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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Game Notes: The 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs continue tonight as the Rochester Americans and Toronto Marlies faceoff in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals at Ricoh Coliseum. The 3:00 p.m. contest will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 and 107.3 WHTK and will also be televised live on Time Warner Cable SportsNet Channel 26. The Marlies currently lead the best-of-five series 1-0 following their 4-3 win Thursday night in Game 1.

The first round series marks the Amerks’ return to the postseason for the second time in three years and the 42nd playoff appearance overall in the 56-year history of the franchise. Rochester has been a part of 79 playoff series over the years, in which it compiled a 210-190 record in 400 games during that time. The Amerks finished with a 13-5-4-1 record over their last 23 regular season games, including a 4-0-2-0 run over their final six, to secure a postseason berth on the final day of the season. Rochester is looking for its first playoff series win since the 2005 postseason when the Amerks swept the Hamilton Bulldogs in four games before dropping a five-game series to Manitoba in the second round. Since then, the Amerks have only made two playoff appearances, losing first round matchups to Hamilton in 2007 and Abbotsford in 2010.

Head-to-Head: Rochester finished with a 3-4-3-0 record in its season series against the Marlies, with two of its three wins coming in Toronto, including the Amerks’ 2-1 victory back on March 3. Additionally, all 10 regular season contests between the North Division rivals were decided by a single goal, four of which were taken beyond regulation time. Derek Whitmore (4+3) and Brayden McNabb (0+7) each posted seven points versus the Marlies during the regular season, while goaltender David Leggio manned the pipes for all 10 games, finishing with a 3-7-0 record with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. Toronto’s Mike Zigmoanis was the Marlies’ top point-getter this season against Rochester, collecting eight points (3+5) and a +6 on-ice rating in 10 games.

Series Notes: The Amerks come into Game 2 looking to even things up at one game apiece before the series shifts back to Rochester for Game 3 on Monday, and if necessary, Game 4 on Wednesday. The game marked the 11th consecutive one-goal decision between the North Division rivals, including the 10 previous matchups during the 2011-12 campaign. Three different goal scorers found the back of net in Rochester’s Game 1 loss, including one from top point-getter Phil Varone, who finished the game with two points (1+1) and scored the game’s first goal. Leggio, making his 24th consecutive start between the pipes, was spectacular in his Amerks playoff debut, turning aside 34 of 38 shots while denying several quality scoring chances for the Marlies. The teams combined for five goals in a wild third period that saw the Amerks and Marlies exchange a pair of markers before Jerry D’Amigo’s second goal of the game late in the frame proved to be the game-winner. The loss dropped the Amerks to 19-22 all-time in playoff openers, dating back to their 1-0 win over the Providence Reds in Game 1 of the 1957 American Hockey League Playoffs. With a win tonight, however, Rochester can make it three straight playoff appearances of winning Game 2 of the series after suffering a Game 1 setback in the opening round.

Playoff Leaders: With two points in his professional playoff debut in Game 1 Thursday, Varone currently ranks tied for the league lead in postseason scoring among AHL rookies and sits tied for third overall among the AHL’s top point-getters. Defenseman T.J. Brennan, who is coming off yet another productive season in his three-year pro career, continued to showcase his offensive side with a goal and was one of three Rochester blueliners to record a point in Game 1, joining Alex Biega and Nick Crawford, who each contributed an assist. Toronto’s D’Amigo enters play tonight tied for first in the AHL with two goals.

Amerks Notes: Rochester saw several of its team members officially make their American Hockey League playoff debuts in Game 1 Thursday, including first-year head coach Ron Rolston, who guided his club to a 36-26-10-4 (86 points) record and a seventh-place finish in the American Hockey League’s Western Conference standings. He also assembled the second-best offense in all of the Western Conference as the Amerks finished the campaign with 224 goals, the most of any fellow conference foe who qualified for postseason play.

Despite a rather quiet first half of the season, Varone came to form at the turn of the New Year and never looked back as he cruised to the top of Rochester’s scoring leaders. Varone, the Amerks’ top point-getter on the season with 52 points (11+41), finished his first professional season with 11 points (3+8) in his last 15 games, giving the rookie forward 24 points (4+20) in the last 26 games and at least one point in 20 of the last 32 games. After starting the season with just six points in the first 23 games, Varone recorded an impressive 46 points in the last 53 games to rank fourth in the AHL in scoring during that span and was held scoreless just 13 times over the last 34 contests.

His team-high 52 points ranked 10th among AHL freshmen and he was also one of just four AHL rookies to lead their respective teams in scoring. Varone also led the team with 41 assists and was the only Amerk to appear in all 76 games in the regular season. Varone’s 41 assists were also the most among league rookies, good enough for 12th overall in the AHL.

Whitmore certainly made the most of his homecoming this season, finishing third on the team in scoring and being just one of two Amerks to net 20 or more goals. With his team-leading 28th goal of the season April 7 in Hamilton, Whitmore, who finished tied for 13th in the AHL in goals, set a new career-high and fell two goals shy of becoming the first Amerk to reach the 30-goal mark since Thomas Vanek (42) and Jason Pominville (30) both topped the 30-goal plateau during the 2004-05 campaign. Whitmore also came within three points of matching his career-high of 47 (27+20) he captured last season with the Portland Pirates.

Selected as this year’s MVP by his teammates, Leggio’s consistent and focused play between the pipes keyed Rochester’s postseason run. Leggio, who started a career-long 23 straight games between February 22 and April 14 to end the regular season, finished the campaign showing a 28-24-2 record with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 54 games. Only Milwaukee’s Jeremy Smith and Adirondack’s Michael Leighton have played more games than any other AHL goaltender with 56 this season. Leggio closed out the season the AHL’s leader in saves (1,579), while finishing second in minutes played (3,243) and third in wins (28). He was also tops among league backstops with six shootout wins. With a win in Rochester’s regular season finale against Lake Erie on April 14, the fourth-year netminder also set a new single-season career-high with his 28th win of the season, surpassing the 27 victories he notched with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades during the 2008-09 campaign.

Toronto Notes: Toronto, who finished the regular season atop the North Division with a 44-24-5-3 (96 points) record, earns its third postseason berth in five years and first since 2009. The Marlies’ regular season finish was the team’s best since its inception in 2005 after the parent Toronto Maple Leafs relocated its AHL headquarters from St. John’s to Toronto. The Marlies were the only AHL team this season to maintain a first-place standing in their respective division since Rochester and Toronto exchanged pleasantries on November 19. Toronto also finished the campaign with the best penalty kill in the league with an 88.1% success rate, including the best unit at home (89.2%) and third-best on the road (86.7%). The Marlies were also the AHL’s third-best team at home in 2011-12, finishing behind only Norfolk and Bridgeport with 24 wins and 52 points within the friendly confines of Ricoh Coliseum.

The high-powered Marlies were led offensively by 11-year veteran forward Mike Zigomanis, who finished with a team-high 42 assists and 61 points in 68 games this season. Originally a second-round selection (64th overall) of the Buffalo Sabres in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, the 31-year-old Zigomanis placed tied for 14th among the AHL’s top point producers in overall scoring, while his 42 assists ranked 10th among league leaders. Zigomanis, who began the season on a seven-game point streak, also accumulated 19 of his helpers this season on the man-advantage, which tied him for 14th in the AHL.

Zigomanis, who also averaged .90 points per game, registered 19 points (7+12) in his last 25 games, including 11 points (3+8) over his last 13 outings. He also compiled 10 multi-point efforts since the turn of the New Year for a season total of 18 such performances. Team captain Ryan Hamilton, who made his NHL debut with the Maple Leafs this season, led the Marlies with 25 goals, including a team-high 11 power-play tallies to finish tied for 13th in the AHL in that category.

Toronto’s defense this season was anchored by goaltender Ben Scrivens, who was honored with the Harry “Hap” Holmes Award after being part of a Marlies team that surrendered a league-low 175 goals against throughout the campaign. In his second professional season, Scrivens posted a 22-15-1 record and four shutouts in 39 appearances for the Marlies, leading the AHL with a 2.04 goals-against average and ranking fifth with a .926 save percentage. Scrivens also made his National Hockey League debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011-12, going 4-5-2 in 12 outings.

Series Schedule:
Western Conference Quarterfinal – Series “F” (best-of-5):

7-Rochester Americans vs. 2-Toronto Marlies
  • Game 1: Thursday, April 19 at 7:00 p.m. at Ricoh Coliseum – L, (TOR leads 1-0)
  • Game 2: Saturday, April 21 at 3:00 p.m. at Ricoh Coliseum
  • Game 3: Monday, April 23 at 7:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena
  • Game 4: Wednesday, April 25 at 7:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena*
  • Game 5: Saturday, April 28 at 3:00 p.m. at Ricoh Coliseum*
*if necessary
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