by Andrew Mossbrooks | AHL On The Beat
On paper, the Rochester Americans don’t look like they’ve had the most joyous of times this holiday season.
Rochester did skate into the Christmas break on a high note, topping the Syracuse Crunch on Dec. 23 by a 3-2 final in overtime, courtesy of Brandon Biro. But otherwise it hasn’t been pretty on the scoresheet.
After entering December tied for second in the North Division, the Amerks find themselves on the other side of Christmas in fourth place. They are 3-7-0-1 in their last 11 and have not won in regulation since Nov. 18.
In the world of sports, stats seem nothing short of factual. They are our gospel, our definitive code off which we make judgment. The Amerks, however, may be an exception to the rule.
“This is the best I’ve felt about our team all year,” head coach Seth Appert said recently when asked about the team’s recent rough patch.
The AHL is a 72-game marathon. The process isn’t always linear, and it isn’t short either.
“I love the way we’ve played. We’ll win a lot long-term if we play like that.”
The other thing about this process is that it isn’t foreign. Appert recognizes his team has been here before. He’s seen this recently.
“To win long-term, we have to keep becoming better defensively,” he said. “Those are things we’ve talked about. We have to be more physically committed. This is the process we went through last year. We weren’t that hard to play against in the first half of the year last year. We were an offensive-minded team, and we became a hard team to play against that was strong enough defensively to win in the playoffs quite a bit. We’re going through that right now.”
Last year, the Amerks played a 19-game stretch from the start of January into late February during which they went 6-11-2-0. But when people talk about the 2022-23 Rochester Americans, they don’t discuss the team’s mid-season slump; they talk about how they were only six wins away from becoming Calder Cup champions.
“We’re playing the right way for the most part,” said Biro. “It’s a long season. You’re going to go through stretches where you play well and for whatever reason pucks aren’t going in. This is just part of the process. You’re going have to go through struggles like this. We went through kind of the exact same thing last year where we were kind of battling for the most part through the season. Then we started taking strides and by the end of the year we were a completely different team. I think we’re trending in that direction now. I like the way we’re headed.”
“We went through something like this last year, too,” said forward Brendan Warren. “It really helped us. We got to a point where we were playing the right way, but not necessarily getting the results. It took us to another level that later we were able to achieve big things. As long as we keep working and playing the same way and improving, we’re going to be in a good spot.”
“As long as you’re sticking to the process and doing the right things over a long period of time, it will come,” Amerks captain Michael Mersch said. “You don’t want to waver from what we do right. Sometimes things slip a little during the season. It’s the team’s job and the individual’s job to be conscious of that and really focus on the details of the game because as the season goes on those things really matter.”
You can take comfort in knowing what happened in the past is similar to what’s going on in the present. Appert has shown the same instillment of belief he did in last year’s team, but he has also cautioned them that repeating the success that comes from failure is contingent on one thing.
“If you learn your lessons along the way, it’s a benefit. Adversity and failure lead to growth if you learn your lessons,” Appert said.
“Teaching lessons and learning lessons are different. We can teach them, but until you improve on those things, you haven’t actually learned them.”
Consider school back in session for the Amerks.