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Crunch's McGinn Comes Back Strong After Missing Four Months


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Tye McGinn knew he couldn’t sit around and sulk.

The Syracuse Crunch winger missed 53 games over the course of four-plus months as he rehabbed from shoulder surgery, but hardly took the time off. Instead, he put in the work to come back stronger than before.

McGinn and the Crunch have seen immediate dividends, as the veteran forward has points in eight of his last nine games since returning.

“I dedicated a lot of the four months of rehab to working hard,” McGinn said. “I wanted to be in top shape when I came back, and I did a lot of work with the trainers and felt really good coming back. I think our team is playing really well right now, and I’m just kind of working with everyone. The puck is just going in right now.”

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.”

The Bolt Prospects Podcast, Episode 93

This week’s “Daren Puppa Edition” of the Bolt Prospects Podcast includes the following topics:

· The No. 93
· TB’s first great goaltender
· How close are the Lightning to the edge of the cliff?
· Junior season over; playoffs loom
· Prospect thoughts based on rankings, 16-25

CHL Game Night: 3-19-17

Ontario Hockey League

Peterborough Petes 2 @ Oshawa Generals 4

W/C Christopher Paquette, PBO: 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, 5/13 FO
Season Totals: 66 GP, 19-29-48, +1, 28 PIM
With Petes: 27 GP, 7-12-19, +9, 14 PIM
With Niagara: 37 GP, 12-17-29, -7, 14 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 57 GP, 5-11-16, -6, 18 PIM

D Matt Spencer, PBO: 0-1-1, E, 2 PIM, 4 SOG
Season Totals: 60 GP, 7-22-29, +9, 58 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 60 GP, 5-19-24, -4, 46 PIM

W Jonne Tammela, PBO: Did not play
Season Totals: 2 GP, 1-0-1, +1, 2 PIM
2015-2016 (Finland): 37 GP, 5-8-13, +10, 16 PIM

Riley Stillman, son of Lightning Stanley Cup winner Cory Stillman, had a hat trick for Oshawa in their regular season-closing win over the Petes. Stillman, a Panthers prospect who wears his dad’s No. 61 reversed (16), is a lefty defenseman. He finished the year with 11 goals and 33 points in 62 games. Lightning prospect defenseman Matt Spencer finished the year with a career-high 29 points. Paquette and the Petes will play Paquette's former team, Niagara, in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs as the 1-8 matchup.

London Knights 4 @ Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 6

W/C Mitchell Stephens, LDN: Did not play
Season Totals: 51 GP, 22-32-54, +19, 26 PIM
With London: 29 GP, 11-14-25, +6, 12 PIM
With Saginaw: 22 GP, 11-17-28, +13, 14 PIM
2015-2016 Totals: 39 GP, 20-18-38, -3, 14 PIM

W Boris Katchouk, SSM: 2-1-3, +1, 0 PIM, 4 SOG
Season: 66 GP, 35-29-64, +18, 46 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 63 GP, 24-27-51, +7, 61 PIM

London had leads of 1-0 and 4-2, but the Soo came storming back to take the win, 6-4. Katchouk was named first star for his two-goal, three-point performance. He finishes the year with a career-best 35 goals, 29 assists, and 64 points. For all the good that Lightning 2016 second rounder Taylor Raddysh has done, it’s easy to forget that Katchouk was chosen ahead of him. London will face Memorial Cup host Windsor in the first round in the 4-5 matchup. The second-seeded Hounds get Flint, and Raddysh, Cirelli, and Cernak’s Otters will play eighth-seeded Sarnia.

CHL Game Night: 3-18-17

Ontario Hockey League

Guelph Storm 2 @ Erie Otters 5

D Erik Cernak, Erie: 0-0-0, +1, 2 PIM, 3 SOG
Season Totals: 50 GP, 3-18-21, +31, 53 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 41 GP, 4-11-15, +7, 35 PIM

C Anthony Cirelli, Erie: 1-2-3, +2, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, 2/6 FO, *Second Star*
Season Totals: 51 GP, 25-39-64, +36, 12 PIM
With Erie: 25 GP, 12-18-30, +18, 4 PIM
With Oshawa: 26 GP, 13-21-34, +18, 8 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 62 GP, 21-38-59, -15 27 PIM

W Taylor Raddysh, Erie: 1-1-2, +1, 2 PIM, 5 SOG
Season Totals: 58 GP, 42-66-108, +67, 37 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 67 GP, 24-49-73, +19, 18 PIM

Anthony Cirelli was second star as Erie wrapped up the top seed for the OHL playoffs, winning the Hamilton Spectator Trophy for most points in the regular season. They set a CHL record with their fourth straight 50-win season. All three Lightning prospects on Erie set career highs for points in a season.

London Knights 3 @ Flint Firebirds 2

W/C Mitchell Stephens, LDN: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season Totals: 51 GP, 22-32-54, +19, 26 PIM
With London: 29 GP, 11-14-25, +6, 12 PIM
With Saginaw: 22 GP, 11-17-28, +13, 14 PIM
2015-2016 Totals: 39 GP, 20-18-38, -3, 14 PIM

Stephens was undergoing evaluation Sunday for an upper-body injury sustained after taking a blind-side hit.

Western Hockey League

Saskatoon Blades 1 @ Prince Albert Raiders 5

D Libor Hajek, SAS: 0-0-0, -2, 12 PIM
Season Totals: 61 GP: 4-22-26, -17, 86 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 69 GP, 3-23-26, -19, 76 PIM

Hajek finished his season with 12 penalty minutes in the game, getting a 10-minute misconduct after taking a roughing penalty in the third period. Both teams had just had a melee a few minutes before that so the refs were trying to get control. Hajek is now eligible to join AHL Syracuse and the tryout contract watch is on.

Swift Current Broncos 5 @ Moose Jaw Warriors 10

C Brett Howden, MJ: 3-2-5, +3, 9 PIM
Season Totals: 58 GP, 38-43-81, +14, 73 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 68 GP, 24-40-64, -7, 61 PIM

Howden had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick and then some with a “normal” hat trick and two assists to go with his fight and two minor penalties. That line is a WHL fantasy player’s dream, if there is such a thing. Undersized (5’8”) center Jayden Halbgewachs (undrafted) had four goals to give him 50 on the season. He added three assists to give him seven points in the game and 101 on the year. Swift Current and Moose Jaw will face each other in the first round of the playoffs anyway, so they played this game without goalies (not really). Howden finished third on Moose Jaw in scoring this season.

Kamloops Blazers 2 @ Prince George Cougars 1

G Connor Ingram, KAM: Did not play
Season Totals: 45 GP, 26-14-2-2, 2.44 GAA, .927 sv%, 5 SO
2015-2016 Season: 61 GP, 34-15-5-4, 2.61 GAA, .922 sv%, 4 SO

Ingram didn’t play, though he did set the season record for save percentage in a season, beating his own mark. The .927 save percentage tied for first in the league. He was second in shutouts and GAA.

NCAA Game Night: 3-18-17

No. 14 Boston College Eagles 3 vs No. 4 UMass-Lowell River Hawks 4

C Ryan Lohin, UML: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season Totals: 39 GP, 10-16-26, +9, 14 PIM

UML won the Hockey East tournament with a 4-3 win over Boston College. The River Hawks broke a 2-2 second period tie with two goals, then held on late after an extra-attacker goal by the Eagles. UML is the No. 2 seed in the Northeast Region. They play Cornell next weekend in their first game.

Tournament field:

Minnesota (Ryan Zuhlsdorf) is the top seed in the Northeast Region. They open against Notre Dame.

Boston University (Johnathan MacLeod) is the second seed in the West Region. They open against defending champ North Dakota. Minnesota-Duluth is the top seed in the West (Alex Iafallo is on our free agent watch list having camped with the Lightning. He’s UMD’s leading scorer at 18-27-45 in 38 GP).

ECHL Game Night: 3-18-17

Kalamazoo Wings 5 at Indy Fuel 1

F Brian Hart, KAL, 1-0-1, E, 0 PIMS, 3 SOG
Season Totals (ECHL): 25 GP, 3-3-6, -3, 4 PIMs, 45 SOG
Season Totals (AHL): 33 GP, 3-4-7, E, 26 PIMs, 50 SOG

F Cameron Darcy, KAL, 1-0-1, +2, 0 PIMS, 3 SOG
Season Totals (ECHL): 12 GP, 4-11-15, +9, 6 PIMs, 33 SOG
Season Totals (AHL): 34 GP, 3-4-7, -3, 14 PIMs, 40 SOG

Other Notables
G Nic Riopel, KAL, did not play
Season Totals: 28 GP, 16-10-0-1, 2.88 GAA, 0.903 SV%, 1 SO

The K-Wings lit up the Fuel with 45 shots and 5 goals Saturday night, and Joel Martin allowed just one goal to split the weekend home-and-home series with Indy. Both Bolt prospects forwards Cam Darcy and Brian Hart notched goals, with Darcy banging home a Lane Scheidl rebound for the K-Wings 2nd goal. Hart beat out an icing call to track down the puck and deposited it in the empty net for an insurance marker late in the 3rd. Kalamazoo has three-game homestand up next week, starting with the high-powered Florida Everblades on Wednesday night, followed by a back-to-back Friday and Saturday night against the Norfolk Admirals.

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.”

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