Coming into this week, Rochester's magic number to clinch a playoff spot for the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs is four. Of the remaining nine games, five are outside the Flower City while three will be played over the final weekend of the regular season with three games in three nights. Rochester will play eight contests against North Division opponents, which includes three more against Syracuse and two with Binghamton. Rochester is seeking its second straight playoff appearance and fifth in the last eight years since 2011.
VIEW NEAR THE TOP
Following a pair of wins against the defending Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies to close out the weekend, the Amerks sit just three points behind the Syracuse Crunch for the AHL's North Division lead. Rochester currently sits six points ahead of third-place Toronto and have a 13-point lead on both Belleville and Cleveland, who are in a two-way tie for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division coming into the week. The Amerks have earned 41 out of a possible 60 points in their last 30 games following the weekend sweep of the defending Calder Cup champion Marlies. Among all AHL teams, only the Charlotte Checkers (44) and Crunch (42) have more wins than the Amerks (41), who are third overall in the AHL with a .649 points percentage.
Down 4-1 less than a minute into the third period of Sunday's game in Toronto, the Amerks scored three straight goals over the final 13:53 of regulation to overcome the three-goal deficit, including one with 22 seconds remaining to force overtime, before Danny O'Regan delivered the game-winner just 17 seconds into the extra session to cap a thrilling comeback win over the Marlies. It was the third come-from-behind win this season for the Amerks, who also rallied from being down 3-0 for a 4-3 overtime win in Utica on Feb. 22 and used a three-goal third period in Hartford on Nov. 18 to earn a 4-3 road win over the Wolf Pack.
TAYLOR JOINS ELITE COMPANY...AGAIN
By way of last Saturday's 5-2 victory over the Marlies, which snapped a three-game losing skid, Rochester became the third different AHL team this season to reach the 40-win mark. Amerks head coach Chris Taylor also became the first bench boss to lead his team to the 40-win mark since Benoit Groulx (44) in the 2009-10 season. Earlier this season, Taylor reached the 30-win mark for the second straight year, becoming the first Amerks head coach to lead his team to 30 or more wins in each of his first two seasons behind the bench since Hall of Famer Randy Cunneyworth, the all-time winningest coach in franchise history.
SHARING THE WEALTH
After failing to produce a 20-goal scorer last season for just the second time in franchise history, the Amerks could potentially have five or more by the season's end. Defenseman Zach Redmond and forward Victor Olofsson and C.J. Smith all have reached the mark while Wayne Simpson, Taylor Leier and Danny O'Regan are all on the brink having scored 19 goals this season coming into the last week of March. The last time the Amerks had five 20-goal scorers in the same season was in 2000-01, which included head coach Chris Taylor. Rochester's well-balanced offense has already produced two 50-point getters so far in 2018-19 in Olofsson (60) and Smith (54) with two more on the verge as Redmond has a career-high 49 points and O'Regan has 45 coming into this weekend's slate of games.
OLOFSSON LEADING THE WAY
On the heels of his team-leading 16th multi-point game and first-career four-assist effort on Sunday night in Toronto, Olofsson continues to lead the club in all offensive categories, including goals (27), assists (33) and points (60) through 64 games this season. A year after pacing the SHL with 27 goals, Olofsson is on pace to become the first Amerk to score 30 goals since Thomas Vanek (42) and Jason Pominville (30) both reached the mark during the 2004-05 campaign. Olofsson, who earned CCM/AHL Player of the Month honors for October, is currently tied for fifth in the AHL in points while also sharing the ninth spot
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 with teammate Zach Redmond 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 fifth goal in his last seven games, the second-year pro has amassed a whopping 37 points (19+18) over his last 33 games dating back to Dec. 5, having been held scoreless just seven 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 he has already established career-highs in goals (25), assists (29) and points (54). He also shares of the team-lead with a plus-21 on-ice rating in 54 games.
With 19 points (5+14) over his last 16 games, which includes six multi-point efforts during that span, Redmond has scored a career-high 21 goals through 53 games, including 10 on the power-play, good enough for 11th 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, ranks second among all AHL defensemen with 49 points while his 21 goals and 186 shots are the most by an AHL blueliner this season. In addition to nearing the first 50-point season of his career, his nine game-winning goals are tied with Olofsson for tops in the AHL.
A WEDGE-WALL BETWEEN THE PIPES
Scott Wedgewood, who has won eight of his last 12 games, owns a career-best 26-12-2 record in 43 games this season with the Amerks. In addition to his 26 wins, which are five off the league lead coming into the week, the sixth-netminder has posted a career-best five shutouts, which are tied for third-most in the AHL. Wedgewood, who previously won a season-long five straight to close out the month of October, has allowed two goals-against or less in 10 of his last 17 starts, stopping 406 of 439 shots he faced. Over that span, he boasts an 9-6-1 record with a 1.99 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. He also ranks sixth in saves (1,082), 15th with a 2.56 goals-against average and 17th with a .912 save percentage. He's also on pace to become the first Amerks netminder to reach 30 wins in a season since David Leggio posted 38 victories during the 2012-13 campaign.
At 21-8-3-1, Rochester has the best road record in the AHL and have the most regulation wins away from home with 21. The Amerks also have the fewest regulation road losses in the AHL this season with eight, having collected at least one point in 25 of their 33 contests away from The Blue Cross Arena. Coming into the week, the Amerks have won 15 of their last 23 road contests and seven of the last nine.
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