Glaring mistakes costly for Amerks in 5-4 shootout loss

December 1, 2017

Why a player is recalled from the American Hockey League is often quite obvious.

They’re piling up points, they’re dominating in the defensive zone, they’re stopping even the toughest of shots.

Why a player doesn’t get promoted is also sometimes quite obvious.

Take Friday night, for instance, when the Rochester Americans somehow managed to let a game they were dominating early in the second period become a 5-4 shootout loss.

The third goal by the Hartford Wolf Pack, which tied the score 3-3, provided pretty good perspective on why prospects Nick Baptiste and Alex Nylander are with the Amerks and not with the parent Buffalo Sabres.

Baptiste, the third-year right winger, sprinted out of the Amerks zone on the left wing, hoping to start a fast-break attack. He apparently thought defenseman Brandon Crawley would back off. Instead, Crawley stepped up to the red line and poke-checked the puck away.

An instant later, Vince Pedrie was driving a slap shot from above the slot that Nylander, the second-year left winger, had little interest in blocking and that goalie Adam Wilcox never saw as it zipped through the five-hole. Tie game.

First a bad turnover and then a lack of desperation on a possible shot-block.

“You can say that,” said Amerks coach Chris Taylor, whose club fell to 11-5-3-2.

You can also say it’s all part of the development process. It’s a whole lot better for them to make the mistakes with the Amerks than on the NHL stage.

“It’s wanting to win,” Taylor said. “It’s learning how to win.”

Let’s be clear; those were hardly the only two mistakes by the Amerks. Name a player and there were mistakes.

Which is how a 3-1 lead just 3:27 into the second period became a 3-3 tie before the period was half over, and how a 4-3 lead became a 4-4 tie with just 4:23 to play.

“We have to take care of the lead,” said defenseman Matt Tennyson, just down from the Sabres off injured reserve and playing his first game since Nov. 4.

Hartford’s tying goal by Scott Kosmachuk also featured a glaring miscue. This time, it was by second-year right winger Hudson Fasching.

He had the puck below the goal line as a power play was ending. Kosmachuk exited the penalty box and sprinted back into the Hartford zone. He arrived just as Fasching’s pass to no where hit his stick.

Kosmachuk turned and sped away with Cole Schneider on a two-on-one fast break, converting the return pass from Schneider for his fourth goal of the season.

Again, that’s a pass that can’t be made. Another learning moment.

“We throw a puck out blind, trying to make a no-look pass, knowing the penalty is ending,” Taylor said. “Mental mistakes. It’s not knowing how to win the right way.”

The Amerks then lost the five-inning shootout 2-1. C.J. Smith scored their only goal. Peter Holland and Kosmachuk connected for the Wolf Pack (8-12-2-1).

The Amerks did earn the loser point, meaning they still have the third-best record in the AHL’s Eastern Conference with 27 points in 21 games. Or did they earn it?

“I don’t even think we deserved a point after that,” Taylor said.

This was a pretty solid lineup for the Amerks, probably their best of the season with the return of defenseman Brendan Guhle from a minor injury and the addition of Tennyson from the Sabres.

Tennyson was paired with Andrew MacWilliam and was solid, especially on the penalty kill.

Seth Griffith, Steve Moses, Garret Ross and Evan Rodrigues scored goals for the Amerks, who will have Linus Ullmark in goal on Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., against the Penguins.

Kevin Oklobzija
About Kevin Oklobzija

Kevin Oklobzija is a contributor to The Buffalo Star, a veteran hockey writer and member of the Rochester Americans Hall of Fame. He still believes National Lampoon’s Vacation may be the best movie ever made.

Browse more articles by Kevin Oklobzija.

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