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Crunch Look Forward to Playoffs After Dropping Season Finale


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Although the teams will meet in the playoffs, the Syracuse game against Rochester Saturday wasn’t much of a preview.

Looking to rest many of their regulars since they already clinched home ice in the first round, the Crunch had a lineup with 11 players who spent time in the ECHL this season and two more who joined the team after the conclusion of their junior seasons.

Alexander Volkov scored twice and Olivier Mantha made 39 saves in his AHL debut, but Syracuse fell to Rochester, 4-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

The North Division Semifinal between the Crunch and Americans starts in Syracuse Friday.

“We’ll see what kind of team we’re going to have next week,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “For me, I expect our team to be ready to play next Friday.”

NHL Playoff Game Day: 4-14-18 Devils at Lightning

Vasilevskiy carries injury fatigued Lightning to the pay window.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

NJ-3
TB-5

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 2-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 44 shots for the victory. He made a fleet of big situational saves in the Third Period with a tired Lightning team having to play down a forward and a defenseman with Callahan and Girardi in the locker room.

First Period
12:15 TB Point (1), (Palat, McDonagh)
13:38 NJ Hiscier (1), (unassisted)

Second Period
3:14 TB Killorn (2), (Kucherov, Stamkos)(PP)
4:36 TB Johnson (2), (McDonagh, Point)
6:01 TB Kucherov (2), (unassisted)
13:12 TB Killorn (3), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)
19:34 NJ Vatanen (1), (Greene, Schneider)

Third Period
11:57 NJ Coleman (1), (Zajac, Moore)

Brayden Point, Alex Killorn, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars. Vasilevskiy got hosed by the media.

This was a tale of two games. The Lightning once again completely outclassed New Jersey with their depth and poise through the first 45 minutes of this contest en route to building a massive 5-1 lead. They managed the puck well, only conceding on a clean faceoff loss in their own zone that led to a bad clear off a rebound. I especially liked the second power play goal by Killorn to land the kill shot on New Jersey when the opportunity came to put the game effectively out of reach. What I did not like was how the team played to close out the Second Period thereafter as they lost focus and started turning over pucks and not closing out plays. Bad habit creep in during garbage time and that was starting to happen when things went from bad to worse with Callahan and Girardi going out of the game. Callahan looked to me to either have an issue with his ribs or his shoulder and I didn't see what happened to Girardi. The Lightning came out for the Third Period looking pretty good protecting the three goal lead but looked absolutely dragging tired the last ten minutes of the contest when Vasilevskiy had to sparkle to get it over the finish line.

Now the series shifts to New Jersey and there's still a lot of series left to go here, I think. We'll wait to see the fate of Callahan and Girardi. Girardi's injury could be particularly costly if it draws in Andrej Sustr for what appears on paper to be a terrible matchup against the quick Devils on the road where they have last change. The Lightning have done what they needed to do at home holding serve for the 2-0 lead, but the old wise men will tell you it's not a series until someone wins a road game. The Lightning need to lick their wounds and then play a sober, professional road style in hopes of stealing at least one in Newark to give themselves a shot to eventually close this series out early and prevent further attrition. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Anthony Cirelli was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 15:22. He was also 70% on 10 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-13-18

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

#1 Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 8 @ ] #14 Moncton Wildcats 3 (Game 5)
Quarterfinals
Armada wins series 4-1

C Alex Barré-Boulet , BLB: Injury Scratch
Playoff Totals: 6 GP, 8-5-13, +12, 6 PIM
Season Totals: 65 GP, 53-66-116, +28, 67 PIM
’16-’17 Totals: 65 GP, 29-52-81, +10, 42 PIM

The Armada punched their ticket to the QMJHL semifinals, putting up snowman on the Wildcats scoreboard en route to closing out the series on the road. Recently minted Bolt prospect Alex Barré-Boulet sat out the game after leaving Game 4 early with an injury. The Armada was paced by two goals each from Alexander Katerinakis (2018 draft eligible) and Drake Batherson (OTT, 2017 4th round pick), with Katerinakis also serving up a 4-point night. James Phelan (undrafted), by far and away Moncton’s best player in the series, scored and added an assist for the outmatched Wildcats along with Alexander Khovanov (2018 draft eligible). Former Lightning camper Mark Grametbauer (undrafted) was pulled at the 11:22 mark of the 2nd period after allowing Armada’s 5th goal on 18 shots. Matthew Waite (undrafted) would allow just 1 goal on 16 shots for the balance of the game.

Barré-Boulet has time to heal up as Game 1 of the Armada’s semi-finals series against the upstart #9 seed Charlottetown Islanders doesn’t start until Friday, April 20th. The lslanders defeated the #8 seed Quebec Remparts in a Game 7 in Round 1 and then swept #4 seed Halifax Moosehead in Round 2.

Ontario Hockey League

#4 Owen Sound Attack 1 @ #1 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 4 (Game 5)
Western Conference Semifinals
Greyhounds lead series 3-2

W Boris Katchouk, SSM: 0-3-3, +2, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, 2/2 FO, *Second Star*
Playoff Totals: 9 GP, 8-6-14, +8, 8 PIM
Season Totals: 58 GP, 42-43-85, +53, 30 PIM
’16-’17 Season: 66 GP, 35-29-64, +18, 46 PIM

W Taylor Raddysh, SSM: 1-1-2, +2, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, 2/7 FO, *Third Star*
Playoff Totals: 9 GP, 7-5-12, E, 6 PIM
Season Totals (SSM): 28 GP, 18-21-39, +14, 14 PIM
Season Totals (ER): 30 GP, 15-29-44, +10, 16 PIM
Season Totals: 58 GP, 33-50-83, +24, 30 PIM
‘16-‘17 Totals: 58 GP, 42-67-109, +67, 37 PIM

Katchouk and Raddysh starred for the Soo in Game 5, helping the Greyhounds take their first lead in the series against the Attack. Katchouk earned Second Star honors, assisting on three of the Soo’s four goals, and Raddysh earned Third Star honors for his goal and assist. Top prospect Barrett Hayton (2018 draft eligible) scored twice for Sault Ste. Marie, in what might be the Soo’s best game of the OHL playoffs thus far. Raddysh scored 58 seconds after Owen Sound’s game-opening goal in the 1st period, and then Hayton gave the Soo a 2-1 lead later in the period with a power play goal. Hayton scored his second in 2nd period to give the Greyhounds some breath room before Raddysh and Katchouk set up Morgan Frost (PHI, 2017 1st round pick) for the empty netter with less than a minute remaining to seal the victory. Despite not scoring a goal in this contest, Katchouk remains tied for 3rd in OHL playoff goals scored. The series shifts back to Owen Sound for Game 6 on Sunday, with the Soo having a chance to a clinch a spot in the Western Conference finals against either the Kitchener Rangers or the Sarnia Sting. Kitchener leads that series 3-2 win Game 6 also scheduled for Sunday.

Western Hockey League

#2 Swift Current Broncos 2 @ #1 Moose Jaw Warriors 0 (Game 5)
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Broncos lead series 3-2

D Oleg Sosunov, MJ: 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Playoff Totals: 12 GP, 0-0-0, -5, 4 PIM
Season Totals: 71 GP, 7-19-26, +35, 62 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals (MHL-Russia): 32 GP, 0-0-0, +1, 79 PIM

After being down 2-1 in the series, the Broncos have reeled off two straight to take a 3-2 series lead back to Swift Current Saturday night and a chance to advance to the WHL Eastern Conference finals against the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Broncos netminder Stuart Skinner (EDM, 2017 3rd round pick) turned away 36 Moose Jaw shots for the road shutout in front of 4700+ Warriors fans at the Mosaic Place. Bolt prospect Oleg Sosunov was on the ice for both Swift Current goals.

Over in the WHL West, Tri-City followed up their 1st round sweep of Kelowna with a 2nd round sweep of Victoriaville and will meet the Everett Silvertips in the Eastern Conference Finals. Everett won both their Round 1 and 2 series 4-1 against Seattle and Portland, respectively.

Juniors Game Night: 4-13-18

United States Hockey League

** Note: Cole Guttman (Dubuque) was placed on injured reserved on December 22nd following the completion of the World Junior A Challenge tournament.

Lincoln Stars 1 @ Omaha Lancers 4

D Nick Perbix , OMA: 0-0-0, +1, 2 PIM, 1 SOG
Season Totals: 55 GP, 4-25-29, +19, 36 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals (HS): 25 GP, 10-30-40, 6 PIM
Committed to: St. Cloud State University

The Lancers got goals from four skaters and goalie Zach Driscoll (Bemidji State commit) stopped 35 of 36 Lincoln shots to lead the Lancers to the win. Omaha closes out their USHL regular season Saturday against Sammy Walker and the Sioux City Musketeers at Ralston Arena in Omaha. Perbix is one-point shy of a 30-point season going into the Lancers’ final game. Omaha sits one point behind the Waterloo Black Hawks for the best record in the Western Conference.

Sioux City Musketeers 3 @ Tri-City Storm 2

F Sammy Walker, SC: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Season Totals (USHL): 16 GP, 2-7-9, -6, 4 PIM
’16-’17 Totals (USHL): 4 GP, 0-0-0, -3, 6 PIM
Season Totals (HS): 31 GP, 35-44-79, 16 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals (HS): 25 GP, 22-24-46, 6 PIM
Committed to: University of Minnesota

The Storm scored a couple of late 3rd period goals to attempt a 3-0 deficit rally to the Musketeers, but Sioux City goalie and Miami (Ohio) commit Ben Kraws (2018 draft eligible) didn’t surrender the third. The Musketeers close out their USHL regular season Saturday against Nick Perbix and the Omaha Lancers at Ralston Arena in Omaha. Sioux City is in a three-way battle with the Chicago Steel and the Cedar Rapid Roughriders for that final 12th slot in the USHL playoffs, although it will a longshot for Musketeers with 59 points to leap frog Chicago with 61 and Cedar Rapids with 60. Chicago is playing Central Illinois, by far the worst team in the league, and Cedar Rapids is playing Madison, the 3rd worst team in the league. With Walker’s NCAA eligibility to play for the Minnesota Gophers next season, there’s no chance he would join the Crunch in the event of Sioux City not making the playoffs.

AHL Game Night: 4-13-18 Crunch at Comets

Crunch knock off another prospective playoff opponent.

SYR-2
UTI-1 (OT)

Eddie Pasquale allowed 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
3:29 SYR Walcott (5), (Tammela, Verhaeghe)
19:35 UTI Carcone (15), (unassisted)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
4:21 SYR Verhaeghe (17), (Volkov, Thomas)

Carter Verhaeghe and Pasquale were the game's first and second stars.

Syracuse became the third Eastern Conference club to hit 100 points for the season with the win. The victory also significantly increased the odds the Crunch will draw the Rochester Americans in the opening round of the postseason.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 4-12-18 Devils at Lightning

Lightning show off maturity, quality, and professionalism in Game One win.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

NJ-2
TB-5

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 1-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the victory. This wasn't the sharpest Vasilevskiy we've seen because he did seem to struggle a little at times with his rebound control, but he made the situational saves he needed to make and maintained focus despite some long stretches of inactivity in the game. Good performance with room to improve.

First Period
15:00 TB Palat (1), (Johnson, McDonagh)
19:31 TB Johnson (1), (Palat, Point)

Second Period
1:54 TB Gourde (1), (Palat, Sergachev)(PP)
13:55 NJ Hall (1), (unassisted)

Third Period
9:35 NJ Zajac (1), (Hall, Butcher)(PP)
12:14 TB Killorn (1), (Gourde)
18:48 TB Kucherov (1), (unassisted)(EN)

Yanni Gourde, Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars.

Wow. I'm pretty amazed at what we witnessed tonight. For 82 games the Lightning never really played a disciplined, professional, poised, mature 60 minute game. Tonight, this team just threw the switch from the opening drop tonight and played a nearly flawless, simple, highly mature game. It wasn't without blemishes, such as the Palat turnover on Hall goal that allowed the Devils back into the game, but that was incredible. We saw the high percentage, good habits all over the rink and an intense effort by the Lightning that saw them win an incredibly high percentage of 50/50 pucks.

I'd even say the mistake Palat let the Devils back into the game with a turnover might be a silver lining, because I think the fact the Lightning never really got into garbage time cruise mode should help stave off complacency and bad habits. That's important, because as nice as tonight's win is, if the Lightning come out flat and drop Game Two the Devils will have accomplished what they came to Tampa to do in the first couple of matchups in this series.

I'd say the one big key takeaway from the night is that the Lightning's depth really appeared to give them a tremendous advantage against New Jersey. Both teams were pretty successful in nullifying the other's top lines, so the game really came down to the fact the Lightning have three pretty decent scoring lines and the checking line was also solid tonight, whereas New Jersey didn't really have a lot depth-wise that looked threatening. So long as the Lightning manage the puck well and don't give away unearned scoring chances, that depth advantage should carry them to a series win.

Anthony Cirelli was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 14:20. He was also 56% on 9 draws. Cirelli continued to play like a young man with an old soul in this game and impressed in one encounter in the corner against ex-Lightning forward Brian Boyle where he used body position and guile to stay strong on the puck despite a significant size disadvantage. You get the feeling that with a summer of intense training to get his body even more NHL ready that Cirelli could become a quiet beast.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-11-18

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

#1 Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 4 @ #14 Moncton Wildcats 5 (Game 4)
Quarterfinals
Armada leads series 3-1

C Alex Barré-Boulet , BLB: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 0 SOG, 0/1 FO
Playoff Totals: 6 GP, 8-5-13, +12, 6 PIM
Season Totals: 65 GP, 53-66-116, +28, 67 PIM
’16-’17 Totals: 65 GP, 29-52-81, +10, 42 PIM

The Wildcats staved off elimination in a stirring twice-rally Game 4 win by virtue of a 4-point night of heroics from James Phelan (undrafted). Moncton jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the 1st when Phelan assisted on both a short-handed and a power play goal. But the Armada rallied with three straight to close out the 1st with a 3-2 lead, behind a pair of goals from Luke Henman (2018 draft eligible). The two teams swapped 2nd period goals before Phelan scored twice late in the 2nd period to put the Wildcats up 5-4 and former Lightning camper Mark Grametbauer (undrafted) closed the door on 14 3rd period Armada shots for the win. The teams get a night off before the series resumes Friday for Game 5 at the Moncton Coliseum.

#4 Halifax Mooseheads 2 @ #9 Charlottetown Islanders 4 (Game 4)
Quarterfinals
Islanders win series 4-0

C/W Otto Somppi, HAL: 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 0 SOG, 6/14 FO
Playoff Totals: 1 GP, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 59 GP, 28-55-83, +39, 28 PIM
’16-’17 Totals: 60 GP, 17-24-41, -7, 28 PIM

The Islanders got goals from four different players en route to a Game 4 win in front of 3600+ fans to give them a shocking four-game sweep of the Halifax Mooseheads. Lightning prospect Otto Somppi returned to the Halifax lineup for the first time since Game 1 of Round 1 in a do-or-die situation for the Mooseheads. After a scoreless 1st period, Somppi assisted on the game-opening marker by Filip Zadina (2018 draft eligible), following by another Halifax goal less than three minutes later to give the Mooseheads a 2-0 lead. But Charlottetown would score four unanswered in the 2nd and 3rd periods to take the game and the series, and advanced the QMJHL semifinals.

There’s a minor watch on for Somppi to join the Syracuse Crunch now that Halifax’s CHL playoff run ended prematurely, but it would seem that Somppi is likely still injured and only played Game 4 because the Mooseheads were facing elimination, and as such perhaps the Lightning may choose to shut him down for the season and let him heal. However, the more likely thing to watch for is the signing of Somppi’s entry-level contract, which surely is coming given his breakout year of 55 assists and 83 points, and that the Lightning must sign him or let him return to the draft.

Ontario Hockey League

#1 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 5 @ #4 Owen Sound Attack 2 (Game 4)
Western Conference Semifinals
Series tied at 2-2

W Boris Katchouk, SSM: 1-0-1, +3, 0 PIM, 9 SOG, 2/3 FO
Playoff Totals: 8 GP, 8-3-11, +6, 8 PIM
Season Totals: 58 GP, 42-43-85, +53, 30 PIM
’16-’17 Season: 66 GP, 35-29-64, +18, 46 PIM

W Taylor Raddysh, SSM: 1-1-2, +3, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, 2/4 FO
Playoff Totals: 8 GP, 6-4-10, E, 6 PIM
Season Totals (SSM): 28 GP, 18-21-39, +14, 14 PIM
Season Totals (ER): 30 GP, 15-29-44, +10, 16 PIM
Season Totals: 58 GP, 33-50-83, +24, 30 PIM
‘16-‘17 Totals: 58 GP, 42-67-109, +67, 37 PIM

Katchouk and Raddysh (pictured) kick-started the Soo in Game 4, scoring the first two goals to give the Greyhounds an early 2-0 lead, and Keeghan Howdeshell (undrafted) scored twice to keep the Soo ahead when the Attack attempted to rally. Katchouk fired a game-high nine shots and opened the scoring in the 1st with an assist from Raddysh, who then scored his own goal early in the 2nd. Righty blueliner Mac Hollowell (2018 draft eligible), Morgan Frost (PHI, 2017 1st round pick) and Tim Gettinger (NYR, 2016 5th round pick) all notched two assists to help pace the Greyhounds to victory. The Soo return home Friday night for Game 5 looking to take their first lead in the series.

Western Hockey League

#1 Moose Jaw Warriors 2 @ #2 Swift Current Broncos 3 (OT2) (Game 4)
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Series tied at 2-2

D Oleg Sosunov, MJ: 0-0-0, E, 2 PIM, 1 SOG
Playoff Totals: 11 GP, 0-0-0, -3, 4 PIM
Season Totals: 71 GP, 7-19-26, +35, 62 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals (MHL-Russia): 32 GP, 0-0-0, +1, 79 PIM

Former Winnipeg Jets prospect Matteo Gennaro scored a hat trick — all three of the Broncos’ goals — including the double overtime game-winner at the 98:14 mark. Gennaro scored a pair of power play markers in the 1st and 3rd periods, respectively, for Swift Current, sandwiched around a pair of 2nd period Moose Jaw goals and forcing overtime for Game 4. Broncos netminder Stuart Skinner (EDM, 2017 3rd round pick) made 51 saves, allowing just those two 2nd period Warriors goals. The win knots the series at two games apiece with the series returning to Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw on Friday for Game 5.

Juniors Game Night: 4-11-18

United States Hockey League

** Note: Cole Guttman (Dubuque) was placed on injured reserved on December 22nd following the completion of the World Junior A Challenge tournament.

Sioux City Musketeers 6 @ Sioux Falls Stampede 0

F Sammy Walker, SC: 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season Totals (USHL): 15 GP, 2-7-9, -6, 4 PIM
’16-’17 Totals (USHL): 4 GP, 0-0-0, -3, 6 PIM
Season Totals (HS): 31 GP, 35-44-79, 16 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals (HS): 25 GP, 22-24-46, 6 PIM
Committed to: University of Minnesota

Musketeers goalie and Miami (Ohio) commit Ben Kraws (2018 draft eligible) pitched a 32-shot shutout of the Stampede and Walker notched a power play assist on the first of Parker Ford’s (Providence commit) two goals. Walker has two goals and nine points in 11 games since returning to Sioux City following the end of his high school career at Edina.

AHL Game Night: 4-11-18 Crunch at Americans

Ingram defeats Americans almost single-handedly.

SYR-1
RCH-0

Connor Ingram pitched a 38 save shutout for the victory, helping Syracuse overcome a staggering 38-18 shot deficit in the game. Ingram is now sporting a very stout 20-11-6 record with a 2.33 GAA, .914 save percentage, and 4 shutouts. It's a rookie campaign I dare say has exceeded expectations given the past performance of similar Lightning goaltending prospects, and points to the fact Ingram could have higher upside.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
1:22 SYR Peca (13), (Verhaeghe, McNeill)

Ingram and Matthew Peca were the game's first and second stars.

Rochester looks to potentially be Syracuse's first round opponent in the playoffs, so there's positive and negative to consider in the night's victory heading into the postseason.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-10-18

Late Season Game Night

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

#1 Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 7 @ #14 Moncton Wildcats 1 (Game 3)
Quarterfinals
Armada leads series 3-0

C Alex Barré-Boulet , BLB: 1-2-3, +2, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, 4/7 FO, *First Star*
Playoff Totals: 5 GP, 8-5-13, +12, 6 PIM
Season Totals: 65 GP, 53-66-116, +28, 67 PIM
’16-’17 Totals: 65 GP, 29-52-81, +10, 42 PIM

Barre-Boulet was First Star for the third time in three games this series as the Armada took a commanding 3-0 series lead against Moncton, winning 7-1 Tuesday. Former Lightning prospect camper Mark Grametbauer fell to 4-6 in the playoffs with the loss. The 19-year-old has an .871 save percentage thanks to the Armada scoring 6, 9, and 7 against Moncton the last two games. Blainville-Boisbriand can close out the series Wednesday.

#4 Halifax Mooseheads 2 @ #9 Charlottetown Islanders 5 (Game 3)
Quarterfinals
Islanders leads series 3-0

C/W Otto Somppi, HAL: Injury Scratch
Playoff Totals: 1 GP, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 59 GP, 28-55-83, +39, 28 PIM
’16-’17 Totals: 60 GP, 17-24-41, -7, 28 PIM

Charlottetown returned home to PEI and dealt the higher-ranked Mooseheads another shellacking Tuesday, winning 5-2. Coyotes first rounder Pierre-Olivier Joseph, brother of Syracuse Crunch rookie Mathieu Joseph, was First Star for the Islanders with a goal and an assist from the blueline. Otto Somppi wasn’t able to make it back into the Halifax lineup, leading to speculation his injury could be worse than originally thought. Game 4 is Wednesday.

Western Hockey League

#1 Moose Jaw Warriors 4 @ #2 Swift Current Broncos 3 (Game 3)
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Moose Jaw leads series, 2-1

D Oleg Sosunov, MJ: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Playoff Totals: 10 GP, 0-0-0, -3, 2 PIM
Season Totals: 71 GP, 7-19-26, +35, 62 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals (MHL-Russia): 32 GP, 0-0-0, +1, 79 PIM

Former Lightning prospect Brett Howden (Rangers) scored early in overtime to give the Warriors a 4-3 win and 2-1 series lead against Swift Current. Sosunov was on the ice when the game-winner was scored but did not figure into the scoring. Game 4 is Wednesday in Swift Current.

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