On the Farm: Amerks Playoff Bound for the 4th Straight Season

Month in Review

After stringing together a previous ten game record of 7-0-2-1, the Rochester Americans find themselves secured into a playoff spot for the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs. This is the fourth straight time the Amerks have qualified for the post season.

The Amerks’ record of 35-25-6-3 puts the team in second place in the North Division with 79 points. Toronto continues to dominate with 88 points after 69 games played. 

The rest of the division is tight with nine points separating the remaining playoff teams. Syracuse has also clinched a spot and holds third in the division. The Utica Comets struggled in the month of March and fell to fourth in the division, two points behind the Crunch.

The Amerks success in March came from wins against divisional opponents, both inside the Blue Cross Arena, and on the road. The team has also forced plenty of games into overtime to at least get a point out of the contest. The Amerks have gotten a point out of their previous ten games, which dates to a 2-1 loss versus the Hershey Bears on Saturday, March 18.

In the beginning of April, Rochester tallied points in all their first four contests taking seven out of eight points. All these games were either against Utica or Syracuse which helped the Amerks surpass both teams in the division standings. Rochester’s 5-1 win in Utica came with five straight unanswered goals. Isak Rosen scored twice in the victory and had a season high seven shots on goal. Chris Jandric recorded an assist in his professional debut. 

Powerplay: The Amerks ranked 12th across the league when on the man advantage with a powerplay efficiency percentage of 20.9%. The team has scored 52 powerplay goals in 249 attempts all season. Rookie Jiri Kulich and veteran Brett Murray lead the team in man advantage goals with eight per player.

Penalty Kill: The penalty killing units have done a solid job of moving up the rankings after a brutal start in the first half of the season. The team ranks 14th across the AHL with an efficiency percentage of 81.8% while only allowing 40 goals when a man down. Defenseman Jeremy Davies continues to lead the team in penalty minutes with 90 after 63 games played.

Leading the Way

  1. Lukas Rousek – GP 68, 15 G, 40 A, 55 PTS

Lukas Rousek hops to the top of the points lead for the team after 68 games played. The forward’s 40 assists lead the team. On March 28th, Rousek was called up to the NHL for the first time to fill in for the injured Tage Thompson.  Rousek would go on and score on his first shift of the game in his NHL debut. He would later get credit with an assist for a multi-point effort. Rousek would later join the Amerks and in his previous five games played has four assists. The winger is projected to finish with 58 points ahead of the playoffs.

  1. Brandon Biro – GP 49, 16 G, 35 A, 51 PTS

Brandon Biro continues to be an offensive weapon for Rochester’s coaching staff. After 49 games played, Biro is still over a point per game with 51 points. Biro’s 16 goals and 35 assists have been the difference maker in games in the ladder part of the season. The forward returned after missing the previous eight games with an injury and tallied a goal. However, Biro will need to remain healthy heading into the playoffs. Biro did not play in the previous two games over the weekend.

  1. Brett Murray – GP 68, 22 G, 25 A, 47 PTS

Murray found himself all over the box score during the month of March. In his last 10 games, Murray is a point per game with five goals and five assists. After 68 games played, the forward has tallied 22 goals and 25 assists for 47 points, a career high while playing in the AHL. He is currently tied for first on the team in powerplay goals. The forward is projected to finish with 49 points by the end of the campaign.

Rookies

  1. Jiri Kulich – GP 60, 23 G, 22 A, 45 PTS

Kulich continues to lead the Amerks rookies in points this season as the first-round draft pick has shown why the Sabres took him in last year’s draft. With 45 points this season, the forward has filled the gap of JJ Peterka and Jack Quinn after they moved up to the Buffalo roster at the start of this season. With 23 goals and eight of those on the powerplay, Kulich’s quick shot has been a threat in the offensive zone all season. In his previous 10 games, the left-handed shot has five goals and four assists. This includes a five-game point streak which saw the player with two multi-point efforts to push the Amerks offense.

  1. Isak Rosen – GP 63, 14 G, 21 A, 35 PTS

Rosen has been in Kulich’s shadow all season but the two have performed well together as linemates for the Amerks. The 2021 draft pick has 35 points after 63 games played. With his big game against the Utica Comets, Rosen has tallied four goals and one assist in his last 10 games. 

  1. Filip Cederqvist – GP 52, 5 G, 11 A, 16 PTS

Filip Cederqvist has been on and off the box score over the past few months. The forward registered three points in his previous 10 games with a goal against Syracuse in the April 7th contest. The depth forward has a -1 plus/minus rating, the best of any rookie on the Amerks roster this season. 

  1. Tyson Kozak – GP 55, 5 G, 5 A, 10 PTS

Tyson Kozak has started to make an impact with his physicality and grit as of late. On April 1st, Kozak threw some punches in a fight against Tyce Thompson and scored a goal in the Amerks 4-2 victory in the Blue Cross Arena. Kozak has continued to make an impact on the defensive side of the puck, something that goes unnoticed when reading the stat sheet on a nightly basis. However, Kozak has not seen the lineup since that game versus the Comets and has missed the past three games.

  1. Aleksandr Kisakov – GP 46, 6 G, 2 A, 8 PTS

Aleksandr Kisakov is another player that is making an impact off the stat sheet for Rochester. With eight points in 46 games played, Kisakov is not the best in terms of offensive production. But when in the lineup, the player rarely is on the ice for a defensive breakdown that leads to an opponent’s goal. In the April 1st contest, the rookie had one tally for the first time since January 27th.

Goaltending

  1. Michael Houser – GP 20, 2.74 GAA, .908 SV%, 9-7-2

With no signs of Devon Levi heading to the AHL, Michael Houser and Malcolm Subban will be left to man the pipes for the Amerks heading into the playoffs. Houser has elevated his game since the last time I wrote on this team, with stellar performances against divisional opponents. This includes a shutout victory on March 25th against Utica with 21 saves and again on April 8th allowing just one goal to the same team.

Houser is a goaltender with experience in the post season which includes last year’s magical run for the Amerks after he backed up Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. His long tenure in the AHL will help Subban’s game later this month. Expect Houser to get a few starts here and there heading into the opening round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

  1. Malcolm Subban – GP 37, 2.91 GAA, .905 SV%, 19-13-5

Malcolm Subban has played 37 games this season for the Amerks in between the pipes, the most in his six years in the AHL. The goaltender posts a 2.91 goals against average and a .905 save percentage. In his previous seven games, the netminder has not given up more than three goals to opponents which matches up well with the Amerks who average 3.26 goals per game. Subban had a 44 save performance against Syracuse on April 7th which ties his season high.

Subban has also seen plenty of games in the post season at this level with 11 games played during three post season runs with the Providence Bruins. In the playoffs, the goaltender holds a 2.21 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. Overall, Subban is 3-5 during the playoffs when being the starter, a record that could improve this year.

Calder Cup Playoffs Clinched:

Once again, the Rochester Americans will play in the post season. Rochester has qualified for the Calder Cup playoffs 47 times in the last 66 years. Last season, the team made it to the North Division finals, and lost to the Laval Rocket in a best of five series.

This season, the Amerks look to make another run at the Calder Cup which Rochester has won six times. The first came in the 1964-65 season with a 4-1 series win over the Hershey Bears. The last was won by the 1995-96 squad who was coached by John Tortorella. 

For now, the Amerks are slotted into the second seed in the North Division. This would mean Rochester would play Syracuse, the third seed, in the division semifinals. The best of five series would take place after the first round that would see Utica taking on Laval. The winner would face off against Toronto who has clinched the North Division.

Looking Ahead:

The Amerks close out the regular season with a three-game weekend all against division opponents. However, their two opponents are the two worst teams in the division and the only teams missing the playoffs.

The weekend kicks off with a Friday, April 14th matchup against Belleville who hold the last spot in the division with 68 points. The Senators lead the season series between the two teams 4-3 after 5-1 victory on Wednesday, January 4th. This win snapped the Amerks six-game win streak as Linus Weissbach was the only goal scorer for Rochester that evening.

On Saturday, Rochester hosts the Cleveland Monsters on Fan Appreciation Night in the Blue Cross Arena. The Amerks fell to Cleveland in overtime on Wednesday, March 29th, the last time these two teams played each other.

The next day, the team will head on the road for the last time in the regular season to play the Monsters. The afternoon puck drop, and the rest of the season will be crucial to decide whether or not the Amerks stay in second place heading into the Calder Cup Playoffs.  

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