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The Rochester Report
Amerks react to upcoming NHL trading deadline
ROCHESTER (LGS) — As the February 27th NHL trading deadline approaches, many on the Rochester Americans aren’t too worried that they’ll be headed out of town as part of a deal to strengthen the lineups of their respective parent clubs.

“It’s always in the back of your head,” said Mark Mancari as the deadline approaches. “I haven’t heard anything. Obviously they’re going to do what’s best for the team.”

Amerks rookie Dylan Hunter has a unique perspective on the issue as he saw his father traded from Washington to Colorado at the trading deadline in 2000.

“We were anxious for about two weeks” said Hunter about the time leading up to the deadline. “It was exciting that he was traded to a contender like Colorado.

“It was a little scary having Dad leave home, but it worked out well for him.”

When asked if he thought of the possibility of being part of a package of prospects to bring in a veteran to help the Sabres stretch run, Hunter said he really wasn’t thinking about it.

“It’s not even in the back of my mind. I try to come out and play as hard as I can. Either way, someone wants you. If you don’t get traded that means you’re doing the right things as far as the organization is concerned. If you wind up getting traded that means you’ve impressed someone else.”

While trades can often times improve the on ice aspect, it can sometimes break a team apart.

“Teams trading for stretch run help should look at character, as much as playing ability, to avoid raising team chemistry issues,” says longtime Western New York hockey observer Warren Kozireski.

 “You deal with it the best you can,” Amerk captain Brandon Smith said. “You hope any deal would be good for the team, and try to welcome the new guys as well as you can.”

These are sentiments that Amerks head coach Randy Cunneyworth stressed as well.

“It has to play into the plan. If you bring in a guy who is an awesome player, but is a guy who destroys the room it is not worth it. You can’t bring in a chemistry killer.”

Cunneyworth speaks from experience. As one of the most respected players in the National Hockey League, ‘Cunney’ was part of two deals that sent him from teams on the outside looking in, to a playoff contender.

“It’s a great feeling. You’re on a team that is destined to miss the playoffs, to a team that has potential to make it. It’s an honor to play in the NHL playoffs.

The Week That Was:

Every night on the Petros and Money Show, hosts Petros Papadakis and Matt “Money’ Smith have a segment called “The Word of The Day.” In the segment, Matt will give a vocabulary word and then use it in reference to something that happened in the world of sports. This week, LGS is going to ‘bite’ off of KLAC’s afternoon drive show segment and use it to suit our agenda.

The word of the week for the Amerks is perseverance. Per•se•ver•ance is a noun, and is defined as the steady, persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

The recent injury binge that has occurred in Buffalo has forced the Amerks to persevere. Seeing Ales Kotalik (knee), Max Afinogenov (wrist), Jiri Novotny (ankle), and Daniel Paille (finger) all land on the Injured Reserve list, the Amerks saw the taillights on the vehicles of Clarke MacArthur (59 points), Drew Stafford (44 pts), Michael Ryan (41 pts), and Patrick Kaleta (87 PIMS) as they made their way West on 90.

One could say that missing three of your top four scorers would definitely be considered a ‘difficulty’ or an ‘obstacle.’ Yet, despite these obstacles, the Amerks persevered and won 2 of 4 contests during the week.

One of those wins came against a high flying Manchester Monarchs team that had won 12 straight heading into their match up against Rochester.

Manchester jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Lauri Tukonen opened the scoring at 8:51 of the first.

Rochester wasted little time jumping back into the contest as Janis Sprukts scored 10 minutes later on the power play. His tally was assisted by Marek Zagrapan and Dylan Hunter.

The Amerks took the lead for the first time when Mark Mancari notched his 16th goal of the year after a Manchester player fell to the ice behind his own net.

Manchester rallied to tie the game with 4:31 left in the second.

That set the stage for Rob Globke to be the hero for the Amerks. After hearing head coach Randy Cunneyworth preach the importance of getting to the front of the net, Globke parked himself there and put a shot between All-Star goalie Jason LaBarbera’s legs.

The tally proved to be the winning margin.

Craig Anderson played exceptionally well in net for Rochester, making 24 saves on the night.

Saturday night saw the Amerks travel East on the Thruway to face their bitter, long-time rival Syracuse Crunch.

After seeing his teammates MacArthur and Stafford called up to Buffalo instead of him, Michael Ryan couldn’t be blamed for wondering what his spot in the future of the organization was. Instead of becoming bitter about being passed over, Ryan took his frustrations out on the Crunch.

Ryan scored two goals in the first, another in the second and added an assist in the third to pace the Amerks to a 5-2 victory in front of 5,863 fans at the Onondaga County War Memorial at the Oncenter.

Also scoring goals for the Amerks were Janis Sprukts and Patrick Kaleta.

Sprukts had a three point night (1g, 2a) and Andrej Sekera pitched in the offensive effort with two assists.

Craig Anderson picked up the win in net for Rochester again, as he stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced on the night.

Rochester finished the night 2 for 5 on the power play.

Sunday night the Amerks returned to the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial to face the Manitoba Moose. If playing three games in three nights was hard enough, the Amerks played their third game in as many nights without the man who scored three goals the night before.

Yes, Michael Ryan was summoned from Rochester on Sunday morning. While no one wearing an Amerks uniform would say they lost because they were without him in the lineup, it certainly didn’t help as Manitoba white-washed the Amerks 3-0.

Jesse Shultz potted two goals for Manitoba and Jason Jaffray added the game winner, while Wade Flatherty continued his goaltending dominance over the Amerks in the win.

Jaffray opened the scoring 10:12 into the first. Rochester’s Martin Lojek inadvertently created a 2 on 1 opportunity for the Moose and Jaffray converted the chance.

Shultz extended the lead with just :63 left in the first when his 2 on 1 wrist shot beat Rochester goaltender Craig Anderson to the far left post.

“I liked our opportunities,” Cunneyworth said following the loss. “We just couldn’t finish.”

When told that one observer in the press box joked during the game that if Flaherty played every game the way he does against Rochester he’d be in the Hall-of-Fame, Cunneyworth echoed similar sentiments.

“He’s a veteran who knows how to play his position. We try to get him to move from post to post, but he is always up to the task.”

Shultz added an empty net goal with :55 remaining in the third to provide the winning margin.

If fans of the Amerks were concerned about their lack of fire power after Sunday night’s game, Wednesday night did nothing to calm their minds. Rochester was shut out for the second consecutive game, losing to the San Antonio Rampage 2-0 in front of 6,028 fans at the Blue Cross Arena.

Bryan Helmer put the Rampage on the board with :15 left in the first stanza. Working from the hall wall on the left wing side, Helmer fired a wrist shot high to Amerk goalie Adam Dennis’ glove side for the 1-0 lead.

“It was a bit of miss-coverage,” Amerk coach Randy Cunneyworth said in his post game press conference. “Stewie (Anthony Stewart) backed up Lojek, which left him out of position. Someone should have covered for him up high.”

The second San Antonio goal was a little more controversial. Chris Ferraro put a puck on Dennis that appeared to cross the goal line when it originally happened. Despite the fact that Dennis was blocking his view of the puck and the goal line the goal judge turned on the goal light. Replay’s of the shot showed the puck on its side on the goal line, but did not show whether or not the puck crossed the line.

Despite the controversy, play continued and Rochester was in a 2-0 hole. With their depleted lineup and lack of scoring ability in recent games, it might as well have been an 8-0 deficit.

When asked if he was concerned with their scoring in recent games, coach Cunneyworth pulled no punches.

“We have to get to work. We need guys to get in front of the net, and stay there. It seems as if guys are going to the net and then dancing out of there.

“We need to get more pucks through. We’re winning (offensive zone) face offs, but we’re dumping the puck around the wall rather than on net.”

“I thought we did a better job of creating chances tonight,” Mark Mancari said. “Certainly it’s something that we have to work on, and we’ll get the chance starting tomorrow in practice.”

The Amerks return to the ice on Friday night when the Manitoba Moose return to Rochester for a 7:35 face off.

Three Stars on the Weekend:
1. Michael Ryan – 3 goals and an assist before he was called up
2. Craig Anderson – 2 wins in 3 games before he was called up to Florida on February, 19.
3. Janis Sprukts – 1 goal and 2 assists versus Syracuse

Wrist Shots From Around the AHL and the Amerks Locker Room:

► The Amerks continued their longest scoring drought of the year during Wednesday nights’ loss to the Rampage to 120:18 with their second consecutive shutout. The last Amerk to hit the twine was Patrick Kaleta, who scored an empty net goal against Syracuse on Saturday. The previous longest scoreless stretch for the Amerks came from February 2-7 when they were shut out for 101:22.

► After Daniel Paille became the latest Sabre to be felled by injury, many thought that Mark Mancari would be the next in line for a call up to the NHL. However, that call went to Angola native Patrick Kaleta. When asked if he was disappointed in not getting the call Mancari spoke candidly. “Certainly I’m disappointed,” the 6’ 4” forward / defensemen said. “It’s in the back of my mind, but I just do the best I can and worry about what’s going on here. They (Buffalo) have to do what’s best for them, and they make the calls. I’m a Rochester American right now and I just have to worry about what’s going on here.”

► For the 17th year in a row, the Amerks held their “Amerks at your service dinner” to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis foundations. This year’s dinner was another success as the Amerks raised over $53,000 for the cause. Every year the Amerks dress up in tuxes and serve tables and accept tips, or bribes, to sing fight songs, perform skits, or sing a favorite song of theirs. In addition to the dinner there is a silent auction in which donated items are raffled off. Among this years’ main attractions were a Steve Yzerman jersey and 1980 U.S. “Miracle on Ice” memorabilia.

► Binghamton Senator’s forward Ryan Vesce is on a tear when it comes to scoring shootout goals this season. Vesce has netted 8 goals in 12 attempts for the B-Sens. It’s quite an improvement from last year when the Cornell grad was just 2 of 6.

► The AHL announced that the Clear Day deadline is March 1. Teams must submit to the league a roster of 22 players by 3:00pm Eastern on that day. Only the players on that roster will be eligible to play in regular season games and any possible post season contests, unless of an emergency recall, injury or suspension. Teams may also add signed junior players and players who sign amateur tryout contracts, but only once their junior or college seasons are over. This could turn out to be interesting for the Amerks as their roster currently stands at 19 players (17 skaters and 2 goalies). If Stafford, MacArthur, Paille, and Ryan are still in Buffalo would the Amerks put them on their Clear Day roster, or leave them off? Doing so would make them ineligible for the playoff run in Rochester. One would think that they would be included on the Clear Day roster, assuming that Maxim Afinogenov, Ales Kotalik, Tim Connelly, and Jiri Novotny are ready to play in the playoffs.

By Stephen Sickles, LGS Columnist
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