Syracuse Crunch

Crunch Lose To Amerks, 4-1


By Jeremy Houghtaling

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.

AHL Game Night: 1-12-13 Americans at Crunch

The exodus to Tampa begins...

RCH-4
SYR-1

Riku Helenius allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the loss.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
RCH Schofield, (4) (Sundher, Biega), 5:11
RCH Tarnasky, (8) (Flynn, Crawford), 13:26 (PP)

Third Period
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.

Crunch Top Admirals in Shootout, 3-2


By Jeremy Houghtaling

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."

AHL Game Night: 1-11-13 Admirals at Crunch

Jared Nightingale!?!?

NOR-2
SYR-3 (SO)

Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 20 shots before stopping 2 of 4 shooters in the penalty shot session to secure the win.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NOR Palmieri, (12) (Holland), 2:32 (PP)
NOR Palmieri, (13) , 7:34 (PP)
SYR Gauthier, (4) (Conacher, Killorn), 15:57

Third Period
SYR Labrie, (8) (Korobov, Angelidis), 13:16

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
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.

AHL Game Night: 1-9-13 Crunch at Americans

In possibly their last game together as a group, Syracuse gets a win...

SYR-5
RCH-3

Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the victory.

First Period
SYR Connolly, (14) (Gauthier, Korobov), 10:25
RCH Mancari, (9) (Porter, Finley), 13:14

Second Period
SYR Panik, (18) (Palat, Cote), 6:50
SYR Angelidis, (6) (Killorn, Taormina), 10:54
RCH Adam, (8) (Rankin, Brennan), 19:26 (PP)

Third Period
RCH Flynn, (11) (Tarnasky), 11:25
SYR Gauthier, (3) (Connolly, Devos), 12:20
SYR Wyman, (3) (Killorn), 18:11

Brett Connolly and Mike Angelidis were the game's first and second stars. If Lightning camp does indeed get going this weekend, tonight may have been Connolly's last in a Crunch jersey.

Richard Panik (pictured) is just 1 goal shy of his total from all of last season, and the Panik attack might well be deserving of at least an abbreviated training camp look.

Alex Killorn has 5 multi-point games in his last 10 outings. He's another one who might deserve a look.

Good to see Ondrej Palat back after getting banged up in the first game in Norfolk over the weekend. He is one of those guys who is the straw that stirs the drink.

Things get interesting now. The team has a game against Norfolk in Syracuse on Friday night. Speculation around the league earlier this week had most training camps opening on Saturday. Head Coach Jon Cooper made a comment about possibly losing a lot of his current roster to the NHL, presumably for an abbreviated camp as the Lightning evaluate whether it's smart (I think it is) to add a couple of these AHLers who have been playing well and don't have any rust to shake off. Watch the transaction wire the next couple of days, because you might see callups from Florida of the ECHL that signal what's to come.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Labrie Continues to Keep it Simple


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Pierre-Cedric Labrie estimates his first National Hockey League assist came about 200 feet from the Phoenix Coyotes net.

The Syracuse Crunch forward, up for more than a dozen games with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, had chipped the puck past defenseman Rostislav Klesla, and his linemates, Trevor Smith and Martin St. Louis, were off to the races.

It wasn't the prettiest play, but it got the job done.

"Just a simple play," Labrie said. "Keep it simple. That's my type of game."

In his sixth professional season, Labrie has had to grind out a career by doing a little bit of everything on the ice.

Lightning Roster Predictions

With the NHL and NHLPA coming to an agreement last night, it’s time to take a peak at what the Lightning might look like when the season starts in a couple weeks.

I was asked on Twitter this week how I thought the Lightning would fare in a shortened season. My answer is three fold. It depends on:

1. Goaltending
2. Special teams
3. How quickly the team gels

AHL Game Night: 1-5-13 Crunch at Admirals

Crunch sweep homecoming weekend in dramatic fashion.

SYR-4
NOR-3 (OT)

Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 25 shots for the victory after Jon Cooper chose to pass over Riku Helenius for the start and keep the same netminder for the back end of the two game set. We'll see if Riku goes on Wednesday or if Cooper has evoked the "stick with a winner" selection process.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NOR Kurtz, (3) (Vatanen, Rosehill), 2:54
SYR Killorn, (13) (Wyman, Gudas), 3:48
NOR Maroon, (10) (Vatanen, Sexton), 12:28 (PP)
SYR Namestnikov, (2) (Labrie), 17:58

Third Period
SYR Panik, (17) (Connolly, Cote), 3:46
NOR Palmieri, (11) (Vatanen), 11:39 (PP)

Overtime
SYR Connolly, (13) (Killorn), 2:21

Brett Connolly was the game's first star. He's been pretty consistent all season, statistically. If you look at his last 22 games, for instance, he was only held off the scoresheet in 6 of those games. That's got to make Coach Cooper, and Guy Boucher for that matter, smile.

Richard Panik is now just 2 goals shy from his total of all last season. The Panik attack has lit the lamp 4 times in the last 3 games.

Vladislav Namestnikov is also consistently finding the scoresheet since his return from injury. He got his second pro goal tonight and he has 2 goals and 3 points in the 5 games since he came off the shelf.

Alex Killorn had his 4th multi-point game in his last 9 outings. He was chipping in singles in the early part of the season, but now he's starting to really pick up steam in his rookie campaign.

Syracuse moves on Wednesday to face Rochester.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 1-4-13 Crunch at Admirals

For tonight, Tic and the Crunch are still the Kings of Norfolk.

SYR-3
NOR-0

Dustin Tokarski (pictured) stopped all 22 shots he faced for the shutout. The comfort of the old barn? Extra concentration going against his old uniform? Whatever it was, he put up the forcefield tonight in the Crunch players' return to the scene of many of their greatest career triumphs.

First Period
SYR Panik, (16) , 2:28 (PP)
SYR Johnson, (20) , 14:50

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
SYR Aulie, (3) (Killorn), 17:04

Tyler Johnson, Tokarski, and Richard Panik were the game's three stars. On January 4th, TJ becomes the first Syracuse player to reach the 20 goal plateau. The Panik attack, for his part, is now just 3 goals shy of his total from all of last season.

Vladislav Namestnikov checked first pro goal off his list recently, and tonight he had his first pro fight. So, that's all the low hanging fruit. Now he's got to move on to first pro multi-point game, first pro hat trick, etc. Right?

Let's be honest: there was no way in hell the Crunch were losing this game. They held Norfolk to just 11 shots on goal through 2 periods and it was pretty clear how focused the team was. They weren't going to stub their toe in the homecoming game. It just wasn't happening. Credit to the Admirals, they clearly wanted it badly, too.

Now, tomorrow night holds some intrigue. Presumably Riku Helenius will go in net and he doesn't have as fond a set of memories about Scope. It'll also be interesting to see Riku go against his teammate from last season in JYP, Sami Vatanen, who was a stellar defenseman in the SM-liiga. They won a championship together last season. But, that was last season.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

No Coincidences for Conacher


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Cory Conacher tries to not think about what could have been.

With the National Hockey League and the players’ association still working to resolve the lockout, the 5-8, 179-pound winger, who was expected to be a candidate for the Calder Trophy, knows that nothing is guaranteed.

"Even if the NHL figures it out and I get a chance to play in Tampa, I can't expect to be the best player and get all the points," Conacher said. "I have to do the little things that will help Tampa Bay win, and that's what is most important."

One season removed from hoisting the Calder Cup and being named the American Hockey League's Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player – the fourth player to achieve both in the same season – the 23-year-old Syracuse Crunch forward still doesn't take anything for granted.

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