Longtime Sabres beat writer Bill Hoppe of BuffaloHockeyBeat.com, will be writing about Sabres prospects, the Rochester Americans and related topics this season.
The streak started late in March and ended Nov. 16. Over 11 appearances, backup goalie Adam Wilcox compiled a 6-0-2 record, earning points for the Rochester Americans in eight consecutive decisions.
After Wilcox, 25, took the loss in relief of Scott Wedgewood during a 9-4 shellacking from the Springfield Thunderbirds, he backstopped the Amerks to a come-from-behind victory against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Sunday.
“That was my favorite win, personally, for the year so far,” Wilcox said of his 25-save effort in the 4-3 victory.
Wilcox was in net Friday night when the Amerks lost, 5-4, to the Utica Comets, but he has earned five of the Amerks’ 11 wins this season. While Wedgewood has started 11 of the 18 games, Amerks coach Chris Taylor refuses to call Wilcox a backup. Taylor said his netminders are “still challenging each other” for the starting job.
“They’re two guys that get along great,” Taylor said.
Wilcox has transitioned well into a secondary role since leaving the University of Minnesota following his junior season in 2014-15. Still, he has occasionally handled the load. He played 48 times two seasons ago, winning 25 games between his stints with Springfield and the Syracuse Crunch.
Last season, his first with the Amerks, he backed up Linus Ullmark, playing 29 contests.
“It’s kind of been two different feelings, obviously,” Wilcox said of being a backup. “As a competitor and a goalie, you want to play as many games as you can. Obviously, playing with Ullmark last year, he was playing a lot of games, so when I did play, I wanted to make sure I got points for our team.”
Wilcox earned 31 points, going 12-7-7. He said his other numbers – a 2.79 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage – mean little to him.
“The biggest thing is not about goals-against or save percentage, it’s more about can I get points for the team every week, can I give them a chance to win?” said Wilcox, who has an AHL contract this season. “That’s kind of what I base my success off of, if I gained points for the team.”
After the Sabres recalled Wilcox late last season, he made his NHL debut April 7, stopping all 14 shots he faced in relief of Chad Johnson.
“Just to get into the game and get into the locker room and pretend to brag that you got a shutout is pretty fun to say,” joked Wilcox, who grew up in Minnesota rooting for the Sabres because he liked Hall of Fame goalie Dominik Hasek.
Wilcox’s fun-loving personality – “(He) makes everybody laugh,” Taylor said – has made him a popular teammate.
“I really enjoy him in the locker room, the guys enjoy him in the locker room,” Taylor said. “He brings the team together. He’s a huge part of our team.”
Wilcox said: “Hopefully they enjoy my jokes. Sometimes they say, ‘All right, that’s enough, Coxie.’”
Wilcox believes the ups and downs that accompany a long season make it important to keep things light and be available outside the rink.
“I’ll be the first one to say I’ll join the guys for dinner or go do something,”Wilcox said.
Many goalies, of course, are known for being a little different or quirky. Some are superstitious or like being left alone at times.
Taylor said Wilcox is “not a typical goalie.” Before games, he’s up for anything.
“He gets ready in a different way and the guys embrace that,” Taylor said.
Redmond still pushing
Eighteen games into the season, Amerks defenseman Zach Redmond hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.
Redmond, 30, scored the late game-winning goal last Sunday. Incredibly, six of his 12 goals this season are game-winners. Overall, he has 21 points.
“He’s rolling with the confidence,” Taylor said.
Taylor said Redmond’s defense hasn’t suffered at the expense of his offense.
“We don’t talk about the defensive play as much as his offensive play because his offensive play is unbelievable," Redmond said. "But his defensive play is right there with it.”
Sabres prospect Victor Olofsson returned to Rochester’s lineup Sunday, registering an assist after a lower-body injury sidelined him three games. He did not register a point Friday against Utica but equaled a team-best six shots as the Amerks outsot Utica, 47-23. The 47 shots were a season high.
The Swedish winger, 23, has compiled six goals and 17 points in his first 15 AHL outings.
Sabres prospect Rasmus Asplund doubled his season point total with the Amerks in about a 35-minute span Sunday, scoring his first AHL goal and adding an assist.
“His numbers definitely don’t reflect how he’s playing,” said Taylor, who has been impressed by the Swedish center’s overall play.
Sean Malone, the West Seneca native, scored his first goal of the season in Friday's loss.
Malone missed seven weeks and the Amerks' first 12 games after suffering a knee injury in the Sabres' exhibition opener Sept. 17.