE NORTH
Of the remaining three games for the Amerks, who are second in the North Division, two are outside the Flower City with all three coming over a stretch of three games in three nights to conclude the regular season. Rochester will play all three contests against North Division opponents, including one final get-together against Syracuse. Should the Amerks finish in first, it'll be the team's first North Division title since 2004-05.
AMERKS ARE PLAYOFF BOUND AND ON HOME ICE IN FIRST ROUND
The Amerks officially punched their ticket into the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs, marking the 46th time in the 63-year history of the franchise that the Amerks have advanced to the postseason. It's also the sixth time in 10 years Rochester has qualified for the playoffs, clinching on the road by way of a 6-4 win over the Binghamton Devils on March 30. With a 2-1 win over Cleveland on Monday, the Amerks are now guaranteed at least a second-place finish or better in the American Hockey League's North Division, securing home ice for the best-of-five first-round series of the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Of Rochester's 45 wins this season, eight have been when the club has trailed after 40 minutes of play, which are most in the AHL. Four of the come-from-behind victories have been when facing a multi-goal deficit, including three separate three-goal third-periods. The Amerks have the most shots in the AHL in each of the second (832) and third periods (784) in the league while the club has the most goals in the final 20 minutes of regulation (88) and second-most in the middle stanza (85).
SHARING THE WEALTH
After failing to produce a 20-goal scorer last season for just the second time in franchise history, the Amerks will have six different players to have reached the mark by the season's end, something Rochester hasn't done since the 1996-97 campaign. Wayne Simpson scored twice on Saturday to become the latest to join the 20-goal club, joining Zach Redmond, who became the first defenseman in team history to score 20 goals in a season, and fellow forwards Victor Olofsson, C.J. Smith, Taylor Leier, and Danny O'Regan. The Amerks are the only team in the AHL with six different 20-goal scorers this season. Rochester's well-balanced offense has also produced three 50-point getters so far in 2018-19 in Olofsson (60), Smith (58) and Redmond (50) while O'Regan (46) is also the verge coming into the first weekend of April. The last time the Amerks had three 50-point getters came during the 2009-10 season, which included Jamie Johnson (27+44), Clay Wilson (14+46) and current head coach Chris Taylor (17+44).
OLOFSSON LEADING THE WAY
After returning from his first-career recall to the Buffalo Sabres Monday afternoon, Victor Olofsson continues to lead the Amerks in both assists (33) and points (60) while scoring 27 goals for the second straight year through 64 games this season. Olofsson, who earned CCM/AHL Player of the Month honors for October, is currently tied for 14th in the AHL in overall scoring while ranking 16th among the league's top goal-scorers. Additionally, he ranks among the league leaders with 15 power-play assists while his nine game-winning goals, three of which have come in his last 12 games, are also tied for most in the AHL.
CAREER-YEAR FOR C.J.
C.J. Smith has been piling up the points on an absolute torrid pace. With his team-leading 28th goal of the season Saturday night, the second-year pro has amassed a whopping 41 points (22+19) over his last 39 games dating back to Dec. 5, having been held scoreless just 10 times over that span. He also posted a season-long nine-game point streak in that time. Smith is eyeing the 60-point plateau for the first time in his career and has already established career-highs in goals (28), assists (30) and points (58). He also holds the team lead with a plus-29 on-ice rating, which is tied for seven-best in the league, in 60 games while playing at nearly a point-per-game pace for the better part of the last three months for Rochester.
With 28 and 27 goals each on the season respectively, forwards C.J. Smith and Victor Olofsson are well on their way to becoming the first set of Amerks to score 30 in the same season since Thomas Vanek (42) and Jason Pominville (30) both reached the mark during the 2004-05 campaign when Rochester finished the year with an AHL-best 51-19-6-4 record, winning the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as regular-season champions. The Amerks would set several single-season franchise records for the most points (112) and the longest home winning streak which saw Rochester win 17 consecutive home games between Dec. 17 and Mar. 4 while Vanek would go on to tie the single-season franchise marks for most goals by a rookie (42) and most power-play goals (25).
CAREER-YEAR CONTINUES FOR REDMOND
With 20 points (5+15) over his last 19 games, which includes six multi-point efforts during that span, Redmond has scored a career-high 21 goals through 56 games, including 10 on the power-play, good enough for 13th in the league in that category. Redmond, who is currently averaging just under a point-per-game and had an AHL-best nine-game point streak to end the month of October, reached the 50-point mark for the first time in his pro career with an assist Saturday in Syracuse. He ranks second among all AHL defensemen with 50 points while his franchise-record 21 goals and 196 shots are the most by an AHL blueliner this season. His nine game-winning tallies are tops in the AHL.
A WEDGE-WALL BETWEEN THE PIPES
Scott Wedgewood, who has won 10 of his last 16 games, boasts a career-best 28-13-2 record in 47 appearances this season. In addition to his 28 wins, which are five off the league lead coming into week, the sixth-netminder has posted a career-best five shutouts, which are second-most in the AHL. Wedgewood, who previously won a season-long five straight to close out the month of October, also ranks eighth among all goaltenders in saves (1,167) while his 2.67 goals-against average and .908 save percentage are just inside the top 20 in the AHL, respectively. He's the first Amerks netminder to post five shutouts in a season since Ryan Miller had eight in 2004-05 and remains on pace to become the first goaltender to reach 30 wins in a season since former two-time MVP David Leggio posted 38 victories during the 2012-13 campaign.
At 24-8-3-1, Rochester has the best road record in the AHL along with the most regulation wins away from home with 24. The Amerks also have the fewest regulation road losses in the AHL this season with eight, having collected at least one point in 28 of their 36 contests away from The Blue Cross Arena. Coming into the week, the Amerks have won five straight and 10 of the last 12 away from the Flower City.
FAN APPRECIATION NIGHT
Fan Appreciation Night presented by UR Medicine Sports Medicine is set for Friday night during the team's regular-season home finale versus the Binghamton Devils. The Amerks Team Store presented by ADPRO Sports will be offering a store-wide 30% discount for all items on entire in-store purchases. Fans can take advantage of this special offer beginning at 11:00 a.m. through the end of the game. All tickets to the game are just $18 for best-available seating with $10 tickets available for kids 12 and under. Prior to the game, the 2018-19 Team Awards will be presented, including the Most Valuable Player, Most Improved Player, Rob Zabelny Unsung Hero and the Fairand O'Neil Sportsmanship Award, while the Amerks Booster Club Awards, such as Rookie of the Year and Most Popular Player, will also be announced.
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