Peca, Matthew

Peca Getting Comfortable, Consistent With Crunch

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Matthew Peca’s goals in back-to-back games looked eerily similar.

The Syracuse Crunch center picked the puck off the half wall, danced through multiple defenders to the slot, and wristed a shot into the back of the net. Peca used his speed and skill to get into prime scoring areas, and was rewarded with three points in his last two games.

Peca is getting more comfortable and consistent as he continues to develop during his rookie season.

“Over the last couple weeks his game has been more consistent,” said Crunch head coach Rob Zettler. “He’s skating a little more consistently, he’s starting to protect pucks down low, and you see these goals he is scoring off the half wall and moving into the high traffic areas -- that’s where he’s really good. He just needs to get there often and use his speed to his advantage.”

AHL Game Night: 11-14-15 Comets at Crunch

Gudlevskis stands on his head.


Kristers Gudlevskis allowed just 1 goal on 48 shots for the victory. That's darned near shades of the Lightning's affiliation with Springfield territory, when guys like Boutin were having to fend off 50-some shots a game. He gets back on track and one ups Wilcox who has had a couple of good starts in a row and now we have two goaltenders cooking in the AHL in a way that the Lightning haven't seen since the heady days of Tokarski and Janus. This is good.

First Period

Second Period
SYR Vermin, (3) (Nesterov, Mormina), 10:45
UTI Zalewski, (3) (Pedan, Fedun), 12:23

Third Period
SYR Peca, (4) (Vermin, DeAngelo), 1:01 (PP)

Gudlevskis, Joel Vermin and Matthew Peca were the game's three stars.

Syracuse punctuated their victory tonight with a feverish 5-on-3 PK toward the end of the Third Period to seal the win.

Box score from

AHL Game Night: 11-13-15 Senators at Crunch

Extra hockey fun in Syracuse.

SYR-4 (OT)

Adam Wilcox allowed 3 goals on 36 shots for the OT victory. Not surprisingly, Zettler rode the hot hand from last weekend. It's up to Gudlevskis to take the lead dog's job back.

First Period
BNG Hobbs, (1) (Robinson, Fraser), 3:13
SYR Peca, (3) (Witkowski, Vermin), 10:31
BNG Lindberg, (3) (Dzingel, Kostka), 19:01

Second Period
BNG Robinson, (1) (Claesson), 15:19 (SH)

Third Period
SYR Vermin, (2) (DeAngelo, Wilcox), 2:13 (PP)
SYR McGinn, (1) (Peca, Vermin), 12:16 (PP)

SYR Tambellini, (4) (Gourde, Witkowski), 3:30

Wilcox, Joel Vermin, and Jeff Tambellini were the game's three stars.

My running theory for this season for the Crunch is that their ceiling ultimately depends on Matthew Peca's development. The Crunch need his speed and creativity to give them some offensive punch off the rush and on counters to augment the more meat and potatoes approach they showed to manufacturing goals most of last season. So, anytime Peca gets a multi point game, that's a good sign.

Box score from

AHL Game Night: 10-18-15 Crunch at Wolf Pack


Adam Wilcox allowed 4 goals on 32 shots for the loss in his season debut. So Gudlevskis starts the season the clear top dog in the crease.

First Period
SYR Peca, (1) (Vermin, Dotchin), 12:19 GIF GIF

Second Period
HFD Hrivik, (1) (Adam, Andersson), 12:33 GIF
HFD Megna, (1) (Tambellini), 13:57 GIF

Third Period
HFD Bourque, (1) (Diaz, Gibbons), 3:05 (PP) GIF
HFD Gibbons, (2) , 15:05 GIF
SYR Paradis, (2) (Taormina, McGinn), 16:55 GIF
HFD Hughes, (1) (Bodie, Nehring), 18:14 (EN/SH)GIF

Matthew Peca potted his first goal and first point of the season. He's an important piece if Syracuse is going to improve on last season's performance.

Box score from

AHL Game Night: 10-10-15 Crunch at Phantoms

Crunch hang on for opening night win.


Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the victory. He didn't have a ton of work in the first half of the game, but made a handful of key stops at key moments in the second half of the contest to preserve the win, including a big glove stop at the end of the Third Period.

Click on any of the goals listed to see a GIF of the play.

First Period
SYR Blunden, (1) (Angelidis, Ikonen), 9:00
LV Palushaj, (1) (Leier, Gostisbehere), 11:39 (PP)
SYR Marchessault, (1) (Vermin, Blujus), 14:31
SYR Paradis, (1) (Richard, DeAngelo), 18:38

Second Period
SYR Marchessault, (2) (Blujus, Tambellini), 6:07
LV Conner, (1) (Padakin, Parks), 9:17

Third Period
LV Martel, (1) (Conner, Cousins), 16:31

Jonathan Marchessault and Dylan Blujus were the game's first and second stars.

It was kind of a tale of two games tonight, with Syracuse looking dominant in the first part of the game, only allowing the Phantoms chances on the odd unforced turnover and on the man advantage. They established a 4-1 lead in the Second Period and it had the look of a laugher, but they allowed Lehigh Valley to stick around and eventually spent the bulk of the Third Period protecting the dreaded 2 goal lead. They had a handful of very good forechecking shifts in the final frame to take some of the pressure off, but in the end it was a lot closer than it should have been.

Snap decision on this iteration of the Crunch is that they're very similar to last year's edition. Not surprising. They have decent speed but didn't look terribly threatening off the rush. Their bread and butter is still going to be the cycle and manufacturing those greasy goals, punctuated by the occasional laser beam from Marchessault (who was lethal tonight from the slot). With only one PP opportunity on the night, it's too early to judge if their extra man unit will be better than the travesty they called a power play last season.

As for the key newcomers, I thought Matthew Peca played a nice, responsible two-way game. He wasn't able to flash on the rush as I'd have expected, but I'm sure that'll come. Anthony DeAngelo got a helper for his first AHL point, but didn't get a chance to flash his offensive skill much in the game. Defensively, he reminds me a bit of Paul Ranger when Ranger was a rookie pro. That is to say, he's in the right zip code positionally, and even though he's not in perfect spots he's mobile enough to close the gap quickly. If he's anything like Ranger, he'll get sharper in that aspect as time goes on. Adam Erne had one very poor tripping penalty, but also showed a lot of the qualities that make him a valued prospect. He hits to hurt and he was very good on the cycle and on the forecheck in the Third Period as Syracuse was nursing the lead.

Box score from

NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-25-15 Panthers at Lightning

All is right with the world...


Ben Bishop stopped all 18 shots he faced for the win before giving way to Kristers Gudlevskis, who allowed 1 goal on 18 shots the rest of the way. My going theory on the backup job the first two months of the regular season is this: the Lightning would be perfectly comfortable signing Ray Emery, but they'd really prefer to give Gudlevskis the gig. A solid performance like that is very helpful to Gudlevskis' cause.

First Period
12:29 TB Kucherov (1), (Peca, Namestnikov)

Second Period
1:45 TB Condra (1), (Boyle, Erne)
10:59 TB Peca (1), (Callahan, Namestnikov)
12:26 TB Kucherov (2), (Drouin, Stamkos)

Third Period
9:05 FLA Trocheck (1), (Pirri, Jokinen)(PP)

Matthew Peca, Nikita Kucherov, and Vladislav Namestnikov were the game's three stars.

The Lightning may only be 1-1-1 through 3 games of the preseason, but I think the organization has to be pretty elated with everything so far, on balance. Emery and Gudlevskis have both played pretty well in their half game auditions and Wilcox showed potential. The younger guys you would hope will step up in Tampa Bay this coming season (Drouin, Namestnikov, Brown, etc.) have all played pretty well. Condra's seemingly fitting in seamlessly in that lower line equation. Key performers who will be counted on to step up for Syracuse this year like Peca are playing well and the wave of young defensemen who will probably start making their way to Tampa the second half of the year like Koekkoek, DeAngelo, Blujus, and Dotchin have all been pretty solid. Other than Sustr's performance in the second preseason game, I'd say the Lightning have checked off a lot on their to-do list thus far.

Mike Angelidis had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot and was 40% on 10 draws in 11:46.

Anthony DeAngelo had 2 penalty minutes in 18:26.

Slater Koekkoek was +3 with 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 18:21. He'll be in Tampa Bay by the playoff stretch of the season at the latest, in my opinion.

Joel Vermin had 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 13:48.

Jake Dotchin was +3 with 2 shots in 18:46.

Peca had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 in 14:09. He also had 3 shots and was perfect on the 2 draws he took. It's an interesting question we've had among the Bolt Prospects staff when it comes to Peca: just how good will he be? I think our minimum expectation, based on his body of work at Quinnipiac, is that he'll be an AHL star (call it the Cory Conacher level), but will he go beyond it to become a smallish NHL star (the Tyler Johnson level)? Only time will tell, but he's had a strong start to this season, which is great to see.

Yanni Gourde had 1 hit in 11:43.

Adam Erne had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 13:25.

Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, and 3 hits in 19:41. Team high in shots. Wish I could inject that gene in one or two other Lightning players every season.

Box score and extended statistics from

NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-23-15 Lightning at Predators

Overmatched Lightning B squad falls on the road.


Adam Wilcox allowed 4 goals on 21 shots for the loss before giving way to Allen York at mid-game. York allowed 1 goal on 9 shots the rest of the way.

First Period
7:47 NSH Neal (1), (Josi, Fiala)
8:40 NSH Weber (1), (Ribeiro, Wilson)(PP)
16:14 NSH Smith (1), (Josi, Bartley)

Second Period
4:31 NSH Smith (2), (Wilson, Ribeiro)
6:39 TB Namestnikov (1), (Blunden, Peca)(PP)
10:14 TB Brown (1), (Tambellini)

Third Period
17:47 NSH Sissons (1), (Arvidsson, Moses)(PP)

I don't want to call this a throw away game, but this was essentially sticking the Palat/Johnson/Kucherov line on a depleted Syracuse Crunch roster and putting them up against darned near all of the Nashville Predators opening night roster. The Preds had about a 4 to 1 experience advantage in the lineup tonight, and it showed in the final score. The good news is the Lightning managed to staunch the bleeding pretty well after it got to 4-0 and got some production from lower line guys like Namestnikov and Brown (good for Tampa Bay) and Blunden, Peca, and Tambellini (good for Syracuse). The only thing that gives me any real pause is Andrej Sustr getting a -3 hung on him, which continues the bleeding from his playoff run of last year.

Tanner Richard had 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 14:56. He was also 60% on draws.

Jonathan Marchessault was -1 with 3 shots and was 50% on draws in 15:07.

Philippe Paradis was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:12.

Luke Witkowski stayed clean in 19:48 of ice time.

Jake Dotchin fought a Predator and had 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:33.

Matthew Peca had a helper and was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:02. He only took 2 draws and was 0-for-2.

Dominik Masin was -2 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 17:45. I'd imagine he's ticketed for Peterborough come tomorrow, but we'll see.

Daniel Walcott had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 18:23. He's becoming a favorite on the website.

Nikita Nesterov had 2 penalty minutes and 5 shots in 21:05. You never have to ask Nesterov to put pucks on net. He starts shooting from the parking lot.

Box score and extended statistics from

AHL Playoff Game Night: 4-25-25 Crunch at Penguins

One of the worst nights in Lightning organization history.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Game Two


Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Leads the Series 2-0

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 4 goals on 29 shots for the loss. He played ok, from all indications, but the Crunch really need a goaltender to win a game for them right now.

First Period
WBS Megna, (1) (Ebbett, Sheary), 2:32 (PP)
WBS Rowney, (2) (Archibald, Harrington), 16:32 (PP)
WBS Kostopoulos, (1) , 19:59 (PP)

Second Period

Third Period
WBS Kapanen, (3) (Sheary, Ebbett), 16:10

Zettler went with some wholesale lineup changes, but unfortunately that didn't lead to any offensive production. The good news, I suppose, is that the shot totals were nearly even at 29-27 in favor of the Pens. With that said, the Crunch continue to look like a team without much life, and Game Three may only offer an opportunity for players who will need to be key contributors in Syracuse next season, like Matthew Peca to get a little more seasoning.

Box score from

AHL Playoff Game Night: 4-24-15 Crunch at Penguins

Can't stop the bleeding.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Game One

SYR- 1
WBS- 5

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Leads the Series 1-0

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 4 goals on 20 shots for the loss before giving way to Adam Wilcox, who allowed 1 goal on 15 shots the rest of the way. Coach Zettler is tasked with the impossible task of choosing between a streaky goaltender who appears to have gone completely cold and a rookie ATO who has never won a professional game for Game Two. Flip a coin.

First Period
WBS Uher, (1) (Kuhnhackl, Rowney), 16:52

Second Period
WBS Kapanen, (1) (Megna), 6:03
WBS Rowney, (1) (Goers, Uher), 6:34
WBS Kapanen, (2) (Goers, Megna), 7:43
SYR Peca, (1) (Angelidis, Vermin), 14:00

Third Period
WBS Syvret, (1) (Rowney, Sheary), 12:32

Syracuse entered the playoffs having won just 1 of their last 10 down the stretch, and they got dominated tonight. It's not just that they didn't get the goaltending, but they also got outshot 35-23 as well, which gives you an idea of run of play. There's a small silver lining with Matthew Peca getting his first pro playoff goal, but it's super, super small. The Pens pinned a -4 on Syracuse's offensive bell cow, Jonathan Marchessault, and if Marchessault's line can't win their shifts, then Syracuse likely has no prayer.

Honestly, I've got no helpful suggestions or tweaks that I can suggest at this juncture. I kept waiting for this team to gel with all the roster changes and ATO additions down the stretch, and it simply hasn't happened.

Game Two is tomorrow night.

Box score from

AHL Game Night: 4-18-15 Sound Tigers at Crunch

Crunch complete their limp into the playoffs.


Adam Wilcox allowed 3 goals in 18 shots for the loss. Ugly stat line.

First Period
SYR Peca, (1) (Ikonen, Vermin), 5:11
BRI Jeffrey, (25) (Quine), 6:57

Second Period

Third Period
BRI Mouillierat, (24) (Pulock, Quine), 9:53 (PP)
BRI Markison, (1) (Sundstrom), 15:19
SYR Blujus, (4) (Dotchin, Marchessault), 19:38 (PP)
BRI Mayfield, (1) , 19:56 (EN)

Matthew Peca, who scored his first professional goal, was the game's first star.

Syracuse outshot Bridgeport 33-19 in the contest, but couldn't turn the tide on the scoreboard. The club finished the regular season 1-7-2 in their last 10 games. Ouch. The team will be the 5th seed in the East and start on the road against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the opening round. It's hard to feel confident, though, given the team's marked swoon over the past 10 games.

Box score from

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