Tyler Johnson isn't one for grand acceptance speeches.
After winning the award as the American Hockey League's Most Valuable Player, the Syracuse Crunch forward gave most of the credit to his teammates, the coaching staff and the organization.
Johnson preferred to show how he earned it. He registered his second hat trick of the season, leading the Crunch to a 6-1 rout of the Norfolk Admirals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.
"I though tonight we played a good solid team game, a full 60," Johnson said. "I thought we played pretty well. If we keep doing that, I think we'll be alright."
Syracuse, which has points in five straight games, has a three-point lead over Binghamton in the East Division, and can clinch with a win or a Senators loss Saturday.
Wow. I feel like we need to issue a formal apology to all our friends in Norfolk for that savage beat down tonight.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the victory. For those wondering, Pat Nagle has been backing up Desjardins because Riku Helenius had some family issues back in Finland that required attention. Hopefully Riku will be back for the playoffs.
SYR Angelidis, (11) (Wyman, Brown), 14:20
SYR Johnson, (34) (Sexton, Wyman), 14:58
SYR Wyman, (13) (Palat, Johnson), 19:02
SYR Namestnikov, (7) (Devos, Connolly), 11:56
NOR Maroon, (25) (Guenin), 13:32
SYR Johnson, (35) (Palat, Sexton), 19:11
SYR Johnson, (36) , 7:48
Tyler Johnson, J.T. Wyman, and Mike Angelidis were the game's three stars. The freshly minted AHL MVP, Johnson, celebrated with an incredible 3 goal, 4 point effort to start off a 3 game weekend set that will be so critical for playoff position.
Brian Lee was +4 in the contest. Several members of the Bolt Prospects message board's heads just exploded after reading that. Mind you, he also took a major for slashing and got kicked out of the game. I would suspect a suspension may follow.
Two games remain in the regular season. Providence toppled Springfield tonight 5-3, which clinches the top seed in the East for Providence. However, with Springfield going down and Syracuse winning, the Crunch now move to within 2 points of the Falcons with a game in hand. The Crunch also expanded their division lead over Binghamton to 3 points after Bingo lost to Manchester tonight. Each team has 2 games left on their schedules, including the head-to-head matchup Sunday. The loss for Norfolk was a particularly bad one with the Admirals, at this moment, in a 4-way tie at 79 points for one of the last 2 playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. How deeply ironic would it be if Syracuse had to face Norfolk in the first round? That prospect looks much more remote after tonight, but it's still at least on the edge of the table right now.
So here's the schedule for Saturday: Springfield draws Adirondack (eliminated from playoff contention), Binghamton gets Hershey (one of the clubs in that 4-way tie), and Syracuse gets Worcester (eliminated from playoff contention). Syracuse can make the division elementary with a win, thereby clinching not less than the 3 seed for the playoffs. Jumping Springfield may be a harder task for the Crunch with the Falcons likely holding the tiebreak at the finish line with a 2 game lead in the regulation win column right now.
Some other accounting issues heading into the end of the regular season:
- Syracuse still leads the AHL in goals scored by 10.
- Tyler Johnson is 8th in the AHL in scoring and Brett Connolly is currently tied for 10th.
- Mark Barberio is in 6th amongst AHL defensemen in scoring.
- Johnson also leads the league in goals by 3 with Connolly tied for 4th.
- Johnson is also 6th in power play goals.
- Connolly is tied for tops in game winning goals.
- Ondrej Palat is tied for 8th in the league in helpers.
- Despite being in Tampa for about a month, Radko Gudas is still 6th in the AHL in penalty minutes.
- Gudas is also still leading the league in +/- with teammates Johnson, Palat, and J.P. Cote all tied for 3rd. Dmitry Korobov is tied for 8th.
- Barberio is 9th in the league in shots on goal.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
In his first game since being sent down, Brett Connolly made an immediate impact.
Reassigned by the Tampa Bay Lightning Friday, Connolly scored three times to lead the Syracuse Crunch to a 5-1 win over the Rochester Americans at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.
"I didn't expect to get three, but I wanted to help out and help the team win," he said. "I was fortunate enough to get a couple good looks and they went in for me."
With the victory, Syracuse remains two points ahead of Binghamton in the East Division, and clinches home ice advantage in the first round of the postseason.
Back on track.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 1 goal on 21 shots for the victory.
SYR Connolly, (28) (Namestnikov, Korobov), 1:37
SYR Connolly, (29) (Johnson, Palat), 8:28 (PP)
SYR Johnson, (33) (Palat, Taormina), 10:11 (PP)
SYR Wyman, (12) (Angelidis, Cote), 19:33
SYR Connolly, (30) (Paradis, Lee), 2:08
RCH Biega, (5) (Ellis, Mancari), 4:53
The cavalry arrived, and just in time. Brett Connolly threw in a hat trick, his first as a pro, to get to 30 goals. For my money, this guy needs to be in the AHL MVP discussion prominently. He's been the most consistent Crunch player all year long, even more so than Tyler Johnson whose stats sagged a little after coming back from Lightning camp midway through the year. Connolly and Johnson are tied for 8th in the league in scoring at 60 points.
Binghamton absolutely throttled Albany 5-0 to start the day, which put huge pressure on Syracuse to win. Meanwhile, Providence beat Springfield 2-0 in a head-to-head matchup that was advantageous for the Crunch. Syracuse remains 4 back of the Bruins, pulls into a tie with Springfield at 93 points, and remains 2 up on the Senators. All three teams have a game in hand on Syracuse, though. Next weekend, starting Friday, will be a 3-games-in-3-nights set to complete the regular season, all at home: Norfolk, Worcester, and a game against Binghamton that may well decide the East Division title. With Mark Barberio out of the lineup for Tampa Bay tonight and Victor Hedman back in, I would think more reinforcements are on the way, too.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
After getting off to a quick start, the Syracuse Crunch offense fizzled.
The Crunch lost a pair of one-goal leads, and fell in overtime to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday. Syracuse, reeling after two straight overtime losses, clings to a two point lead in the East Division.
"Always when you lose, it's tough," said Crunch forward Ondrej Palat. "We just need to focus for the playoffs. (We have to) be better, finish the season strong."