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NA Now: Rochester Jr. Americans

September 3, 2023

The NA Now series features a look at all 32 teams in the NAHL for the 2023-24 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.

Rochester Jr. Americans

Head Coach: Francois Methot (1st season)

2022-23 record: Did not play

2022-23 leading scorer: Did not play

2023 Playoffs: Did not play

2023-24 Division: East

First regular season game: Friday, September 8th vs. Philadelphia Rebels

Home opener: Friday, September 8th vs. Philadelphia Rebels

The final of three expansion teams featured in the NA Now series is the Rochester Jr. Americans. The team came to life and was announced back on December 8, 2022. The Jr. Americans owned by Hockey ROCS, LLC, an entity owned and operated by Chris O’Donnell and Colleen Wegman, and will play out of the Rochester Ice Center in Fairport, New York. O’Donnell is a part owner of the Rochester Ice Center and are currently investing two million dollars into facility upgrades. Upgrades include a new space for the NAHL team that includes locker room, video, lounge, training/recovery, coaches’ office, nutrition, and equipment room.

Leading the way for the Jr. Americans behind the bench will be head coach Francois Methot. The Montreal, Quebec native comes with plenty of coaching experience although this will be his first time coaching in the NAHL. After a 17-year professional career, which included almost 900 games, Methot has spent the past few seasons as the Director of Hockey and head coach of the Rochester Ice Center Hockey Academy.

Joining Methot behind the bench will be Associate Head Coach Brian Gionta. After a standout NCAA career at Boston College, which saw him earn All-American honors his senior year, Gionta was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the third round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut with the Devils in 2001 and quickly established himself as a skilled forward. In 2003, Gionta helped lead the Devils to a Stanley Cup championship, scoring a crucial goal in Game 7 of the Finals. Gionta played for the Devils for seven seasons before signing as a free agent with the Montreal Canadiens in 2009. He played for the Canadiens for five seasons and was named team captain in 2010. Gionta then played for the Buffalo Sabres for three seasons and finished his NHL career with the Boston Bruins in 2018, appearing in over 1,000 NHL games.

“We are very fortunate to have assembled an extraordinary team of hockey professionals who share the same mission and will lead operations. Collectively, they have had tremendous success at all levels of hockey as players and successfully transitioned those experiences in becoming outstanding coaching and player development professionals,” said O’Donnell.

For Methot, he said that despite not having any experience coaching in the NAHL, he is excited about the opportunity and people that he has surrounded himself with. “A year ago, I had no idea I would be in this position, but it’s such a unique opportunity. I am very excited because it’s a great step in the progression of coaching. I am most excited about working with all the people that are involved, from the hockey side, business side, and all the players. It’s a great group of people and I think that’s going to make a difference,” said Methot.

Watch: NA Now video interview with Francois Methot

While Methot did not elaborate specific players on the roster, he did hint that it would have some local flavor. “We got our roster down to 26, but it was difficult. It’s been very competitive and there are a lot of players to be excited about. We have a good group of 20-year-old players with junior experience from different leagues, who I think can be a big part of our leadership group. Everyone is still competing for spots,” said Methot. “There are plenty of talented players in the area and I think our roster will reflect that. I think they can play here, stay close to home, develop, experience a whole new level of hockey, get scouted and then advance to the next level.”

The next step for Rochester is just getting the season started, which has been 7-8 months in the making. “There are a lot of passionate hockey fans in the area. We are adding a level of hockey that is going to be new and exciting, so there is a lot of anticipation. Everyone is ready to go and it’s been a long time coming. The only way you can truly measure yourselves is playing against other teams,” said Methot.

“We know the NAHL is very competitive. There are a lot of good teams and talented players, so we know we must be prepared to play every night. X’s and O’s can be seen a lot of different ways, so we need to make sure we play to our strengths and play with an identity and chemistry. We are excited about making our debut at the NAHL Showcase. I have heard such great things about the event. I am really looking forward to participating and most importantly, learning from the experience.”

Next Up: Shreveport Mudbugs

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