Syracuse won two of three games in Week 23, staying atop the North Division at 32-21-6-5, a .586 points percentage. Both victories came in overtime with Tye McGinn and Matthew Peca providing the heroics. Syracuse is 6-11 in games decided in extra time (.353), 4-6 for overtime decisions, 2-5 in shootouts.
Wed., March 15 - Crunch at Lehigh Valley - W, 5-4
Fri., March 17 - Crunch at Utica - L, 4-3
Sat., March 18 - Crunch vs. Albany - W, 2-1
Wed., March 15 - Crunch at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m.
Fri., March 17 - Crunch at Utica - 7 p.m.
Sat., March 18 - Crunch vs. Albany - 7 p.m.
Overtime success propels Crunch
The Crunch play a three-in-three this week, hosting W-B/Scranton Friday and Utica Saturday. The Crunch visit second-place Toronto 5 p.m. Sunday.
Tye McGinn enters Week 24 on a six-game scoring streak (5g, 2a). Since returning from injury March 3, McGinn has nine points (6g, 3a) in nine games.
McGinn scored a goal in five consecutive games March 8-17, the longest streak for a Crunch player this season. Mike Halmo and Tanner Richard each scored in four straight games earlier this season.
The longest goal-scoring streak during the Crunch-Lightning era was six games established by Alex Killorn Dec. 9-22, 2013. Other five-game goal-scoring streaks include Tyler Johnson in 2013 and Jonathan Drouin last season.
McGinn provided the overtime game-winning goal March 15 at Lehigh Valley, his 11th career game-winner and first in overtime.
Matthew Peca delivered both goals in Syracuse's 2-1 overtime win Saturday vs. Albany. It was his third career multi-goal game and first since Oct. 16 at Rochester.
In his last six Crunch games, he has seven points (3g, 4a). Peca has 10 goals, 33 points, and seven multi-point efforts in 56 games this season.
Matt Taormina returned to the top of the Crunch leaderboard at 53 points after three points (1g, 2a) in Week 23. Taormina ranks tied for first among AHL defensemen and tied for eighth overall. He has seven points (1g, 6a) in the last seven games.
Kevin Lynch recorded his first career AHL multi-point game (1g, 2a) March 15 at Lehigh Valley. He had two goals in his first 22 AHL games of the season. Lynch and John Kurtz, who also scored against the Phantoms, signed AHL contracts Saturday to shed their tryout status.
Condra named captain
Friday the Crunch named Erik Condra team captain, the 20th in franchise history, second of the year and third of the Lightning era. Condra replaces Luke Witkowski who was named captain Oct. 19 but has been with Tampa Bay since Jan. 6.
Condra, a captain at Notre Dame, totals 366 NHL games and 179 AHL games. He won the Calder Cup with Binghamton in 2011.
"A captain does the right thing on and off the ice," Condra said Friday. "I've been through a lot and being a captain is about keeping your emotions not too high and not too low. It's about calming at the right time and getting excited and pumped up at the right time."
In addition, defenseman Matt Taormina has been named a permanent alternate captain.
Hajek joins Crunch
Defenseman Libor Hajek, 19, was signed to an entry-level contract by Tampa Bay Tuesday. He joins Syracuse on an amateur try-out deal and will wear No. 24.
Hajek, from Smrcek, Czech Republic, was drafted by the Lightning 37th overall in June. He's played 134 WHL games with Saskatoon.
Upcoming: W-B/Scranton, Utica, Toronto
The Penguins, Eastern Conference leaders for most of the season, are 4-1-0-0 vs. Syracuse. At 43-18-3-0 (.695), the Pens are one point ahead of Lehigh Valley for conference supremacy. Veteran Tom Kostopoulos leads the team in goals (23), points (49) and games (64). Defenseman David Warsofsky leads the AHL in plus-minus (+31) and is second on the Pens in scoring at 44 points (15g, 29a). He scored the game-winner in OT when the Crunch and Penguins last met Jan. 25.
The Comets are 30-25-7-2 (.539), fifth in the conference and three points behind St. John's (.545) for a playoff spot with two games in hand. Utica is 5-2-0-2 against Syracuse and won the last matchup, 4-3, Friday at The Aud. The all-time series at the War Memorial is tied at 16 points apiece in 14 games. Alexandre Grenier and rookie Curtis Valk lead the team at 42 points. Thatcher Demko has won eight of his last nine starts.
Syracuse's fifth and final three-in-three ends Sunday in Toronto. The Crunch lead the season series by points, 7-5. The Marlies have jumped the Devils for second in the North at 34-26-4-1 (.562). Kerby Rychel has 47 points (9g, 33a) in 62 games. Cal O'Reilly has six assists in five games with Toronto after 42 points (9g, 33a) in 47 games with Rochester. Crunch center Byron Froese had 24 goals in 48 games with the Marlies.
Week 23 Results
Wednesday, March 15 | Game 62 at Lehigh Valley | W, 5-4 (OT)
SYR 1 1 2 1 - 5 Shots: 10-4-13-5-32 PP: 1/5
LV 0 3 1 0 - 4 Shots: 15-21-10-2-48 PP: 2/4
1st Per. - Koekkoek 2 (Lynch, Vermin), 7:40. 2nd. Per. - Syracuse, Kurtz 2 (Thomas, Blujus), 4:09. 3rd Per. - Lynch 3 (McNamee, Racine), 8:16. Taormina 14 (Lynch), 18:56 (PP). OT - McGinn 6 (Taormina, Peca), 3:51. McKenna 10-12-8 (48 shots-44 saves).
Friday, March 17 | Game 63 at Utica | L, 4-3
SYR 0 1 2 - 3 Shots: 13-8-17-38 PP: 1/3
UTI 1 1 2 - 4 Shots: 9-5-9-23 PP: 1/4
2nd Per. - Ikonen 3 (Comrie, McGinn), 17:44 (PP). 3rd Per. - Halmo 16 (Ikonen, Koekkoek), 6:31. McGinn 7 (Condra), 7:01. McKenna 10-13-8 (23 shots-19 saves).
Saturday, March 18 | Game 64 vs. Albany | W, 2-1 (OT)
ALB 0 0 1 0 - 1 Shots: 12-15-15-0-42 PP: 0/3
SYR 0 0 1 1 - 2 Shots: 11-8-5-4-28 PP: 1/4
3rd Per. - Peca 9 (Bournival, Condra), 2:10. OT - Peca 10 (Taormina, McGinn), 1:13 (PP). Gudlevskis 13-9-6 (42 shots-41 saves).
Category standings (previous week)
Power Play 16.4% (49-for-299) 20th (20th)
Penalty Kill 82.3% (232-for-282) 14th (12th)
Goals For 3.03 GFA (194) 9th (10th)
Goals Against 3.06 GAA (196) 22nd (22nd)
Shots For 30.23 SF/G (1935) 12th (13th)
Shots Against 27.38 SA/G (1752) 2nd (1st)
Penalty Minutes 17.06 PIM/G (1092) 2nd (1st)
Points 53 Taormina
Goals 26 Froese
Assists 39 Taormina
PIM 101 Conacher
Plus/Minus +10 Gourde, Bournival, Dotchin
Wins 13 Gudlevskis
GAA 2.63 Gudlevskis
Save % .901 McKenna