Syracuse Crunch

Bolts Ink Hajek to Entry Level Deal

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Libor Hajek (LEE-bohr, HIGH-ak) to a three-year, two-way entry level contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Hajek, 19, skated in 65 games with the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League this season, recording four goals and 26 points to go along with 81 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-2, 202-pound defenseman ranked second on the Blades for penalty minutes. Hajek also ranked second among all Saskatoon defensemen for assists (22) and points.

The Smrcek, Czech Republic native has appeared in 134 career WHL games, all with Saskatoon over the past two seasons, posting seven goals and 52 points to go along with 157 penalty minutes. He led all Saskatoon rookies for points and assists with 23 during the 2015-16 season. Hajek was selected second overall at the 2015 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

Hajek was originally drafted by the Lightning in the second round, 37th overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft.

Hajek Signs With Lightning, Will Join Crunch


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Libor Hajek signed a three-year entry level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday.

The defenseman, who was selected in the second round of the 2016 draft by the Lightning after they dealt Anthony DeAngelo to the Arizona Coyotes for the pick, wrapped up his second season with the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League last weekend.

Hajek also signed an amateur tryout with Syracuse, and Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said he is expected to practice with Syracuse Wednesday.

“I saw Libor in camp in September. He's a good, young defenseman who skates well,” Groulx said of the 6-2, 202-pounder. “We’ll see how it plays out with him. We’ve got to see him in practice first, and obviously it’s a huge adjustment playing against junior and against men.”

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.

Gudlevskis, Crunch Outlast Devils in Overtime


By Jeremy Houghtaling

With the Albany Devils nipping at their heels in the standings, the Syracuse Crunch found a way to pull out a win.

Kristers Gudlevskis recorded 41 saves and Matthew Peca netted his second goal of the night in overtime, as the Crunch outlasted the Devils, 2-1, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

For Syracuse head coach Benoit Groulx, the game showed his players could get two points even if they weren’t at their best.

“We were a vulnerable team tonight, playing our ninth game in 16 days with traveling in the middle of that and playing against a rested team,” Groulx said. “I thought our goalie was phenomenal. He allowed us to stay in that game, obviously. They were skating better than us. They were first on pucks. They were the best team on the ice tonight, but we found a way.”

AHL Game Night: 3-17-17 Crunch at Comets

Crunch comeback dissolves into defeat.

SYR-3
UTI-4

Mike McKenna allowed 4 goals on 23 shots for the loss. Thus far with Syracuse he is 1-3-1 with a 4.23 GAA and a .868 save percentage. His acquisition has not led to the expected results thus far, needless to say.

First Period
13:22 UTI Rendulic (12), (Pelletier, Robak)

Second Period
14:42 UTI Pelletier (9), (Carcone, Rendulic)
17:44 SYR Ikonen (3), (Comrie, McGinn)(PP)

Third Period
4:05 UTI Archibald (20), (McEneny, Kunyk)(PP)
6:31 SYR Halmo (16), (Ikonen, Koekkoek)
7:01 SYR McGinn (7), (Condra)
8:15 UTI Zalewski (4), (Subban, Bancks)

Tye McGinn was the game's second star. Since returning from injury on 3/3, McGinn has 6-2-8 in 8 games. And there ain't nothing wrong with those stats.

Tonight's game was a frustrating one. Syracuse outshot Utica 38-23 and battled their way back from a pair of 2 goal deficits to get things level in the Third Period only to eventually lose the contest in regulation. The consistency from the net out needs to get dramatically better by the playoffs.

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.

AHL Game Night: 3-12-17 IceCaps at Crunch

Syracuse rallies for a point.

STJ-3
SYR-2 (OT)

Mike McKenna allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the OT loss and is still looking for his first win with the Crunch since his acquisition.

First Period
12:49 SYR Froese (26), (Ikonen, Vermin)
16:31 STJ Terry (23), (Hudon, Scherbak)

Second Period
14:29 STJ de la Rose (9), (Didier)(SH)

Third Period
2:30 SYR McGinn (5), (Taormina, Vermin)(PP)

Overtime
1:40 STJ Hudon (22), (Audette)

Byron Froese was the game's second star.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Depleted Crunch Fall to IceCaps in Overtime


By Jeremy Houghtaling

It wasn’t the result he hoped for, but Syracuse Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx liked his team’s effort.

The Crunch — depleted by injuries and call-ups — tied the score early in the third period but fell to the St. John’s IceCaps, 3-2, in overtime at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

“You know what? Hat’s off to our players,” Groulx said. “It was a great effort. You’re losing Matt Peca last night. We’re losing (Cory) Conacher tonight — couldn’t play. We had a few more guys banged up and we came up with that great effort. It’s a well deserved point.”

AHL Game Night: 3-10-17 Thunderbirds at Crunch

Wilcox's revenge.

SPR-3
SYR-2

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 3 goals on 27 shots for the loss.

First Period
18:49 SPR Thompson (12), (Hunt, Balisy)

Second Period
4:13 SYR McGinn (4), (Froese, Thomas)

Third Period
0:45 SYR Froese (25), (Taormina, Conacher)(PP)
10:04 SPR Greco (8), (McCann, Hawryluk)
18:15 SPR Greco (9), (Thompson)

Newcomer Byron Froese was the game's second star after finally getting into the lineup following his acquisition in the Brian Boyle trade. Ex-Crunch netminder Adam Wilcox was the game's third star after posting 29 saves.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Crunch Let Lead Slip Away in Loss to Wilcox, Thunderbirds


By Jeremy Houghtaling

A few third-period mistakes proved costly for the Syracuse Crunch.

The Crunch took the lead 45 seconds into the third period but the Thunderbirds tied the score midway through the frame and netted the game-winner with 1:45 remaining, as Syracuse lost to Springfield, 3-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

“It’s very disappointing,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “We’re up 2-1, missed assignment on the second goal down low. With two minutes left, you have a defenseman diving down. It’s unacceptable.

“I don’t think we did enough tonight to win. That’s it.”

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