The Rochester Americans are tied for first in the North Division and first in the AHL after opening the season with back-to-back wins over the Syracuse Crunch this weekend. Rochester's win on Friday was also the first for new Amerks head coach Chris Taylor.
The Amerks have opened the season with two consecutive wins for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign, when they started a perfect 7-0-0-0.
Justin Bailey enters the week tied for seventh in the AHL in goals after scoring twice in Rochester's season-opening win Friday night. Bailey scored the first goal of the season for the Amerks late in the first period and added another in the third, giving the third-year pro five goals in his last seven games dating back to last season.
Newcomer C.J. Smith is tied for the AHL scoring lead among rookies with three points (1+2) through his first two games with the Amerks. After notching an assist on Friday, Smith concluded the weekend by scoring his first pro goal to go along with an assist for his first multi-point effort in Saturday's rematch against the Crunch.
Defenseman Zach Redmond, who was acquired in a trade with Montreal last week, recorded an assist in each game of the home-and-home series with Syracuse, tying him for sixth in points amongst AHL defensemen through the weekend.
FRIDAY: SYR 1 - RCH 3
The Amerks opened their 62nd American Hockey League season with a 3-1 win over the defending Eastern Conference Champion Syracuse Crunch on Friday at The Blue Cross Arena.
Bailey notched a pair of goals and four shots, both of which led all Amerks, while newcomer Steve Moses capped of the scoring for Rochester. Goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 of 29 saves in the victory, coming within just 2:26 of his second career shutout.
Mitchell Stephens spoiled Ullmark's shutout bid late in the final period while former Amerk Michael Leighton stopped 17 of the 20 shots he faced but took the loss.
After each of the North Division rivals exchanged hooking penalties and chances during the opening 20 minutes of play, Bailey opened the scoring on the night with 1:28 left in the stanza. Redmond recorded the lone assist on the tally.
"I haven't scored in a long time, so starting off with a few goals in the first game was good," Bailey said. "It has been a couple of months and a long summer, so it felt really good to score."
SATURDAY: RCH 3 - SYR 2 (OT)
The Rochester Americans closed out opening weekend with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory against the Syracuse Crunch (0-1-1-0) at the War Memorial Arena in Syracuse on Saturday.
Smith notched his first-career professional multi-point effort with a goal and assist to pace the Amerks to the win while second-year forward Kyle Criscuolo and captain Kevin Porter, who appeared in his 100th career game as an Amerk, each bagged their first markers of the slate for Rochester.
Goaltender Adam Wilcox, who made his Amerks debut, earned his first victory of the season as he stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced on the night.
The Crunch were led by defenseman Ben Thomas as he plotted a pair of assists while Cory Conacher and Kevin Lynch each netted their first goals of the campaign. Meanwhile, rookie netminder Connor Ingram, who made his AHL/pro debut, took the loss.
As the Crunch tied the contest at 2-2 with 8:09 left in the third period thanks to Lynch's tally and the Amerks unable to capitalize on their fifth and sixth power plays of the night, the North Division showdown required an overtime period.
On the opening shift into the extra session, Porter tracked down a wide Syracuse shot that rolled the length of the ice and into the left corner. The wisely-veteran picked up the puck and used Justin Bailey as a decoy before firing the puck off the right post and into the net to give the Amerks a 3-2 victory.
More news and notes
On Thursday, Taylor named Porter team captain for the 2017-18 season. Nathan Paetsch and Taylor Fedun will serve as alternate captains.
"They're an extension of us. All players are, but most important is our captain and our assistant captains," Taylor said. "They lead the way in the dressing room, and they put a lot of internal pressure on the players to make them better. Just how they act and what they do around the dressing room will definitely lead by example. That's why we picked those three."
Rochester Americans general manager Randy Sexton announced Monday evening that former Sabres captain Brian Gionta has been invited to practice with the team for an extended period of time in preparation for international play. Gionta is scheduled to join the Amerks on the ice beginning today for the team's 10:30 a.m. practice at The Blue Cross Arena.
"We were recently approached by Brian and his agent about him practicing regularly with Rochester as he prepares for international competition," Sexton said. "While Brian's role with the team will be limited to practicing only, we feel this can be a real win-win situation for both he and the Amerks organization."
Today, the Amerks reassigned forwards Vaclav Karabacek and Daniel Muzito-Bagenda to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL.
Rochester's next home game is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 13 when the Amerks host the Utica Comets at 7:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena.
Amerks Season Ticket Memberships for the 2017-18 campaign, which start as low as just $12 per game, are on-sale now.
The Amerks are also offering a variety of partial plans, including Half-Season Memberships and Flex Season Memberships with vouchers good for best available seating to any home game. All memberships are up to 40% off Box Office day of game pricing.
For more information, visit www.amerks.com/seasontickets or call 1-855-GO-AMERKS.
For all your Amerks news throughout the week, visit Amerks.com.