A fast start turned into a sluggish loss for the Rochester Americans.
Playing in the home of their parent club, the Buffalo Sabres, the Amerks scored the first goal of the game — a shorthanded tally from West Seneca native Sean Malone at that. But the Amerks failed to generate much after that as the Syracuse Crunch controlled the pace of play and puck possession for much of the game in a 2-1 win in KeyBank Center Wednesday night.
The Amerks had nice looks on three power plays in the third period, but couldn't find a way to tie the game.
It was the sixth straight season the Amerks have played a home game in Buffalo. They are now 4-2-0-0 in Buffalo.
Hometown shortie: Malone tallied his first career shorthanded goal. He worked a two-on-one with Eric Cornel, took the shot and beat Syracuse goalie Connor Ingram. It gave the Amerks a 1-0 lead just 5:01 into the game. Taylor Fedun picked up the secondary assist.
A bad second period start: Syracuse scored twice in a 10-second span to take a 2-1 lead early in the second period. Mitchell Stephens scored just 1:26 into the period while Matthew Peca scored at 1:36. It was an overall sluggish period for the Amerks as the Crunch held a 14-3 advantage in shots.
The deal with Justin Bailey: The Buffalo native scored twice in the Amerks season opener, but hasn't tallied since. Part of that time included a stint with the Sabres and part of that included missing 20 games with the Amerks with an ankle injury he suffered back on Nov. 2.
Rochester coach Chris Taylor said he does not feel Bailey has his confidence right now.
"The biggest thing for me is that he's just got to go out there and play. Stop the thinking," Taylor said. "Continue the process of what you need to do. The process for him is first and foremost, his forechecking and skating. It's a weapon so let's use it. He's got to take pucks wide and he's got to drive pucks to the net. I believe that he hasn’t been doing that. I don't know if he's been tentative with his ankle because of his injury or not but we've got to push him through that to get better and get in those areas where you're going to score goals. Once he does that, he's a great player. I’m not worried about him. We're still pushing him though."
The deal with Alexander Nylander: Another Sabres prospect without fancy numbers, Nylander has four goals and 13 points in 31 games. He had another impressive performance with Sweden in the World Juniors, winning silver, which Taylor thinks was good for the 19-year-old. And remember, Taylor said, that Nylander had a lower body injury in the summer that kept him off the ice for a good three nonths.
"We always forget how young he is. And he went through a major injury this year, too," Taylor said. "He's young. He's learning how to play hard every night, every shift. You can't take five seconds off and he's learning that. And I'm demanding because I know he has a lot more and I want more from him and I think that will bring the best out of him, too. I think we can't lay off him. I think he's the type of guy who can be a game changer and that's what we want out of him. We don't want him just to fit into our team. We want him to be a game-changer on our team."
Counting the house: There were about 3,000 fans in KeyBank Center Wednesday night.
And while being able to play in any facility is the goal of both player and coach, there indeed is something special for the Amerks about the opportunity to play in their parent-club's NHL arena.
"It's great because it's different fans first and foremost," Taylor said before the game. "These fans, they're passionate about all the prospects coming up to Buffalo and they want to see how well they're doing and what they're doing. They can read about it but to actually see them live in their building, it's great. For our guys to see how the fans are passionate about them is great, too."
Scratches: The Amerks scratched forwards Adam Krause, Garrett Ross and Colin Blackwell and defensemen Nathan Paetsch, Arvin Atwal and Barry Goers. Syracuse scratched forward and former Canisius College standout Shane Conacher along with Kevin Lynch, Matthew Spencer, Alex Gallant and Oliver Archambault.
Up next: The Amerks have a home-and-home with the Toronto Marlies. They play in BlueCross Arena at 7:05 p.m. Friday night, then play in Toronto at 4 p.m. on Saturday.