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 played in three consecutive close games this week, emerging victorious in two of the three. Last Tuesday, the Sabres continued to embrace their role as spoiler by dealing a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, pushing the Canes one step closer to elimination. Carlo Colaiacovo opened the scoring for Buffalo with his first goal of the season, in the first period. Following two straight goals by Carolina, the Sabres struck for two straight of their own, scoring two goals in the span of a minute, late in the third period. Evander Kane scored his 20th goal of the season to tie the score, and Johan Larsson gave the Sabres the win with his seventh goal of the year a mere 60 seconds later.
On Saturday afternoon, the Sabres defeated the Winnipeg Jets, 3-2, in their only visit to the First Niagara Center this season. The loss for the Jets mathematically eliminated them from playoff contention. Buffalo fell behind 2-0 before Hudson Fasching brought the Sabres within one with his first NHL goal, in his first NHL game. Fasching, a fourth round pick of the L.A. Kings in 2013, was acquired, along with Nicolas Deslauriers, for Brayden McNabb, a prospect, and two draft picks, at the 2014 NHL trade deadline. Fasching spent the past three years at the University of Minnesota where he amassed 46 goals and 48 assists in 115 games for the Golden Gophers. The Sabres can only hope that he can bring some of that offensive skill with him to Buffalo. Fasching’s first NHL goal was assisted by Casey Nelson, who was also making his NHL debut, and recording his first NHL point. Nelson, who signed as an undrafted rookie free agent, has spent the past three season at Minnesota State – Mankato, where he scored 14 goals and 46 assists in 99 games for the Mavericks. The offensively gifted defenseman now has an assist in each of his first two NHL contests.
In the third period, two more well-known Sabres’ rookies led the team to complete the comeback. Sam Reinhart scored his 21st goal to even the score, and then assisted on Jack Eichel’s game-winning-goal, less than three minutes later. Eichel’s goal was his 50th point of the season. He became the first Sabres’ rookie since Derek Plante, in 1993-94, to amass a 50-point rookie campaign. All three of Buffalo’s goals were scored by players under 21 years of age, which can only bode well for the future.
Last night, in Detroit, the Sabres again found themselves trailing in the third period, but this time, their frantic comeback attempt would come up one goal short. The Red Wings jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and tacked on an empty-net-goal to extend their lead to 3-0 with only three minutes remaining. At this point, the Sabres roared back, scoring twice, but ultimately, coming up one goal short. Zemgus Girgensons, and Sam Reinhart scored the goals for Buffalo. Ryan O’Reilly tallied his 36th assist, which leads the team, while Rasmus Ristolainen registered his 31st assist, which leads all Buffalo defensemen. Despite winning two of three games, the Sabres were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Buffalo remains in seventh place in the Atlantic Division with 72 points, and a 31-35-10 record. With six games remaining, the Sabres already have 18 more points than they did at the end of last year, so while the team will not be in the postseason this year, there is every reason to believe that they will be there soon.
Rochester Americans (AHL) – The Americans began their week with one of the most amazing comebacks in their 80-year history. Rochester fell behind the St. John’s Ice Caps, 5-1, in the third period, when the team caught fire. Five different Amerks scored in in the span of 11:02 in the third period, salvaging two points out of an almost certain defeat. Matt Donovan started the comeback with a power play goal to bring Rochester within three. Just over a minute later, Jean Dupuy scored to make the score 5-3. Three minutes later, Jerry D’Amigo brought the Americans within one, which prompted Sylvain Lefebvre to use St. John’s timeout. However, nothing would stop Rochester’s momentum. Dan Catenacci scored his second goal of the game to tie the score with under five minutes to play. Finally, with only four seconds remaining, Chad Ruhwedel completed the comeback, giving the Americans an improbable, 6-5 victory. Andrey Makarov stopped seven of the eight shots he faced to earn the win, in his first appearance since January.
Unfortunately for the Americans, the momentum gained in their furious comeback on Wednesday did not hold out through the weekend. On Friday night, Rochester again found themselves trailing 5-1 against the Ice Caps, in the third period. Dan Catenacci and Eric O’Dell scored two goals within a 32 second span, but Rochester’s comeback effort ended there, and St. John’s held on for the 5-3 win. Rochester put 28 shots on goal in the third period, but only two found the back of the net.
On Saturday night, the Amerks came up short against the Syracuse Crunch, falling 3-1, despite putting 40 shots on goal. Kristers Gudlevskis made 39 saves to earn the win for Syracuse. Andrey Makarov, making his first start since January 3, also played well, turning aside 29 of 32 Syracuse shots. Unfortunately for the Amerks, only Nick Baptiste was able to score, and Rochester lost a crucial game in the race for the final playoff spot. Former Jackal, Justin Kea played in his first game for Rochester in about two weeks. After a 1-2-0 week, Rochester is now in fifth place in the North Division of the Eastern Conference with a points percentage of 0.508, 67 points, and a 32-31-2-1 record. The Americans are now eight points behind the Utica Comets, who currently own the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with only 10 games to play. To make matters worse, the Americans will also need to climb over two other clubs in the standings before getting to Utica. The Americans play the Comets tonight, in Utica, in their most important game of the season, to date.