October 13, 2011 - 7:01 PM
ROCHESTER -- We're live on the scene here in Blue Cross Arena for the Amerks' home opener against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. It's a festive night, the first back under the reign of the Sabres. The current players and more than 50 alums entered the arena via a red carpet through the glass-enclosed atrium. So did Terry Pegula and Ted Black, who got big cheers from the several hundred fans gathered two hours before faceoff.
The alums have just been introduced again -- names like Rob Ray and Andrew Peters got big cheers among ones Sabres fans would know. There was a special ceremony honoring former Amerks and Sabres coach Joe Crozier, and the octogenerian got a standing ovation when it was announced he would be inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2012. A banner was then unveiled in the rafters.
On the ice, Dennis Persson and Drew Schiestel are both out tonight with lower-body injuries. The Hamilton Spectator reported that Schiestel, a Hamilton native, would be out 4-6 weeks with a sprained knee after catching his foot in a rut on the ice but Amerks coach Ron Rolston said in the last couple days that was not the ice and the injury was not that severe. We'll see.
Drew MacIntyre, just back from Europe with the Sabres, will start in goal. The defense will be T.J. Brennan and Shaone Morrisonn. Up front will be Jonathan Parker centering Colin Stuart and Michael Ryan.
Stay tuned for more observations on the Sabres' prospects, who will hopefully put on a better show than they did in Saturday's 5-2 stinker in Hamilton.
Ceremonies: The Amerks get an A. Dimmed the lights, introduced the alums just like we saw in HSBC in April. Great moment with Crozier. Players came on via dry ice effect. Then Terry Pegula made a quick appearance for the ceremonial faceoff and got a roaring standing ovation. He was joined by daughter Jessie, wearing a white Lindy Ruff No. 22 Amerks jersey and she dropped the ceremonial first puck.
Line/defense combos: Up front, the Amerks are going with Stuart-Parker-Ryan, Whitmore-Voakes-Kassian, Foligno-Varone-Tropp, Boychuk-Turnbull-Legault. On defense, it's McNabb-Biega, Morrisonn-Brennan and Finley-Crawford.
First Period thoughts: It took me until the first intermission to realize I was on the wrong wireless network and that's why I wasn't hooked up. Tech problems should be over now but the Amerks' problems aren't. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton leads it 2-0 and had a 9-5 edge in shots through 20 minutes. The buzz in the crowd was killed by Eric Tangradi's goal at 5:10, which came as he walked out alone in front and deked past MacIntyre after a brutal back pass in the corner from T.J. Brennan, who is certainly experienced enough to know better. WB/S made it 2-0 at 18:04 on Brian Strait's knuckleball past MacIntyre from the left circle.
The Amerks' forwards have done very little thus far with just two shots. The team's best chance came when Morrisonn moved up and fired wide from the slot. The crowd's only real buzz was when Sabretooth showed up and was joined by the Amerks' moose mascot. A moose? I'm told that was a local radio promotion in the 80s that just stuck.
Second Period: A great tic-tac-toe passing play results in a goal by Wilkes-Barre's Colin McDonald at 2:10 to make it 3-0. The WBS radio guy is right in front of me and he's a Ted Baxter-like parody. Standing up, rocking back and forth, waving his arms. Lots of silliness. And he roars "Old McDonald got a goal." At least he left out ee-eye, ee-eye oh. The Amerks have skated much better as the period as gone on but have yet to score. Michael Ryan, in particular, doing some work getting some chances in front.
End second period: Good to see some life from the Amerks but they trail, 4-0, despite an 18-6 advantage in shots in the period. They had a two-man advantage for nearly two minutes but Brennan and Marcus Foligno, among others were stoned by Brad Thiessen. Then disaster struck. Brennan tried to feed Kassian out top and the pass missed. Brian Lerg beat Kassian to the puck and pulled away from him for an ice-length breakaway and then beat MacIntyre. Yep, a goal with his team two men shot. Ugly. Haven't seen that too often in my life. Lots of boos from the crowd of 9,217.
Third Period: The Amerks fell behind, 5-0, and finally score with 3:33 left as Marcus Foligno gets his first pro goal with a slapshot from the right circle off a Kassian back pass.
The final was 5-1. The Amerks had a 30-23 edge in shots but fall to 0-2. They've been outscored 10-3 thus far.