The UR crowd didn’t quite fill the stands, but plenty of Amerks supporters turned out to Blue Cross Arena for the game against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The students that did show up for UR night compensated for their peers’ low-attendance with enthusiasm. The $2 beers certainly helped, even if Genny Light was the primary offering.
With only one goal in the first two periods, it wasn’t the high-pace game that the scores of first-time hockey fans had expected for UR night.
The lineups, however, were promising. The Amerks, second in their division, have been true contenders for only a few years. Their steadily improving roster won’t be immediately recognisable to most fans, but they have a number of future and former NHL players. Buffalo Sabres prospect Casey Middelstadt joined the Amerks mid-December after a weak performance in 2019 with the top-tier club. Goaltender Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond once led the NHL’s Ottawa Senators in a Cinderella run culminating in one of the highest single-season save percentages of all time.
The Phantoms were not without higher-end talent themselves. Former rookie-of-the-year candidate from the Philadelphia Flyers, Shayne Ghostisbehere, was playing down in the minors while recovering from an injury. Prospects Morgan Frost and Mikhail Vorobyev are having a solid year on a team struggling to stay afloat.
Despite this, there were few shots, fewer goals, and hardly any action. The fight that so many new fans came to see failed to appear. No tilly, nor kerfuffle, nor donnybrook graced the ice.
Minor hockey leagues, and hockey in general, are infamous for their fights. Though the sport has moved firmly away from more gratuitous violence in the past decade, fighting is still the main draw for many who’ve not watched hockey before. Maybe Rocky could’ve taken the ice to square off with Moose, the Amerks aptly-named mascot, or MeLVin of the Phantoms.
If fans were disappointed by the lack of action on the ice, it was not for long. The steady rumble of chanting filled the arena. Chili. Chili. Chili. It seemed, by the great benefaction of Wendy’s in Rochester, that by the end of the second period, fans had won the greatest prize of all. Free chili.
Despite the initial slow performance, the Phantoms got even with the Amerks early in the third, and the game approached its final minute tied at 1. In a flurry of end-to-end skating, both teams posted a second goal to bring the game to extra time. Jumping off the faceoff, the Amerks stormed the Phantom’s defensive zone. Moments later, crashing down on the crease, the Amerks beat the goalie off a rebound and won it 3–2. The players left celebrating their victory, and the fans left celebrating their free chili and a $2 well-spent.