With an inexperienced goalie in net, coach Ron Rolston hoped his team would step up against the American Hockey League’s best team. Instead, the Amerks made several defensive mistakes which lead to goals and failed to cash in on offense despite taking 38 shots.
“It's a simple game, hockey,” said a frustrated Rolston. “You put it at the goal, it goes off the goalie's pads and you shoot the rebound in. Simple and hard, they got all three of their goals the same way. They went to the net and they shot the rebound in. They were harder in front of our net than they were in front of their net.”
The Amerks opened the scoring in the first period on a highlight-reel drive to the net by center Phil Varone, who wristed the puck over the shoulder of goalie Leland Irving. Rochester had several other opportunities to score, but ended the first period with just a one-goal lead.
Abbotsford scored twice in the second period off Knapp, who hadn’t played since Nov. 3 against the Hamilton Bulldogs.
“I took it as a vote of confidence from the coaching staff to play against Abbotsford,” said Knapp. “It’s something I took some positives out of.”
Rolston said his young goaltender “was fine” in net but needed to work on rebound control – a problem he struggled with in his first start.
There are a few reasons Knapp has only played two games so far this season: First, starter David Leggio has been every bit as good as he was last season when he won Team MVP and carried the Amerks to the playoffs. The schedule hasn't featured any 3-in-3s, so the team has never been forced to play him. Not to mention that he's an unpolished prospect who can benefit from being slowly introduced the talent of the American Hockey League – a huge jump from even the best Division I team.
“We needed to start him and we needed to play him at home,” Rolston said. “If we waited any longer, it would be a month in between starts.”
That may be true, but if they waited another week Knapp could have faced a much easier opponent. Abbotsford is the best team in the AHL at 10-1-1-2. Next week's opponent, the Albany Devils, are the worst at 3-6-0-4.
The rookie said he isn’t concerned with having to wait for his turn to play.
“I get plenty of reps in practice,” Knapp said. “I went through a rotation like this in college, so it’s not an excuse.”
TJ Brennan – Was the Amerks’ most sound defensive player. Has shown more grit this year to go along with his top-end offensive skills
Jerome Gauthier-Leduc – Was very shaky in his own end. Was on the ice for the first two goals and found himself missing shifts early in the 3rd period.
Brayden McNabb – Scored his first goal, but hasn’t shown the dominant defensive skills he flashed last season. Was run over on the GWG.
“I think the biggest thing for me is always my feet and my skating. It’s about doing hard work after practice even if you don’t want to just to get better,” McNabb said.
Luke Adam – Was paired with Kevin Sundher and Mark Mancari. Played like he felt like he had to create all by himself. Had several chances, but didn’t bury them. Same old story.
Frederick Roy – Continues to get under opponents’ skins and has shown flashes of some offense. A player fans are certainly coming to like more and more
Mark Pysyk – Continues to improve decision making in his own end and on breakouts. Only question to whether he can play in the NHL is his size.
Marcus Foligno – Was physical as usual, but uncharacteristically missed a wide open net on a chance in front
Zemgus Girgensons – Is up and down. Friday was down. Typical of an 18-year-old at this level. Give him time to learn consistency.
Brian Flynn – Another assist has his point streak up to 6 games. Has some impressive offensive skills and has been a major contributor so far.