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Crunch Falter in Third, Fall to Comets


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Trailing by one late in the third period, the Syracuse Crunch threw everything it could on net.

The shots either hit a body in front, Utica goalie Joe Cannata deflected the puck wide, or the shots just missed the mark, as the Crunch couldn't find the equalizer in a 4-2 loss to the Comets at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

"I was shocked it didn't go in," said Syracuse head coach Rob Zettler. "(Mike Angelidis) had a chance to bury one, (Ryan) Martindale had it all alone in front. I haven't seen the replay, so I don't know if he just missed the net or it was blocked. I thought for sure we were going to tie it there and make something out of nothing, but we weren't able to."

Juniors Game Night: 3-20-15

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Sherbrooke Phoenix 6 @ Val-d’Or Foreurs 3

C Cameron Darcy, SHR: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 0 SOG, 0 Hits
With Sherbrooke: 36 GP, 20-25-45, -7, 34 PIM
With Cape Breton: 19 GP, 1-13-14, -6, 14 PIM
Season totals: 55 GP, 21-38-59, -12, 50 PIM
2013-2014 Season: 65 GP, 35-47-82, +3, 51 PIM

Sherbrooke got two goals from Habs prospect Daniel Audette en route to a 6-3 road win Friday. Sherbrooke is sixth of 18 on the league table. The top 16 make the playoffs.

Rimouski Oceanic 4 @ Quebec Remparts 3

W Adam Erne, QUE: 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, 7/16 FO, 2 Hits
Season totals: 59 GP, 40-44-84, +22, 102 PIM
2013-2014 Season: 48 GP, 21-41-62, -3, 65 PIM

Erne was held off the scoresheet as Rimouski won in Quebec City.

Ontario Hockey League

Windsor Spitfires 2 @ Sarnia Sting 7

W Cristiano DiGiacinto, WSR: 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIM
Season totals: 62 GP, 21-23-44, -15, 100 PIM
2013-14 totals: 50 GP, 17-11-28, +8, 101 PIM

DiGiacinto and Windsor have one game left this season after losing 7-2 in Sarnia Friday. The Spitfires are out of the playoff race. They play at Sault Ste. Marie Saturday.

Western Hockey League

Brandon Wheat Kings 6 @ Moose Jaw Warriors 7 (SO)

C Brayden Point, MJ: 1-2-3, +1, 0 PIM
Season totals: 59 GP, 37-47-84, +9, 46 PIM
2013-14 totals: 72 GP, 36-55-91, -27, 53 PIM

What a gutsy performance by Moose Jaw. Needing a win to stay alive in the playoff race, the Warriors scratched and clawed their way to a 7-6 shootout win over the conference’s top team. Point was the first shooter for Moose Jaw in the shootout, but had his attempt saved. Moose Jaw needs Swift Current, who is two points ahead of the Warriors, to lose its final game while the Warriors win theirs against the Wheat Kings.

Calgary Hitmen 2 @ Kootenay Ice 1

D Ben Thomas, CAL: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season totals: 59 GP, 7-24-31, +15, 26 PIM
2013-14 totals: 72 GP, 7-24-31, +11, 39 PIM

Calgary is one point ahead of Medicine Hat for the division title with both teams having one game remaining.

Note: Dominik Masin (OHL Peterborough) is out for the season after undergoing surgery for facial fractures.

NCAA Game Night: 3-20-15

New Hampshire Wildcats 1 vs No. 3 Boston University Terriers 4
Hockey East Semifinals

D John MacLeod, BU: 0-1-1, +4, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 30 GP, 2-7-9, +17, 46 PIM
2013-2014 totals (USHL): 19 GP, 1-4-5, +1, 36 PIM

MacLeod returned to the BU lineup after a 3-game absence and notched an assist in the Terriers’ semifinal win over UNH. BU will play No. 12 UMass-Lowell for the conference championship.

No. 18 St. Cloud State Huskies 3 vs No. 1 North Dakota 1
NCHC Semifinals

F Brendan O’Donnell, UND: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 36 GP, 13-6-19, +12, 35 PIM
2013-2014 totals: 34 GP, 7-11-18, +7, 10 PIM

SCSU scored twice in the final minute of the first period and held on for the upset win over No. 1 North Dakota. UND will play Denver in the third place game on Saturday. Miami plays the Huskies for the championship. UND will get an at-large bid to the national tournament.

No. 17 Harvard Crimson 5 vs No. 7 Quinnipiac Bobcats 2
ECAC Semifinals

F Brian Hart, HAR: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 34 GP, 7-9-16, +4, 19 PIM
2013-2014 totals: 30 GP, 7-8-15, -8, 20 PIM

F Matthew Peca, QU: 0-1-1, -2, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Season totals: 37 GP, 7-28-35, +1, 25 PIM
2014-2015 totals: 40 GP, 12-26-38, +4, 16 PIM

Hart and Harvard scored an upset win over top-seeded Quinnipiac in the ECAC semifinals, moving the Crimson on to the finals against Colgate. As for Peca and Quinnipiac, they will wait to see if they receive an at-large bid to the national tournament. They need some help in the form of Harvard winning the ECAC and the higher seeds taking their conference tournaments. There’s a good possibility Peca played his last collegiate game. If he chooses to sign with Tampa Bay, he could join AHL Syracuse as soon as his collegiate career is officially over.

No. 13 Minnesota Golden Gophers 3 vs Ohio State Buckeyes 0
Big 10 Semifinals

G Adam Wilcox, MIN: Win, 39 saves on 39 shots, shutout, *First Star*
Season totals: 36 GP, 21-11-3, 2.39 GAA, .913 sv%, 5 SO
2013-2014 totals: 38 GP, 26-6-6, 1.97 GAA, .932 sv%, 4 SO

Wilcox recorded his sixth shutout of the season with a herculean performance in the Big 10 semifinals. The shutout was the 13th of his career, tying the school record. The junior goaltender, who was named a Big 10 Second Team All-Star earlier this week, stopped all 22 shots he faced in the third period with the Gophers nursing a 1-0 lead until halfway through the final stanza. Minnesota advanced to play Michigan for the championship game. A win propels them to the national tournament.

*USCHO poll used

Koekkoek Nets Game-Winner, Crunch Top Penguins in OT


By Jeremy Houghtaling

With time winding down in overtime, Slater Koekkoek made a bold prediction.

The Syracuse Crunch defenseman was next to hit the ice during the three-on-three portion of the extra session, but took a moment to tell fellow rookie Dylan Blujus that he would end the game.

Koekkoek's words proved to be prophetic, as his game-winner 4:52 into overtime lifted the Crunch to a 2-1 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday. Syracuse has won four straight.

"Blujus and I were sitting on the bench, and (assistant coach Trent) Cull had just said I was the next D out," Koekkoek said. "I looked over at Blue and I said 'Don't worry Blue, I got this one.'"

NHL Game Night: 3-20-15 Red Wings at Lightning

Tampa Bay's ownership of the Atlantic Division version of the Red Wings continues unabated.

DET-1
TB-3

Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. Again, with a playoff-type atmosphere and caliber of opponent, Bishop laid down a marker that he's going to be a serious postseason player.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
1:22 TB Stralman (7), (Hedman, Palat)
6:57 DET Tatar (26), (unassisted)(PP)

Third Period
10:31 TB Killorn (15), (Hedman, Drouin)
19:32 TB Stamkos (40), (Boyle, Palat)(EN)

Bishop and Victor Hedman were the game's first and second stars.

Hedman was a beast, and was the best player on the rink, in my opinion. Very active diffusing plays at the defensive end of the rink and showed a lot of speed and savvy on the rush all game long. He probably should've had a goal on a 2-on-1 with Drouin early in the game that would've made his stat line even more impressive. As it was, he settled for two helpers. Steven Stamkos wasn't as dominant as Hedman all game long, but he dominated Kronwall to get the insurance goal at the end. Don't you wish you had the talent to be a "little off" most of the season, and still hit 40 goals with 10 games left to play? Just to make sure I fully and thoroughly beat the horse to death: when those two are the Lightning's best players, the Lightning can't be defeated.

Meanwhile, Drej Palat emerged from the hyperbaric chamber and sneezed out a couple of helpers of his own. Just chill, until the next episode.

The Lightning are now 1 point shy of the preseason target of 96 points to comfortably make the playoffs. The victory also pulled Tampa Bay to within 2 points of Montreal for the top spot in the Atlantic Division with neither team holding a game in hand. Remember, a tie almost certainly goes to the Lightning on ROW.

Vladislav Namestnikov played 12:51 in the match. I'm shocked how blank his scoresheet looks, because he was noticable on the rink tonight.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-20-15 Penguins at Crunch

Syracuse goes Koekkoek in Overtime.

WBS-1
SYR-2 (OT)

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 1 goal on 28 points for the victory. That's just 1 goal allowed in the last couple of games.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
SYR Gourde, (25) (Dotchin, Courtnall), 8:17

Third Period
WBS Kostopoulos, (14) (Pouliot), 11:22

Overtime
SYR Koekkoek, (4) (Marchessault), 4:52

Slater Koekkoek and Gudlevskis were the game's first and second stars. If you look at the last 11 games, Slater has 1 goal and 9 points in that span, with a +6 rating. He's definitely turned a corner in his development in the past few weeks, as he's now sprinkling in the offensive contributions with his reasonably steady defensive play.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Juniors Game Night: 3-19-15

Ontario Hockey League

Erie Otters 7 @ Windsor Spitfires 4

W Cristiano DiGiacinto, WSR: 0-0-0, -4, 0 PIM
Season totals: 61 GP, 21-23-44, -13, 100 PIM
2013-14 totals: 50 GP, 17-11-28, +8, 101 PIM

Likely 2015 top-5 picks Connor McDavid (3 assists) and Dylan Strome (1+3) combined for seven points in front of a sellout crowd in Windsor, leading the Otters to a 7-4 win. Windsor has been eliminated from playoff contention, which makes DiGiacinto available for AHL Syracuse or ECHL Florida should the Lightning want him to keep playing.

Juniors Game Night: 3-18-15

Western Hockey League

Red Deer Rebels 2 @ Calgary Hitmen 3 (OT)

D Ben Thomas, CAL: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season totals: 58 GP, 7-24-31, +15, 26 PIM
2013-14 totals: 72 GP, 7-24-31, +11, 39 PIM

Calgary is one point ahead of Medicine Hat for the division title with both teams still to play twice. Medicine Hat has last place Saskatoon for two and Calgary has seventh place Kootenay.

KHL Playoff Game Day: 3-19-15

Fin.

KHL Eastern Conference Semifinals
(2)Novosibirsk 3 vs. (3)Magnitogorsk 1
Novosibirsk Wins the Series 4-1
Vasily Koshechkin, Magnitogorsk, Loss, 22/24, 2.05 GAA, .917 sv%
Playoff totals: 10 GP, 5-5-0, 1 SO, 2.02 GAA, .931 sv%
Regular season totals: 51 GP, 32-10-6, 5 SO, 1.86 GAA, .934 sv%

There will not be a repeat champion in the KHL this season after Novosibirsk toppled Magnitogorsk 3-1 in Game Five to clinch a 4-1 series victory. Ex-Blue Jackets pick Sergei Mozyakin had Magnitka's only goal in the match. 24 year old Stepan Sannikov led the way for Sibir with 1 goal and 1 assist.

With Magnitogorsk's loss, Jaroslav Janus is the only remaining active prospect in a European elite league, with his club, Sparta Praha, advancing to the Czech Extraliga Semifinal round.

Prospect of the Week: 3-18-15


By Jeremy Houghtaling

We continue our Bolt Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for his recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Bolt Prospect of the Week for March 18, 2015 is … Slater Koekkoek, D, Syracuse Crunch (AHL – USA).

Slater Koekkoek made a key adjustment, and now the points are starting to flow.

A mobile defenseman used to rushing the puck himself in junior hockey, the Syracuse Crunch rookie has learned to make a quick pass and then follow the play to look for offensive opportunities. Koekkoek’s transition has begun to pay dividends, as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2012 first-rounder recorded eight points and is a plus-6 in his last 10 games.

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