From Dick Gamble to Cal O'Reilly, the Rochester Americans will celebrate 60 years of excellence on Friday at Blue Cross Arena. Gamble, Jody Gage, John Van Boxmeer and more than 30 other alumni will be on hand as O'Reilly and the Amerks take on the Hershey Bears at 7:05 p.m.
The game will mark the 450th all-time meeting between Rochester and Hershey, the two longest tenured teams in the American Hockey League. The Amerks beat the Bears four games to one to capture their first Calder Cup in 1965.
In addition to the dozens of legends that will be in attendance, the Amerks might have a pair of guests on the ice as well. Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner and defenseman Mark Pysyk are both scheduled for condition assignments in Rochester as they recover from lower-body injuries.
Rochester will look to utilize their help in getting back on track after a pair of road losses last weekend. The Amerks won a 3-2 thriller in a shootout against the St. John's IceCaps on First Niagara Center last Wednesday but followed it with losses at Bridgeport and Providence on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Williamsville native Justin Bailey said before the game on Wednesday that he expected the Amerks' annual contest on the Sabres' home ice to be quite the special homecoming for him. He made sure of that, scoring one of three Rochester goals in the shootout to help claim the victory over St. John's.
Jerome Leduc and Brady Austin both scored in regulation while Jason Akeson and Cal O'Reilly also added shootout goals against the IceCaps. Nathan Lieuwen made 25 saves for Rochester in the winning effort.
Leduc opened the scoring with the Amerks on the power play 7:07 into the first period with a wrister that beat IceCaps goaltender Dustin Tokarski from just inside the blue line. The two teams exchanged goals at the beginning of the second, with Gabriel Dumont scoring for St. John's 21 seconds in and Austin regaining the lead 1:21 later, but the IceCaps scored again before period's end to force a 2-2 tie that stood for the remainder of regulation.
Rochester was a perfect 3-for-3 in the shootout.
"Any time you can contribute whether it's a shootout, regular play or whatever really, it's always nice," Bailey said afterward. "Being in Buffalo, the hype around this game for us to come into this building and play, I think it gives everybody extra motivation and incentive."
The Amerks again played to a tie at the end of regulation on Saturday in Bridgeport, but this time they didn’t make it out of overtime. Ryan Whitney scored for the Sound Tigers 38 seconds into the extra period to clinch a 4-3 win.
Bailey produced the first multi-goal outing of his professional career and Nick Baptiste also added a goal for Rochester. Lieuwen made 30 saves on 34 shots.
Both teams exploded to combine for five goals in the second period after playing to a scoreless tie in the first. Mike Halmo got the ball rolling for Bridgeport 59 seconds in, Bailey and Baptiste scored back-to-back goals in the latter half of the period to gain a 2-1 edge but the Sound Tigers scored two more of the final three minutes.
Bailey netted his second of the night 4:50 into the third to tie the game at 3-3. The score stood until overtime, when Whitney roofed a puck from the right faceoff circle to earn the victory for Bridgeport.
Rochester got another two-goal performance in Providence on Sunday, this time from Leduc, but it was their only offense in the 5-2 loss. Leduc scored both of his goals in the first period after the Bruins had already gained a one-goal edge, closing the first 20 minutes with the Amerks leading 1-0.
The Bruins went on to score twice in the second and twice more in the third. Four of their five goals came on the power play and two came off the stick of Alexander Khokhlachev. The Amerks, meanwhile, were 1-for-6 with the extra man.
Andrey Makarov made 34 saves for the Amerks, who were outshot 39-29.
1. Jason Akeson 21 points (6+15)
2. Cal O'Reilly 19 points (3+16)
3. Philip Varone 14 points (9+5)
Nicholas Baptiste 14 points (6+8)
5. Justin Bailey 12 points (5+7)
Jean Dupuy 12 points (3+9)
1. Andrey Makarov 6-7-1, 3.09 GAA, 470 saves, .907 save percentage
2. Nathan Lieuwen 8-6-0, 3.10 GAA, 438 saves, .905 save percentage
Tickets for the 60th anniversary celebration on Friday can be purchased at amerks.com while best available seats can be bought with a commemorative T-shirt here for $25. The T-shirts are modeled after the red throwback jerseys the team will wear for the game against Hershey. The first 6,000 fans in attendance will also receive a commemorative poster.
There will be a special Postgame Party held after the game with the Amerks Alumni at Legends Sports Bar & Grille located inside the Radisson Hotel Rochester Riverside. The party will offer food and drink specials and is open to the public.