THIS WEEK'S GAMES
Wednesday, January 2 @ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (19-12-0-, 39 points), third place, East Division
Friday, January 4 @ Albany (20-15-0-2, 42 points), second place, East Division
Saturday, January 5 vs. Grand Rapids (14-16-2-3, 33 points), fourth place, North Division
LAST WEEK'S RESULT
Wednesday, December 26 - WB/S 4, Crunch 0
Thursday, December 27 - WB/S 3, CRUNCH 1
Saturday, December 29 - CRUNCH 3, Manitoba 2
Sunday, December 30 - Crunch 4, ROCHESTER 0
HOME TEAM IN CAPS
PENALTY KILL PRODUCING RESULTS:
The Syracuse Crunch penalty killers are feeling good about themselves these days, having killed off the last 25 penalties the team has taken. The streak of consecutive penalty kills has catapulted Syracuse into fifth place in the American Hockey League in that category with an 86.3% success rate.
The Crunch have not allowed a power play goal since Hartford’s Artem Anisimov scored 3:37 into the first period back on December 22 at the XL Center. Syracuse is also doing it without one of their top penalty killers in Andrew Murray, who is currently on recall with Columbus
Crunch penalty killers Derek MacKenzie, Adam Pineault, Steven Goertzen and Dan Smith have been outstanding during this stretch, blocking countless shots and working well as a unit. Pineault also tallied a short-handed goal against Manitoba on Saturday.
HARD WORK PAYS OFF FOR MURRAY:
It was a long time coming for Crunch center Andrew Murray, but his hard work finally paid dividends when Columbus called him up last Wednesday. Murray found out on the bus ride back after Wednesday night's game in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Murray, 26, has appeared in 34 games with the Crunch this season, tallying 13 goals, 2 assists and 15 penalty minutes. Murray has also appeared in 2 games with Columbus this year, notching 2 penalty minutes.
Prior to coming to the Crunch, Murray appeared in 128 games in four years at Bemidji State, racking up 46 goals, 69 assists and 131 penalty minutes.
A native of Selkirk, Manitoba, Murray was drafted by Columbus in the eighth round, 242nd overall, in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.
ROOKIE SESTITO FINDING HIS WAY:
Crunch rookie left wing Tom Sestito is starting to find his way in the American Hockey League.
In Sunday's game at Rochester, Sestito tallied his first multi-point and multi-goal game in the AHL, with two scores in a 4-0 win. The two goals were Sestito's fourth and fifth of the campaign.
The season has been one of peaks and valleys for Sestito. He got off to a good start, tallying three assists in his first four games. Through 27 games he had just 7 points (2g, 5a), including a seven-game stretch from December 2 to 14 with no points. Recently, Sestito has compiled three goals in his last two games and now has 10 points (5g, 5a) in 29 games.
A native of Rome, New York, Sestito was drafted by Columbus in the third round, 85th overall, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
Crunch Goaltender Craig Kowalski made his first appearance in a Crunch uniform on Wednesday, December 26 in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after coming in in relief of Karl Goehring, stopping 13 of 15 shots.
On Saturday Kowalski earned his first start in a Crunch uniform and lead the team to a 3-2 victory over Manitoba, turning aside 29 of 31 shots while being named the game's first star.
On Sunday, Kowalski stopped all 19 shots he faced and was named the game's third star in route to his first American Hockey League shutout. For the week, Kowalski posted a 2-0-0-0 record with a 1.39 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.
A native of Clinton Township, Michigan, Kowalski was originally drafted by Carolina in the eighth round, 235th overall, in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He was signed by the Crunch to a professional try-out contract on December 15, 2007.
THIS WEEK'S OPPONENTS:
WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON PENGUINS (PITTSBURGH PENGUINS): The Crunch travel to Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday to take on the Penguins for the fifth time this season. The Crunch are 0-4-0-0 against the Penguins this season. In two meetings last week the Crunch were 0-2-0-0 vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and were outscored 7-1. Last Wednesday’s game at Wachovia Arena saw both teams take a combined 122 penalty minutes. The Crunch took a season-high 66 penalty minutes in that game. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's Nathan Smith leads all scorers in the series with seven points (3g, 4a) in four games.
ALBANY RIVER RATS (CAROLINA HURRICANES): The Crunch make their second trip of the season to Albany to face-off against the Crunch for the fourth overall meeting between these two clubs on Friday. The Crunch are 2-1-0-0 against Albany this season. Syracuse took the last meeting, 3-1 back on December 21 at the War Memorial at Oncenter. Aaron Rome leads all players in the series in scoring with 4 points (1g, 3a) in 2 games.
GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (DETROIT RED WINGS): The Grand Rapids Griffins come to town for the first time this season on Saturday night. The Crunch are 1-1-0-0 against the Griffins this season. These two teams last met in back-to-back contests at Van Andel Arena back on December 7 and 8. The Crunch were shut out in the first game, 2-0. Syracuse came back and edged Grand Rapids in the second game, 2-1. Grand Rapids' Carl Corazzini leads all players in scoring in the series with 3 points (2g, 1a). Griffins goaltender Jimmy Howard is 1-1-0-0 while posting a 1.01 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in the two games.
The Crunch penalty kill has been stellar, not allowing a power play goal in the last four games and killing off 25 in a row… The last power play goal scored against them was 3:37 into the first period on December 22 @ Hartford…The Syracuse penalty kill is currently at 86.3%, good for fifth in the American Hockey League…Craig Kowalski's shutout last night was the Crunch’s second as a team this season, Tomas Popperle also had a shutout in a 4-0 win on November 10 vs. Rochester… Four of Philippe Dupuis' seven goals this season have been game-winners… Crunch rookie Tom Sestito notched his first AHL multi-point and multi-goal game last night @ Rochester with two goals… Sestito has three goals in his last two games and has registered 10 points (5g, 5a) in 29 games this season.