School is out for the summer at Sabres University.
The first year of the Buffalo-Rochester reunion came to a close Monday night. The Toronto Marlies blanked the Amerks, 3-0, to earn a 3-0 sweep in the teams' playoff series.
"All in all, it was a good season for the guys," Amerks left wing Marcus Foligno said. "It just [stinks] that it fell short."
Management dubbed the 60-mile corridor between Buffalo and Rochester as Sabres University when Terry Pegula purchased the minor-league team last summer. Amerks coach Ron Rolston thinks his players learned valuable lessons during even the shortest of playoff stays.
"You have to look back on the way the guys played," Rolston said in Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial. "They sacrificed and competed for each other, and that's a team to me. Success rides in, 'Can you get the potential out of the players and can the players sacrifice for each other and reach their potential?' I think this was a hockey team that was very close to their potential.
"That being said, I don't think anybody in the room is satisfied with just getting in the playoffs and losing in the first round. Our job as an organization and the players in that room is to be a better hockey team next year."
Toronto extended its dominance of the Amerks by winning for the 10th time in 13 meetings. The latest victory sent the Sabres' minor-leaguers toward locker cleanout day exactly two weeks after the parent club bade farewell from its dressing room.
The crowd of 7,118 had little to cheer about as Toronto took the lead less than four minutes in and coasted to the postgame handshake line. Marlies goalie Ben Scrivens had an easy 29-save shutout.
"They earned it," Foligno said. "They just kind of slowed us down. When you take the home crowd out of it, it takes a little bit out of the team."
The Marlies needed just 3:59 to score the only goal of the first period. Phillipe Dupuis skated down the right side and fired high from the faceoff circle, with goaltender David Leggio shrugging at the puck as it soared past him.
"I think this team had a lot of potential to go a long way, and I'm disappointed in how it finished," said Leggio, a Williamsville native who finished with 23 saves. "I'm disappointed in how I played. Either way, I'm still proud of the guys. A lot of guys improved quite a bit, especially the young guys that got chances up. Everybody improved here during the year, and it showed down the stretch."
The second goal gave the series' best player a platform to celebrate. Jerry D'Amigo accepted a cross-ice pass from one-time Sabres prospect Mike Zigomanis, cut to the slot and ripped a shot past Leggio with 1:36 gone in the second.
As the goal light flashed, D'Amigo raised both arms, leaned back with an "I expected to do that" grin and glided toward the boards. It was the fifth goal in three games for the Binghamton native, who played for the United States during the world junior championships held in Buffalo.
"I told him, I hope the Leafs figure it out if you keep playing the way you're playing," Rolston said. "Hopefully, he continues to have a great playoff and we don't see him next year."
Nazem Kadri finalized the Amerks' journey to locker cleanout day, giving the Marlies a 3-0 lead with 4:36 gone in the third. As Toronto celebrated its impending trip to the second round, a fan clad in an Amerks jersey looked up to the box housing Sabres employees, including General Manager Darcy Regier, and mockingly clapped.
Rolston supplied legitimate applause for his players.
"We battled just to get in the playoffs," he said. "We had to go on a string of games there where everyone counted us out the whole season long, that we weren't going to make the playoffs. It was a team that battled all the way through.
"Whether you're a veteran or a young player and even for our guys who came here after juniors, careers are short. Things go by quickly, the years go by quickly. Everyone sees how quickly this season went by, and their job is to make themselves better over the summer and bottle up the feeling that they have when they're sitting in there and make themselves better and come back a better player next year."