Matt Savoie, the ninth overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, will make his AHL debut tonight for the Rochester Americans in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Hershey Bears.
“(I’m) really excited,” Savoie said. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind the last few days.”
Savoie’s junior season ended in the WHL Championship last week. He’s traveled nearly 3,000 miles since then to join the Amerks in their run to the conference finals. Savoie trained with the team this week and watched from the press box as Rochester dominated in a 5-1 road win in Game 1.
Now he’s thrown straight into the action.
“He’s a puck chaser,” Amerks coach Seth Appert said. “That’s what I expect. I expect him to play an extremely strong game.”
The 19-year-old adds speed and skill to an already embarrassingly talented line-up. Five Amerks has double-digit playoff point totals. Jiri Kulich has scored points in seven straight games, including a six-game goal streak. Isak Rosen is second on the team behind Kulich with three power play goals.
The game will air in New York State on MSG with a puck drop from GIANT Center scheduled for 7 p.m.
“I like to play a fast game,” Savoie said. “I’m at my best when I keep my feet moving and I attack offensively.”
The Amerks intend to stay on offense against the Bears. This is when they are at their best and Savoie fits perfectly into that game plan.
“We don’t play well sitting back,” Appert said. “It’s just not who we are, it’s not in our DNA.”
Savoie’s addition to the lineup comes as Rochester looks to take a 2-0 series lead. He has 29 points in 19 playoff games with Winnipeg and expects similar intensity to what he experienced in the WHL playoffs.
“I think playoff hockey is a different beast no matter the league,” Savoie said. “In the West League you’ve certainly seen how physical it has become, how much faster it has become. Every game can cost you dearly.”
A natural centre, the Savoie is also at ease on the wing. Appert said they plan to take advantage of his versatility and have him play in a variety of spots. His right-handed shot is also a luxury the Amerks haven’t had much of this season.
“It’s funny how it got into some stylistic things that we need to do differently,” Appert said. “Whether it’s puck battle structure, face-off plays… Because we’re all left-handers. Having two is going to be nice.”
After a disappointing end to the season in the WHL, Savoie made a clean sweep. The Amerks are also treating Game 2 on Thursday night as a fresh start, despite their convincing win in Game 1 of the series. The momentum only goes into the next shift, and the Amerks are hoping for another strong start after scoring just 14 seconds into Game 1.
“If the first shift isn’t a good shift, you lose that momentum,” Appert said. “If the game’s first change is a strong identity-based change, then we can build on our momentum.”
The series will move to Rochester with Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday. Tickets are on sale now.