Share Share Recap: Rochester Americans Fall Flat in Playoff Opener tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Micheline Veluvolu / Rochester Americans The much-anticipated Calder Cup Playoffs could not have started much worse than they did for the Rochester Americans on Friday night.
Coming off their 99-point campaign, Rochester looked to roll their regular season winning ways into early postseason success.
In a packed Blue Cross Arena, the Americans came out of the gates feeding off the fiery fan reaction.
Throughout twenty minutes, bodies were flying while chances were limited. The game was scoreless through the first frame.
Former Americans forward Nicholas Baptiste broke the scoreless game open with his first goal of the postseason, at 2:53 of the second period.
Rochester attempted to build up their momentum but could not get themselves past Marlies goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo.
“A little bit of experience and [Taylor] started using me more on the PK around that time,” Olofsson said of what helped improve his defensive play. “That helped me a lot, even 5-on-5. My offensive game – maybe it sounds crazy – but I feel like I gained confidence from that. It helped my defensive game and made me confident all over the ice. That makes it easier to play.”
Heading into the third period, Rochesters outlook was bleak but they still had some life left in them.
Olofsson returned to Frolunda HC, where he was teammates with Dahlin, and proceeded to have his best professional season with 27 goals, 16 assists and a plus-8 rating in 50 regular-season games. Though the teams playoff run ended after only six games, Olofsson showed the Sabres staff he was ready to make the move to Western New York.
Chris Mueller would put one of the final nails in this game for the Marlies, with a power play tally midway through the final period.
“There were always times growing up when people have said Im too small, especially for North American hockey where there are a lot of physical, big defensemen,” he said. “They thought it would be too tough for me to come over here. A lot of people thought that. I always wanted to prove people wrong. I think Ive been doing that.”
Muellers second goal of the postseason came at 10:50 of the third and pushed Torontos lead to 3-0.
Marlies convincing in Game 1 victory
Momentum continued to slip away from Rochester as the period progressed and they would fall in a deeper hole while on a man advantage of their own.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Marlies to Begin Playoffs Tonight
At 14:45 of the third period while operating on a power play, Marlies forward Adam Brooks was able to get a puck past Americans goaltender Scott Wedgewood.
Game Two of the Calder Cup Playoffs takes place on Easter Sunday at the Blue Cross Arena, with puck drop shortly after 3:05 PM.
Old friend Nick Baptiste, a former Buffalo Sabres prospect who spent three seasons with the Amerks, scored 2:53 into the second period. West Senecas Chris Mueller scored the first of his two goals later in the period, a power-play tally.
ROCHESTER — There were no signs of dejection inside the Rochester Americans dressing room late Friday night in Blue Cross Arena.
Hes a battler, Baptiste said of Kaskisuo. He works his (butt) off. He works so hard for us. He was great tonight. He gave us a chance in that first period. He really made some big saves for us.
Victor Olofsson, the Amerks leading scorer, proclaimed he and his teammates were happy with the way we played, and not a negative word was spoken about two periods in which they allowed four goals.
Of course, the puck never actually went in the net. The Amerks rattled it off the post or crossbar four times. They missed empty nets, a breakaway and pumped 15 shots on goal in the first period.
However, the Amerks are facing a harsh reality after their 4-1 loss to the Toronto Marlies in Game 1 of their best-of-five first-round Calder Cup playoff series before 7,502 at Blue Cross Arena. Firing 15 shots on goal, not including three that hit the post, in the first period has Rochester one loss away from the brink of elimination.
There isnt much time to dissect how the night unraveled, either. The Amerks will attempt to win the franchises first playoff game since May 2, 2014 when the two teams play Game 2 on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Deep down they know we let one slip away, coach Chris Taylor lamented. Again, we had it in our grasp, especially in the first period. It could have been 3-0. Theyre on their heels. … We just didnt capitalize and we have to get better. We have to execute.
The Amerks, whose 46 regular-season wins were the third most in the American Hockey League, had 30 shots on goal, failed to convert on two breakaways and hit the post on four occasions. They also went 0-for-3 on the power play and missed an empty net twice in the first period.
Yet, their only goal came with 1:08 remaining in regulation, when Tage Thompsons wrist shot from near the right-wing boards beat Toronto goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo to cut the deficit to three goals.
The defending Calder Cup champion Marlies scored four consecutive goals, beginning at 2:53 into the second period when former Buffalo Sabres prospect Nick Baptiste corralled a rebound off Scott Wedgewood and released a quick snap shot that found the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Rochester responded with a furious push into Torontos zone and successfully cycled the puck to defenseman Lawrence Pilut, who skated to the high slot and released a wrist shot that hit the post.
The Amerks had only two shots on goal through the periods first 10 minutes but were controlling possession when they went on the power play with 9:29 remaining. However, they struggled to generate scoring chances and wound up shorthanded when Danny ORegan was called for slashing less than two minutes later.
Thompson, the winger whom the Sabres acquired in last Junes Ryan OReilly trade, broke up a pair of passes on the penalty kill, only to watch as the Marlies took a two-goal lead. Toronto defenseman Rasmus Sandins slap shot was tipped by winger Chris Mueller, a West Seneca native, to beat Wedgewood with 2:46 remaining in the second period.
Mueller pushed the Marlies lead to 3-0 with 9:10 remaining in regulation when he capitalized on a rebound in the crease, and Adam Brooks added a wraparound goal less than four minutes later.
This time of year theres no need to hang your head or wonder what if or think anymore about tonight, Amerks defenseman Zach Redmond said. We take the positives. I thought we were actually the better team for a lot of the game. We had a lot of chances that we missed. We just really need to move on.
The score wasnt indicative of how well Rochester played or how all involved on the home side felt about the performance. Taylor thought the Amerks were playing well enough to roar back from a three-goal deficit, though Brooks shorthanded goal spoiled that chance.
The Toronto Marlies opened their Calder Cup title defense with a 4-1 road win over Rochester on Friday night.
Though there were few scoring opportunities after the first period, Rochester still controlled possession for much of the night. It simply struggled to retrieve the puck following a shot attempt on net.
When the team reconvenes for practice Saturday, it will attempt to harness all it did well in the first period, when the Amerks out-shot Toronto, 15-6.
Redmond hit the crossbar a little over one minute into the game, and Olofsson would hit the post on two separate occasions, including a breakaway with less than three minutes remaining in the first period.
Asplund also missed a wide-open net, and defenseman Will Borgen opted to pass to Olofsson rather than attempting to shoot over Kaskisuo, who was sprawling on his stomach because of a scramble around the net.
Creating chances isnt good enough, Olofsson said. Obviously we have to score. I had a couple good chances there in the first where I have to score. We just have to execute.
The performance was in stark contrast to the Amerks first-round series a year ago, when they allowed 18 goals in a three-game sweep at the hands of Syracuse. Even Rochesters most skilled forwards were physical against the Marlies, and tight defensive coverage led to few quality scoring chances on Wedgewood, who made 19 saves.
Rochester has not lost more than three games in a row all season, and won five of six meetings against Toronto during the regular season. However, for all the Amerks did well, they are aware of what is at stake Sunday.
You could call it a must win. Going back to Toronto 1-1 would obviously be ideal, Redmond said.