The Rochester Americans were in Portland, Maine today to face the Pirates in a Halloween afternoon AHL contest.
To start with, overall the game had its changes in momentum. The first was a fairly even period with Portland scoring and the Amerks having a goal disallowed. In the second Rochester really came on as evidenced by the 3-1 score. Then in the third things swung over to Portland as they carried the play and outshot the Amerks 19-7. The Pirates had their chances, but Rochester held on to the lead and Portland took a late too many men penalty that sealed their fate.
On to the players, starting with the forwards:
Justin Bailey – he is always noticeable because of his size. He did not have strong first period, but really came on in the second. He ended up with one goal and a plus three and combined with Carrier on some nice plays. His third was still strong, though not as good as his second. With his size it would be nice to see more physical play, but Rochester was not physical overall and neither have the Sabres been a heavy team to play against this year.
William Carrier – did not standout in the first, but then he and Bailey had a great second. He had one goal, two assists, and a plus three. Nothing outstanding about him, but solid overall and got his points.
Evan Rodrigues – he was the best player in the first period. Did not do as much in the second, but had a nice third. The box score says no points and a minus two, but that is deceiving. He was impressive in Sabres camp and preseason and looked like a very heady player always in the action. Though a rookie he played a full four years at BU, so he has some extra experience compared to a junior player. I can see good potential in him, not saying he will be Ray Whtiney and Eichel will be Pat Falloon, but he could carve out a nice NHL career for himself.
Nick Baptiste – you noticed him out there and he was in on the play, but also had some lapses in the D zone and did not get much accomplished overall. Rodrigues was mostly on the same line and was the better player.
Phil Varone – Varone is racking up the goals and did not look bad last year with the Sabres. Not sure I would truly call him a prospect, but there are always those guys that work their way up. Nice player to have on the Amerks even if he never makes the NHL on a regular basis.
As for the defense, it is really devoid of any blue chippers, those guys are already up with the Sabres. This is an organizational hole that will need to be addressed in the coming years.
Brady Austin – you can’t miss Austin with his size. Predictably he has some footspeed issues in tight spaces. However, a long stride and big wingspan could see him develop into an effective defender. A long road of hard work ahead, but he could come along.
In goal I am not really sure of the plan. With Lehner being injured and Ullmark called up that obviously skews the blueprint for now.
Nathan Lieuwen – I don’t think Lieuwen will ever be an NHL goalie, so I am not sure why he gets so much playing time. He did well today and got the win for the farm team.
Andrey Makarov – I would really like to see him play more. He shows more potential than Lieuwen and looked as good with the Sabres as any young goalie could last year. Hopefully he gets more starts, but with Ullmark being anointed by management I am not sure that will happen. The big Swedes rule the organizational crease for now at least.
It was a good game for the Amerks today and the young players showed well.
For Portland, it was a big improvement over the last couple of games I saw them play last year. This year brought a new affiliation with Florida, moving on from a few years of being the Coyotes farm team. Florida is similar to the Sabres in that their good young players are mostly in the NHL, so there was a not a big prospect showing today. Glad to see them playing a much more organized form of hockey though.