Koekkoek, Slater

AHL Playoff Game Night: 6-13-17 Crunch at Griffins

Crunchning Death Star runs aground in Grand Rapids.

SYR-3
GR-4

Grand Rapids Wins the Series 4-2

Mike McKenna allowed 4 goals on 26 shots for the loss.

First Period
14:09 SYR Gourde (8), (Conacher)

Second Period
0:18 GR Ford (8), (Nosek)(PP)
7:51 SYR Taormina (5), (Bournival, Lynch)
11:50 GR Callahan (6), (Street)
18:10 SYR Gourde (9), (Masin, Taormina)

Third Period
3:50 GR Bertuzzi (9), (Frk, Nosek)
12:41 GR Frk (5), (Lashoff, Nosek)

Yanni Gourde was the game's third star.

It's a painful way for the season to end. The Crunch were 20 minutes away from forcing a somewhat improbable Game Seven encounter before the wheels finally came off. It's been a special team and a special, likely one-off, moment in time for Syracuse. The Crunch are likely to have a youth movement next season, particularly at forward. This veteran laden team will likely move along to the NHL, in a few cases, or to other teams/leagues in quite a few others. The big upside of this run for the Tampa Bay Lightning? In my opinion, it's a lot of quality minutes in pressure situations played by defenseman prospects like Slater Koekkoek, Jake Dotchin, Dominik Masin, and Ben Thomas.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 5-17-17 Marlies at Crunch

Five unanswered goals, and the Crunchning Death Star sets course for the Eastern Conference Finals.

TOR-3
SYR-6

Syracuse Wins the Series 4-3

Mike McKenna allowed 3 goals on 17 shots for the victory. Sweet, sweet goal support!

First Period
6:26 SYR Dumont (3), (Thomas, Brodeur)
17:37 TOR Griffith (2), (Moore, O'Reilly)
18:57 TOR Leipsic (4), (Oleksy)

Second Period
11:03 TOR Johnsson (6), (Kapanen)
13:30 SYR Taormina (2), (Peca, McGinn)
15:14 SYR Erne (3), (Conacher, Taormina)(PP)

Third Period
0:08 SYR Peca (4), (Dotchin, Koekkoek)
18:19 SYR Conacher (4), (Gourde, Condra)
19:29 SYR Gourde (2), (unassisted)(EN)

Matthew Peca, Gabriel Dumont, and Jake Dotchin were the game's three stars.

Syracuse's playoff life was in doubt for about a three and a half minute span of the Second Period tonight. Down 3-1, the team looked to be in potentially dire straits. Then the comeback started, and five goals later the Crunch had made their statement. This team may just win it all. How'd they do it? After leaning heavily on their veterans for most of this run, the Crunch youth have started to chip in on the scoresheet, making an unbelievable deep team even more lethal.

Matthew Peca is starting to build a legacy in these playoffs as a big goal, big game player. If you're wondering how we celebrated his game winning goal, assisted by fellow Bolt Prospects Jake Dotchin and Slater Koekkoek: Chad had to go take a cold shower, I smoked a cigarette, and Tim demanded the misses, "Now go fix me a sammich!" We were happy/excited.

Syracuse will play the Providence Bruins for the AHL Eastern Conference crown. Providence was actually the fourth seed in a very deep and very talented Atlantic Division. It'll be a very tough series for the chance to advance to the organization's third Calder Cup Final of the Yzerman/BriseBois regime.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 5-13-17 Marlies at Crunch

Crunchning Death Star thrives on imperial home ice.

TOR-1
SYR-5

Syracuse Leads the Series 3-2

Mike McKenna allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the victory in the kind of bounceback game you need from your goaltender in playoff time after the odd rough outing (which happens in a long playoff run).

First Period
8:26 TOR Oleksy (1), (Findlay, Clune)
11:24 SYR Peca (3), (Condra, Racine)

Second Period
3:18 SYR Vermin (4), (Conacher, Gourde)
9:25 SYR Lynch (1), (Walcott)

Third Period
1:35 SYR Racine (1), (Gourde)(SH)
16:22 SYR Dumont (2), (Condra, Bournival)(EN)

McKenna, Slater Koekkoek, and Gabriel Dumont were the game's three stars.

With the chips down the Syracuse Crunch brought their best effort to the rink tonight in an absolutely critical Game Five tilt in a tied up series. Mind you, this series should be over right now were it not for the Crunch's late game collapse in Game Three, but that contest is water under the bridge at this point. Now Syracuse gets Jake Dotchin back from suspension heading into a potential closeout game. It's never easy to finish off a good opponent on the road at playoff time, but champions typically find a way.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 4-14-17 Senators at Crunch

Crunchning Death Star destroys Bingo.

BNG-1
SYR-4

Mike McKenna allowed 1 goal on 29 shots for the victory.

First Period
19:08 SYR Bournival (9), (Peca, Thomas)

Second Period
9:26 SYR Condra (15), (Conacher, Taormina)(PP)
11:09 SYR Peca (12), (Taormina, Condra)(PP)
13:01 BNG Gagne (2), (McCormick, Flanagan)(PP)

Third Period
18:17 SYR Howden (2), (McGinn, Vermin)(EN)

Matthew Peca, Erik Condra, and Slater Koekkoek were the game's three stars.

With 1 game to go on each team's schedule, Syracuse remains 1 point back of Toronto for the North Division crown. Toronto holds the ROW tiebreaker, so Toronto will have to lose their final contest in regulation for the Crunch to pull out the title. Syracuse closes out tomorrow night at home against Utica. Toronto is in St. John's to play the IceCaps tomorrow night. Interesting to note the IceCaps and Comets are both battling for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Crunch's Koekkoek Focused on Having Long Playoff Run


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Slater Koekkoek isn't sitting around and waiting for his phone to ring.

Unable to be called up unless there are injuries to the Tampa Bay Lightning's defensive corps, the Crunch defenseman has embraced more of a leadership role with in Syracuse.

With six key North Division games remaining in the regular season, Koekkoek's main focus is taking the Crunch deep into the playoffs.

"Any time a guy comes down here, they're hoping it's not for long," Koekkoek said. "I'm not sitting here and pouting about it. I'm trying to make the most of it. I love the guys down here. We're working hard and hopefully go on a long playoff run."

AHL Game Night: 3-29-17 Crunch at Senators

Roller coaster goes back up.

SYR-6
BNG-1

Mike McKenna allowed 1 goal on 21 shots for the win, making that 2 quality starts in his last 3 outings, by my count. Getting better.

First Period
7:06 BNG Akeson (19), (White, Nehring)(PP)

Second Period
1:02 SYR Peca (11), (Taormina, Thomas)
2:22 SYR Kurtz (4), (Taormina)
15:31 SYR Bournival (7), (unassisted)

Third Period
0:31 SYR Condra (13), (Brodeur, Koekkoek)
10:07 SYR Lynch (4), (Brodeur, Koekkoek)
19:17 SYR Hajek (1), (Richard)

Matt Taormina, Slater Koekkoek, and Mathieu Broduer were the game's three stars, as the Crunch D showed out tonight. That included Libor Hajek notching his first pro goal, as well.

Syracuse moves back into a tie with the Toronto Marlies at 79 points atop the North Division, with Toronto holding a 4 game lead in ROW for the tiebreaker.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-18-17 Devils at Crunch

Peca delivers critical divisional victory for Syracuse.

ALB-1
SYR-2 (OT)

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed just 1 goal on 42 shots for the victory, helping the Crunch overcome a 42-28 shot disparity. Since the trade deadline, Gudlevskis has suddenly been locked in while veteran Mike McKenna has struggled, begging the question of who will really be the team's number one goaltender heading into the playoffs.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
2:10 SYR Peca (9), (Bournival, Condra)
17:09 ALB Gibbons (13), (Stollery, Helgeson)

Overtime
1:13 SYR Peca (10), (Taormina, McGinn)(PP)

Gudlevskis, Matthew Peca, and Slater Koekkoek were the game's three stars.

With the victory, the Crunch move out to a 3 point lead in the North Division over Albany with the Devils now holding a game in hand.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-15-17 Crunch at Phantoms

Crunch make Phantoms vanish in OT.

SYR-5
LV-4 (OT)

Mike McKenna allowed 4 goals on 48 shots for the victory. Suffice it to say McKenna hasn't cloaked himself in glory thus far in Syracuse, but he bathed in the deep waters of sweet, sweet goal support tonight.

First Period
7:40 SYR Koekkoek (2), (Lynch, Vermin)

Second Period
4:09 SYR Kurtz (2), (Thomas, Blujus)
6:54 LV Fazleev (6), (Aube-Kubel)
12:15 LV Martel (17), (McDonald, Zengerle)(PP)
13:15 LV Miele (8), (Conner, Brennan)(PP)

Third Period
8:16 SYR Lynch (3), (McNamee, Racine)
17:56 LV Martel (18), (Alt, Miele)
18:56 SYR Taormina (14), (Lynch)(PP)

Overtime
3:51 SYR McGinn (6), (Taormina, Peca)

Kevin Lynch and Mike McKenna were the game's first and third stars. McKenna was an interesting selection after getting bailed out by a Crunch extra attacker goal that took him off the hook for a late game softie.

Oh hey, look there, it's our old pals Slater Koekkoek and Dylan Blujus on the scoresheet. Where you been? Don't be a stranger.

At the moment, Syracuse holds a 3 point lead atop the North Division with 1 game in hand on Albany.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-8-17 Lightning at Penguins

Better effort. Crushing result.

TB-2
PIT-6

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 6 goals on 40 shots for the loss. He actually played really well for the first 40 minutes of this contest, but a guy can only face so many breakaways, odd man rushes, and unmarked defenders with point blank chances. At this point, his confidence looks shot and the Lightning may be unnecessarily toying with the prospect of ruining a young player the hockey world had thought was incapable of being ruined.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
2:19 TB Drouin (12), (Filppula, Hedman)
6:44 PIT Sheary (10), (Rust, Crosby)
11:14 PIT Fehr (5), (Cullen)

Third Period
2:33 PIT Kunitz (4), (Maatta, Bonino)
3:28 PIT Wilson (5), (unassisted)
5:40 TB Namestnikov (5), (Drouin, Stralman)(PP)
7:50 PIT Kessel (13), (Crosby, Sheary)
17:20 PIT Letang (3), (Schultz, Cullen)(PP)

For 40+ minutes tonight was a much more spirited effort than we've seen of late. Imperfect, but the effort level and urgency level was there. Vlad Namestnikov even had a wide open wraparound that looked like a sure goal that would've knotted the game at 2-2 early in the Third Period. He blew the chance and then the wheels came off with the Lightning playing their 3rd in 4 days. This is a team that's played as much hockey as any team in hockey over the last 2.5 years and one that has largely had the same group of guys for that run with very few changes by Steve Yzerman. That probably has contributed to their proneness to injury and it probably explains how mentally, emotionally, and spiritually drained they've looked over this death march through the middle part of the season. Should they not find a way to snap out of it soon, wholesale changes will need to be made in the offseason. Rebuilding? No. But likely a retooling of the defense and lower lines, along with a strategic move or two on the scoring lines to inject something fresh into a stale and struggling group of players that need... something.

Luke Witkowski was -2 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:16.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 11:10.

Matthew Peca had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 9:08. He was also 55% on 11 draws. I thought he had a small rebound today after two subpar games in a row the last couple of times out.

Adam Erne had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 11:19. His linemates need to get used to how crafty he is passing the puck out of the corners and in behind the attacking cage.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-5-17 Predators at Lightning

Awful goaltending hands Lightning failure.

NSH-6
TB-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 18 shots for the loss. Three of those goals were of the awful variety, and the third goal, which came as the Lightning were mounting a push to try to knot the game at 2-2, was an absolute back breaker. Hockey is a frustrating, terrible sport when you're the victim of bad goaltending and your team has to work five times harder to get a goal, which is what happened tonight.

First Period
2:25 NSH Fisher (11), (Johansen, Ekholm)(PP)

Second Period
3:56 NSH Forsberg (9), (Fiala, Johansen)
6:12 TB Johnson (12), (Hedman, Killorn)
13:21 NSH Sissons (3), (Fisher)
14:04 NSH Ellis (5), (Wilson, Arvidsson)

Third Period
14:02 NSH Sissons (4), (Jarnkrok)(EN)
17:00 NSH Sissons (5), (Jarnkrok, Bitetto)

The Lightning actually had a decent night in terms of raw puck possession stats. It wasn't equaling a ton of scoring chances, but the game was not nearly the lopsided disaster the score indicates... except that the goaltending was terrible. That's been the biggest difference between this Lightning team and those of the recent past. Even when Bishop was healthy earlier this year the Lightning were not getting consistent goaltending. They have to hope and pray when he returns that he will re-find some of his Vezina candidate caliber form. Without it, they haven't got a prayer.

The Lightning failed to get 12 points for a second 10-game segment of the year, getting just 10 points in this one after managing just 7 points the previous segment. At the roughly midway point of the campaign, they're a full 6 points off comfortable playoff pace, meaning they'll have to play at least .675 hockey the rest of the way to get there safely. That's not impossible, but it's incredibly difficult and pretty much a fool's errand to try without good goaltending.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:29.

Matthew Peca was -2 with 2 hits in 11:17. He was also 56% on 9 draws. This was the first night of his NHL stint that he wasn't really a noticable positive in the lineup.

Adam Erne was -2 with 1 shot and 6 hits in 14:59. He continues to look the part and made a swooping power forward move off the right wing that was a bright spot in a fairly abysmal night.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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