Johnson, Tyler

AHL Calder Cup Finals Game Night: 6-18-13 Griffins at Crunch

All good things...

GR-5
SYR-2

Grand Rapids Wins the Series 4-2
Grand Rapids Wins the Calder Cup

Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on 23 shots in a game that encapsulated the Finals for Desjardins. Brilliant at times, he allowed a goal through him on the eventual game winner by Evans that he surely wishes he had back. It will be interesting to see how Julien BriseBois retools between the pipes for next season, because you can make the argument the difference between Desjardins and Mrazek was, in large part, the difference between champion and runner-up.

First Period
SYR Panik, (9) (Taormina, Palat), 17:15

Second Period
GR Callahan, (6) (Ferraro, Grant), 2:23
GR Tatar, (15) (Nyquist, Ferraro), 12:41 (PP)

Third Period
SYR Sustr, (2) (Namestnikov, Devos), 5:14
GR Evans, (2) (Callahan, Sheahan), 9:54
GR Tatar, (16) (Andersson, Nyquist), 19:11 (EN/PP)
GR Andersson, (3) (Glendening), 19:54 (EN)

I think Lightning fans everywhere, even with the bitterness of this defeat, need to start by saying, "thank you" to this group of players. The team we've referred to as "SyraNo" on this site, which won a championship in Norfolk last year and almost did again this year with Syracuse has been one of the best groups of players ever to take the ice together in the AHL. A lot of these guys, like Radko Gudas who returned tonight from injury, are ticketed for the NHL next year. Others, some of the really veteran guys, may move on in the offseason. So, this group of guys will never be together again, but we should tip our hat to them for two years of sustained brilliance the likes of which we're unlikely to see again anytime soon.

As for the young prospects who will likely return to Syracuse next season, I found myself highly impressed with Vladislav Namestnikov and Andrej Sustr, both of whom got stronger as the playoffs wore on. Namestnikov is a legit threat to be an AHL All-Star next season, if not more, with his wizardry with the puck and Sustr is something rare and interesting in pro hockey. You have to put aside the fact Andrej is 6'8", because he refuses to play to type. He's not a bone crunching stay-at-homer, and there's a lot of times he looks like a forward with his ability to read the play offensively and jump into the action. His feed to Tyler Johnson in the slot in the Third Period tonight was an incredible bit of vision that I think stunned TJ a bit, and darned near got Syracuse the key goal they needed in the final frame. That's after he tied the game once in the final period with an absolute bullet from the point. These two guys will be fun to watch develop next season.

Ondrej Palat finishes the playoffs as the AHL leader in postseason scoring. Well done, Mr. Palat.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Calder Cup Finals Game Night: 6-15-13 Crunch at Griffins

Syracuse gives themselves a chance.

SYR-5
GR-2

Grand Rapids Leads the Series 3-2

Cedrick Desjardins allowed 2 goals on 42 shots for the win. 40 saves as Grand Rapids threw the kitchen sink at Syracuse to try to avoid having to head back to New York.

First Period
SYR Palat, (7) , 8:39
SYR Connolly, (6) (Johnson, Barberio), 16:09 (PP)
GR Grant, (2) (Ferraro, Callahan), 17:38

Second Period
GR Tatar, (14) (Nyquist, Billins), 5:36 (PP)
SYR Panik, (8) (Barberio, Palat), 11:59 (PP)

Third Period
SYR Johnson, (10) (Palat, Taormina), 0:36
SYR Sexton, (6) (Namestnikov), 17:16 (EN)

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

And, just like that, Syracuse has given itself an opportunity at something legendary. Headed west to Michigan their mission was to win 2 out of 3 to get things back to Syracuse with home ice. Things looked bleak as bleak can be down 3-0, but they ultimately accomplished their mission, and withstood an attempted haymaker from Grand Rapids tonight in Game Five to stay alive in the series. Now they have, potentially, 2 games at home to pull of what seemed fairly impossible 48 hours ago.

However, Syracuse can't confuse momentum for destiny. They need to show the maturity to understand that all they've accomplished in the past 2 nights was to book their tickets to a Game Six that for many of them is going to be some of the toughest, most intense hockey of their career. Grand Rapids actually probably has less pressure on them in Game Six than they did in Game Five, because the chance to clinch at home is written off and they can fall back on the fact that they haven't lost a game yet in Syracuse's barn. The Crunch need to understand that. Game Six is going to be a war. Hopefully, it's a war where Syracuse's shorter path to the Finals starts to pay some dividends. Grand Rapids played a 7 game series in the Western Conference Finals after going 6 games with the Marlies and the full 5 against the Aeros. Syracuse has to hope that as the battle becomes more pitched in Game Six, they have a little more left in the tank than Grand Rapids does. But, they can't rely on that to just kick in automatically. They have to push that much harder now to make it happen. If they do, there's a good chance they'll get to Game Seven.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Calder Cup Finals Game Night: 6-12-13 Crunch at Griffins

Bleakness.

SYR-2
GR-4

Grand Rapids Leads the Series 3-0

Cedrick Desjardins allowed 4 goals on 29 shots for the loss. Maddeningly uneven play from Cedrick. He'll look brilliant on a breakaway one minute and allow a wraparound or bad angle goal the next.

First Period
SYR Panik, (6) (Johnson, Cote), 10:21

Second Period
GR Tatar, (13) (Paetsch), 2:09
GR Glendening, (6) (DeKeyser, Mursak), 4:53
SYR Sexton, (5) (Cote), 9:56

Third Period
GR Mursak, (10) (Hoggan), 15:11
GR Hoggan, (5) , 17:32

The bottom just fell out in the Third Period. Syracuse looked the better team through 40 minutes and had the balance of the zone time, but they looked completely outclassed in the final frame. And Grand Rapids has been far better at converting their chances. Guys like Tyler Johnson and J.T. Brown had quality chances in tonight's game, but it appears Mrazek may be in their heads because they're cutting their chances too fine rather than trying to get some greasy goals. It's a recipe for losing and going down 0-3 in a series.

Just win a game. One game. That's all Syracuse can focus on right now. They've got nothing else at this point.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 5-31-13 Crunch at Penguins

SyraNo so good when playing with house money over the past 2 seasons.

SYR-4
WBS-2

Syracuse Leads the Series 3-1

Cedrick Desjardins allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the victory.

First Period
WBS Harrington, (1) (Uher, Holzapfel), 13:40 (PP)
SYR Mikkelson, (2) (Taormina, Palat), 14:57

Second Period
WBS Megna, (2) (Peters, Uher), 16:40
SYR Connolly, (3) (Barberio, Sexton), 18:12

Third Period
SYR Johnson, (9) (Palat, Namestnikov), 1:50
SYR Wyman, (3) , 19:04 (EN)

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

This is why this affiliate has been so amazing in the playoffs over the past couple of seasons. They get a team down with a chance to bury them in a deep hole and they don't squander it. With Desjardins basically stealing Game Three, the easy conclusion would be the Pens would put the hammer down even more and even things up at 2-2, especially with Richard Panik out of the lineup. Syracuse doesn't throw their opposition life vests when they are in situations like this, though. They throw them anchors. Now the Crunch will get not worse than two cracks at home to close out the series with a commanding 3-1 series lead.

And, as has been noted in the previous two series, if you can close out a playoff series quickly you should do so. Playoff hockey can be a war of attrition, and the less battles you have to fight to win the war, the less you expose yourself to potential destiny-altering injuries.

Game Five is tomorrow night in Syracuse.

Box score and extended statistics from TheAHL.com.

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