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Amerks, Heat Set For Game Seven

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Rochester Americans vs. Abbotsford Heat

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 @ The Blue Cross Arena, AHL North Division Semifinals Game 7
Game Notes: Tonight, the Rochester Americans and Abbotsford Heat take their 3-3 series into decisive Game 7, where the winner of the best-of-seven North Division semifinal will meet the Hamilton Bulldogs in the second round of the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs. The 7:05 p.m. matchup will be broadcast live on SportsRadio 1280 WHTK and FM 107.3, Rochester’s Sports Talk. The contest will also be televised live on Time Warner Cable SportsNet Channel 26.

Through The Years: With a win this evening, Rochester can clinch the series and advance to the second round (North Division Finals) of the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 postseason. The contest will mark the first Game 7 in Rochester since May 14, 1997 when the Amerks dropped the final game in a 6-2 loss to the Albany River Rats in the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. The 1983 playoffs was the only one other time in the 54-year history of the franchise that the Amerks jumped out to a 3-1 series lead and then pushed to Game 7 at home. Rochester edged the New Haven Nighthawks 4-2 in the final game of the semifinals before sweeping the Maine Mariners in four straight to win the cup.

Head-To-Head: Rochester finished its regular season series with Abbotsford with a 1-3-0-0 record, including back-to-back losses at home against the Heat. In the postseason, however, the Amerks have won three of their last five, including two on the road, after falling in the first game of the seven-game series.

By The Numbers: Scoring the first goal in five of the six games this series, Abbotsford has outscored Rochester 11-4 in the first periods of each game throughout the series. Conversely, however, the Amerks have dominated play during the second periods, outscoring the Heat by a 12-2 margin. Ironically enough, the teams are more balanced in the final frames, with Rochester owning a 6-4 goal differential.
 
Series Notes: The Amerks come into Game 7 with one of the most potent offenses in the AHL this postseason, one that has scored an AHL second-best 22 goals through the first five games. In just the past three games alone, Rochester has accounted for 16 goals, outscoring Abbotsford 16-13 in that time and 22-17 throughout the series. Jamie Johnson scored Rochester’s lone goal in its Game 6 loss as forwards Jeff Taffe and Shawn Matthias each saw their four-game point streaks come to a halt. Tyler Plante, who has started the last five games for the Amerks, earned back-to-back losses for the first time this postseason as he and Alexander Salak combined for 36 saves in the losing effort.

Currently in the midst of the AHL’s second longest point streak this postseason, Mike York boasts a team-high 12 points (2+10) and has been on the scoresheet in each of the first six games of the series. Averaging exactly 2.00 points per game, York is currently tied for second in playoff scoring with Hershey’s Andrew Gordon. A veteran of 579 NHL games, York also leads the league with 10 assists, six of which have come on the power-play, also a league best. Defenseman Jordan Henry, who has four goals in his last six games, paces the team in that category and also ranks second in the league in power-play goals with three. His four tallies are also the fourth most among the AHL’s top scorers. Fellow defenseman Jason Garrison, who has points in five of his last six outings, continues to lead all league blueliners in scoring with nine points (2+7). Further, the second-year pro ranks third and fifth overall in postseason assists and points, respectively. Forwards Steve MacIntyre and Graham Mink share the team lead with 23 penalty minutes apiece, good enough for third overall in the AHL. Plante, who shows a 3-2 record this postseason, presently ranks third and fifth among AHL netminders with a .931 save percentage and a 2.50 goals-against average, respectively. His three wins are seventh best. As a team, Rochester owns an AHL-best 33.3 power-play percentage, having converted on 10 of its 30 man-up opportunities.

Similar to as it did in the regular season, Abbotsford owns a league-high 191 penalty minutes in the postseason. Heat forward Garth Murray and defenseman Keith Seabrook are first and second on the team with 30 and 24 penalty minutes, respectively. The duo also holds the first and second league rankings in the same category. Third-year forward Brett Sutter paces Abbotsford with a team-high seven points, while his five assists are equal to that of rookie Mikael Backlund for the team lead. Backlund is one of three first-year players to be among the top five point-getters for the Heat. Jon Rheault enters the matchup coming off his three-goal performance in Game 6 Sunday. His offensive outburst propelled him into the team lead in that category and second among the league’s top goal scorers. Rheault also currently sits as the AHL’s fourth most productive rookie this postseason with six points (5+1). Ex-Amerk goaltender David Shantz has started every game this series between the pipes in the playoffs, sporting a 3-2-0 record with a 3.30 goals-against average and a .864 save percentage.

Regular Season Notes
Amerks Notes: 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.

Rochester saw several of its team members officially make their American Hockey League playoff debuts in Game 1 last week, 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. Following his 71-point season, Johnson became the first player to reach the 70-point plateau since Chris Taylor last accomplished the feat during the 2004-05 campaign.
 
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.

Alexander 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 Notes: Abbotsford, who finished the regular season as the third-seeded team in the 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 (Series Tied 1-1)
Game 3: Monday, April 19th at 10:00 p.m. (EST) at Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre (RCH Leads 2-1)
Game 4: Wednesday, April 21st at 10:00 p.m. (EST) at Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre (RCH Leads 3-1)
Game 5: Friday, April 23rd at 10:00 p.m. (EST) at Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre (RCH Leads 3-2)
Game 6: Sunday, April 25th at 5:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena (Series Tied 3-3)
Game 7: Tuesday, April 27th at 7:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena
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