Connolly Quietly Collecting Postseason Points

By Jeremy Houghtaling

For a 30-goal scorer, Brett Connolly is essentially flying below the radar.

Overshadowed by the success of the Syracuse Crunch's top line, Connolly has quietly continued his nearly one point per game pace in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He has five points in seven postseason games, having already notched 31 goals and 32 assists in 71 games in the regular season.

"The first line does command a lot of attention, deservedly so," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik. "They've played well, they put up points, they scored key goals for us. But we're a pretty deep team, and you have a guy like Brett Connolly who's basically on your second line. That's a nice luxury to have, because he doesn't get as much attention from the top two defensemen and the checking line."

Connolly came into this season with five games of postseason experience, all with the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League.

"We kind of snuck in the back door every year," the 21-year-old said.

With the Cougars struggling to compete with many of the league's top-tier teams, Prince George had early exits in both 2009 and 2011.

"With this, it's a lot different," Connolly said. "We've got a good team. The stakes are a lot higher and there is a lot more pressure."

Johnson, Palat and Panik have been at the top of every team's scouting report. The trio led the Norfolk Admirals to the Calder Cup last year, and has accounted for 15 goals, 37 points and five game-winning goals in two rounds. Despite playing the least amount of games possible - seven games in a pair of sweeps - Palat is tied for the league lead in playoff points, with Johnson one point behind.

"Those guys have been playing very well, and we're going to need them to keep playing well to win," Connolly said of the top line. "We've had a lot of guys stepping up and contributing. Obviously, we're winning, so it's been a lot of fun."

Connolly started the postseason paired with Dan Sexton and Philip-Michael Devos, but Vladislav Namestnikov was recently moved between Connolly and Sexton. The four players have combined for 15 points, three more than the line of JT Wyman, JT Brown, and Mike Angelidis.

Despite playing in the first postseason in his professional career, Connolly had an idea of what he was in for. He knows it's not about who can put up the most points or individual accolades.

"I knew the pace was going to pick up and I just wanted to help contribute and help the team win, no matter what that is," he said. "Whether it's a big face-off, blocking a shot or doing whatever. This time of the year it's all about winning."