The streak continues.
The Syracuse Crunch netted a pair of power play goals in a 3-2 victory over the Albany River Rats in the final game before the holiday break at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday. The nine-game win streak is the longest the franchise has had in its three years affiliated with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Syracuse leads the Northeast Division and is second overall in the Eastern Conference. While the Crunch would like to keep the momentum rolling, they are welcoming a short rest.
"They deserve it," Syracuse head coach Rob Zettler said of the break. "These guys played very hard. You could see it out there. It was a chippy, kind of nasty game, but I think our players played hard and they deserve the five days."
The yak is still on the loose.
Kristers Gudlevskis stopped all 24 shots he faced for the victory and his first shutout of the campaign. He's won his last 4 starts allowing just 3 total goals in the last 3 of those starts, while running his season save percentage back up to .906 in the process. Now things get very interesting in Syracuse, once Vasilevskiy returns, because this is what we expected coming into the year. These are two of the best prospect netminders around, and they'll be in a knock-down, drag-out for starts all season long. The competition is going to push both guys to play better than they ever thought possible. It's going to be great to see unfold.
SYR Richard, (5) (Koekkoek), 2:12
SYR Namestnikov, (3) (Nesterov, Marchessault)
Gudlevskis and Tanner Richard were the game's first and second stars. As of this posting, Richard's +18 mark is second best in the AHL behind the +21 of Manchester's Nick Shore. I should also point out that, on top of the game winning helper he had tonight, Nikita Nesterov hasn't had a minus game in a full month, when he had a -1 outing on 11/19 against Hartford. He's been +9 since that game, taking him up to +9 for the year. He was -2 last year and the 13 points he has in 28 games this season is 3 off the 16 he posted as a rookie in 54 games last season. So, like Richard, here's a player who had some holes in his game who seems to be rounding the corner a bit. Nice to see. Slater Koekkoek, oh by the way, has helpers in 3 of the last 4 games.
Tomorrow, Syracuse draws Albany at home.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
The Killer G's.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 2 goals on 29 shots for the victory. That's two straight quality starts for Kristers since Vasilevskiy started to show his Latvian tandem-mate his tail lights, and he squared his save percentage away at exactly .900 with his effort tonight.
SYR Paradis, (7) (Mormina, Gourde), 1:19
RCH Ellis, (7) (McCabe, Pysyk), 18:20 (PP)
SYR Gourde, (12) (Richard, Koekkoek), 5:24
RCH Ruhwedel, (6) (Irwin), 11:28 (PP)
SYR Blunden, (4) (Angelidis, Kunyk), 2:14
Yanni Gourde and Mike Blunden were the game's first and second stars. Gourde, who along with Gudlevskis was the other Killer G in tonight's contest, is now tied for 3rd in the league in goals, as of this posting. He's just 2 back of the league leader right now and is doing his best to be the next diminutive, undrafted Lightning gem, following in the footsteps of Conacher and Johnson before him.
Here's a stat that you could've won a lot of money with before this season: Tanner Richard is tied for second in the league in +/- right now at +17. His point tonight helped him match his scoring totals from all of last season (17 points) in 38 less games, and his +/- has improved dramatically from the -9 mark he posted last year. The light has come on for the pesky Richard, who looks to fit a future role as a two-way third liner who can create as a playmaker and has a little bit of instigator's edge to him, too.
Syracuse's win moves them into a tie with Springfield for the division lead at 37 points and they currently sit at second in the Eastern Conference by virtue of this 7-game winning streak/magic carpet ride they're on. Although they don't yet have the ridiculously good defensive stats and goal differential, this is starting to take on the appearance of one of the old Jon Cooper teams: long winning streaks, plenty of goals, and also, at this moment, tied for second in the league in penalty minutes, too. Fast, talented, and rough and tough when they need to be.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Mike Angelidis battled for space with a couple players on the blue line and bolted for the front of the net.
The puck rebounded off Utica netminder Joacim Eriksson, bounced right to Angelidis’ skate, and into the back of the net. The Crunch captain’s 10th goal of the season tied the game with a little more than two minutes left in regulation, and Syracuse went on to win its sixth-straight in overtime Saturday night.
It was the ultimate example of Angelidis’ play -- a clutch play, albeit not flashy, when the Crunch needed it the most. The 29-year-old’s ability to lead by example has put Syracuse in second place in the Northeast Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.
We continue our Bolt Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for his recent contributions on and off the ice.
The Bolt Prospect of the Week for December 15, 2014 is … Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Syracuse Crunch (AHL – USA).
Who are we to argue with the American Hockey League?
The league named Lightning goaltender prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy the CCM/AHL Player of the Week on Monday before we even had a chance to vote on our Prospect of the Week. The early bird gets the proverbial worm, so we’ll just go ahead and agree with the AHL on this one.
Not that we would’ve disagreed.