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Catch Up with the Crunch: Syracuse Players Making an Impression in the NHL

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning

Wed., Dec. 9 - Crunch at W-B/Scranton - L, 6-2

Fri., Dec. 11 - Crunch at Albany - L, 3-1

Sat., Dec. 12 - Crunch vs. Toronto - OTL, 4-3


Fri., Dec. 18 - Crunch vs. Binghamton - 7 p.m.

Sat., Dec. 19 - Crunch vs. W-B/Scranton - 7 p.m.

Sun., Dec. 20 - Crunch at Hershey - 5 p.m.


Yanni Gourde played his first NHL game Tuesday, the third Crunch player to make his Lightning debut this year.

• The Crunch slipped to sixth in the division and 11th in the conference (10-10-3-1, .500) after a 0-2-1-0 Week 10.

Jeff Tambellini had power-play goals in three consecutive games to take over the Crunch scoring lead at 15 points.

Gourde assists on key goal for Lightning in NHL debut

Left wing Yanni Gourde played his first National Hockey League game Tuesday, his 24th birthday. He assisted on Mike Blunden's third-period, game-tying goal in a 4-3 overtime win for Tampa Bay in Toronto. Blunden celebrated his 29th birthday. Of the 11 points (4g, 7a) collected in the game, 10 (3g, 7a) went to Crunch alumni.

Gourde became the third Crunch alum to make his Lightning debut this year (Tye McGinn,Joel Vermin). Twelve players have been recalled by Tampa Bay from Syracuse this season. Gourde is the 37th player to appear in a game for both Syracuse and Tampa Bay since the teams partnered in 2012.

Game 22: Early Penguins punch puts down Crunch

The Penguins scored three times in the first and three more times in the third in a 6-2 win Dec. 9 vs. Syracuse. The Crunch skid became three games as the Penguins snapped a three-game losing streak.

Jeff Tambellini and Yanni Gourde provided the Crunch goals. Tambellini potted his ninth of the year, his second power-play goal; Tanner Richard and Matt Taormina assisted. Gourde smacked a puck out of the air and behind goalie Matt Murray with 29 seconds left for his fifth; Philippe Paradis and Luke Witkowski assisted.

The Crunch penalty kill was 5-for-5 and its power play was 1-for-4. The six goals surrendered by Kristers Gudlevskis are the most allowed by Syracuse this year. Murray made 30 saves and Dominik Simon scored twice.

Game 23: Vasilevskiy returns, but can't stop Devils

The Devils won for the third time in as many tries against Syracuse, defeating the Crunch Friday in Albany, 3-1. As the Devils won their seventh straight to break a franchise record, Syracuse's fourth straight regulation.

Jeff Tambellini scored the lone Syracuse goal, his team-leading 10th, to take over the Crunch scoring lead at 15 points. Matt Taormina and Tanner Richard assisted on the power-play goal.

Andrei Vasilevskiy was handed his first AHL loss this season, stopping 24 of 27 shots, his first AHL game since Oct. 30. Devils netminder Scott Wedgewood picked up the win in his first AHL start this year, making 17 saves.

Game 24: Crunch comeback spoiled by Marlies in OT

Syracuse ended up on the short side of a see-saw affair Saturday at the War Memorial, a 4-3 overtime loss to Toronto. Rinat Valiev scored 2:21 into the extra frame to give the Marlies a lead in the season series, 2-1.

Cam Darcy received credit for his first professional goal at 17:39 of the third to tie the game.Joel Vermin and Adam Erne got assists on a play that required video replay to reveal a good goal. Matt Taormina started a Crunch comeback earlier in the third with his sixth goal, assisted by Yanni Gourde and Tanner Richard. Gourde also assisted on Tye McGinn's goal three minutes into the game, the ninth time Syracuse has scored first in 24 games.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (2-1-1) allowed three goals on 18 shots in the first period but finished with 34 saves on 38 shots. Antoine Bibeau made 32 stops in the win. The Crunch penalty kills stopped three of four Toronto chances. The Marlies surrendered one Crunch power-play goal on seven opportunities, including a 5-on-3 in the third.

Game 25: Fri., Dec. 18 - Crunch vs. Binghamton - 7 p.m.

Syracuse takes on Binghamton for the fourth time Friday at the War Memorial. The Crunch have outscored the Senators 11-5 in three wins. Binghamton has lost seven of eight and ranks last in the conference at 6-15-2-0 (.304).

With a 3.74 goals-against average, the Senators allow more goals than any other team in the AHL and have a minus-19 goal differential, 27th in the league (67 for, 86 against). Rookies Chris Driedger (5-5-0, 2.92) and Matt O'Connor (1-8-2, 3.98) have both played about 600 minutes each, but only O'Connor has faced Syracuse (0-2-1, 3.59).

Ryan Dzingel leads the Sens in scoring with 21 points (6g, 15a) including two assists versus Syracuse. Cole Schneider and Eric O'Dell pace the team in goals with nine each.

Binghamton leads the AHL in most penalty categories with 540 minutes and 23.48 per game. Among the AHL's individual leaders are Max McCormick (86) and Zack Stortini (70), second and fifth in the league, respectively.

Game 26: Sat., Dec. 19 - Crunch vs. W-B/Scranton - 7 p.m.

The Penguins, the American Hockey League's best team with a .792 points percentage (19-5-0-0), take on Syracuse for the second time in a week having thumped the Crunch Dec. 10 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Dominik Simon, who scored twice vs. Syracuse, is tied for fourth in AHL scoring and second among rookies with 25 points (11g, 14a). Conor Sheary, also tied for fourth in scoring, leads the AHL with 19 assists, including three vs. Syracuse. Scott Wilson, whose 14 goals leads the Penguins, trails only two players for the AHL goals lead.

Matt Murray, last year's AHL most outstanding goalie and rookie of the year, has victories in 12 of his 16 decisions. His 1.84 goals-against average is tied for second in the AHL. Rookie Tristan Jarry (7-1-0, 1.70) is backup.

Game 27: Sun., Dec. 20 - Crunch at Hershey - 5 p.m.

The Bears have points in their last six games (4-0-1-1) and rank second in the Atlantic Division, fourth in the conference. They faced Syracuse Oct. 30 at the War Memorial, a 4-1 victory for Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Crunch.

Dan Ellis (6-3-3, 2.83) lost that start vs. Syracuse with 28 saves, but has only one regulation loss since then (4-1-3). Justin Peters (8-3-3, 2.33) has won three consecutive games vs. W-B/Scranton, Binghamton and Bridgeport. The 29-year-old spent most of last season as the Washington Capitals backup; he's played 80 career NHL games (25-37-9).

Chris Bourque, who has 418 games and three Calder Cups with Hershey, leads the Bears with 24 points (9g, 15a), tied for sixth in the AHL. Connor Carrick is next with 15 points, and his eight goals rank second among defensemen.

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