As the Syracuse Crunch took the ice for warmups, they looked across the ice at something that gave them a range of emotions.
It was different. It was weird. It was somewhat-familiar.
It was the same bright blue, yellow and red Norfolk Admirals uniforms that most of the team wore last year during their amazing winning streak and ensuing run to the Calder Cup championship.
"You step out and you're skating around and you see them coming out of their lockerroom, and you're like 'Jeez, those jerseys look pretty familiar,'" Crunch defenseman Mark Barberio said. "After that, it comes down to you're playing hockey and they're the opposition."
Syracuse, the new affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning, scored three power play goals in a 4-2 win over Norfolk, the former farm team, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.
TJ and old Admirals beat down new Admirals.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 18 shots for the victory. He's won his last 2 starts, but his save percentage has dwindled all the way down to .901 after being at .913 to start the month of December. It's absolutely a cause for concern.
SYR Barberio, (6) (Connolly, Johnson), 9:42 (PP)
SYR Killorn, (11) (Namestnikov, Oberg), 12:12 (PP)
NOR Palmieri, (10) , 7:19
SYR Palat, (4) (Taormina, Johnson), 5:00
NOR Vatanen, (4) (Maroon, Wagner), 10:54
SYR Connolly, (13) (Panik, Palat), 16:15 (PP)
Tyler Johnson (pictured) and Richard Panik were the game's first and second stars. Panik attack y'all. Johnson's tied for 3rd in the league in scoring and is 2nd in goals. Unfortunately, given that 3/4 of Edmonton's NHL team is playing in Oklahoma City during the lockout, it's probably going to be tough for him to catch Jordan Eberle. Still, 3rd in the AHL in scoring during a lockout is damned impressive.
After giving the red light a one game holiday vacation, Alex Killorn scored yet another goal. That's 8 in his last 10 games. He's one of several guys, with Ondrej Palat also on that list, who might be playing themselves into contention for NHL jobs if the lockout ever lifts. It's an honest question the organization would have to ask itself: do you get more from a Tom Pyatt or a B.J. Crombeen than you'd get from a Killorn, Johnson, Conacher, Palat, Panik, etc?
Congrats to Vladislav Namestnikov on picking up a helper in his first game back since going on the shelf 2 months ago.
Syracuse faces the St. John's IceCaps tomorrow, with the Baby Thrasher-Jets still reeling from last year's Eastern Finals sweep and in dead last in the Atlantic Division.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Wherein #89 reminds us he's the reigning league MVP...
Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 20 shots for the victory.
SYR Barberio, (5) (Conacher, Connolly), 18:54 (PP)
SYR Conacher, (11) , 0:28
SYR Gudas, (3) (Wyman), 9:51
BNG Da Costa, (4) (Hoffman, Silfverberg), 11:07
SYR Brown, (6) (Palat, Conacher), 1:02 (PP)
BNG Silfverberg, (12) (Jessiman, Benoit), 5:23 (PP)
BNG Pageau, (2) (Jessiman), 11:35
SYR Angelidis, (5) (Wyman), 19:15 (EN)
Cory Conacher (pictured) and Mark Barberio were the game's first and third stars. Conacher's been exceedingly quiet with just 1 goal and 4 points in the 10 games prior to tonight, but his 3 point outburst signals perhaps "The Honey Badger" (not the LSU variety that ends up in rehab) is ready to start hitting the scoresheet regularly again.
Hard to believe Alex Killorn didn't score a goal tonight. His streak snaps at 6 games, although he did have 5 shots on goal tonight.
Syracuse outshot Bingo a mind-numbing 44-20 in the game, including 29-9 through the first 40 minutes. Almost dominant.
And now, the moment that we knew was coming and have been dreading. Norfolk comes to town Friday night, and the Crunch will try to take down the franchise for which they staked a record-breaking winning streak that may never be equaled. Mixed emotions.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
It starts with the term "shutdown defenseman."
After that, Keith Aulie rattles off the rest of his responsibilities, memorized not in a mirror but through repetition on the ice.
"I try to go out there, play hard, finish my hits, make my first passes, be tough for their forwards to play against, kill penalties, and be consistent back there," Aulie said before taking a breath.
Likely set to at least challenge for a spot on the Tampa Bay Lightning blueline this season, Aulie has taken his talents to the Syracuse Crunch during the NHL lockout. A team that has been near the top of the Eastern Conference in points and penalty minute leaderboard all season, the Crunch welcomed the 6-6, 229-pounder’s ability to log substantial ice time.
Syracuse gets Grinched in their last weekend set before Christmas.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 27 shots for the loss as his save percentage continues to atrophy this month. He got the back-to-back start with Riku Helenius gone to Helenius to handle some family matters, but tonight was not the night he turned his recent slide around.
WBS Thompson, (8) (Gibbons, Holzapfel), 3:57 (PP)
SYR Killorn, (10) (Wyman, Gudas), 9:21
WBS Mormina, (1) , 9:35
WBS Smith, (10) (Tangradi, Samuelsson), 10:20
SYR Johnson, (18) (Gudas, Aulie), 18:45
Radko Gudas and Alex Killorn were the game's second and third stars. Don't look now, but Gudas is on a pace for about 30 points, which would be a nice haul for a guy who may also have 200 PIMs when all is said and done this year. Killorn now has goals in his last 6 games and 7 in his last 8. How is he accomplishing this? He's tied for 4th in the AHL in shots on goal. The guy plays a north-south game and he puts pucks on net. As his shot continues to improve, watch out. This guy could very well become a steady goalscorer at the next level, too.
Going 0-1-0-1 in the last 2 games going into the holiday break is obviously a let down for the team. They're still perched atop the Eastern Conference despite a very iffy month of December to date. There's simply got to be more consistency though if they want to stay up in the standings, starting Wednesday in another important early season game against Binghamton and their great goaltending battery.
Box score from TheAHL.com.