Mike Leone to coach Amerks

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Sabres announced on Thursday that they have hired Mike Leone to coach their American Hockey League affiliate club.

Leone, who previously coached the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL, replaces Seth Appert, who took a job on Lindy Ruff’s staff with the Sabres after the Amerks were eliminated from the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Leone has been the Gamblers’ head coach and general manager for the past two seasons. Prior to Leone taking over, the Gamblers finished in last place in the USHL Eastern Conference in 2021-22 and missed the playoffs for the fourth time in eight years.

Leone turned the club around immediately, guiding the Gamblers to a 32-23-7 record and a playoff berth in 2022-23. This past season, Green Bay went 34-18-10 and won their first playoff series in over a decade.

“I’m extremely grateful and humbled to be a part of the Buffalo Sabres organization as the next head coach of the Rochester Americans,” said Leone in a statement released by the Amerks. “I want to thank Kevyn Adams and Jason Karmanos for giving me the opportunity to lead the organization and believing in me. I look forward to meeting everyone in the organization and helping our prospects continue to grow and develop on and off the ice.”

Prior to joining the Gamblers, Leone spent three years as an assistant with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. That continues the trend of the Sabres hiring coaches with USA NTDP experience, following Don Granato, Appert, and Ron Rolston. He was an assistant for multiple tournament teams from 2019-2021.

Leone has continued coaching for USA Hockey since being hired by Green Bay. He was named an assistant for the 2022 and 2023 U.S. Junior Select Team. He was also an assistant for the 2022 U.S. Under-18 Men’s Select Team at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

“I am pleased to welcome Mike Leone as the head coach of the Rochester Americans,” said Sabres GM Kevyn Adams in a statement. “The Amerks head coach plays a crucial role in the overall success and growth of our organization, and after a rigorous interview process, it became clear that Mike was the right individual for the job. His development mindset and professional versatility over the course of his career were just some of the many qualities that stood out as we searched for an individual to continue focusing on combining both winning and development in Rochester.”

Leone also spent time as an assistant coach with Bowling Green State University and Quad City of the ECHL. He played Division I college hockey as a forward at Western Michigan University, but before that, he spent time playing at Lindenwood University, Adrian College, and Utica College. Leone then played professionally for four years, suiting up for the Toledo Walleye and Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL as well as Villard-de-Lans in France.

“I am thrilled to welcome Mike to our organization and look forward to working with him as we continue to build a foundation of success in Rochester,” said Amerks GM Jason Karmanos. “Throughout the interview process, Mike differentiated himself from other candidates with his development background, inherent feel for the game, and growth mindset. I am confident in Mike’s leadership and ability to guide our players both on and off the ice, while continuing a culture in which players are proud to wear the Amerks sweater.”

The Dearborn, Michigan native is the 34th head coach in Amerks team history. Rochester made the playoffs last year with a record of 39-23-10 before being eliminated by the Syracuse Crunch in their first playoff series.

The Amerks’ interest in Leone was first reported on Wednesday by Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald.

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