ROCHESTER – Earlier in his career, Buffalo Sabres prospect Filip Cederqvist never paid much of a price if he skated to the net.
In his native Sweden, Cederqvist said, you’re not allowed to box out.
“You can just almost stand in front of the net and nothing’s going to happen,” he told the Times Herald on Tuesday following the Americans’ off-ice workout in Blue Cross Arena.
Cederqvist has learned when he tries to park his 6-foot-3, 208-pound frame around the net, an area that’s fiercely protected in North American hockey, he will be cross-checked, slashed and bullied from that space.
“Here it’s a war around the net,” the rookie winger said. “It’s really hard.”
The youngster nicknamed “Moose” has taken a beating this season.
“I never had so many bruises as I have this year,” he said. “The hockey is tougher over here, for sure.”
Cederqvist, 22, has adjusted to a different brand of hockey over his first months in the AHL. He said he feels more comfortable utilizing his big frame around the net and operating with less time and space on the smaller ice surface.
He proved it over the weekend, scoring a natural hat trick, his first three-goal game as a pro, in Saturday’s 4-3 home loss to the Cleveland Monsters. In Sunday’s regular-season finale in Cleveland, his power-play goal opened the scoring in a 4-1 win that clinched third place in the AHL’s North Division.
He scored three of his four goals around the net.
“It was just a matter of time when I started to score,” said Cederqvist, a fifth-round pick by the Sabres in 2019, 143rd overall.
FILIP CEDERQVIST KEEPS SCORING 🚨 pic.twitter.com/FiLYQWxsN1
— x-Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) April 16, 2023
Cederqvist registered nine goals and 20 points in 55 regular-season games, meaning he scored 44 percent of his goals in barely four periods during a two-day stretch.
He scored his hat trick in a span of 4:45. He had mustered just three goals in his previous 41 games.
“Hockey’s weird sometimes,” Cederqvist said. “I think I created a ton of scoring chances during the season. The puck hasn’t really bounced my way, I think. It’s not me coming up with an excuse, but if you look at a weekend like this, it’s sometimes the puck goes in, sometimes it bounces right, and I think I’ve been working hard to deserve that.”
Amerks coach Seth Appert said Cederqvist’s willingness to get to the net and take a pounding has buoyed his development.
“What I love about ‘Moose’ is that he has the skill to score skill goals,” he said. “But more and more throughout the season, he’s embracing getting to the inside and getting to the front of the net, because that’s how he’s going to have to make his money. He’s going to have to score goals like (Amerks captain) Michael Mersch does, (winger) Brett Murray does, on a consistent basis if he wants to play in the National Hockey League.
“And that was great to see the hard-nosed goals, the net-front goals, the goals around the dirty areas, because those are the ones that really matter.”
Early in the season, Cederqvist acknowledged he had trouble adapting. He was thinking too much about where he needed to be on the ice and where the puck might go.
“But now, at least the last month, the game has been coming to me a little bit more,” he said. “I don’t need to think so much. I know where to be and I know where the spaces are. I feel more comfortable. I know what to do and I know what to expect every game, too. That was hard in the beginning, too.”
Appert has recently rewarded Cederqvist with a spot at left wing beside center Sean Malone and 20-goal scorer Linus Weissbach. Not surprisingly, Cederqvist said his job “on the line is to be strong on the puck, win the puck back.”
“If I’m able to do that and give Linus some space and time to use his skills, it’s going to be very beneficial,” he said. “Then we have Malone in the middle, he’s just a train there. Like, he wins his puck battles, he wins the faceoffs, he’s heavy to play against.”
Malone said he loves Cederqvist’s physical style.
“He’s big, really holds onto pucks and plays a mature game for his age,” he said. “To see him get rewarded was awesome.”
The Amerks, who open their best-of-five first-round playoff series Friday in Syracuse, could have some reinforcements against the Crunch this weekend.
Appert said rookie forwards Jiri Kulich (lower-body injury) and Tyson Kozak (upper) are “trending toward probable.”
“They’ve had some real good days the last few days,” he said.
Meanwhile, Appert said forwards Brandon Biro and Brendan Warren (both lower body) are likely out this weekend.
The Amerks on Tuesday announced they will face the Charlotte Checkers in the outdoor “Queen City Winter Classic” on Jan. 13, 2024.
The game will be played at Triust Field, home of the Charlotte Knights International League baseball team.