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Catch Up with the Crunch: Syracuse Looks to Rebound After Back-to-Back Losses

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
LAST WEEK

Fri., Dec. 4 - Crunch vs. Binghamton - W, 5-1

Sat., Dec. 5 - Crunch vs. Utica - L, 4-2

Sun., Dec. 6 - Crunch at Albany - L, 4-0

THIS WEEK

Wed., Dec. 9 - Crunch at W-B/Scranton - 7:05 p.m.

Fri., Dec. 11 - Crunch at Albany - 7 p.m.

Sat., Dec. 12 - Crunch vs. Toronto - 7 p.m.

NEED TO KNOW

• Syracuse faces the conference's three best teams this week: Toronto (.771), W-B/Scranton (.762) and Albany (.750).

• The Crunch remain fourth in the division and seventh in the conference (10-8-2-1, .548) after a 1-2-0-0 Week 9.

Joel Vermin, the 36th man to play for both Tampa Bay and Syracuse since 2012, has been reassigned to the Crunch.

Joel Vermin returns to Syracuse

Right wing Joel Vermin practiced with the Crunch Tuesday, rejoining Syracuse after nearly three weeks with Tampa Bay. Vermin made his NHL debut Nov. 19 against the Rangers and collected his first NHL point, an assist, Nov. 21 vs. Anaheim. He played in five of the Bolts' last eight contests, averaging over 11 minutes per game.

With Syracuse, Vermin has 10 points (3g, 7a) in 12 games, currently tied for third on the Crunch, but tied for first at the time of his promotion. He had five points (2g, 3a) in two games before getting the call-up.

WEEK IN REVIEW
Game 19: Erne's return sparks season-best production

Four Crunch players notched multi-point games as Syracuse trampled Binghamton, 5-1, Friday at the War Memorial. The five-goal output set a season high as Syracuse took a 3-0 lead in the 10-game season series.

Adam Erne tallied one goal and two assists in his return after missing 14 games to injury.Mike Angelidis also recorded a goal and two helpers, while Jeff Tambellini picked up his seventh goal plus an assist. Rookie Matthew Peca earned two assists. Defenseman Matt Taormina tallied his fifth goal of the year, his second power-play marker, while fellow defenseman Luke Witkowski notched his first of the year, the fifth of his career.

Kristers Gudlevskis made 28 saves on 29 shots for his second consecutive win and sixth of the year.

Game 20: Comets late comeback spoils Crunch special teams success

Tye McGinn and Jeff Tambellini scored power-play goals to help Syracuse build a 2-0 lead and the team's penalty kill was 4-for-4, but the Utica Comets surged in the game's final minutes and seized a 4-2 win. Syracuse had been 6-0 when leading after two periods and Utica had been winless in seven games when trailing after two periods.

Kristers Gudlevskis took the loss, surrendering three goals on 32 shots, and was selected the game's No. 1 star. Before the three Comets strikes on him in the third (the fourth was into an empty net), Gudlevskis had allowed one goal in eight periods. Gudlevskis was six minutes short of recording Syracuse's first home shutout since Dec. 6, 2014, vs. Rochester. His goals-against average slipped from fourth to sixth in the AHL.

Game 21: Devils hand Crunch first regulation road loss since Oct. 24

Syracuse was held scoreless for the second time this year, falling in Albany Sunday, 4-0. The Devils extended their win streak to six games and halted Syracuse's road point streak at six. Yann Danis, starting for the ninth time in a row, made 23 saves for his fourth shutout.

Adam Wilcox started for Syracuse and allowed three goals on 17 shots through two periods and took the loss (2-3-3, 3.20). Kristers Gudlevskis, appearing in relief for the first time this year, came on for the third allowing one goal on seven shots. His record remains 6-4-0 while his goals-against average ticked up to 2.04, sixth.

Albany, the AHL's top-ranked power play and penalty kill, scored two man-up goals on four chances and stifled each of Syracuse's six power plays. The Crunch penalty kill had stopped 19 straight until Reid Boucher's score in the first. Mike Sislo had three assists for the Devils.

WEEK AHEAD
Game 22: Wed., Dec. 9 - Crunch at W-B/Scranton - 7:05 p.m.

The Crunch meet the Penguins Wednesday for the first time since the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs—a W-B/Scranton sweep. Pittsburgh' affiliate has lost three in a row, but remains first in the Atlantic Division and second in the league at 16-5-0-0 (.762). The team ranks third for both goals scored (3.57) and goals against (2.24) per game.

Conor Sheary leads the Penguins with 21 points (5g, 16a) while Scott Wilson and Jean-Sebastien Dea are tied for the AHL lead in game-winning goals, four. Dominik Simon has 19 points (7g, 12a), fifth among AHL rookies.

Last year's AHL most outstanding goalie Matt Murray (10-4-0, 1.95) had won seven straight before losing three of his last five. He still ranks fifth in goals-against average and fourth in save percentage (.935) with three shutouts.

Game 23: Fri., Dec. 11 - Crunch at Albany - 7 p.m.

The Crunch and Devils square off for the second time in six days Friday at Times Union Center. The Devils, riding a franchise-record six-game win streak, are idle until Friday's match. With 11 wins in 13 games, New Jersey's AHL affiliate has surged to second in the North Division and third in the Eastern Conference (.750).

Yann Danis leads the AHL in wins (14), minutes (1151:30) and shutouts (4). His 1.67 goals-against average ranks second. Mike Sislo, who has five assists in two games vs. Syracuse, leads Albany at 22 points (13g, 9a), fifth in the AHL. His league-leading ninth power-play goal Saturday broke a franchise record for career power-play scores, 28. Sislo's linemates are rookies Matt Lorito and Joseph Blandisi who also rank high in multiple offensive categories with 21 and 16 points, respectively.

Game 24: Sat., Dec. 12 - Crunch vs. Toronto - 7 p.m.

Syracuse's three-game run against the AHL's top three teams culminates in a home match with the Marlies Saturday. Toronto's .771 points percentage leads the league (18-5-1-0), but one of its five losses came against Syracuse Oct. 28, 3-1. The Marlies returned the favor Nov. 27 to tie the eight-game season series at one win apiece.

The Marlies have won their last three games by a combined score of 16-1. Jonathan Bernier posted two shutouts on a conditioning assignment from the Maple Leafs. Garrett Sparks (8-2-0, 1.90) has gone up for three NHL games.

Three Marlies rank among the AHL's top-10 scorers: William Nylander (13g, 16a), T.J. Brennan (8g, 13a) and Josh Leivo (7g, 14a). The plus-minus ratings for Justin Holl (+17) and Andrew Campbell (+14) rank first and third, respectively. No team has scored as many goals (96) or goals per game (4.00) as Toronto.

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