Cody Hodgson is expected to do special things in the American Hockey League after establishing himself as an NHL regular last season. So far, he’s meeting expectations.
Hodgson scored the game-winning goal Tuesday night to help the Rochester Americans beat Hamilton, 3-1, in First Niagara Center. Joe Finley also scored for the Amerks, who received 36 saves from goaltender David Leggio in his Buffalo homecoming.
Hodgson entered the night with seven assists, the most in the AHL. Despite having proved himself at the highest level – he played 83 games in the NHL last year, including 20 for the Sabres – he’s attacking his time in the minors.
“Being relatively old for this team, we’ve got a lot of young players, so it’s just a different role,” said the 22-year old. “I want to be in a leadership position and show how things should be done. I’ve always had that where I want to contribute offensively as much as possible.”
The Amerks have won three straight games to improve to 4-2. Their next game is Friday in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton against the Pittsburgh Penguins’ minor-league club.
The Amerks’ skated into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead on a rare goal by Finley. The 6-foot-8 defenseman took a slap shot from the left point that hit at least one of the Bulldogs on the way to the net. Hamilton goalie Peter Delmas had no chance to catch up to the carom with 11:45 gone.
It was the first goal of the season for Finley, who scored just once in 62 games with Buffalo and Rochester last year. Finley has four goals in 114 games as a professional.
The Bulldogs tied the game at 1-1 with 7:51 left in the second, but the deadlock lasted just 44 seconds for the Montreal Canadiens’ prospects. Hodgson put Rochester back in front with his first goal of the year.
The erstwhile Sabres center cut between two Bulldogs near the left boards and skated toward the net. He tried feeding linemate Evan Rankin in front, but the right winger couldn’t control the pass. The puck bounced back to Hodgson, and he ripped a shot past Delmas.
The Amerks’ potent power play iced the game with 3:51 left. Brayden McNabb set up fellow defenseman T.J. Brennan for a one-timer and his fourth goal of the year.
“He just laid it in there for me,” Brennan said of McNabb, “and pucks are just kind of bouncing my way right now.”
The Amerks and Sabres announced a crowd of 10,936. The 300 level was closed, with all the fans gathering in the lower two levels of seats.
The Amerks played four games in Buffalo during the 2004-05 lockout and averaged 15,160 fans. They drew a high of 17,898 and a low of 12,126. Rochester won all four games during the last lockout. More games could be moved to Buffalo if this season’s work stoppage continues.
Amerks coach Ron Rolston has been impressed by first-year pro Frederick Roy, who played his third game. The son of goaltending legend Patrick Roy is adapting well to a new role.
The 5-10, 168-pounder is skating on the fourth line in a checking role.
Though Hodgson is happy to be playing, he feels for his locked-out NHL brethren.
“You can only play shinny for so long,” Hodgson said. “I know it’s tough for the guys right now. There’s a few guys out skating and trying to put games together. Being able to be in top competition really helps.”