**This Week’s Storylines**
A LOOK AT THE WEEK AHEAD
- Rochester continues its season-long six-game homestand this week beginning on Wednesday, Feb. 19 with the first-place Belleville Senators visiting The Blue Cross Arena at 7:05 p.m. Following Wednesday night’s matchup, the Amerks close out their season-series with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday, Feb. 21 before concluding the week by welcoming the Cleveland Monsters to the Flower City on Saturday, Feb. 22.
- The Amerks have claimed at least one point in 10 of the first 15 meetings with the Senators dating back to the 2017-18 season while showing a 6-7-1-1 record in the last 15 meetings versus the Phantoms dating back to the 2015-16 campaign.
- Rochester holds a record of 30-7-3-4 over Cleveland since the start of the 2011-12 slate and has earned a point in all six games so far this season (4-0-1-1).
- The Amerks come into the week five points back of the Belleville Senators for the top spot in the AHL’s North Division standings and have a three-point lead on the Utica Comets. Rochester, however, has a game in hand on the Comets.
TAYLOR CAN JOIN ELITE COMPANY THIS WEEK
- The Amerks need just one more win to reach the 30-win mark for the fourth consecutive season and third straight under head coach Chris Taylor. With the team’s next win, Taylor will become the first Amerks head coach since Randy Cunneyworth, the all-time winningest coach in franchise history, to lead his team to 30 or more wins in each of his first three seasons behind the bench.
- The month of February remains the busiest for the Amerks, who will play a total of six games over a 10-day stretch beginning Wednesday against Belleville as the team continues its homestand. Beginning with Sunday’s victory over Utica, 13 of Rochester’s next 14 games will be played solely against North Division opponents with the only exception being the final meeting of the season against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, scheduled for this Friday at The Blue Cross Arena in Rochester. THE WEEK AHEAD
MITTELSTADT QUICKLY MAKING HIS MARK
- After producing just one point through his first five games with the Amerks following his midseason reassignment from the Sabres back in December, Casey Mittelstadt has quickly evolved into one of Rochester’s most consistent point-getters. The second-year pro has piled up 18 points (7+11) in 26 games for Rochester, including 16 points (7+9) since the turn of the New Year. The former first-round pick has seven points (1+6) in his first eight games of February and has not gone more than two games without a point since opening the 2020 calendar year on a season-long four-game point streak (3+1). A point against Belleville on Wednesday would Mittelstadt, who’s currently riding a four-game assist streak, his first five-game point streak of the season.
SHARING THE CREASE
- Anchored by the goaltending tandem of veteran Andrew Hammond and third-year pro Jonas Johansson, both of whom are currently on recall with the parent Buffalo Sabres, the Amerks own one of the top defenses in AHL having allowed only 143 goals through the 52 games of the season, the seventh-fewest in the AHL coming into the week. The duo has also combined for six shutouts and rank among the AHL’s leaders as they both have 13 wins on the season.
- Hammond, who is 13-11-2 on the season, is tied for third among all netminders in shutouts after notching his fourth of the year back on Dec. 14 in a 5-0 win over Laval, a new career-high. With four shutouts through 28 games this season, he remains on pace to tie the franchise record for most shutouts in a season (8) set by Ryan Miller during the 2004-05 campaign.
- Johansson, who made his NHL debut with the Sabres on Feb. 4 against Colorado and made his first career start two nights later against Detroit, owns a career-best 13-3-3 record with two shutouts this season. Despite being on recall, he has the sixth-best goal-against average in the league (2.19) and ranks fourth among all netminders with a .925 save percentage in 20 games. Dating back to Nov. 13, the 2020 AHL All-Star boasts an impressive 11-1-1 record with two shutouts, a 2.11 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage while allowing just two goals or less in eight starts over that span.
- Jean-Sebastien Dea, who remains the only Amerk this season to reach the 30-point plateau, continues to pace the team in goals (14) and points (33) through 47 games. Coming into week, Dea, who is also second among all Amerks forwards with 92 shots on goal, has 12 points (4+8) in his last 17 games since the turn of the New Year, including goals in two of his last seven outings.
THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE
- Rochester owns three of the AHL’s top point-producing defensemen in Zach Redmond, Casey Nelson and Lawrence Pilut, all of whom have been mainstays on Rochester’s blueline this season.
- The 2019-20 season is just a different chapter in the same story for the 31-year-old Redmond, who hasn’t gone more than five games without a point all season. The two-time AHL All-Star and reigning Eddie Shore Award winner is presently 14th in scoring amongst all defensemen with 29 points and is tied for 12th with a team-high 24 assists, 10 of which have come on the power-play.
- Back from his fourth recall of the season, Pilut has 17 points (5+12) over his last 24 AHL games dating back to Nov. 15, including goals in four of his last 10 outings. Having already established a new AHL career-high in goals (6), the former SHL Defenseman of the Year is also on pace to set a new mark in points.
- Nelson is tied for eighth among all blueliners with a team-best plus-19 on-ice rating through 44 games this season while rookie Jacob Bryson is tied for 11th among all first-year defensemen with a plus-6 rating. Bryson is also eighth among all rookies with 18 assists in 51 games.