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A lot on the line: The Jr. Americans travel to Maine for series with massive playoff implications

Feb 22, 2024

Recap vs. Maryland Black Bears on Feb. 16 and 17

Although they finally lost their win and points streak, the Rochester Jr. Americans put up two respectable performances against the division-leading Maryland Black Bears last weekend.

Game one showcased the defensive strengths of the Jr. Amerks as goalie Danick Leroux stopped all 30 shots that came his way. The Jr. Amerks also showed off their improved penalty kill — not only did they keep the Black Bears from scoring on all six power plays, but they also killed 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 opportunities for Maryland.

The game remained scoreless through the first 50 minutes of the game, but Rochester eventually was able to capitalize on a mistake, taking a 1–0 lead on a goal from forward Luca Leighton. Although the Black Bears tried hard to tie it, defenseman Alex Zakrzewski iced the game with an empty net score to give the Jr. Amerks a 2–0 win.

Game two started off strong with forwards Michael Sandruck and Adam Gionta each scoring in the first seven minutes to take an early 2–0 lead. Unfortunately, that is where the offensive production stopped for the Jr. Amerks and even though the defense remained strong, the Black Bears were able to put three goals behind goalie Florian Wade to scrape by with a 3–2 win.


Preview: Feb. 23 and 24 vs. Maine Nordiques

WHEN: Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. | Feb. 24 at 7 p.m.

WHERE: The Colisee | Lewiston, ME




The Jr. Amerks and Nordiques have a strange history. The first time they matched up, the Jr. Amerks ran away with a massive 5–1 win, but since then, the Nordiques have won a pair of games convincingly as well as a shootout win. With all that said, the Nordiques sit just eight points ahead of the Jr. Amerks in the standings.

East Division playoff race update

It was an eventful weekend in the East Division as the race for all six playoff spots are still up in the air. The Black Bears and Nordiques are in a tight race for first place, but the Black Bears earned a two-point advantage this weekend. The Jr. Amerks are still in the fight for second, but are also three points up on the Johnstown Tomahawks, who hold a game in hand, in hand for fourth. The New Hampshire Mountain Kings helped out the Jr. Amerks greatly by splitting last weekend’s series with Johnstown, keeping the gap the same as it was entering the weekend. The New Jersey Titans and Northeast Generals played each other and traded wins, sitting a point apart from each other in fifth and sixth place respectively, but both sit far below the Jr. Amerks and Tomahawks.

This weekend’s matchup is big for the Jr. Amerks. With four games remaining against the Nordiques and just eight points to make up, second place is within reach, but a productive series is a must. The Jr. Amerks will also be rooting for the Generals to take down Johnstown this weekend to help keep their hold on third place. Full standings can be found here. 

Leroux earns his second shutout

Danick Leroux picked a great moment for his second shutout of the season, stopping 30 shots on a night where the Jr. Amerks offense was cold for most of the game. Since joining the Jr. Amerks, he has put up a 1.812 goals allowed average, which would rank fifth in the league if he were a qualified goalie.

More on Leroux’s shutout can be found here.

Gentile’s streak finally snaps

Forward Massimo Gentile extended his points streak to 14 games with an assist on Friday night, but lost his streak along with the team when he failed to make it onto the scoresheet in Saturday’s loss. That should not take away from how incredible his streak was, though: Over the span of two months, Gentile put up seven goals and 15 assists with four multi-point games. Only forward Luca Leighton had more points during that span.

Three is a magic number

On both sides of the ice, the Jr. Amerks are looking at the number three as the benchmark. The Maine Nordiques are one of the hottest offenses in the league, having a whopping 10 games of six or more goals and averaging nearly four goals per game. That number drops far in losses, though, to just 2.46 goals per game. Meanwhile, the Jr. Amerks are playing some of their best offense of the season recently and have only lost five times when scoring three or more goals of their own. It might be a tall task to keep the explosive Maine offense at bay, but if the offense can hit that three-goal target, it should spell victory.

Tardiff gunning for the top

Maine forward Charles Tardiff is a large part of the reason why the Nordiques are one of the best offenses in the league this year. He is tied for second place in the NAHL with 27 goals — seven back from the league leader — and is no slouch in the passing game, where he has added 21 assists. Perhaps fortunately for the Jr. Amerks, though, Tardiff has cooled down tremendously in the new year, scoring only five goals in his last 11 games, an average of 0.45 goals per game down from 0.64 in 2023.