Sergeev Steps Up for Syracuse

By Jeremy Houghtaling

It was an eventful weekend for Artem Sergeev.

The Syracuse Crunch defenseman notched his first professional goal in a 5-1 rout of Rochester on Saturday, then followed it up with his first professional fight against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's Simon Despres on Sunday.

"It was actually pretty quick off a faceoff, (Brett) Connolly did a great job winning the draw right to my one-timer side," Sergeev said of his power play goal. "I didn't hesitate."

The points are nothing new for Sergeev, who registered 45 points in 65 games last season with Val-d’Or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. But the 6-2 Russian also didn’t shy away from fisticuffs, despite collecting only a handful of fighting majors in the past few seasons with the Foreurs.

"Guys sometimes overthink that," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "If it just happens, let it happen. Sometimes things happen out there, emotions go and guys get physical, but he completely held his own and did very well in the fight. He's a big strong guy. I had never seen him fight before, but after that, I'm not worried about that side of it."

"It was a good scrap," Sergeev said, but added that he still doesn’t plan on seeking dance partners.

After getting a taste of the American Hockey League by dressing for one game in Syracuse last season, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2012 free agent signing feels more comfortable on the ice and off it.

"This year I feel much better," said Sergeev, who said he worked out six days a week on and off the ice this offseason. "Last year it was a big jump from junior to pro. This year I had a lot of time."

"I think the best part is the comfort level with the players," Zettler said. "The guys get to know him a little bit, so he kind of knows how the program runs and he's got a certain comfort level coming in."

Overall, Zettler’s impression of Sergeev over the first three games of the season has been positive.

"He is adjusting to the speed pretty well, and he's shown a bit of the physical side," Zettler said. "He needs to be able to sort out his D-zone coverage a little better at times, but for the most part, his effort has been there and his focus has been there."

Pictured: Crunch celebrate first pro goal by Artem Sergeev, right, Saturday.