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Is it UPL time in Rochester?

April 20, 2019, 12:29 PM ET [577 Comments]
Michael Pachla
Buffalo Sabres Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
@boosbuzzsabres

Rochester Americans goalie Scott Wedgwood isn't responsible for scoring goals. Nor was he to blame for his Amerks skaters clanking numerous shots off of the iron, hitting the knob of the goalies stick or missing wide open nets, all of which happened last night in a 4-1 Game-1 playoff loss to the Toronto Marlies. Nor was he totally at fault for the goals he let in although some could make the argument that he needed to come up with the save on any (or all) of the first three Marlies goals and by the time Toronto's short-handed goal occurred with just over five minutes left in the third period, the game was over for all intents and purposes.

Nor is Wedgwood to blame for any of the previous six AHL playoff losses in a row to Toronto via back-to-back round-one sweeps in 2012 and 2013. The 26 yr. old veteran AHL goalie served the Amerks well this season with an overall 28-14-2-5 record, a 2.68 goals-against average and .908 save percentage.

However, as of late the Etobicoke, Ontario native has looked anything the part of a legit No. 1 goalie for Rochester. Prior to last night's loss and his 4.04 GAA/.826 sv% in the game, Wedgewood was 3-4-0 and got pulled twice in his last nine starts while surrendering 29 goals on 186 shots (.844 sv%) with all three of his wins coming on the road. In his only two home starts Wedgewood got pulled in an eventual overtime loss to Lehigh Valley (PHI,) and lost 6-1 to Syracuse (TBL) while stopping only 33 of 42 shots-against in those games for a .786 sv%.

Amerks backup goalie Adam Wilcox has been much better than Wedgwood dating back to early March. In games he's started and completed, Wilcox is 3-1-1 overall while allowing 14 goals-against on 121 shots (.884 sv%.) At home during that stretch he's 1-1-1 allowing nine goals on 71 shots for a .873 sv%.

Neither goalie has put up awe-inspiring numbers over the past six-plus weeks although the Amerks managed to go 10-5-2 since March 9 with an offense that barely outscored their opponents 56-51 during that stretch.

Twenty yr. old rookie netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (UPL,) whom Rochester signed to an amateur tryout contract, finished his CHL season with the Sudbury Wolves and joined the Amerks after they got ousted in the second round of the OHL playoffs. The 6'5" 212 lb. native of Espoo, Finland led the Wolves to an impressive turnaround during the regular season and stonewalled the Mississauga Steelheads in a first-round sweep with eight goals allowed and a .946 sv%. Though UPL and the Wolves got swept in the second round by the League champion Ottawa 67's, Sudbury had an impressive campaign where they more than doubled their year-over-year regular season point total (43 to 91) and cut their total goals against from 291 in 2017-18 to a league second-best 206 gaa this past season thanks to the tending of UPL.

Is it a desperate time calling for a desperate measure right now in Rochester? Probably not. If Amerks bench boss Chris Taylor thinks a change is necessary in goal he can hand it off to Wilcox. Yet, it might be best to keep in mind that the Amerks have been bounced in the first round of the playoffs three years running and are only 2-13 in those games which includes 0-4 under Taylor and 0-7 vs. the Marlies. Rochester really needs to change their playoff (mis) fortunes.

According to Keith Wozniak of Let's Go Amerks, all three goalies are on the ice at practice today. It would be a bold move to go with UPL tomorrow night in what might be construed as a must-win scenario, but he's risen to the occasion both at the world junior (Finnish gold this year) and in the first round of the OHL playoffs.

In looking at the overall numbers of Wedgewood and Wilcox, how much of a drop-off could there be by handing over the crease to UPL, a goalie whom many consider to be Buffalo's goalie of the future?
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