There were two new faces on the ice for Syracuse Crunch practice Tuesday.
Mitchell Stephens and Anthony Cirelli, two Tampa Bay Lightning picks from the 2015 draft, took the ice for the first time in Syracuse after signing amateur tryouts with the Crunch this week. The split practice involved lots of shooting and possession drills for the two centers, who stuck together throughout most of the workouts.
Although Stephens and Cirelli will likely return to their respective junior teams next season, the Lightning organization wanted both players to get a sample of the game at the pro level.
“They’re two smart hockey players,” Crunch head coach Rob Zettler said. “They both have another year of junior left, but we wanted to get them in here and give them a taste of pro hockey. We’ll see -- I’m not sure -- whether they’ll play or not. We’ll see what happens over the course of the next five games.”
Coming into the weekend, the Syracuse Crunch were on a five-game roll and four points of out a playoff spot.
After posting a 4-3 loss to Toronto on Friday, the Crunch were unable to turn things around in a 5-1 loss to the Rochester Americans at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday. The Utica Comets, who are directly ahead of Syracuse for third place in the North Division, won both of their games and lead the Crunch by eight points.
Although the Crunch and Comets meet Sunday and two more times in the final six games of the regular season, Syracuse’s playoff hopes have already taken a huge hit.
“We put ourselves in a tough spot,” Crunch assistant captain Jeff Tambellini said. “Now we need a lot of help. Not only do we have to win every game, but we have to get a ton of help. It’s not the spot we wanted to put ourselves in, but we’re in it now and we’re going to go down swinging.”
Crunch playoff hopes evaporate against Rochester.
Adam Wilcox allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the loss.
RCH O'Dell, (24) (Goulakos, Rodrigues), 19:10
SYR Drouin, (11) (Peca, Taormina), 3:39 (PP)
RCH Bailey, (18) (Sdao, Donovan), 6:02
RCH Goulakos, (1) , 11:55
RCH Bailey, (19) (Schneider), 15:19
RCH Baptiste, (12) (Catenacci, D'Amigo), 18:49 (EN)
Matthew Peca was the game's third star.
Syracuse came into this weekend with little or no margin for error, and they couldn't afford this little hard luck 2 game losing streak. They outshot Rochester 43-31 tonight, but the Americans have Vasilevskiy's old Russian national team tandem mate, Andrey Makarov, and he was the first star tonight.
At this hour, the Crunch are 8 points behind Utica for 3rd in the North Division with the Comets holding a game in hand and they're 8 points behind Portland with the Pirates holding a game in hand and Portland set to cross over from their division into Syracuse's spot in the postseason. Barring an absolutely epic collapse by one of those teams coupled with Syracuse just about running the table, that may be all she wrote.
Syracuse closes out their weekend against Utica tomorrow, after which we'll see if they try to use the handful of remaining games in the regular season on a bevy of potential junior ATO's.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Streaking Crunch lose tight one to league's most talented team.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 4 goals on 28 shots for the loss.
SYR Drouin, (10) (Thomas), 18:04
TOR B. Smith, (9) (Kolomatis, Leipsic), 19:00
TOR B. Smith, (10) (Stanton, Doherty), 15:01
SYR Taormina, (13) (McGinn, Peca), 19:04 (PP)
TOR Leivo, (17) (Arcobello, Brown), 6:56
SYR McGinn, (20) (Peca, Taormina), 14:36 (PP)
TOR Frattin, (12) (Leipsic), 15:28
Look at Toronto's lineup. Count the number of guys who have played in the NHL over the past couple of years. Look at their place in the standings. Then, realize the Crunch gave that team all they can handle. It points to a Syracuse team that has started to turn a corner and may be back on their way to being a very good team in the AHL. Unfortunately, at this time of year, there's no such thing as moral victories. The Crunch can't afford to spare any points in the short time left in the season if they'll have any chance of making the postseason. They're 6 points back of Utica for 3rd place in the North Division and 6 points back of Portland, which would crossover and take the 4th playoff spot in the North Division by virtue of the current playoff format. Both the Comets and Pirates also have a game in hand on Syracuse. So, it's going to just about take running the table for Syracuse to make the dance.
Matthew Peca, quietly, has 1 goal and 10 points in the last 10 games.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Any Syracuse Crunch momentum was short-lived.
The Crunch’s power play tallied its second game-tying goal with 5:24 remaining in regulation. The Marlies’ Matt Frattin answered 52 seconds later and the goal stood up as the game winner, as Syracuse fell to Toronto, 4-3, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.
The loss snaps the Crunch’s season-high five-game win streak.
“We score a huge goal to tie it at 3-3, the bench was excited, and we were fired up,” Crunch head coach Rob Zettler said. “We just didn’t get the job done on the (next) shift. We’ve got to come back strong. We can’t get scored against there. That’s the way it is.”
It took a shift or two, but Ben Thomas’ nerves subsided.
Less than a week after signing his entry level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 19-year-old defenseman made his professional debut with the Syracuse Crunch in a 3-1 win over the Rochester Americans Saturday.
Thomas has quickly settled in on the Crunch’s blue line.
“I was a little nervous going in, obviously, but I thought after I got that first shift out of the way and felt the puck a little bit I settled down,” Thomas said. “I think it went pretty smoothly.”
Rob Zettler wanted to make sure Syracuse didn’t let up.
The Crunch head coach reminded his team of the Americans’ recent games with big third periods. After taking a two-goal lead in the first period, Syracuse buckled down on defense to top Rochester, 3-1, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.
The Crunch has won five straight — a season high — and remain in fourth place in the North Division, two points behind Utica.
“It was very important for our energy and our vibe,” Zettler said of taking the early lead. “I thought we played really well in the first couple periods, but my message to the team was ‘This is how Rochester has been rolling. They don’t come out strong and give up an early lead, but then they come roaring back.’”
Crunch score gigantic win as playoff push continues.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 1 goal on 40 shots for the victory. He was a difference maker tonight, and he's now run off 5 straight wins and he's got a .936 save percentage this month. Peaking in crunch time.
SYR Drouin, (9) (Peca, Martindale), 8:11 (PP)
SYR Gourde, (13) (Ikonen, Martindale), 14:50
SYR Martindale, (4) (Gourde, Ikonen), 11:55
RCH Baptiste, (11) (Mormina), 17:50
Tonight was a crucially important 4-point divisional encounter, and by virtue of the win the 4th place Crunch extended their margin over the 5th place Americans to 6 points with Rochester holding 2 points in hand. Just as importantly, Syracuse stays within 2 points of 3rd place Utica, which beat the tar out of Binghamton tonight. With the divisional crossover rule, the Crunch likely need to catch Utica, which has 2 games in hand on Syracuse and a big ROW advantage. It may take Syracuse darned near running the table to make the postseason, and they're making a good go at just that. Oh, by the way, there's a home-and-home against Utica in 2 weeks. 4/15 and 4/16. Circle it on your calendars and double star it, too.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
The Syracuse Crunch have found a way to string together wins when they need them the most.
The Crunch took the lead over the Devils in the first period and hung on through the final 40-plus minutes, as Syracuse topped Albany, 3-1, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday. The Crunch have won four straight and have points in five consecutive games to move up to fourth place in the North Division.
“It’s not only crucial, it’s necessary,” Crunch head coach Rob Zettler said of earning standings points. “We are where we are, and I think we got some help tonight. … I just thought our guys played really well tonight. They played hard and (goalie Kristers Gudlevskis) was there when we needed him. For the most part, they played the game the right way.”
Crunch beginning to master the playoff push.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory. 4 straight wins now from Kristers, who has refound his form after scuttling through January and February.
SYR Blujus, (6) (Peca, McGinn), 8:41
ALB Johnson, (2) (Crandall), 11:59
SYR Martindale, (3) (Gourde, Koekkoek), 13:16
SYR Drouin, (8) (Erne, Richard), 7:42
Dylan Blujus, Gudlevskis, and Jonathan Drouin were the game's three stars. With a fourth alarm clock now acquired and in place, nothing can stop Jonathan Drouin. And yes, I'll applaud whichever BoltProspects reader cleverly Photoshops Drouin sporting the Flavor Flav clock chain.
For the moment, Syracuse moves into 4th in the North Division by virtue of their 7-2-1 record over the last 10 games. However, it's looking like to get into the dance, Syracuse will need to get all the way up to 3rd in the division because of the unbalanced divisions. They're 1 point back of Utica now, but the Comets have 2 games in hand. Bottom line: they have to stay this hot the next 9 games to make it in.
Box score from TheAHL.com.