A month after being loaned by San Jose to the Rochester Americans, Nick Petrecki was finally playoff-bound.
Rochester’s 4-1 win over the Utica Comets on April 16 clinched the berth, completing the team’s rebound from a bad stretch in March that included nine straight losses, seven straight in regulation. Petrecki, a Schenectady native, was there for the last eight of those, so he felt the relief as much as anyone when the Amerks avoided dropping out of playoff contention.
“We were playing very solid hockey leading right up to the playoffs,” he said. “So it was a little bit of a relief, and it was exciting. That’s what you work all summer for, that’s what you go through training camp for, and everything gets amped up around playoff time. It was definitely nice to see the asterisk next to our name on the board.”
It was especially nice for the fifth-year pro to see. He had spent all his time as a pro, until his loan on March 12, with San Jose’s organization. He has played 277 games with the Sharks’ AHL affiliate in Worcester and one game with San Jose last season, but has not made it to the postseason since his days with Boston College.
In his five postseason games with the Amerks, Petrecki finished with a minus-one rating, two penalty minutes and six shots on goal. In 14 games with Rochester, he had an assist, an even plus-minus, 28 penalty minutes and 12 shots on goal. In the last eight games he played, he had an assist and a plus-six rating.
The Amerks were the No. 7 seed, playing the No. 2 Chicago Wolves, who carry the AHL’s top goalie in Jake Allen. Chicago won the first game of the best-of-five series in overtime, 4-3, but Rochester drew even with a 3-2 victory in Game 2. The series shifted to Chicago for the final three games, and Petrecki said the Amerks came out flat in their 4-0 Game 3 loss. They rebounded by drubbing the Wolves, 7-2, in Game 4. They could not complete the upset, though, falling in the final game, 4-2.
In Game 5, it was 3-2 until an empty-net goal with 1:01 left, so the Amerks were knocking on the door to the next round. Allen stopped 34 shots for Chicago, though, including all 10 he faced in the final period.
Helping the Amerks clinch their playoff berth and finally getting some playoff experience on his resume can only help Petrecki as he enters free agency this offseason.
“When you’re looking to get another contract, another job the following year, GMs and coaches want to see guys who have not only experience, but are winners,” he said. “At the junior, college level, at the pro level. I think that says something about your character, being on a winning team, as opposed to not being in the postseason for so many consecutive years. So I think it definitely helps, having that experience.
“For me, personally, it was nice to finally get rewarded for the hard work. Obviously, not the result our team wanted, but it was a little bit of a relief after we went on such a skid. And then the series didn’t feel like a 2 and a 7. We fought tooth and nail, and I thought it was a great series.”
Petrecki is a restricted free agent, meaning San Jose will send him a qualifying offer if it wants to keep its negotiating rights to him. If it does not, or if he rejects the offer, he could end up elsewhere — perhaps back in Rochester or with its parent club, the Buffalo Sabres.
He said in addition to figuring out where he will be playing, he will enjoy keeping an eye on signings throughout the league, especially with the salary cap increasing from $64.3 million this season to more than $71 million next season.
“I don’t have an inkling to what’s going to happen, at all,” he said. “That’s why I pay my agent, that’s his job. I’ll call him in the next couple days to check in and let him know how I finished up, then take it from there.
“There’s a lot of time, and I think with the cap going up this summer, there’s going to be a good amount of movement. I’m excited to see what’s going to go on.”