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Crunch Thump Winless Thunderbirds

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Syracuse Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx believes his team took a big step forward.

The Crunch created significantly more scoring chances and held the Thunderbirds off the board until the third period, as Syracuse beat winless Springfield 4-1 at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

“I thought tonight was pretty good. We were a second effort hockey club,” Groulx said. “Many blocked shots by many different players. They’re driving the net. That demands a second effort. I thought we played well in the three zones and we moved the puck quick.

“They had a push late in the game, but overall I thought we controlled that game pretty well.”

NHL Game Night: 10-21-17 Penguins at Lightning

This feels different.


Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 29 shots for the victory. He's been lights out all season, but lately he's been putting together the stats to match. Really want to terrify an opposing NHL GM? Remind them Vasiy's only 23 years old. You're welcome.

First Period
1:36 TB Kucherov (9), (Hedman, Stamkos)(PP)
14:16 TB Stamkos (3), (Namestnikov, Kucherov)(PP)
19:59 TB Gourde (1), (Coburn, Point)

Second Period
0:30 TB Point (4), (Palat, Gourde)
5:58 TB Stralman (1), (Sergachev)
7:12 TB Kucherov (10), (Stamkos, Killorn)

Third Period
10:32 TB Sergachev (3), (Stamkos, Namestnikov)(PP)
18:18 PIT Guentzel (3), (Rust, Letang)(PP)

Steven Stamkos, Vasilevskiy, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

I wasn't able to watch the game, so rather than comment on the particulars of this game I want to frame the performance of these first nine games of the campaign and offer some overall perspective.

The Tampa Bay Lightning missed the playoffs by one point last season partly because of injuries, partly because of a bizarre goaltending situation, but probably most of all because the team just didn't seem to have the maturity to approach every game with the necessary urgency. After several years of success, the club seemed to think its bona fides alone were necessary to win hockey games, often discarding good habits and taking shortcuts on the way to being dead last in the Eastern Conference in February before a late season charge nearly punched their postseason ticket. Fresh off that disappointment the Lightning rebuilt their leadership council this season with Stamkos and Ryan Callahan returning from injury and Dan Girardi and Chris Kunitz added into the mix in free agency. Still, through the first two games against the Florida Panthers, this team didn't look like it had learned its lesson as it headed into a games against league royalty like Washington and Pittsburgh that looked like colossal landmines on the schedule.

Seven games later the Lightning are 7-1-1-0. This feels different.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you tonight's drubbing of the defending Stanley Cup champions alone means the Lightning are ready to hoist the hardware themselves. Certainly, an objective observer will point out Antti Niemi hasn't exactly cloaked himself in glory in either of his encounters with the Lightning this year. But, with wins against a bevy of other quality opponents and a team that seems to have found a steely eyed determination and cold blooded professional, it's hard not to consider the Lightning as one of the early season contenders from the East. The only times I've seen this from the Lightning were the second half of the '03-'04 season when that team followed their leadership council of Dave Andreychuk and Tim Taylor all the way to a Stanley Cup, and the 2011 playoff run where Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis applied what they had learned from that run and came within an eyelash of winning it all before going down in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals to Boston. The current Lightning core never quite seemed to have the maturity and experience to fully grasp the level of intensity it takes to really and truly be great in all three zones day in and day out. Close, at times? Sure. But, it took the embarrassment of last season and the realization they've probably reached about the midpoint of their Stanley Cup window to get to this point. Now, they look like a team willing (and fully able) to do what it takes. This feels different, and I like it.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 hit in 11:15.

Yanni Gourde had 1 goal, 1 assist, and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes and 4 shots. He was also 33% on 9 draws. It was just a matter of time. If he's putting up 4 shots a night, he's a 20 goal scorer this year, I think.

Gabriel Dumont had 2 shots and 2 hits in 12:18. He was also 38% on 13 draws.

Jake Dotchin was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 3 hits in 12:52.

Mikhail Sergachev had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 16:56. Now we're getting close to the workload I think he needs to get to for the Lightning to really hit the higher end of some of its season's goals. When you're in a game that has nearly 40 minutes of garbage time, clearly there's no better time to let a young horse like Sergachev get plenty of reps. He did well with them, I see.

Box score and extended statistics from

AHL Game Night: 10-21-17 Thunderbirds at Crunch

Crunch finally break through with a big win.


Connor Ingram allowed 1 goal on 23 shots for the victory. He played well in relief against the Devils and followed it up with another solid effort.

17:45 SYR McGinn (2), (Conacher, Lynch)

Second Period
14:44 SYR Akeson (1), (Erne)

Third Period
3:19 SYR Bournival (2), (Erne, Masin)
4:42 SPR Valk (1), (Hawryluk, Wittchow)(PP)
19:57 SYR Bournival (3), (Lynch, Cirelli)(EN)

Ingram, Jason Akeson, and Adam Erne were the game's three stars.

After a healthy dose of one goal losses, the Crunch finally picked themselves off the mat against the 0-6-0 Thunderbirds. Is the win impressive given the quality of opponent? Who cares. It was necessary, and the team got it.

Box score from

Juniors Game Night: 10-21-17

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Halifax Mooseheads 3 @ Sherbrooke Phoenix 1

C/W Otto Somppi, HAL: 0-0-0, +1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, 13/20 FO
Season Totals: 4 GP, 4-5-9, +12, 2 PIM
’16-’17 Totals: 60 GP, 17-24-41, -7, 28 PIM

Former Montreal camper Maxime Fortier scored twice to lead the Mooseheads over the Phoenix.

Ontario Hockey League

Sarnia Sting 7 @ Barrie Colts 2

W Alexey Lipanov, BAR: 1-0-1, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG, 8/17 FO
Season Totals: 11 GP, 4-10-14, +6, 0 PIM
‘16-‘17 Totals (VHL-Russia): 21 GP, 3-5-8, +5, 8 PIM

Barrie lost their first game without star forward Andrei Svechnikov (2018). Lipanov will be counted on for extra offense in Svechnikov’s absence. Svechnikov is expected to be out up to eight weeks.

Peterborough Petes 3 @ Flint Firebirds 7

W/C Christopher Paquette, PBO: 0-0-0, -3, 0 PIM, 5 SOG
Season Totals: 6 GP, 4-1-5, -1, 0 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals (NIA/PBO): 66 GP, 19-29-48, +1, 28 PIM

Flint took it to the Petes, winning 7-3 Saturday.

Owen Sound Attack 4 @ Erie Otters 6

W Taylor Raddysh, Erie: 0-3-3, +1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Season Totals: 10 GP, 3-12-15, +4, 10 PIM
‘16-‘17 Totals: 58 GP, 42-66-108, +67, 37 PIM

Raddysh had three assists Saturday, including two primary helpers. Erie has won two in a row after a 2-6-1 start.

Western Hockey League

Saskatoon Blades 3 @ Prince Albert Raiders 4 (OT)

D Libor Hajek, SAS: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Season Totals: 10 GP, 3-4-7, -8, 12 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals: 61 GP: 4-22-26, -17, 86 PIM

Kelly Parker (Ottawa free agent signee) had two goals for the Raiders.

United States Hockey League

Fargo Force 5 @ Omaha Lancers 2

D Nicklaus Perbix, OMA: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Season Totals: 6 GP, 0-4-4, E, 0 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals (High School): 25 GP, 10-30-40, 6 PIM
Committed to: St. Cloud State University

Fargo scored three times in the third period to break open a tie game.

USHL Note: Sam Walker, a Minnesota commit, is playing high school hockey this season for Team Southwest. He has 12 goals and 16 assists for 28 points in 12 games.

NCAA Game Night: 10-20-17

Vermont Catamounts 1 @ Michigan Wolverines 4

C Ross Colton, UVM: 1-0-1, -3, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Season Totals: 5 GP, 5-0-5, -3, 4 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals: 33 GP, 12-15-27, E, 22 PIM

Michigan took care of Vermont at Yost, 4-1, Friday. Ross Colton had the only goal for Vermont. He’s on pace to shatter last year’s 12-goal output.

Connecticut Huskies 2 @ No. 7 Boston University Terriers 2 (OT)

D John MacLeod, BU: Did not play
Season Totals: 2 GP, 0-0-0, E, 2 PIM
’17-’18 Totals Totals: 36 GP, 2-5-7, +8, 30 PIM

MacLeod was scratched Friday.

No. 19 UMass-Lowell River Hawks 3 @ No. 12 Clarkson Golden Knights 1

C Ryan Lohin, UML: 0-2-2, +1, 0 PIM, 5 SOG
Season Totals: 5 GP, 0-5-5, +1, 4 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals: 41 GP, 12-17-29, +10, 14 PIM

Lohin had two primary assists Friday to get back to a point-per-game pace to the season.

Arizona State Sun Devils 1 @ Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks 5

D Kristian Oldham, UNO: Did not play (backup)
’16-‘17 Totals: 10 GP, 5-3-1, 3.38 GAA, .895 sv%, 0 SO

Oldham has yet to make his season debut as a sophomore.

No. 8 Minnesota Golden Gophers 2 @ No. 4 North Dakota Fighting Hawks 1

D Ryan Zuhlsdorf, UMN: 0-0-0, +1, 2 PIM, 0 SOG
Season Totals: 5 GP, 0-3-3, +2, 18 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals: 37 GP, 2-3-5, +11, 35 PIM

Zuhlsdorf had two assists last Sunday to go along with 18 minutes in penalties (10-minute misconduct after a roughing call). He added another roughing minor Friday in Minnesota’s win over longtime rival UND.

*USCHO poll used for rankings

Juniors Game Night: 10-20-17

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Halifax Mooseheads 4 @ Blainville-Boisbriand 2

C/W Otto Somppi, HAL: 3-0-3, +3, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, 11/17 FO, *First Star*
Season Totals: 4 GP, 4-5-9, +12, 2 PIM
’16-’17 Totals: 60 GP, 17-24-41, -7, 28 PIM

Somppi continued his torrid start to his season with a hat trick Friday night against Cedric Paquette’s former team. Blainville was up 2-0 before Somppi scored twice to tie the game. He later added a shorthanded insurance goal.

Ontario Hockey League

Kingston Frontenacs 5 @ Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 6

W Boris Katchouk, SSM: 0-0-0, E, 2 PIM, 1 SOG
Season Totals: 12 GP, 11-5-16, +8, 4 PIM
’16-’17 Season: 66 GP, 35-29-64, +18, 46 PIM

Katchouk was scoreless for only the second time this season. The Soo still got the win, 6-5, over the Fronts.

Western Hockey League

Portland Winterhawks 3 @ Kelowna Rockets 1

D Cal Foote, KEL: 0-0-0, +1, 2 PIM, 1 SOG
Season Totals: 11 GP, 2-7-9, +1, 10 PIM
‘15-‘16 Totals: 71 GP, 6-51-57, +39, 41 PIM

Kelowna fell to 0-4-1 in its last five games. The Rockets are nine points behind first place Victoria in the BC Division.

Moose Jaw Warriors 6 @ Everett Silvertips 3

C Brett Howden, MJ: 2-2-4, +1, 2 PIM, 2 SOG, 9/17 FO, *Second Star*
Season Totals: 9 GP, 4-8-12, -1, 14 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals: 58 GP, 38-43-81, +14, 73 PIM

D Oleg Sosunov, MJ: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Season Totals: 11 GP, 4-0-4, +11, 20 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals: 58 GP, 38-43-81, +14, 73 PIM

Howden had a big night for Moose Jaw, who finally got a win on its big road trip. They were 0-2 to start. Howden scored both on the power play and shorthanded.

United States Hockey League

Dubuque Fighting Saints 2 @ Chicago Steel 3

C Cole Guttman, DBQ: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Season Totals: 5 GP, 1-0-1, -1, 2 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals: 53 GP, 27-27-54, +21, 18 PIM
Committed to: St. Cloud State University

Dubuque outshot Chicago, 35-25, but couldn’t beat them on the scoreboard. The game featured two penalty shots, neither of which were successful.

Omaha Lancers 1 @ Tri-City Storm 4

D Nicklaus Perbix, OMA: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season Totals: 5 GP, 0-4-4, +1, 0 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals (High School): 25 GP, 10-30-40, 6 PIM
Committed to: St. Cloud State University

This game was 1-1 entering the third period before the Storm took over.

USHL Note: Sam Walker, a Minnesota commit, is playing high school hockey this season for Team Southwest. He has 12 goals and 16 assists for 28 points in 12 games.

AHL Game Night: 10-20-17 Devils at Crunch

The struggle continues.


Michael Leighton allowed 2 goals on 2 shots before being lifted quickly in the First Period. Connor Ingram allowed 1 goal on 20 shots for the injustice of the backdoor loss.

First Period
0:11 BNG Quenneville (4), (Bastian, Strait)
3:57 BNG Speers (1), (Pietila, Rooney)
11:49 BNG Lappin (4), (Erixon, Kapla)

Second Period
11:54 SYR Bournival (1), (unassisted)(SH)
13:26 SYR Cernak (2), (Bodie)(SH)

Third Period

Michael Bournival and Erik Cernak were the game's second and third stars.

Syracuse sits alone in the North Division basement at a dismal 1-4-1-0. That said, they've only really been run off the rink in one of the losses (against the Penguins) and there's probably an alternate dimension where Syracuse could just as easily be 4-1-1-0. There's no such thing as moral victories, though, and Syracuse needs to figure out how to get on the right side of these 1 goal decisions quickly.

Box score from

PK Provides Spark, But Crunch Can't Overcome Rough Start vs. Devils

By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch’s penalty kill provided a spark in the second period, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a rough start.

Syracuse allowed goals on the first two shots and trailed 3-0 after the first 20 minutes. The Crunch netted a pair of shorthanded markers on the same penalty, but their rally came up short in a 3-2 loss to the Binghamton Devils at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

“Obviously, when you have a rough start like we did tonight, you only can get better,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “When you’re down 3-0 after the first period, you have a choice. You battle back or you quit. I like the fact tonight we battled back. We had our chances. We manufactured more chances on the power play. Their goalie was good and they blocked shots.

“Other than the first period, I thought we got much better. It’s a work in progress I guess.”

Juniors Game Night: 10-19-17

Ontario Hockey League

Peterborough Petes 5 @ Windsor Spitfires 1

W/C Christopher Paquette, PBO: 3-0-3, +3, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, *First Star*
Season Totals: 5 GP, 4-1-5, +2, 0 PIM
’16-‘17 Totals (NIA/PBO): 66 GP, 19-29-48, +1, 28 PIM

Paquette potted three goals Thursday night in Windsor while Spitfires property Mikhail Sergachev was scoring twice for Tampa Bay in Ohio. Paquette had a natural hat trick, scoring twice in the first period and again before the mid-point of the second period. Last season was Paquette’s first as a full-time scoring line player and he is expected to build on his 19-goal output a year ago.

NHL Game Night: 10-19-17 Lightning at Blue Jackets

Let there be kittens!!!


Andrei Vasilevskiy posted the 43 save shutout, his first of the season. The shot totals allowed were high, but I think the Lightning were good at limiting the quality scoring chances Andrei actually faced, with many of those shots coming from the perimeter or from really bad angles. When the good chances did come, I thought Andrei's positioning looked flawless and it just didn't seem like there was any way Columbus was getting anything tonight. Vasilevskiy's performance was so strong he even overcame the jinx of the TV broadcast flashing a graphic prematurely awarding him the shutout with 33.7 seconds still left in the game.

First Period
17:48 TB Sergachev (1), (Kucherov, Namestnikov)

Second Period
15:37 TB Sergachev (2), (Kucherov, Stamkos)

Third Period

Vasilevskiy, Mikhail Sergachev, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

Kind of an odd game. If all you saw was the box score, you'd see that 43-21 shot disparity and assume Vasilevskiy had to stand on his head. I didn't really feel like the game was ever really out of the Lightning's control. They were pretty efficient in the first 40 minutes and throughout the game really limited Columbus to throwing the puck toward the net from low percentage areas. Now, mind you, that's a recipe for surrendering some greasy goals and getting bitten by puck luck. You don't want to make a regular habit of that. But the Lightning still, I thought, had the lion's share of the real scoring chances.

Tampa Bay clinches the successful opening segment of the season and at least one insurance point already in the bank. Two game left to go in this opening ten game segment and the Lightning have a chance to bear down and really build up a nice glut of insurance points in the standings right away.

Yanni Gourde had 4 shots, 1 hit, and was 50% on 4 draws in 18:04. That was his best game of the season, and he did everything tonight but find the back of the net. I was surprised he didn't get third star. I love the volume of shot attempts for him (7). If he keeps that up, the production will follow shortly.

Gabriel Dumont had 1 shot, 3 hits, and was 57% on 7 draws in 12:06.

Jake Dotchin was +1 with 1 shot in 12:35. I'll be interested to see how the Lightning use him whenever they switch back to a six defenseman alignment. I thought he played well tonight.

Sergachev had his first two NHL goals and was +2 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 12:49. He's putting up numbers, which I wasn't expecting and might be a little bit of a mirage. Either way, I think any inkling of sending him back to juniors (which, I never thought was a real possibility) seems out the window at this hour.

Box score and extended statistics from

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