There were a lot of two-word answers in the Rochester Americans' locker room on Wednesday night.
Head coach Ron Rolston answered, “no question,” when asked whether it was the worst the Amerks had played this year.
The Amerks were flat-out terrible in Wednesday night's 4-2 loss to the San Antonio Rampage – a team that came in losers of their last eight in a row.
It was evident from the first two seconds of the game that the Rampage came ready to play. Right off the first drop of the puck, San Antonio winger Eric Selleck and Amerks forward Nick Tarnasky dropped the gloves and engaged in a lengthy brawl. It was clear Selleck wanted to set the tone for his team. It worked.
“We didn't play with any desperation,” Rolston said. “They were desperate and we didn't match that.”
Just 4:32 into the game, Greg Rallo tipped a shot past Leggio to open the scoring. The Amerks missed several chances in the first period to put the puck by top-prospect goalie Jacob Markstrom. Before they could say “Rampage,” their opponent was up 3-0 in the second period.
The Amerks have erased leads several times this year with an exciting power play, but it became apparent there wasn't much chance of that happening with the team missing injured prospects Cody Hodgson, Luke Adam, Corey Tropp and Zemgus Girgensons.
“That's just part of the league,” Rolston said. “Guys are getting opportunities and they have to step up. We went through it last year. We have to be better than we were tonight.”
Winger Evan Rankin put Rochester on the board with a hard-work goal, tipping the puck in with just under 10 minutes left in the second.
But the Amerks made a bundle of defensive errors – the worst of which came with 1:03 remaining in the second period. The game's first star Jon Rheault spun past Rochester defenseman T.J. Brennan, then made a blind pass to Jean-Francois Jacques, who had been left wide open because of poor communication between Brennan and Alex Biega.
“We need to go back and look at our game and re-evaluate where we went wrong in the defensive zone,” Brennan said.
With time expired in the second period, the Amerks made another mistake. Rookie Frederick Roy took four minutes in penalties for elbowing and unsportsmanlike conduct when he smacked a Rampage player. Give him credit, though, for recognizing the team was in need of some fire.
“I wanted to get some energy going for the guys,” Roy said. “You don't want to take penalties, but I was trying to get something going.”
Of the few shining moments for the Amerks – and there were very few – one came with around seven minutes remaining when Roy scored his first professional goal, swiping at a puck that defenseman Joe Finley bounced off Rampage goalie Jacob Markstrom's pads to winger Brian Flynn, who placed it nicely on his stick.
“I kind of fanned on it, but I'll take it anyway,” Roy said. “It's disappointing because when you score your first goal, you want your team to win.”
The game came to an end with Brennan holding his stick over his head in frustration after ringing the post twice and being stopped by Markstrom's gigantic glove.
With the loss, the Amerks fall to 9-7-1-0. They'll have a chance to bounce back on Friday night against Toronto.
Jacob Markstrom was fun to watch. The 6-foot-6 goalie started his pro career in Rochester when the Florida Panthers were affiliated with the Amerks. He has all the makings of an NHL, every-night goalie.
“It feels really good to be back here in Rochester and always good to get a win,” Markstrom said.
Mark Mancari has been struggling. He hasn't scored a goal since Oct. 26 and was minus-4 on Wednesday night.
Evan Rankin never ceases to amaze with his effort. He scored his fifth of the year on a pure effort play in front of the net.
Drew Schiestel was back in the lineup....as a winger. Schiestel put in a strong effort at a position he's clearly not most comfortable with.
Marcus Foligno created several chances with nifty stick work as was physical as usual. Nothing new from him.
Brian Flynn extended his scoring steak to nine games. He's stepped up in the absence of more well-known prospects. If he keeps this up, he'll be “well-known” too.
Phil Varone got an assist. He only has seven points in 15 games so far this season, but has taken on a more defensive role and played fairly well.
Brayden McNabb is lacking the physical play and explosiveness he showed last year. No need to be too concerned yet, but it hasn't been there.
Mark Pysyk is playing a solid game early in his AHL career, but he still can be shaky in his own zone. Hasn't had a stand-out game yet.