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Crunch Top Marlies, But Playoff Hopes Dashed

By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch pulled out a win, but their playoff hopes were dashed.

Joel Vermin netted the game-winner in the fifth round of the shootout, as the Crunch topped the Toronto Marlies, 3-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday. Both Utica and Bridgeport also earned points to mathematically eliminate Syracuse from earning a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs.

“We knew it was going to be a tough stretch and we needed a (lot) of help to make it happen,” Crunch head coach Rob Zettler said. “We put ourselves in this position. … It was good to get the win, but it’s certainly disappointing that we’re in this position and not in the playoffs.”

AHL Game Night 4-8-16: Devils at Crunch

Syracuse leaves a critical point on the rink.

SYR-3 (SO)

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 3 goals on 32 shots and 1 of 3 to convert in the penalty shot session for the Shootout loss.

First Period
SYR Gourde, (14) (Erne, Richard), 9:29 (PP)
ALB O’Neill, (12) (Lorito, Novak), 12:10

Second Period
SYR Erne, (14) (Gourde, Witkowski), 5:26
ALB Lorito, (18) (Lappin, O’Neill), 13:23

Third Period
ALB Kujawinski, (5) (Rooney), 2:05
SYR Richard, (11) (Vermin, DeAngelo), 5:35


ALB- Thompson

Adam Erne and Yanni Gourde were the game's first and second stars.

Syracuse falls 7 points back of Utica and Bridgeport in the playoff chase with both teams holding a game in hand on the Crunch. At this point, to make the postseason, it's pretty much going to take Syracuse winning out and one of those other two clubs losing out. Both scenarios seem incredibly unlikely.

Box score from

USHL Game Night: 4-8-16

United States Hockey League

Tri-City Storm 4 @ Omaha Lancers 5

G Kris Oldham, OMA: Did not play
Season totals: 31 GP, 12-15-4, 2.82 GAA, .905 sv%, 1 SO
2014-15 totals: 33 GP, 21-6-4, 2.49 GAA, .908 sv%, 1 SO
(University of Nebraska-Omaha signee)

Omaha got a big home win over Tri-City and are two points ahead of Des Moines for sixth in the West. Oldham has sat for seven of the past eight games.

Sioux City Musketeers 3 @ Dubuque Fighting Saints 4

D Ryan Zuhlsdorf, DBQ: 0-0-0, +2, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Season totals: 45 GP, 0-27-27, -3, 57 PIM
With Dubuque: 15 GP, 0-4-4, +4, 6 PIM
With Sioux City: 30 GP, 0-23-23, -7, 51 PIM
2014-15 totals: 56 GP, 3-19-22, +25, 58 PIM
(University of Minnesota signee)

Zuhlsdorf was scoreless, but plus-2 against his former club.

Juniors Playoffs Game Night: 4-8-16

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Charlottetown Islanders 3 @ Shawinigan Cataractes 2
QMJHL Second Round
Best-of-7 series tied, 1-1

W Dennis Yan, SHAW: 1-0-1, +1, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, 3 Hits
Playoff totals: 7 GP, 3-4-7, +9, 16 PIM
Season totals: 62 GP, 32-37-69, +8, 86 PIM

Charlottetown evened its series with Shawinigan Friday, winning 3-2 on the road. Yan opened the game’s scoring with his third goal of the playoffs before Charlottetown struck twice. The Cataractes tied the game at 14:33 of the third period before the Islanders notched the game-winner three minutes later. Game 3 is Sunday on PEI.

Western Hockey League

Moose Jaw Warriors 3 @ Brandon Wheat Kings 5
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Brandon leads best-of-7 series, 1-0

C Brayden Point, MJ: 1-1-2, E, 0 PIM, *Second Star*
Playoff totals: 6 GP, 3-9-12, +2, 8 PIM
Season totals: 48 GP, 35-53-88, +24, 36 PIM

The Warriors dropped a 5-3 decision in Game 1 to Brandon in Manitoba. Point was second star for earning a goal and an assist in the game. Moose Jaw had leads of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 in the game before ultimately falling. Game 2 is Saturday.

Juniors Playoffs Game Night: 4-7-16

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 4 @ Saint John Sea Dogs 1
QMJHL Second Round
Cape Breton leads best-of-7 series, 1-0

W Bokondji Imama, SJ: 0-0-0, +1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG, 6 Hits
Playoff totals: 6 GP, 0-1-1, -3, 6 PIM
Season totals: 47 GP, 7-12-19, -3, 84 PIM

W Mathieu Joseph, SJ: Did not play (injured – out for playoffs)
Playoff totals: 5 GP, 5-2-7, +4, 8 PIM
Season totals: 58 GP, 33-40-73, +35, 57 PIM

Cape Breton stole home ice advantage with a 4-1 win in Game 1 of their best-of-7 second round series with third-seeded Saint John. Lightning prospect Mathieu Joseph remains out of the playoffs with a cut calf muscle that required surgery. Boko Imama led the Sea Dogs in hits with six, twice as many as everyone else. Saint John’s scorers will have to step up in the absence of Joseph, who was a team leader on and off the scoresheet.

Charlottetown Islanders 3 @ Shawinigan Cataractes 5
QMJHL Second Round
Shawinigan leads best-of-7 series, 1-0

W Dennis Yan, SHAW: 0-2-2, +3, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, 1 Hit
Playoff totals: 6 GP, 2-4-6, +8, 16 PIM
Season totals: 62 GP, 32-37-69, +8, 86 PIM

The Cataractes had a 4-0 lead by the time the second period was only five minutes old, then got a little scare when the Islanders scored two quick goals in the next six minutes. Shawinigan held on for the victory. Yan had two primary assists. He had only two regular season multi-point games after January 11, one of which was the last game of the season.

NOTES: AHL Syracuse added three prospects yesterday, including Dominik Masin and Matthew Spencer of Peterborough, and Jonne Tammela, who was recently signed by the Lightning after his season completed in Finland.

KHL Playoff Game Day: 4-7-16

KHL Gagarin Cup Final
CSKA 5 vs. Magnitogorsk 1
Vasily Koshechkin, Magnitogorsk, Loss, 26/30, 4.48 GAA, .867 sv%
Playoff totals: 13 GP, 10-3-0, 2 SO, 1.65 GAA, .945 sv%
Regular season totals: 22-15-9, 4 SO, 2.12 GAA, .925 sv%

CSKA scored 5 unanswered goals to crush Magnitogorsk 5-1 in Game One of the Gagarin Cup Final. Ex-Predators first rounder Alexander Radulov was one of 5 different goal scorers for CSKA in the win. Ex-Bolt Prospect Artem Sergeev had a helper in the victory, as well.

NHL Game Night: 4-8-16 Lightning at Devils

Drouinsanity returns to the Lightning and helps secure home ice for the first round.


Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the victory. I reiterate one of the biggest virtues of Bishop since he's joined the Lightning: he typically does not have two clunkers in a row.

First Period
5:45 TB Condra(6), (Sustr, Boyle)

Second Period
7:16 NJ Kalinin(7), (Moore, Gionta)
14:45 TB Paquette(6), (Filppula, Carle)

Third Period
3:50 TB Drouin(3), (Namestnikov)
9:26 NJ Kalinin(8), (Farnham)
19:13 TB Filppula(8), (Kucherov, Carle)(EN)

Jonathan Drouin was the game's second star.

For a Lightning team that hasn't had a ton to feel good about lately, tonight was a bit of psychological salve for their wounds. For the second time in the past few weeks, the Lightning played the style of game they need to in order to be successful without Stralman and Stamkos and secured a win against a hard working, fairly well structured opponent. In doing so, they got some positive results from players who have had a tough time of it all season who they now need to step up if they're going to weather their early opponents in the postseason. There's no doubt Erik Condra's playing some of his best hockey of the season lately after having gone missing for some 3/4 of the campaign. Cedric Paquette finally got back in the goal column for the first time in a blue moon, which is also a hopeful sign. It's hard to believe Paquette has sagged to just 6 goals after how well he played in the postseason last year including actually outplaying Jonathan Toews head to head in the early games of the Stanley Cup Final. And then there's 2/3 of the Dead Money Trio: Matt Carle and Valtteri Filppula. Is Matt Carle still a turnstile with eyeballs at times? Yes. Does Matt Carle still do some gobsmacking idiotic things when he has the puck at times? Yes. Has he improved somewhat, though, to help fill minutes in the absence of Stralman and Hedman? Absolutely. No denying it. And then there's Valtteri Filppula, who might be the single biggest source of my personal frustration this season. He actually provided a multi-point night tonight and I would've lost a bet if anyone had asked me to go in on whether he'd have another goal by the end of the regular season. Are 8 goals sufficient for a centerman at his salary price point? You all know the answer to that. But, a good postseason performance has a way of glossing over a disappointing regular season.

And then there's Jonathan Drouin. I feel really happy for both the Lightning organization and Drouin in how things have unfolded since Drouin decided to report back to Syracuse. The Lightning got to enforce organizational discipline and got Drouin the instructional coaching and conditioning he needed. And, Drouin capitalized when the opportunity to get back into the NHL finally came, which again proves what upside he has as a player. So, at this hour, both sides have to feel like they "won" something in a scenario where neither can have felt all that great about everything that's happened. Where it goes from here? That's another matter. Short term, Drouin's walking into a situation that seems tailor made for him to step up and prove he's a budding superstar. But, being asked to fill Steven Stamkos' shoes is a double edged sword that is, frankly, an unreasonable expectation for Drouin to have to live up to. Reason needs to prevail here in the expectation game. Drouin's not going to score the GWG every night and he's not going to instantly fill the shoes of one of the 10-20 best scorers in the game overnight. Fans, the organization, and the Drouin camp alike need to have reasonable targets for his performance, such as ensuring that scoring chances he helps create outpace those he surrenders (he won't be perfect defensively, some mistakes will happen) at a reasonable ratio, and that he's chipping in every 2-3 games. If he can do that, all sides involved should be happy with that, and it should open the door to any number of scenarios that include everything from Drouin's trade request being honored for a solid return or Drouin returning to Tampa Bay as a valued member of the organization (Vincent Lecavalier ultimately learned to live with and respect John Tortorella, so all things are possible with patience and if people act like adults). Anything more will be gravy.

The win clinches the #2 position in the Atlantic Division and home ice in the first round, while the Lightning also leapt over that 96 point target line for the season just 1 game behind schedule. That means they'll draw Detroit or Boston in the first round. Detroit would be more ideal, in my opinion, and they'd be the opponent if the shooting began right now, but they got smoked head to head by Boston tonight heading into their regular season finale against the Rangers whereas Boston draws a seemingly less difficult challenge against the Senators. Both teams are knotted in points, but DET has the tiebreaker because of their ROW advantage of 1 whole game. It's that tight.

Matt Taormina had 2 blocked shots in 17:01. It's a nice little late season reward for Taormina to get to suit up against his old organization and get a W against them.

Box score and extended statistics from

Lightning Recall Drouin, Taormina from Syracuse

The Tampa Bay Lightning have recalled forward Jonathan Drouin and defenseman Matt Taormina from the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced. Additionally, the Bolts have reassigned defenseman Slater Koekkoek to Syracuse.

Drouin, 21, has skated in 17 games with the Crunch this season, recording 11 goals and 13 points to go along with 12 penalty minutes. He ranks tied for fifth on the Crunch with five power-play tallies, despite skating in only 17 games with Syracuse. The Ste-Agathe, Quebec native has also appeared in 19 games with the Lightning this season, posting a pair of goals and eight points. Drouin has played in 89 career NHL games, all with the Lightning over the past two seasons, registering six goals and 40 points.

Taormina, 29, has skated in one game with the Lightning this season, recording one shot on goal. The 5-foot-9, 192-pound defenseman has appeared in 57 career NHL games, registering four goals and 12 points. Taormina ranks tied for first among all Crunch defensemen for points with 41 this season. He leads all Syracuse defensemen for goals (13) and power-play goals (five).

Koekkoek, 22, has played in nine games with the Lightning this season, posting one assist and two penalty minutes. The 6-foot-2, 198-pound defenseman has also skated in 55 games with Syracuse, recording five goals and 15 points to go along with 24 penalty minutes.

BP Commentary:

The Bolt Prospects Podcast, Volume 61

This week’s “Cory Stillman” extended version of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (shorter version available on Lightning Power Play, Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:

· No. 61
· Slim margin for error entering playoffs
· Drouin’s back
· Junior playoffs overiew
· Interviews with Anthony Cirelli, Mitchell Stephens
· #BPMailbag (Mind games … Syr top line vs TB … Too late to tank? … Prospects ahead of schedule … Odd-man rushes missing … Kucherov vs. Tarasenko … Team more ready for Cup run? … Marchessault to Siberia … DeAngelo an NHL option? … Black Aces impact … Point to take over for Johnson? … Craziest season ever? … Draft type target … Goalie equipment affect Bishop vs Vasy? … Can a team play in a shell when they don’t have the lead?)

Note: Apologies for poor audio quality this week

Juniors Playoffs Game Night: 4-5-16

Ontario Hockey League

Peterborough Petes 1 @ North Bay Battalion 4
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
North Bay wins best-of-7 series, 4-3

D Dominik Masin, PBO: 0-0-0, +1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Playoff totals: 7 GP, 0-3-3, +3, 12 PIM
Season totals: 57 GP, 8-32-40, +24, 50 PIM

D Matt Spencer, PBO: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Playoff totals: 7 GP, 0-1-1, -4, 11 PIM
Season totals: 60 GP, 5-19-24, +1, 46 PIM

Peterborough took North Bay to the limit, but ultimately fell to the Battalion and is now out of the playoffs. Peterborough scored first, but North Bay responded with four goals, including a late empty-netter. The game marks the close of Dominik Masin’s junior career. He’s signed to an entry-level contract already and will likely join AHL Syracuse in the next few days. He could have played in the AHL this year but returned to the OHL to get ice time after missing the second half of last season. He started slow, but was near a point-per-game player over the last couple months while playing on the top pair with fellow Lightning prospect Matt Spencer. Spencer, who was a team-worst -4 in the series, will return to the OHL next season. It’s unclear if he’ll be one of the prospects brought into Syracuse to finish the AHL season.


Second round match-ups involving Lightning prospects:

• (2) Shawingan (Dennis Yan) vs (9) Charlottetown
• (3) Saint John (Bokondji Imama, Mathieu Joseph*) vs (7) Cape Breton
* = Joseph out 2-3 months with a cut calf muscle requiring surgery

• No Lightning prospects left
Mitchell Stephens (Saginaw), Anthony Cirelli (Oshawa) have joined AHL Syracuse
• No official news on Cristiano DiGiacinto (Windsor)

• (East Division 2) Moose Jaw (Brayden Point) vs (East Division 1) Brandon
Ben Thomas (Vancouver) has joined AHL Syracuse

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