Rochester Americans: Looking ahead to North Division Finals

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) – The Rochester Americans will compete in the North Division Finals for the second consecutive years, facing off with Toronto.

As it was in the previous round, not much separated the Amerks and Marlies in the regular season. Despite the Marlies finishing the regular season with nine more points, the North Division rivals split their eight matchups. The Amerks scored 27 goals. The Marlies scored 30 (including one shootout win for Rochester). It has all the makings of another playoff series that goes the distance.

“Number one, we’ve had respect for them since the beginning of the season,” said Rochester Americans head coach Seth Appert.

Although, the Marlies missed out on the Calder Cup Playoffs in 2022, they were the leader of the pack in 2023, winning their first regular season North Division title since 2018.

“They felt like a different team than last year,” said Appert. “The speed, the competitiveness, the presence that (Logan) Shaw has for them. So, you can see, it didn’t surprise me that they had a really good year.”

Even though the Amerks and Marlies were neck-and-neck in their season series, the bigger picture would prove otherwise. Toronto is the better seed, which means games one and two in the best-of-five series will both be at the Coca-Cola Coliseum in Toronto. For the second straight playoff series, the Rochester Americans will need a strong start.

“That is the old adage in hockey. When you go on the road first, you want to get a win on the road a split on the road,” said Appert.

In the North Division semifinals against the Syracuse Crunch, that wasn’t the case. Rochester lost the first two games in Syracuse and followed it up with a pair of home wins. Then, in game five on the road, the Amerks survived in overtime. But Appert still isn’t focused on mapping out ideal expectations for the series ahead.

“I haven’t talked about that to the team. Haven’t spoken one minute about it. All we were worried about this week is having a meeting (last) Monday to get our minds right and to get our mindset off of the victory and on to the next,” said Appert.

Still, the Amerks have to feel some sort of pressure this time around. In 2022, they were swept by Laval in the North Division Finals. They don’t want to make that same mistake twice. For Appert that means coming out of the series win over the Crunch, better than they did last year after an emotional series win over Utica.

“Maybe we got a little too high then, and then maybe game one in Laval didn’t feel like we had the same level of urgency, intensity, emotional connection to the series,” said Appert.

Game 1 is set for Thursday at 7 p.m. in Toronto.