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AHL Game Night: 12-31-16 IceCaps at Crunch

Goals n' goals n' goals!

STJ-5
SYR-7

Adam Wilcox allowed 5 goals on 16 shots for the win. A stat line that usually gets you lifted gets the W. Gotta love goal support.

First Period
7:29 SYR Taormina (9), (Comrie, Conacher)(PP)
8:24 SYR Halmo (9), (Comrie, Darcy)
9:34 SYR Conacher (5), (Condra, Taormina)(PP)
10:16 SYR Morin (5), (Witkowski, Dumont)
13:24 STJ Eisenschmid (5), (Racine)(SH)
13:45 STJ de la Rose (2), (Friberg, Hanley)(PP)
17:27 STJ MacMillan (2), (Gregoire, Lernout)

Second Period
2:34 SYR Condra (6), (Conacher, Taormina)(PP)
11:45 SYR Morin (6), (Thomas, Halmo)
12:43 STJ Audette (6), (Veilleux)

Third Period
9:56 STJ de la Rose (3), (Audette, Friberg)(PP)
19:46 SYR Conacher (6), (Condra)(EN)

Jeremy Morin, Cory Conacher, and Matt Taormina were the game's three stars.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Crunch's Defense Falters in Shootout Loss to Senators


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Syracuse Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx believed his team played good enough to win, but the defensive lapses proved to be too much.

The Crunch and Senators each let a one-goal lead slip away, but Binghamton emerged with a win in the shootout to down Syracuse, 3-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

“I thought we did some good things, obviously, but I think our defensemen have got to be better,” Groulx said. “(Goalie Adam Wilcox) was good tonight. He kept us in the game. We gave them two or three breakaways. I think our defense can be better. Other than that, I think the effort was good.”

AHL Game Night: 12-30-16 Senators at Crunch

Bingo's goaltender thieves a win.

BNG-3
SYR-2 (SO)

Adam Wilcox allowed 2 goals on 22 shots before conceding to 1 of 2 in the penalty shot session for the Shootout loss.

First Period
6:25 BNG Rodewald (9), (Varone, Kostka)(PP)
16:06 SYR Dumont (5), (unassisted)

Second Period
5:54 SYR Comrie (3), (Taormina, Erne)(PP)
19:23 BNG Robinson (6), (Perron, Paul)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
BNG- Varone
SYR- NONE

Adam Erne was the game's second star.

Syracuse outshot Binghamton 39-22 in the game, but Senators netminder Chris Driedger turned aside 37 shots to pilfer the result.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Liiga Game Day: 12-30-16

TPS 3 vs. SaiPa 0
Saku Salminen, SaiPa, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Season totals: 28 GP, 2-4-6, -5, 39 PIM

According to the game sheet of SaiPa's 3-0 loss to TPS, Lightning prospect Saku Salminen got the Brady Greco treatment in that he dressed, but did not play, in the match. TPS netminder Aleksander Giorgiev had to make just 13 saves to record the shutout.

Gourde Makes Season Debut for Bolts

By Steven DiOssi

Yanni Gourde was recalled by the Tampa Bay Lightning just hours before their matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. He played just under 10 minutes in 14 shifts and registered one shot on goal in the team's 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto.

The 25-year-old received the call to head to Tampa after registering the game-winning goal as part of a two-goal effort with the Syracuse Crunch in their 3-2 overtime victory over the Hershey Bears on Wednesday.

NHL Game Night: 12-29-16 Maple Leafs at Lightning

Vasilarceny pilfers one point.

TOR-3
TB-2 (OT)

Andre Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the OT loss. Under siege most of the night, he turned in a plus performance to deliver the Lightning at least a single point.

First Period
14:46 TOR Matthews (18), (Hyman)

Second Period
9:26 TOR Bozak (7), (van Riemsdyk, Zaitsev)
12:12 TB Boyle (9), (Drouin, Sustr)
17:38 TB Palat (6), (Kucherov)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
3:37 TOR Kadri (13), (Nylander, Matthews)(PP)

Brian Boyle was the game's second star.

It's a young man's sport, and with both teams coming in on the latter half of a back-to-back, the youthful Leafs had the legs. The Lightning's fatigue started to kick in the second half of the Second Period and the team came completely unglued in the Third Period as tired legs began to manifest themselves in copious mental mistakes. Only Vasilevskiy's goaltending and a couple of opportunistic goals allowed the Lightning to pull out a point, which is still a positive result. If the Lightning can win 2 of the next 3, they'll succeed in at least hitting 12 points for this 10-game segment of the season. Given all the injuries over the past couple of weeks, simply not digging the hole deeper is a virtual win.

An aside about the goaltending interference call in OT. No chance. Filppula got a step around the corner and had the Leafs defender with his stick and one arm wrapped around his body turning him and the free hand pushing him from behind. If the roles had been reversed, there's no way the Leafs would've been called for goaltender interference on that play. No chance. It was complete baloney and ultimately took away a chance for the Lightning to steal the second point in this game.

Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 11:32.

Matthew Peca had 2 shots and 1 hit and was 45% on 11 draws in 13:52. He played on a kid line with Gourde all night with some spare power play time, so it was more of a checking/energy role tonight for Peca. He did decent, after a rough first few shifts that included a turnover and a bloodied nose.

Yanni Gourde had 1 shot in 9:49. He was one of the few Lightning players with energy in the Third Period and had at least one key forechecking shift that made it possible for the Lightning to release some pressure and limp out of regulation with a point.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

KHL Game Day: 12-29-16

St. Petersburg 1 vs. Yaroslavl 2
Nikita Gusev, St. Petersburg, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 6 SOG
Season totals: 40 GP, 18-34-52, +31, 6 PIM

Nikita Gusev tied for the match high with 6 shots on goal in 21:18 of ice time in SKA's 2-1 loss to Yaroslavl. It's just the 3rd regulation loss in 43 games this season for St. Petersburg. Lokomotiv netminder Alexei Murygin, an undrafted 30 year old, turned aside an impressive 46 shots for Yaroslavl to earn the win.

NHL Game Night: 12-28-16 Canadiens at Lightning

Lightning soar from the ashes for turning point victory.

MTL-3
TB-4 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the win. Let's be real: Vasilevskiy's teammates got him off the hook tonight. His puckhandling gaffe in the First Period is the kind of mistake that almost always ends up being the margin of losing in a game like this. Vasilevskiy worked very hard on his puckhandling and awareness around the cage in the offseason and showed glimmers of improvement early in the year, but he's slid back pretty hard in those areas recently. He's got to cut those soft and semi-soft goals that come from mistakes around the back of his cage out of his game. Immediately.

First Period
3:24 MTL Radulov (7), (Byron)
10:39 TB Johnson (10), (Kucherov, Palat)
13:31 MTL Weber (9), (Byron, Pacioretty)(PP)

Second Period
3:07 MTL Terry (2), (Carr, McCarron)

Third Period
11:14 TB Hedman (7), (Kucherov)
16:30 TB Palat (5), (Hedman, Point)(PP)

Overtime
1:36 TB Johnson (11), (Garrison, Vasilevskiy)

Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars.

This was a game where there were a lot of positive things being accomplished by the Lightning through the first 50 minutes of it, and yet it seemed the team was destined for tragedy nonetheless. They had a little rust in the First Period from so many guys returning from injury, but all in all they played Montreal pretty even and only Vasilevskiy's mistake was the margin that put them in a one goal hole. I thought they methodically took control of the game at even strength in the Second Period, but got an opportunistic counterattack goal scored on them after some great goaltending by Price, and heading into Second Intermission down two goals, things looked dire. For this team to find a way to scratch within one goal and get the tying goal on the power play when they absolutely had to have it may very well be the turning point of the season. They still have to follow this up with a result against Toronto tomorrow night, but at this hour you can see a little light at the end of the tunnel after a long, miserable last month and a half of dealing with injuries and inconsistency.

A brief note on the officiating in the Third Period. First, Shea Weber darn near killed Vladislav Namestnikov on a play where he pretty much lawn darted him head first into the boards crossing the Montreal blueline. Was it charging? Yes. Weber moved from the center of the ice all the way over to the boards with several strides with the intent of putting Namestnikov in a body bag. The only thing I think that mitigated the situation from an officiating standpoint is that Weber didn't gallop over there at full speed or leave his feet to land the hit. And, frankly, Namestnikov did a really poor job of protecting himself in that situation knowing Montreal has a few killers on their backline. Should there have been a call there? Yep. Game misconduct? I don't know about that. Supplemental discipline? If what DeHaan did to Drouin earlier this season didn't merit a suspension, I'm not sure you can make this case this does. DeHaan, from the high angle camera, clearly went in with an elbow to Drouin's head. Weber's hit was a hockey hit, albeit one executed with too many strides beforehand. I've seen guys get away with worse against the Lightning earlier this year, so I'm not sure Weber's going to get the book thrown at him for this, and I'm not sure I can muster the same level of outrage about this one as I can about those other calls. Second, the too many men call: Cooper and the coaching staff were being slick and nearly pulled it off sending Kucherov off the bench for the hop off breakaway, but I do think Boyle was too far away from the bench and I think that given the play did result in a breakaway the refs had to call it. If the situation had been reversed, I do think we'd be really upset if the other team got away with having a guy 15 feet from the bench on that play when his replacement hopped on. So, neither of those may be the popular opinions, but they're honest ones, at least. Now, would we have gotten that call if the roles were reversed given the latent pro-Montreal bias in the officiating corps? That's a debate for another night.

The Lightning HAD to have the win tonight. With Kucherov, Palat, and a partridge in a pear tree returning from injured reserve, and the standings math being what it is, they needed to get points out of this game. Thank goodness they pulled them out. When you find yourself in a hole, the first rule is to stop digging. For the Lightning, that meant at least getting 12 points out of this 10 game segment of the season and not making the 4 point deficit behind playoff pace any worse. A loss tonight would've put the Lightning in the unenviable position of needing 7 out of 8 possible points over the next 4 games to make that meager goal possible. Now they just need 5 out of 8, which is very do-able, and you hope they can clinch that in the next 3 games and have that 4th game to try to "pay down the debt," so to speak, as they try to get their playoff hopes fully recovered. So, big win. Now whip Toronto and put yourselves in an even better position.

Brayden Point had a helper and was -2 with 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 19:33. He was also a gaudy 73% on 11 draws in the circles.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:31.

Matthew Peca had 1 shot and 2 hits and was 50% on 12 draws in 13:03 in his NHL debut. I was impressed. Truly. If there's one silver lining to Namestnikov getting his clock cleaned, it may be a little longer look at Peca. You saw some of the concerns with his game tonight, specifically where he got ragdolled off the puck a little because of his small size, but overall there's a lot to work with there because I think he's got such a wide ranging skill set. Coming out of Quinnipiac, he always displayed a lot more speed and creativity than he's shown consistently, in my opinion, in Syracuse. I think that's because he's been a very malleable player as a pro in that he will morph his game to suit the role and the linemates he's put together with. So, when he got an opportunity to play with speedy skilled players like Drouin, for instance, he was able to keep up. He showed his speed and his creativity on top of the fact that he is willing to at least get his nose dirty along the wall even if he may lose some battles because of his lack of size. He's a guy I can honestly see thriving anywhere you put him on the third or fourth line and he can even do spot duty, convincingly, on the second line. The ceiling's just a lot higher than Vermin or Richard or some of the other recent recalls, in my opinion, and that's why I'm pretty excited about what I saw tonight. I think his debut hints at some exciting possibilities and a guy who could be a leadership piece among the next wave of youngsters with half of Team Canada's WJC team seemingly coming into the organization starting next year to mix in with him.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Special Teams, Gourde's OT Goal Lift Crunch Over Bears


By Jeremy Houghtaling

It took overtime, but the Syracuse Crunch emerged with a win in a special teams battle.

The Crunch struggled to produce on the power play, but netted two shorthanded markers 26 seconds apart in the first period. Yanni Gourde provided the game-winner in the extra session, as Syracuse topped the Hershey Bears, 3-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.

“It was a good effort and a good hockey game tonight,” said Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx, who clinched the North Division coaching job in the AHL’s All-Star Classic. “I thought it was a very entertaining game, not only for us — both teams — but for our fans. I thought we executed well tonight, and made some good plays offensively and defensively. We’re playing up to our identity. We played fast and didn’t give them much. Our goalie was solid. It was a nice win.”

AHL Game Night: 12-28-16 Bears at Crunch

Wall-cox rises up.

HER-2
SYR-3 (OT)

Adam Wilcox allowed 2 goals on 19 shots for the win. That's still not a warm and fuzzy stat line in terms of save percentage, but Wilcox has needed a performance like this since getting the #1 job in full with Gudlevskis being recalled. He made a lot of key situational saves tonight to make a victory possible.

First Period
16:17 SYR Brodeur (1), (Condra, Conacher)(SH)
16:43 SYR Gourde (9), (unassisted)(SH)
18:47 HER Mitchell (4), (Lewington, Stephenson)

Second Period
1:20 HER Thomas (14), (Djoos, Bourque)(PP)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
3:01 SYR Gourde (10), (Witkowski, Taormina)

Yanni Gourde and Erik Condra were the game's first and second stars. Luke Witkowski was hosed given that feathery soft give-and-go he worked to make Gourde's game winner happen.

Syracuse, at least in terms of overall balance of play, seemed to be in a more dominant position tonight with the return of a lot of key regulars like Conacher, Condra, and Richard from Tampa Bay now that they've had some time to get re-acclimated. The win moves Syracuse out to a 2 point lead in the North Division, and just as importantly this was a quality victory against a good Hershey team from the other side of the conference where the teams seem a little stronger, on paper, so far this year.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

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