Luke Witkowski has learned many lessons in the first half of his rookie season.
The defenseman is surrounded by quality teachers, whether its a coaching staff with decades of experience in professional hockey or the many veterans that dot the Syracuse Crunch lineup.
But sometimes, the best lessons are taught through personal experience.
“These guys help him and we try to help him as much as possible, but I think sometimes you have to live through some of those mistakes,” said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. “You can tell a guy to move the puck quickly as much as you want, but sometimes he has to learn the hard way and get caught doing it.”
Syracuse starts February with a moral victory after facing some extreme adversity.
ECHL loaner Allan York allowed 2 goals on 31 shots before allowing 2 of 3 Norfolk shooters to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO Loss. That's better goaltending, statistically, than Syracuse has been getting lately. With their preferred backup option experiencing plane trouble, the Crunch had 40-something year old John Parks backing up York for the price of 3 crisp $100 bills and one personalized, authentic, Crunch alternate jersey, which he got to keep. These extraordinary circumstances, of course, made it a remarkable moral victory that Syracuse got a point out of the game. And, luckily, with Ben Bishop feeling well enough for the Lightning, Kristers Gudlevskis has been returned to the Crunch moving forward.
SYR DiSalvatore, (4) (Tyrell, Angelidis), 10:20
NOR Ezekiel, (1) , 9:57
NOR Eminger, (1) (Ezekiel, Laganiere), 15:39
SYR Tyrell, (5) , 2:05 (SH)
NOR- Grant, Etem
Dana Tyrell was the game's second star.
If the playoffs started today, Norfolk would be the 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. So, again, with an ECHL loaner and "some dude" off the street as backup, that's not an unimpressive result for the Crunch. It shows what this team is capable of pulling off when focused. Let's hope that with the disastrous month of January behind them and Gudlevskis back in the fold, Syracuse can parlay that into a good month of hockey. They face Rochester next on Wednesday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
In the first five minutes of the third period, the Syracuse Crunch seized the momentum.
With Cedric Paquette serving a five-minute major penalty for boarding, the Syracuse penalty killers turned tide on Norfolk and scored the game-tying goal with less than 18 minutes remaining in regulation.
The Crunch searched for the go-ahead goal throughout the third period and overtime, but couldn't complete the comeback, falling to the Admirals in a shootout, 3-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday afternoon.
"I thought our penalty killers were outstanding tonight," said Syracuse coach Rob Zettler. "I thought those guys were gaming it out, played hard, blocked shots and got us a game-tying goal, which is huge."
Have you heard the one about a Latvian and a French Canadian who walk into a diner on the way from Utica to Montreal?
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the loss. After the game, Desjardins and tandem-mate Kristers Gudlevskis were summoned to join the Lightning in Montreal for tomorrow night's came against the Canadiens with Bishop's head injury and Lindback's sprained ankle.
UTI DeFazio, (6) (O'Reilly), 3:24
UTI Pelletier, (8) (Grenier, Archibald), 13:31
UTI Archibald, (7) (Grenier, Pelletier), 14:46
SYR Sustr, (1) (Angelidis, Panik), 18:55
I suppose the good news is that at least Andrej Sustr was able to get on the board. Sadly, though, the Crunch will be going into tomorrow night with a loaned ECHL goaltender between the pipes, in all likelihood. They've reportedly suspended Riku Helenius tonight for breach of contract. So, things don't appear to be on the way to getting a whole lot better for the Crunch. Perhaps there's a silver lining that there's no recall for Valtteri Filppula's spot as of this posting. It's not exactly something worth throwing a parade over, but Crunch fans have to take what they can get these days.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Despite being sent to Syracuse for more ice time, Andrej Sustr hasn't seen much game action.
The 6-8 defenseman, hurt on his second shift since being reassigned by the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this month, practiced with the Crunch Tuesday. After missing five games, he is nearing a return to the lineup.
“It’s been pretty good,” Sustr said of working his way back into game shape Tuesday. “I’m aiming for this weekend.”
With Syracuse on a five-game losing streak, the addition of Sustr is a major shot in the arm to a struggling Crunch defense that has surrendered 23 goals in the past five games.