Though there aren’t any major league sports teams in Rochester, there is still a vibrant sports scene in the city.
This past Friday was UR night for the Rochester Americans. The team, known colloquially as the Amerks, lost 1–0 to the Syracuse Crunch. The tickets were sold at discounted price for community members, and shuttle buses brought students to and from Blue Cross Arena.
The Amerks are a member of the American Hockey League, which is the main developmental league for the NHL. Each AHL team is an affiliate of an NHL team. For example, the Amerks are linked to the Buffalo Sabres, and the Crunch is linked to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Although the Amerks led the Crunch at the top of the North Division, Rochester seemed completely outmatched at the beginning of the game. The Crunch outshot the Amerks in the first period 12–5. In an early two-on-one, a wrist shot by Crunch left wing Andy Andreoff found the net past Amerks goalie Scott Wedgewood.
The most exciting moment of the game came just eight seconds into the the second period. Rochester defenseman Andrew MacWilliam had a huge hit on a Syracuse player. As a result, a fight broke out between Andreoff and MacWilliam. Though both players were given five-minute majors for fighting, Andreoff remained in the penalty box far longer for instigating.
Over the remainder of the game, the Amerks were able to create several scoring chances and draw penalties, but nothing got past Syracuse goalie Connor Ingram. Even when the Amerks pulled Wedgewood near the end of the game and brought on an extra attacker, they were unable to score.
Just because the AHL is a minor league does not mean it lacks good players. Andreoff, Ingram, and Wedgewood are all former third-round picks in the NHL Entry Draft, and they have played in a combined 184 big-league games in the past five seasons. Though Andreoff’s goal was the pivotal play in the game, Ingram and Wedgewood made many impressive saves and kept the score low.
Blue Cross Arena, the home of the Amerks, was an inviting stadium that exceeded my expectations. It was relatively clean, lacked sticky beer spills on the walkways surrounding the seats, and smelled like waffle cones.
The food was what is expected of stadium food: decent chicken fingers and fries, burgers, hot dogs, nachos, and pizza. There were some more adventurous options, though, including buffalo mac and cheese and poutine. And yes, the charge for water was an exorbitant four dollars.
I had an above-average soft pretzel as a snack. Later, I chose “Let’s Dough Buffalo” ice cream, which had cookie dough bits in a chocolate-vanilla swirl. Dippin’ Dots were also a popular dessert choice.
I don’t know if it would be possible to assemble a better playlist than the one used by Blue Cross Arena during stoppages of play. Not only did the playlist have “Mr. Brightside,” but also “Groove Is In the Heart,” “Crazy Train,” and “Welcome to the Jungle.” Well done.
The atmosphere seemed generally family-oriented. It seemed that everywhere outside of the UR sections, a large amount of the attendees were children. Compared to an NHL game, the crowd may have been small, quiet, and less often in the home-team gear, but the people also seemed nicer, or maybe drunker.
While the Amerks are just a minor league team, the game was played well and remained exciting throughout, and the stadium experience was quite good. Enough for me to say that the Amerks are a hidden gem in the Rochester community.