Realizing it was his last chance, Cody Kunyk made a case for a contract.
Looking to continue his career past the collegiate level, Kunyk registered more than a point per game in his senior season at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Kunyk earned a deal in March, but now the 24-year-old is the oldest rookie on the Syracuse Crunch roster and is out to prove himself again.
"My last year was definitely my best year," Kunyk said. "Being an older guy, I had to play with a chip on my shoulder. I knew that there wasn't going to be a tomorrow. I had to make my own path. I gave it everything I had every game, and I was fortunate enough to sign a contract."
"I think it adds a little more grit to my game," he added. "I feel like I have a little bit more to prove since I'm an older guy."
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.