Slater Koekkoek is confident about his path to the National Hockey League.
Despite a shoulder injury prematurely ending his final junior season, Koekkoek led the Windsor Spitfires' blueline in goals, assists, and points last season. But the Tampa Bay Lightning 2012 first-rounder is focused on rounding out his defensive game as he begins his professional career with the Syracuse Crunch.
"There's always pressure being a first round pick. It's a label and people are going to talk about it," Koekkoek said. "But everybody has their own road to the NHL. There's a lot of guys in the NHL that went after me, and there's some guys still not in the NHL that went before me. There's no timetable. I'll develop as fast as I can, and hopefully get called up whenever they need me."
The first surge gave the Syracuse Crunch a short-lived lead, but the second sealed the win.
Syracuse scored 25 seconds apart in the second period and 70 seconds apart in the third, as the Crunch beat the Binghamton Senators, 4-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.
"When we got on the ice after the goal, we just said 'Hey, we need a good one,'" said Crunch forward Joel Vermin, who finished with a goal and an assist. "It's crucial. Right after a goal, you need a good shift."
Crunch's stars help pull out big victory over Bingo.
Kristers Gudlevskis had an excellent night allowing just 2 goals on 45 shots for the victory. Both defenses were porous, but Gudlevskis outdueled his counterpart at the opposite end of the rink.
BNG Schneider, (1) (Prince, Wideman), 3:58
SYR Marchessault, (2) (Paquette, Drouin), 5:19
SYR Vermin, (1) (Blunden), 5:44
BNG Puempel, (1) (Johnson, Schneider), 8:51 (PP)
SYR Blunden, (2) (Vermin, Kunyk), 13:20
SYR Corrente, (1) (Paquette, Drouin), 14:30
Mike Blunden, Jonathan Drouin, and Gudlevskis were the game's three stars. Drouin had 2 helpers and a game high 7 shots on goal. The current plan appears to be for Drouin to remain with the Crunch through next weekend before he rejoins the Lightning.
Syracuse travels to Worcester to play the Sharks next Friday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Legends were born tonight in Syracuse, New York.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 29 shots for his first professional victory in North America.
SYR Marchessault, (1) (Cote, Blujus), 8:44
SPR Tyrell, (1) (Madaisky, Sedlak), 15:45
SPR Monardo, (1) (Sifers, Madaisky), 3:53
SYR Paquette, (3) (Marchessault, Kunyk), 18:51
SYR Drouin, (1) , 7:18
I envy the folks who were in the arena tonight. Not only did they get to witness the first North American pro win by Vasilevskiy, but the first pro point by one of the truly great young players in the game. A future immortal. A young man who needs no introduction. 50 years ago when they recount this night to their grandchildren, and they will, they'll speak his name with the hushed reverence it deserves...
But, seriously. We love Blujus here at Bolt Prospects, and we love Vasilevskiy, but all that was overshadowed by the professional debut of Jonathan Drouin, who lived up to his billing. He was +3. He was dangerous all night in helping to tilt the ice in Syracuse's favor. And, of course, he scored the game winner on a partial break that began with a quick little defensive play in his own end and was completed with a top shelf, cookie jar breaking shot.
Syracuse gets Binghamton tomorrow night as the Jonny (Jouer au) Hockey road show continues on its short run in the AHL.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Jonathan Drouin chipped the puck past the defenseman, rushed down the ice and wristed the puck into the top right corner.
Drouin, the Tampa Bay Lightning's third overall pick in 2013, netted the game-winning goal in the third period of his professional debut to lift the Syracuse Crunch to a 3-2 victory over the Springfield Falcons at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.
"I tried some passes today and they didn't go through," Drouin said. "I decided to shoot that one, and I'm pretty happy it went in."
Drouin, on a rehab assignment after sustaining a slight fracture in his right hand during training camp, was on the ice for all three Crunch goals.
"Those guys are easy to play with," Drouin said of his linemates. "(Jonathan) Marchessault is fast and (Cedric Paquette) thinks the game well."
It was a feeling Henri Ikonen couldn’t describe.
Representing Finland in the 2014 World Junior Championships and winning his homeland’s first gold medal since 1998 was a memory he will never forget.
To top it off, the Finns beat host (and rival) Sweden in overtime.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” Ikonen said. “The best two weeks of my life.”
With his professional career just getting started, Ikonen is hoping to make many more memories like the one he had in Sweden. But the Syracuse Crunch forward is taking it one step at a time.
“I just go to the rink every morning and do my best there,” Ikonen said.
Two games into his professional career, Dylan Blujus is showing he belongs in the AHL.
The 20-year-old defenseman made his pro debut with the Syracuse Crunch Saturday against Springfield, and over two games last weekend had an even plus-minus rating with six shots.
"It went pretty well, just getting that first pro game under my belt felt nice," Blujus said. "Get the nerves out early, now I can start playing my game and start making plays."
Despite a few expected hiccups, Crunch coach Rob Zettler was impressed with the puck movement by each of his rookie defensemen.
For multiple members of the Crunch, the team deserved better.
Syracuse took three one-goal leads but let them slip away, as it fell to the Hartford Wolf Pack in overtime, 4-3, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Sunday.
"They kept coming, they didn't give up," said Crunch captain Mike Angelidis. "I thought we deserved a better fate, but that's how it goes sometimes."
After a scoreless first period, the teams combined for five goals over the first 11 minutes of the second.
Crunch clipped in OT.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for the loss in his AHL debut.
SYR Richard, (1) (Gourde, Marchessault), 1:35 (PP)
HFD Lindberg, (1) (Bourque, Mueller), 2:25 (PP)
SYR Paquette, (1) (Samson, Koekkoek), 4:37
HFD Mueller, (1) (Bodie, Bourque), 9:36
SYR Paquette, (2) (Vermin, Cote), 11:02
HFD Hrivik, (1) (Kristo, Bodie), 6:35 (PP)
HFD Lindberg, (2) (Bourque, Allen), 4:53
Syracuse faces Springfield on Friday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Less than a minute and a half after a Springfield goal, Syracuse found an answer.
The Mike Blunden tip-in on a Luke Witkowski point shot cut the Falcons' lead to one but penalties limited the Crunch's opportunities to tie the game, as Syracuse fell to Springfield, 3-1, in the season opener at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.
"We were hurt offensively because we had to kill eight penalties," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "We were undisciplined, and that in the end was the difference. When we tried to play 5-on-5 and play our game, we were starting to get chances. Then people take bad penalties and took away our momentum. We wasted a lot of energy killing those penalties."