As the ECHL affiliate of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres and the AHL's Rochester Americans, the Jackals are tasked with developing prospects throughout the organization. The Road to the Show provides details on how those prospects are progressing.
Buffalo Sabres (NHL) – The Sabres followed a winless trip to Western Canada with back-to-back wins over Los Angeles and Detroit to take four out of a possible six points this week. The week began with a hard fought 4-3 loss in Calgary. Rasmus Ristolainen scored his first career hat trick, but no other Sabre could light the lamp. The 21-year-old Finn has already surpassed his point total from last season in only 31 games this year. He leads all Sabre defensemen in all offensive categories, and his 23 points and 16 assists each rank second among all Sabre skaters. Ristolainen is tied for 4th among all NHL defensemen with 23 points, tied for 5th among NHL defensemen with seven goals, and ranks 7th among NHL defensemen with 16 assists. At the ripe, young age of 21, Ristolainen is already showing Norris Trophy potential.
Buffalo rebounded from the unsuccessful journey west with a thrilling 2-1 victory against the Kings, in overtime, on Saturday night. Linus Ullmark outdueled former Sabre, Jhonas Enroth to earn his fifth win of the season. Jamie McGinn scored the first goal for Buffalo as he recorded his eighth point in as many games. In overtime, Ryan O’Reilly scored a highlight reel goal, the 100th of his NHL career, to snap Buffalo’s three-game losing streak. The Sabres continue to benefit from the offseason trade to acquire both McGinn and O’Reilly from Colorado. O’Reilly leads the Sabres in most offensive categories and McGinn is tied for third on the team in points. In addition, both players have brought much needed playoff experience into Buffalo’s locker room.
The Sabres followed their win over the Kings with an even more impressive victory over the Detroit Red Wings, which ended a 13-game point streak for Detroit. Down 1-0 in the third period, the Sabres received goals from Ryan O’Reilly and Johan Larsson in a 61 second span to win the game 2-1. O’Reilly’s goal was his team-leading 11th tally of the season. Larsson, on the other hand, scored his first goal of the year. The Sabres will be hopeful that the goal sparks Larsson’s season, which is off to a slow start, following a rookie year where he tallied 16 points in 39 games for the Sabres. Chad Johnson made 32 saves for his team-leading eighth victory of the season. Buffalo is currently in seventh place in the Atlantic Division with 29 points, and a 13-15-3 record. They are five points out of the last playoff position, in the Eastern Conference.
Rochester Americans (AHL) – The Americans took points in all three games they played last week, earning one point against Utica and sweeping a two-game road trip to Saint John’s. The week began with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Utica Comets. Andrey Makarov made 37 saves, but was credited with the OTL. Matt Donovan, Dan Catenacci, and Evan Rodrigues scored for the Amerks, who also received two assists from Colby Robak. It was the first multi-point game of the season for Robak, who is tied for the team lead among defensemen with nine points on the season.
Rochester then went on a two-game road trip to Saint John’s, where they swept the series against the Ice Caps. On Friday night, Nathan Lieuwen was fantastic, stopping 38 of 39 shots, including 21 in the first period to keep the Americans in the game. Phil Varone tied the game in the second with his team-leading ninth goal of the year. Jerry D’Amigo’s fourth goal of the season broke the deadlock with only 62 seconds remaining in the third period, giving the Amerks a well-earned two points.
The following evening Nathan Lieuwen stopped 26 of 28 shots for a solid encore, earning his second straight victory. Lieuwen is now 7-4-0 this season with a 3.25 goals-against-average, and a .903 save percentage. All of those numbers were aided by his best two-game stretch of the season this weekend. Nick Baptiste scored the first goal of the game for the Amerks, while Tim Schaller, back from a recent call-up to Buffalo, tied the score at 2-2, in the third period, with his second goal of the year for the Americans. In the three-on-three overtime, Jason Akeson scored his fifth goal of the season, which ranks second on the Americans, to win the game for Rochester. Akeson is quietly leading the Amerks with 16 points on the season. The game marked Akeson’s fourth multi-point effort of the season, which also leads the Amerks.
Former Jackal, Matt Garbowsky played in his ninth game of the season for Rochester on Wednesday against the Comets. He still has a lone assist for the Amerks, while he has recorded three points in five games for the Jackals. Colin Jacobs was also called up by the Americans, but he did not appear in a game this week. He has five goals and 11 assists for the Jackals this year, while he ranks second on the team with 16 points. Rochester is currently in fifth place in the North Division of the Eastern Conference with a points percentage of 0.520, 26 points, and a 12-11-1-1 record. The Americans are only one point behind Utica for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.