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DOWN ON THE FARM

by Kevin Snow / Buffalo Sabres

THE WEEK THAT WAS

Saturday, January 17: RAMPAGE 5 – AMERKS 3
The Rochester Americans allowed three unanswered goals in the second period before eventually faltering to the San Antonio Rampage 5-3 Saturday night at the AT&T Center. The Amerks completed their trip through the state of Texas with a 1-1 record.

Mikhail Grigorenko scored twice for the Amerks, while Zac Dalpe also added a goal in his return to the lineup following a brief one-game call-up with the parent Buffalo Sabres. Matt Hackett made his second start of the season in net, and made 23 saves as he remains winless so far this year.

Sunday, January 18: AMERKS 8 – BARONS 7 (SO)
Zac Dalpe
scored in the fourth round of the skills competition while Andrey Makarov denied all four shooters he faced as Rochester topped the league-leading Oklahoma City Barons with an 8-7 shootout win in the final meeting of the season between the interconference rivals Sunday night at the Cox Convention Center.

The Amerks set a new season-high for most goals scored in a game with eight while also matching the mark for the most goals in a period with four tallies in the final frame, including two just a dozen seconds apart that would erase a 7-5 deficit and force overtime.

Seven different players finished with multi-point games for the Amerks, who improved to 17-23-1-0 on the season with the win. Johan Larsson (1+2), Zac Dalpe (1+1), William Carrier (1+1), Dan Catenacci (1+1), Joel Armia (1+1), Mikhail Grigorenko (0+2) and Chad Ruhwedel (0+2) each finished with multi-point games for Rochester while Makarov stopped 41 of 48 shots to earn his second straight win in goal. Tim Schaller and Matt Tassone also finished with goals to round out the scoring while Brodie Reid and Jake McCabe recorded assists in the win for the Amerks, who after going winless in 10 straight road games have won two of their last three away from The Blue Cross Arena.


UPCOMING GAMES

COMEBACK KIDS
As the Americans hit a critical juncture of their season, two comeback wins against the best competition the Western Conference has to offer may propel the Amerks into a late-season playoff push.

Rochester began its West Division swing with two games in the state of Texas, beginning with a showdown against the defending Calder Cup champion Stars on Jan. 14. Rochester trailed 4-1 at one point during the second period against the reigning champs, but rallied with four consecutive goals to take a 5-4 lead. Texas evened the score early in the third period, but Johan Larsson scored the winner with just 1:33 left in regulation to earn Rochester a valuable two points in the standings.

The Amerks hit a slight road bump in San Antonio, falling 5-3 after leading 2-1 at one point in the second period, but their best effort of the weekend was yet to come.

In the last game of one of their farthest road trip of the season, the Amerks battled the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Barons, who shut out a depleted Amerks club 2-0 less than two weeks ago. This affair greatly differed from their last, as the two teams combined for 15 goals with the Amerks skating off with two points in wild 8-7 win. Rochester recovered from third period deficits of 6-4 and 7-5 with Joel Armia evening the score at 7-7 with 2:01 left in the third period.

Zac Dalpe

After neither team could bury the winner in overtime, veteran Zac Dalpe scored the lone goal in the fourth round of the shootout to send the Amerks home happy.

Dalpe didn’t play in the win over Texas as he was on his way back from a recall with the Sabres, but returned to the Amerks for the final two games of the road swing and recorded three points (2+1) in those two contests. After roughly a month and a half where the Amerks played most of their games on home ice, Dalpe believes getting away from The Blue Cross Arena actually benefited the team.

“We had a long stretch at home, and no offense to Rochester but I think we needed to get out on the road and get to know each other a little more,” Dalpe said. “Two out of three on the road; we’ll take it.”

Dalpe has scored the deciding goal in each of the Amerks two shootout victories this season, and hit the ice with the same approach both times: shoot the puck.

“I’m a shooter and I like to shoot,” Dalpe said. “Hopefully goalies around the league aren’t listening to me right now. I like to shoot and having that responsibility that maybe I can end the game.”

Entering AHL action Thursday night, the Amerks sit just seven points out of the eighth and final playoff position. Winning the past two games in the fashion they did could prove vital for the Amerks as they hit the All-Star break and gear up for the season’s stretch-run.

“You’ve got to turn it around at some point,” Dalpe said. “We’re only seven points out. As bad as it seems at times, you string a few wins here and we’ll see what happens. Hopefully we can get on a roll going into the break, maybe recharge the batteries, come back and feel good about ourselves.”

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
After recording seven points in three games during the Amerks trip through the lower Midwest, forward Mikhail Grigorenko was recognized as the CCM/AHL Player of the Week for the week ending on Jan. 18.

A crucial cog in the Amerks offensive surge over their past three games, Grigorenko began the road trip with a goal and two assists in the 6-5 win over Texas, added two more scores in San Antonio, before recording two assists in the dramatic win over Oklahoma City to cap off the most impressive week of his AHL career thus far.

Grigorenko now sits tied atop the Amerks scoring charts, alongside All-Star Phil Varone, with 29 points in 34 games.

BACK AT HOME
The Amerks will return to The Blue Cross Arena for one last time prior to the AHL All-Star break for the first of a home-and-home against their North Division foes, the Adirondack Flames.

Friday night’s tilt will be the Amerks’ first contest on home ice since Jan. 10, and will also be the last one for quite some time.

Following All-Star weekend on Jan 25-26, the Amerks will continue on a season-long eight game road swing that will include stops in Chicago, Grand Rapids, and Milwaukee before finally returning home for another match-up with the Flames on Feb. 13. – Justin Ritzel/Amerks.com

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