Saturday, April 17, 2010

Amerks Try to Even Series at Home in Game 2

Tonight, the Rochester Americans remain home for Game 2 of their 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs North Division semifinals with the Abbotsford Heat. The 7:05 p.m. matchup will be broadcast live on SportsRadio 1280 WHTK and FM 107.3, Rochester’s Sports Talk. Fans can also tune in to watch live on Time Warner Cable SportsNet Channel 26. The Heat currently lead the best-of-seven series 1-0 following their 3-2 win Thursday night in Game 1.

The playoff series marks the Amerks’ return to the postseason for the first time in three years and the 40th playoff appearance overall in the 54-year history of the franchise. Rochester has been a part of 77 playoff series over the years, in which it compiled a 205-182 record in 387 games during that time. Rochester finished its season series with Abbotsford with a 1-3-0-0 record, including back-to-back losses at home against the Heat.

The 2009-10 regular season saw four different Amerks players reach the 20-goal plateau, a feat that was last accomplished by the 1996-97 team. Veteran forward Jeff Taffe finished with a team and career-high 28 goals, while team MVP Jamie Johnson came in a close second with 27. Second-year forward Michal Repik potted 22 goals for his first 20-goal campaign and two-time Calder Cup champ Graham Mink netted his 20th in the last game of the season.
Following his 71-point season, Johnson became the first player to reach the 70-point benchmark since Chris Taylor last accomplished the feat during the 2004-05 campaign.

The Amerks come into Game 2 looking to even things up at one game apiece before journeying cross-country for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) in Abbotsford. Veteran forward Mike York (1+1) and Mink (0+2) each collected two points in Rochester’s Game 1 loss, while goaltenders Alexander Salak and Tyler Plante combined for 26 saves. Plante stopped all 20 shots he faced in relief effort. Both of Mink’s assists came on the power-play, where he is presently tied for first. Defenseman Jordan Henry, coming off his most productive season in his three-year pro career, continued to showcase his offensive side with a power-play goal Thursday night. Defenseman Keith Seabrook led the Heat with a pair of goals, including the eventual game-winner on the power-play, to help his team take Game 1 and a 1-0 lead in the series. Seabrook, a rookie who hadn’t registered a single multiple-goal game during the entire regular season, currently sits second among league defenseman in scoring in the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs. He also already ranks second in goals scored for the postseason. Staffan Kronwall notched two assists in Game 1, good enough for fourth in that category. Former Amerks netminder David Shantz earned his first win of the postseason, stopping 30 of 32 shots for his first AHL playoff victory.

Rochester saw several of its team members officially make their American Hockey League playoff debuts in Game 1 Thursday night, including Head Coach Benoit Groulx, while others entered the postseason for the first time in an Amerk uniform. Groulx led his team to a 44-33-2-1 record (91 points), a 25-point spike from last season, and his offense was the second best in the North Division, scoring a total of 253 goals. In fact, no current member of the Amerks active roster was on the 2006-07 team that played in the 2007 Calder Cup Playoffs. Johnson led the way offensively with a team-high 71 points and was one of just two skaters to play in all 80 games throughout the regular season. A three-time Amerks player of the month, Johnson performed at under a point-per-game pace, en route to earning team MVP honors and the Amerks scoring champion award. The seventh-year pro finished 12th among the AHL’s top scorers, while his 44 assists were 14th best in the league. Taffe paced Rochester’s offense with a team-high 28 goals, good enough for 14th in the AHL, and captured personal bests in that category. He also finished second among Rochester’s active roster with seven power-play goals. Veteran defenseman Clay Wilson, who made his Panthers debut this season, had the best offensive performance of his five-year professional career this season with the Amerks, one that earned him a spot on the 2009-10 AHL Second All-Star Team. Wilson captured career-highs in all offensive categories in goals (14), assists (46), points (60), penalty minutes (58) and games played (75), finishing second on the team and second among league blueliners in scoring. His 46 helpers were also a team-best. Further, he led the Amerks with 191 shots on goal and was fourth in the league with 24 power-play assists.
Salak completed his first professional season with a 29-14-0 record with a 2.89 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage in 48 games. The 2009-10 AHL All-Star finished his rookie campaign with 29 wins to finish fourth among league netminders. Salak also posted a career-best nine-game winning streak earlier in the season and was the recipient of three league awards. For his efforts, he was named the Amerks’ 2009-10 Rookie of the Year. Plante also had a banner year between the pipes for the Amerks, collecting a career-best in all goaltending categories in wins (12), saves (701), shutouts (3), goals-against average (2.66), save percentage (.914) and games played (27). He also finished 13th among league goaltenders with three shutouts and was named the AHL Goaltender of the Month for March.

Abbotsford, who finished the regular season as the third-seeded team in North Division with a 39-29-5-7 (90 points) record, earns its first trip to the postseason after only its first season as a member in the American Hockey League. Fifth-year pro Jason Jaffray led the Heat in every offensive category in goals (25), assists (29) and points (54), in addition to owning the team’s best on-ice rating with a plus-24 through 72 games. The 2010 AHL All-Star also finished the campaign first on the team and fourth in the league with four shorthanded goals. As a team, the Heat racked up a league-high 1,796 penalty minutes, including 267 from J.D. Watt, who finished the season first on the team and fourth in the league in that category. Shantz finished the season with a 15-10-4 record with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage in 32 games. His 15 wins were the most among Abbotsford’s goaltending depth chart. Second-year netminder Leland Irving saw the most time between the pipes, however, posting a 14-17-2 record with a 2.76 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.

North Division Semifinal – Series “F” (best-of-7):
N2-Rochester Americans vs. N3-Abbotsford Heat

Game 1: Thursday, April 15th at 7:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena (ABB Leads 1-0)
Game 2: Saturday, April 17th at 7:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena
Game 3: Monday, April 19th at 10:00 p.m. (EST) at Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre
Game 4: Wednesday, April 21st at 10:00 p.m. (EST) at Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre
*Game 5: Friday, April 23rd at 10:00 p.m. (EST) at Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre
*Game 6: Sunday, April 25th at 5:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena
*Game 7: Tuesday, April 27th at 7:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena

*if necessary

Story Courtesy of the Rochester Americans