**This Week’s Storylines**
VIEW NEAR THE TOP
The Amerks sit just three points behind the Syracuse Crunch for the AHL’s North Division lead after dropping both ends of a two-game set to the league-leading Charlotte Checkers this past weekend. The Amerks were held to just a single goal in each contest with Rasmus Asplund provided the scoring in Friday’s 4-1 loss before Kevin Porter found the back of the net in Saturday’s rematch. Coming into the week, Rochester currently sits five points ahead of third-place Toronto and have a 11-point lead on Belleville, who sit four points ahead of Cleveland for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division. The Amerks have collected 37 out of a possible 54 points in their last 27 games. Among all AHL teams, only the Charlotte Checkers (41) and Syracuse Crunch (40) have more wins than the Amerks (39), who are third overall in the AHL with a .648 points percentage.
TAYLOR NEARING ELITE COMPANY…AGAIN
By way of last Wednesday’s 5-0 victory over the Utica Comets, Rochester picked up its 39th win of the season to surpass last season’s win total (37) by two victories in 14 fewer games. Second-year head coach Chris Taylor is also approaching his first 40-win campaign as head coach, and by doing so, will become the first Amerks bench boss to lead his team to 40 or more wins in a season since Benoit Groulx(44) during the 2009-10 campaign. Early this season, Taylor reached the 30-win mark for the second straight year, becoming the first Amerks head coach to lead his team to 30 or more wins in each of his first two seasons behind the bench since Hall of Famer Randy Cunneyworth, the all-time winningest coach in franchise history.
RACE TO 20
After failing to produce a 20-goal scorer last season for just the second time in franchise history, the Amerks could potentially have five or more by the season’s end. Zach Redmond, Victor Olofsson and C.J. Smith all completed the feat earlier this season while both Taylor Leier and Wayne Simpson each have scored 19. Danny O’Regan, who reached the 40-point mark for the second time in his career on Saturday, has 18 coming into the week. The last time the Amerks had five 20-goal scorers in the same season was in 2000-01, which also included current Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. The Amerks are one of just five AHL teams this season (Hartford, Springfield, Syracuse and Utica) to have three different players with 20 or more goals.
OLOFSSON LEADING THE WAY
With his team-leading 14th multi-point (1+1) effort this past Wednesday against Utica, forward Victor Olofsson continues tolead the club in goals (24) and points (53) while his 29 assists are tied for the team lead in 61 games this season. Olofsson is just one of just four Rochester skaters to surpass the 40-point mark. A year after pacing the SHL with 27 goals, Olofsson became the first Amerk to reach the 50-point mark since Cole Schneider during the 2016-17 campaign with his second of two goals in Binghamton earlier this month. Olofsson, who earned CCM/AHL Player of the Month honors for October, is also tied for 21st in the AHL in power-play assists (15) while ranking 20th among the league’s top point-getters in overall scoring. His eight game-winning goals, two of which have come in his last nine games, are second-most in the AHL behind only teammate Zach Redmond.
With 19 points (5+14) over his last 16 games, which includes six multi-point efforts during that span, Redmond has scored a career-high 21 goals through 52 games, including 10 on the power-play, good enough for 11th in the league in that category. Redmond, who is currently averaging just under a point-per-game and had an AHL-best nine-game point streak to end the month of October, ranks second among all AHL defensemen with 49 points while his 21 goals and 186 shots are the most by an AHL blueliner this season. In addition to nearing the first 50-point season of his career, his nine game-winning goals are tops in the AHL.
CAREER-YEAR FOR C.J.
C.J. Smith has been piling up the points on an absolute torrid pace. With three more points (1+2) last week, which included his 22nd goal of the season, the second-year pro has amassed a whopping 34 points (16+18) over his last 30 games dating back to Dec. 5, having been held scoreless just seven times over that span. He also posted a season-long nine-game point streak in that time. Smith reached the 50-point plateau for the first time in his career and he has already established career-highs in both goals (22) and points (51) while setting a personal-best 29 assists.
A WEDGE-WALL BETWEEN THE PIPES
Scott Wedgewood,who has won seven of his last 10 and 15 of his last 22 games, owns a career-best 25-12-2 record in 41 games this season with the Amerks. In addition to his 25 wins, which are four off the league lead coming into the week, the sixth-netminder has a personal-high five shutouts, tying him for second-most in the AHL. Wedgewood, who previously won a season-long five straight to close out the month of October, has allowed one goal-against or less in eight of his last 15 starts, stopping 370 of 394 shots he faced. Over that span, he’s earned an 8-6-1 record with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. He also ranks fourth in saves (1,046), tied for 10th with a 2.51 goals-against average and 13th with a .914 save percentage coming into the second to last week of March.
At 19-8-3-1, Rochester has the third-best road record in the AHL and have the second-most regulation wins away from home with 19 behind only Charlotte. The Amerks also have the fewest regulation road losses in the AHL this season with eight, having collected at least one point in 23 of their 31 contests away from The Blue Cross Arena. Coming into the week, the Amerks have won 13 of their last 21 road contests and five of the last seven.
Coming into this week, Rochester’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot for the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs is 10. Of the remaining 12 games, seven are outside the Flower City, while six will be played as part of two different stretches of three games in three nights. Rochester will play 11 contests against North Division opponents, which includes three more against Syracuse and two with Binghamton.