Mar 16, 2024

Article Written By Aidan Charde

FAIRPORT, NY — We’re dancing. In their inaugural season, the Rochester Jr. Americans have officially clinched a spot in the 2024 Robertson Cup Playoffs.

It has been a long road to the playoffs for Rochester, but an electric second half of the season has made all the difference. The early months were rocky at times, but Rochester managed to stay afloat and drifted around .500 for most of the fall. Quickly, it was evident that the offense clicked right away, scoring four or more goals in eight of the first 12 games of the season. Across the first month, forwards Matteo Disipio and Massimo Gentile stole the show, putting up 17 and 16 points, respectively, while defenseman Tyler Procious provided 12 assists of his own.

Entering October with a record of 5–4–1, the Jr. Amerks would have a strange month. They earned their first sweep of the year with wins over the Johnstown Tomahawks at home before getting swept for the first time the following series against the New Jersey Titans. They ended the month back in the win column with another sweep, this time of the Northeast Generals.

Though they finished their first two months of play 9–6–1, November was a tough stretch that saw Rochester go 4–4–1 and had few highlights aside from the first shutout in team history when Cole O’Donnell held Johnstown scoreless Nov. 26. In December, the team looked like it was turning a corner following a 7–1 blowout of the New Hampshire Mountain Kings on Dec. 7 that included forward Luca Leighton scoring the team’s first hat trick, but it was ultimately the worst month for the team, going 2–3–1.

But whatever changed during the three-week holiday break turned the middle-of-the-pack team into the best team in the NAHL for over two months. After sitting in fifth place with a record of 15–13–1 at the end of December, the Jr. Amerks exploded to earn points in the first 13 games of 2024 and now sit in third place with a record of 31–16–6. Between Dec. 15 and March 6, the Jr. Amerks earned 36 out of a possible 40 points.

With six straight home games to start the second half, it was no wonder that the Jr. Amerks came out strong, earning points in all six and sweeping the Generals in a road series to jump out to a 6–0–2 January. They fell once in overtime and once in a shootout, but still looked elite across the board as they climbed to third place in the division.

February was the most impressive month for the team. Despite losing once in regulation, Rochester was otherwise perfect with a shutout win over the division-leading Maryland Black Bears and a massive sweep over the second-place Maine Nordiques. With each passing game, playoffs looked more like an inevitability as the team moved to a 26–15–5 record.

March started off somehow even better than February through the first three games. The Jr. Amerks shut out the Danbury Hat Tricks twice — only the sixth time any team in the NAHL shut out its opponent twice in a weekend — and followed it up with a third shutout of the Tomahawks, outscoring opponents 19–0 to start the month. Although a pair of losses to the Philadelphia Rebels soured the streak, the Jr. Amerks were able to bounce back once again and secured their postseason spot.

Seemingly every part of the team has seen drastic improvements during the second half turnaround. After playing September with 3.50 goals allowed per game, the team’s defense has steadily improved with each month being better than the last. In February, they allowed just 2.13 goals per game, a massive difference even with the offense playing hot.

Maybe most influential is the incredible improvement in the team’s penalty kill. Entering the series with Danbury in December, the Jr. Amerks had killed only 68% of power plays, the worst mark in the league. To say it has improved would be an understatement: It has climbed up to an impressive 81.9%, right in the middle of the pack. The Jr. Amerks also went on a streak of 23 straight games allowing one or fewer power play goals between Dec. 9 and March 8.

The small difference pays dividends, too. In games this season where the Jr. Amerks are perfect on the penalty kill, the team is 17–5–4 compared to 14–11–2 with one or more allowed — and eight of those 14 have come during the team’s hot stretch in 2024. In fact, since the new year began, the team’s PK% is 88.9%, which would be one of the best marks in the league.

Bolstering the team’s success has been the play of one of the best first lines in the league. Disipio (70 pts) and Gentile (68 pts) are third and fourth in the league in points, respectively, and they are the second-highest scoring teammates in the NAHL. Disipio is also fourth in the league with 46 assists while Gentile, Disipio and Leighton are all in the top 15 for goals scored — Gentile in fourth with 28 and Leighton and Disipio tied for 11th with 24.

On defense, Tyler Procious and Alex Zakrzewski have been the best defensive combination in the league, although they have not played much together in the second half since Procious missed over a month. Still, even with 16 missed games this season, Procious ranks third amongst defensemen in assists with 33 while Zakrzewski is tied for ninth with 27. They are the only pair of teammates in the top 10.

The goalie situation has seen some fluctuation throughout the season, but the team is finally starting to find a groove. Cole O’Donnell and Florian Wade started the season as the pair between the pipes, but they traded off injuries in the first half that left the other to fill in for several games in a row in their absence. O’Donnell went on to miss four months, but made his return to the ice last night.

Wade filled in phenomenally in a seven-game stretch where he started each game, allowing just 2.43 goals per game and saving 91% of shots. Danick Leroux made his first appearance Jan. 13 and earned his first of three shutouts in his NAHL debut. Since then, Leroux has allowed just 1.79 goals per game with a .924 save % in 10 games to help the team down the stretch.

Prior to the Rebels’ sweep, the Jr. Amerks had the best stretch of hockey in the NAHL all season. Three straight shutouts plus a 7–2 victory gave them a +24 point differential, the only team to have a +20 or higher point differential across four games.

Consistent scoring, though, has been the key to the team’s success. They have scored 3.5 goals per game this season and had not been shut out all season until March 9, something only the Anchorage Wolverines and Lone Star Brahmas can still say.

With seven games still to play, the regular season is far from over. Rochester sits in third place with a three-point lead over Johnstown in fourth place, but are up seven points over the fifth-place Titans, meaning a home series is likely. The second-place Maine Nordiques lost last night, meaning the door is still barely open for the Jr. Amerks to close the four-point gap, but the team could not afford any mistakes if they are shooting for the first-round bye. The Nordiques and Jr. Amerks face off for one more series at the end of March.

As it stand right now, the Jr. Americans are likely to host round one of the Robertson Cup Playoffs. If the Jr. Americans remain the third seed, round one will be at the Rochester Ice Center April 12th, 13th and 14th (if necessary). If the Jr. Americans overtake Maine for the second seed, they will earn a first round bye. In that case home games will be likely April 19th and 20th. 

Dates of the playoff games are still to be confirmed, so keep an eye on our social media for announcements of date, time and location. Follow us on Twitter/X and Instagram @JrAmerksNAHL for more updates!


The Rochester Jr. Americans are members of the NAHL which is the oldest and largest junior hockey league of its kind in the United States and one of only two USA Hockey-certified leagues that operate under the non pay-to-play model. The NAHL is also one of the best at advancing players to NCAA and professional hockey. All league games are viewable via NAHLTV. For more information, visit rochesterjramerks.com.

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