Danick Gauthier started the season as the odd man out.
With the Syracuse Crunch already loaded with talented forwards and further enhanced with players being sent down from Tampa Bay as a result of the NHL lockout, the rookie had trouble cracking the lineup.
Crunch coach Jon Cooper told Gauthier to expect to be sit out most nights, and the 21-year-old suited up for just 10 games in the first three months of the season.
"It was hard to be scratched almost every game, but I just kept working in practices, and I got a couple chances," Gauthier said.
"Every chance I got on the ice, I needed to make a good impression for the coaches," the Quebec-native added.
Despite a change in the cast of characters, it seemed like the Syracuse Crunch were primed to pull off the same drama Saturday.
A night after overcoming a two-goal deficit to beat the Norfolk Admirals in the shootout, the Crunch again found themselves down by a pair of goals to the Rochester Americans.
With Syracuse pouring on the pressure, Brett Connolly knocked a rebound past Rochester goalie David Leggio less than seven minutes into the third period to cut the deficit to one.
But unlike the night before, a comeback wasn't in the script. The Americans answered with a pair of goals in the following 10 minutes, topping the Crunch 4-1 at the Onondaga County War Memorial. The loss snaps a five-game winning streak for Syracuse (24-8-2-3), which paces the American Hockey League with 53 points.
The exodus to Tampa begins...
Riku Helenius allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the loss.
RCH Schofield, (4) (Sundher, Biega), 5:11
RCH Tarnasky, (8) (Flynn, Crawford), 13:26 (PP)
SYR Connolly, (15) (Killorn, Palat), 6:34 (PP)
RCH Porter, (11) (Brennan, Biega), 10:47
RCH Brennan, (14) (Mancari, Adam), 15:11 (PP)
Brett Connolly was the game's second star after scoring Syracuse's only goal.
As might be expected, Alex Hutchings and Charles Landry were called up from the Coast before the game. This allowed the Crunch to pull several of their vets from the lineup as they prepare to head to Tampa for abbreviated training camp. That, in of itself, made things weird enough. But, once Richard Panik got himself kicked out early in the Second Period of the game, the lineup really got scrambled beyond recognition. It's going to be a strange next few weeks as players move up and down from Tampa. Once the roster finally settles down a little, this Syracuse team will have to re-learn how to play together with the personnel who are left. That's why Jon Cooper makes the big bucks.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
For Mike Angelidis, one of the strengths of the Syracuse Crunch is its ability to remain positive.
Down by a goal in the third period to the Norfolk Admirals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday, the Crunch captain knew if his team poured on the pressure, it would find the game-tying goal.
Syracuse outshot Norfolk 23-4 in the third, finding the equalizer midway through the frame and and ultimately winning the game, 3-2, in the shootout. The Crunch has won five straight and seven of its last eight.
"It gets frustrating when you keep shooting the puck and missing the net or they're blocking shots," Angelidis said. "It's frustrating, but if you keep playing the game and you stay positive, good things happen."
Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 20 shots before stopping 2 of 4 shooters in the penalty shot session to secure the win.
NOR Palmieri, (12) (Holland), 2:32 (PP)
NOR Palmieri, (13) , 7:34 (PP)
SYR Gauthier, (4) (Conacher, Killorn), 15:57
SYR Labrie, (8) (Korobov, Angelidis), 13:16
NOR- Holland, Etem
SYR- Wyman, Palat, Nightingale, Panik
Jared Nightingale and Danick Gauthier were the game's first and third stars. Both may be called on to shoulder a bigger load with the NHL lockout over with.
Those looking for clues on who might go up to Tampa for the abbreviated training camp got very few from tonight's lineup. Perhaps tomorrow's game against Rochester will help yield a better picture with camps around the NHL set to open on Sunday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.