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Crunch Focused on Own Play Heading Into Playoffs


By Jeremy Houghtaling

The teams are certainly well-acquainted.

Blowout wins. Shootout losses. Rowdy games with multiple dustups.

When the puck drops in St. John’s for Game 1 of the Calder Cup Playoffs’ North Division Semifinals Friday evening, it will be the ninth meeting between the Syracuse Crunch and the IceCaps this season.

The Crunch know what to expect — they were 4-1-2-1 in the season series — but are focused on their play instead of what the IceCaps bring.

“I think there’s no secret for us, and there’s no secret for them,” Syracuse head coach Benoit Groulx said. “We know each other pretty well, and it’s going to be on us to play to our strengths.”

ECHL Playoff Game Night: 4-19-17

Toledo Walleye 5 at Kalamazoo Wings 8
Best of seven series tied at 2-2

F Brian Hart, KAL, 1-1-2, +1, 0 PIMS, 2 SOG, *THIRD STAR*
Playoff Totals: 4 GP, 2-1-3, -1, 0 PIMS, 11 SOG
Season Totals (ECHL): 33 GP, 6-5-11, -7, 6 PIMs, 71 SOG
Season Totals (AHL): 33 GP, 3-4-7, E, 26 PIMs, 50 SOG

F Cameron Darcy, KAL, 1-2-3, +2, 0 PIMS, 1 SOG, *SECOND STAR*
Playoff Totals: 4 GP, 2-6-8, +2, 2 PIMS, 14 SOG
Season Totals (ECHL): 20 GP, 5-20-25, +11, 10 PIMs, 51 SOG
Season Totals (AHL): 34 GP, 3-4-7, -3, 14 PIMs, 40 SOG

Other Notables
G Nic Riopel, KAL, W, 60:00 MINS, 31/36
Playoff Totals: 3 GP, 2-1-0-0, 4.35 GAA, 0.835 SV%
Season Totals (ECHL): 32 GP, 18-12-0-1, 3.13 GAA, 0.899 SV%, 1 SO

For the second time in as many nights, Bolt prospect forwards Brian Hart and Cameron Darcy were instrumental in helping bring home a big win for the K-Wings. Darcy earned second star honors with a goal and two assists in Kalamazoo's 8-5 victory over Toledo to knot the series at two games each. Hart earned the third star with a goal and an assist of his own. K-Wings head coach Darryl Bootland went back with Nic Riopel in net after last night's Game 3 and was rewarded with a 31 save performance. The Walleye threw 29 shots at Riopel in the 2nd and 3rd periods, and the netminder bent but he didn't break.

Similar to Game 3, Kalamazoo came out of the gate furiously, slinging 16 shots at the Toledo netminders. But unlike Game 3, the K-Wings got to Toledo goalie Jake Paterson early and often, scoring 4 goals in the first 13 minutes and causing a goalie change to backup netminder Jeff Lerg. Kalamazoo added two more in the 2nd period and carried a 6-2 advantage into the locker room at the 2nd intermission. Toledo came out in the third period flying, running off three straight goals and closing the gap to 6-5 with still a half of a period to play. But the K-Wings showed great poise and closed out the last half of the period a couple of timely markers to seal the victory.

Both teams have held serve on home ice and the series shifts back to Toledo for Game 5 on Friday night, with Game 6 returning to the Wings Event Center Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile in the other Central Division semi-final, the Fort Wayne Komets won in OT Wednesday to take a commanding 3-0 in their series with the Quad Cities Mallards.

ECHL Playoff Game Night: 4-18-17

Toledo Walleye 4 at Kalamazoo Wings 6
Toledo leads series 2-1

F Brian Hart, KAL, 1-0-1, E, 0 PIMS, 4 SOG, *SECOND STAR*
Playoff Totals: 3 GP, 1-0-1, -2, 0 PIMS, 9 SOG
Season Totals (ECHL): 33 GP, 6-5-11, -7, 6 PIMs, 71 SOG
Season Totals (AHL): 33 GP, 3-4-7, E, 26 PIMs, 50 SOG

F Cameron Darcy, KAL, 0-3-3, +2, 0 PIMS, 7 SOG
Playoff Totals: 3 GP, 1-4-5, E, 2 PIMS, 13 SOG
Season Totals (ECHL): 20 GP, 5-20-25, +11, 10 PIMs, 51 SOG
Season Totals (AHL): 34 GP, 3-4-7, -3, 14 PIMs, 40 SOG

Other Notables
G Nic Riopel, KAL, W, 60:00 MINS, 17/21
Playoff Totals: 2 GP, 1-1-0-0, 4.02 GAA, 0.814 SV%
Season Totals (ECHL): 32 GP, 18-12-0-1, 3.13 GAA, 0.899 SV%, 1 SO

Bolt prospect forwards Brian Hart and Cameron Darcy both featured prominently in a huge K-Wings Game 3 victory Tuesday night back at the Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo. The K-Wings peppered Walleye netminder with 52 shots, while the Kalamazoo defense held the high-powered Toledo offense to just 21 shots. Hart scored the game winner with less than 3 minutes left in regulation, while Darcy assisted on all three of Peter Schneider's goals, including the empty netter with 22 seconds remaining to seal the four-goal 3rd period K-Wing flurry and a 6-4 win in front of nearly 1,200 hometown fans. Hart's game winner earned him Second Star honors. Both Darcy and Schneider logged a team-high 7 shots each.

Despite 20 first period Kalamazoo shots, the first frame ended knotted at 1-1 as Justin Taylor finally solved Peterson with less than 90 seconds remaining in the period. The period ended with a Kalamazoo penalty and the Walleye took a 2-1 lead on the power play just 50 seconds into the second period. Kalamazoo tied the game 5 minutes later with a power-play goal of their own started by Darcy and ending with Schneider's first of the night. Later in the period, former Cruncher Evan Rankin tallied his 4th goal of the series for the Walleye, giving the Division champs the 3-2 lead at the second intermission. Early in the third, Darcy went back to work with some nifty puck magic before feeding Schneider for his second goal and the 3-3 equalizer. Both teams traded goals before the period's midpoint, until Hart broke the 4-4 tie late in the period with a one-time blast from the slot past Peterson.

Another pivotal game awaits the K-Wings Wednesday night, as these teams battle again in Kalamazoo for Game 4. It will be interesting to see if the Walleye roll out backup Jeff Lerg in net after a three consecutive doses of Jake Peterson, and while neither K-Wing goalie has been a difference maker in the series thus far, Riopel is coming off the team's only series win.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-18-17

Ontario Hockey League

London Knights 4 @ Erie Otters 5 (OT)
Western Conference Semifinals
Erie wins best-of-7 series, 4-3

W/C Mitchell Stephens, LDN: 1-1-2, -1, 0 PIM, 4 SOG
Playoff Totals: 14 GP, 7-3-10, -1, 2 PIM
Season Totals: 51 GP, 22-32-54, +19, 26 PIM

D Erik Cernak, Erie: 0-1-1, +3, 0 PIM, 4 SOG
Playoff Totals: 11 GP, 1-6-7, +11, 4 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 41 GP, 4-11-15, +7, 35 PIM

C Anthony Cirelli, Erie: 1-0-1, +1, 2 PIM, 5 SOG, 13/28 FO
Playoff Totals: 11 GP, 8-4-12, +9, 4 PIM
Season Totals: 51 GP, 25-39-64, +36, 12 PIM

W Taylor Raddysh, Erie: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Playoff Totals: 11 GP, 5-13-18, +7, 8 PIM
Season Totals: 58 GP, 42-66-108, +67, 37 PIM

Wow. Mitchell Stephens did it again, scoring on the power play with London’s goalie pulled to tie the game at 4 and force overtime, but this time the Knights didn’t come out on top like they did when Stephens scored in OT of Game 6. Warren Foegele (Hurricanes) scored off a savvy pass from Darren Raddysh (undrafted free agent) to win the game for the Otters and send them to the Western Conference Finals against Owen Sound. London had a 3-1 lead in the game, chasing Erie goalie Troy Timpano. The Otters fought back, starting with a goal by Darren Raddysh with less than a second to play in the first period. They’d tie it early in the third period on Cirelli’s eighth goal of the playoffs, then take the lead with 3:31 remaining on a goal by Alex DeBrincat (Chicago). That set up Stephens' temporary heroics. He was battling with Cernak in front of the net when a floater bounced off the goalie and hit the shaft of Stephen’s stick, propelling it into the net. It held up under review. Cirelli almost won it early in overtime when his wrist shot sailed barely over the crossbar. Foegele won it minutes later. Erie outshot the Knights, 63-29. Game 1 of the Conference Finals is Friday.

As for Stephens, his junior career ends with a clutch effort for a gritty London team. He finished tied for second on the team in playoff goals and was fourth in points. He’s eligible to join AHL Syracuse for their playoff run should the organization want him there. He was solid with the Crunch last year, but there are about 82 forwards in Syracuse right now (slight hyperbole). He already has an NHL contract, which will kick in next year.

Lightning Power Play Live: April 17, 2017

Chad was on Lightning Radio’s Lightning Power Play Live Monday to discuss the following:

· Playoffs
· GMing 101
· Creativity within structure
· Jo Drouin’s future with TB (or is there one?)
· Syracuse’s run to the playoffs
· Juniors update

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-16-17

Ontario Hockey League

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 0 @ Owen Sound Attack 1
Western Conference Semifinals
Owen Sound wins best-of-7 series, 4-2

W Boris Katchouk, SSM: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Playoff Totals: 11 GP, 8-5-13, +6, 12 PIM
Season: 66 GP, 35-29-64, +18, 46 PIM

Owen Sound eliminated the higher-seeded Soo from the playoffs with a 1-0 shutout in Game 6 Sunday. Habs prospect (and free agent signing) Michael McNiven made 23 saves for the Attack, while Joseph Raaymakers (undrafted) made 41 saves for the Hounds. Katchouk had his 10-game playoff point streak broken in the shutout loss. With the Soo eliminated, Katchouk is eligible to join a packed Syracuse roster for at least practice duty. His combination of size, grit, and skill could be an asset in the playoffs for the Crunch if both parties agree. Katchouk is unsigned.

Erie Otters 1 @ London Knights 2 (OT)
Western Conference Semifinals
Best-of-7 series tied, 3-3

W/C Mitchell Stephens, LDN: 1-0-1, E, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, *First Star*
Playoff Totals: 13 GP, 5-2-7, E, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 51 GP, 22-32-54, +19, 26 PIM

D Erik Cernak, Erie: 0-0-0, +1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Playoff Totals: 10 GP, 1-5-6, +8, 4 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 41 GP, 4-11-15, +7, 35 PIM

C Anthony Cirelli, Erie: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, 10/20 FO
Playoff Totals: 10 GP, 7-4-11, +8, 2 PIM
Season Totals: 51 GP, 25-39-64, +36, 12 PIM

W Taylor Raddysh, Erie: 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Playoff Totals: 10 GP, 5-13-18, +7, 10 PIM
Season Totals: 58 GP, 42-66-108, +67, 37 PIM

Erie scored in the first minute, but spent the rest of the game trying (unsuccessfully) to beat London goalie Tyler Parsons (Flames), who was the story in Game 6. Parsons made 44 saves and was under near constant pressure in the third period and overtime against Erie’s skill. Mitchell Stephens scored the game winner when 2017 draft eligible forward Robert Thomas beat two defenders down the left wing and set him up for a weak-side goal into the top of the net. That kept London alive another game. The two teams will play Game 7 Tuesday.

KHL Playoff Game Day: 4-16-17

KHL Gagarin Cup Final
Magnitogorsk 3 vs. St. Petersburg 5
St. Petersburg Wins the Gagarin Cup 4-1
Nikita Gusev, St. Petersburg, 1-1-2, E, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Playoff totals: 18 GP, 7-16-23, +2, 2 PIM
Regular season totals: 57 GP, 24-47-71, +33, 8 PIM

Nikita Gusev had a power play goal and an even strength assist in SKA's Gagarin Cup clinching 5-3 win over Magnitogorsk. The forward played 14:39 in the match and led all SKA players in playoff scoring with 23 points in 18 games. SKA also got 1 goal and 1 assist from ex-NHL'ers Evgeny Dadonov and Ilya Kovalchuk in the victory. Up against the wall in an elimination situation, Magnitka actually outshot SKA for the first time in the series by a margin of 45-31. Ex-Lightning draft pick Vasily Koshechkin, who was valiant in defeat in the series, was named MVP of the KHL playoffs.

Gusev has one more year left on his SKA deal.

ECHL Playoff Game Night: 4-15-17

Kalamazoo Wings 1 at Toledo 4
Toledo leads series 2-0

F Brian Hart, KAL, 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIMS, 2 SOG
Playoff Totals: 2 GP, 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIMS, 5 SOG
Season Totals (ECHL): 33 GP, 6-5-11, -7, 6 PIMs, 71 SOG
Season Totals (AHL): 33 GP, 3-4-7, E, 26 PIMs, 50 SOG

F Cameron Darcy, KAL, 0-0-0, -2, 2 PIMS, 3 SOG
Playoff Totals: 2 GP, 1-1-2, -2, 2 PIMS, 6 SOG
Season Totals (ECHL): 20 GP, 5-20-25, +11, 10 PIMs, 51 SOG
Season Totals (AHL): 34 GP, 3-4-7, -3, 14 PIMs, 40 SOG

Other Notables
G Nic Riopel, KAL, did not play (backup)
Playoff Totals: 1 GP, 0-1-0-0, 4.03 GAA, 0.818 SV%
Season Totals (ECHL): 32 GP, 18-12-0-1, 3.13 GAA, 0.899 SV%, 1 SO

Toledo was ready to play Saturday when Game #2 of the Central Division Semi-finals started, scoring the opening goal just over 3 minutes into the contest. The Walleye then imposed their will over of the K-Wings, running up 3 goals before the 9 minute mark. Midway through the 2nd period, former Syracuse Cruncher Evan Rankin added Toledo's 4th goal, his 2nd of the game and 3rd of the series, to effectively nail the lid of the game shut. Kalamazoo did manage to spoil Jake Peterson's shutout bid with a shortie with less than 4 minutes left in the game. Peterson was strong in a back-to-back performance, but had lots of help from the Walleye defense who held the K-Wings to just 21 shots.

Granted, it's easy to critique in retrospect and from a distance, but an argument could be made for the K-Wings to roll right back with Riopel in Game 2 the way the Walleye did with Peterson. Riopel gave up a few goals early in Game 1, but he closed the door down the 2nd half of the game and gave his team a chance to win in a virtually even match. Something to be said of building off that momentum in Game 2. Instead, the team found itself in 3-0 hole before the midpoint of the 1st period, and the goalie wasn't even lifted. Not all those goal's were Joel Martin's fault, but you need to throw the kitchen sink at the best team in the league and try to split the road games. The series now travels to Kalamazoo for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with the K-Wings needing a critical win in Game 3.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-15-17

Ontario Hockey League

London Knights 3 @ Erie Otters 6
Western Conference Semifinals
Erie leads best-of-7 series, 3-2

W/C Mitchell Stephens, LDN: 0-1-1, -1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, 4/12 FO
Playoff Totals: 12 GP, 4-2-6, E, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 51 GP, 22-32-54, +19, 26 PIM

D Erik Cernak, Erie: 0-1-1, +1, 2 PIM, 0 SOG
Playoff Totals: 9 GP, 1-5-6, +7, 4 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 41 GP, 4-11-15, +7, 35 PIM

C Anthony Cirelli, Erie: 1-1-2, +3, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, 6/16 FO
Playoff Totals: 9 GP, 7-4-11, +8, 2 PIM
Season Totals: 51 GP, 25-39-64, +36, 12 PIM

W Taylor Raddysh, Erie: 1-2-3, +2, 2 PIM, 2 SOG, *First Star*
Playoff Totals: 9 GP, 5-12-17, +7, 10 PIM
Season Totals: 58 GP, 42-66-108, +67, 37 PIM

Erie had a 2-0 lead after the first period, then gave up three goals to London in the first three minutes of the second period. The Otters eventually responded, then secured a 6-3 win. Taylor Raddysh had the game-winning goal for Erie. Game 6 is Sunday in London.

Crunch Beat Comets, Win North Division Crown


By Jeremy Houghtaling

In a season filled with overcoming adversity, the Crunch were able to achieve one of their goals on the final day of the season.

Syracuse, which has dealt with a barrage of injuries and call-ups all season, rested many of their top players but still managed to pull out a 5-2 win over the Utica Comets, as the Crunch clinched the North Division championship at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

Syracuse begins a best of five series against St. John’s in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs on Wednesday.

“We’re very proud of those guys. Obviously, with all the challenges we have faced this year, the way they responded is awesome,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “We managed to get points in our last five games to put ourselves in position with the last two games at home with a chance to clinch the division. We did it.”

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