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Crunch Report: Syracuse continues push for the playoffs

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
LAST WEEK

Fri., March 11 - Crunch vs. Bridgeport - W, 5-2

Sat., March 12 - Crunch vs. Rochester - L, 7-4

Sun., March 13 - Crunch at Springfield - L, 4-2

THIS WEEK

Fri., March 18 - Crunch at Binghamton - 7:05 p.m.

Sat., March 19 - Crunch vs. St. John's - 7 p.m.

Sun., March 20 - Crunch vs. St. John's - 5 p.m.

NEED TO KNOW

• Syracuse holds a 25-25-9-3 record (.500), sixth in the North Division, four wins behind Utica for a playoff spot.

• Week 23's scoring leaders were Tambellini (3g), Drouin (2g, 1a), Gourde (2g, 1a), Peca (3a) and Richard (3a).

• With 14 games to play in the regular season, the Crunch will play nine more home contests with two this week.

News and notes

Jeff Tambellini registered his fourth multi-goal game Sunday. Only Mike Blunden has more, six. . . . Tambellini's pair of scores give him 21 for the year, tied with Blunden for the team lead. . . . At this point last season (through 62 games), Yanni Gourde led the Crunch with 25 goals—no one else had more than 17. Gourde finished with a team-best 29. . . . Syracuse has 30 fewer goals scored than goals allowed (169 for, 199 against). Through 62 games last season the Crunch were plus-8 (180 for, 173 against). . . . Blunden was recalled by Tampa Bay Saturday and has appeared in the Lightning's last two games with 13 shifts in each, averaging 10 minutes. . . . Mike Angelidis exited Friday's game with a lower-body injury and is not expected to return to the lineup during the regular season.

WEEK IN REVIEW

Game 60: Witkowski's offensive boost keep Crunch rolling

Syracuse earned points in a fifth straight game on Friday, defeating Bridgeport 5-2 at the War Memorial Arena. The Crunch sweep the two-game season series, having topped the Islanders' affiliate in Connecticut Nov. 29, 4-0.

Luke Witkowski scored twice, his first pro multi-goal game, improving to three goals for the year and seven for his career. Adam Wilcox, making his fifth consecutive start, stopped 25 of 27 shots; the Crunch are 9-7-5 when Wilcox starts. Witkowski and Tambellini scored 34 seconds apart in the first and Bridgeport never pulled even.

Witkowski scored again in the second period, while Yanni Gourde added two goals in the third period. Gourde's two-goal effort is his first since Jan. 23, 2015. Tanner Richardcollected his third straight multi-point game with two assists. Joel Vermin, Jake Dotchin,Jonathan Drouin, Matthew Peca and Matt Taormina had single assists.

Game 61: Amerks halt Crunch point streak

Tanner Richard played his 200th pro game (all with Syracuse) and Jonathan Drouin played his 100th , but the Amerks overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat Syracuse 7-4 Saturday at the War Memorial.

Drouin scored twice, his third and fourth, and Richard added an assist to boost his team-leading total to 45 points (9g, 36a). Mike Blunden, recalled by Tampa Bay, missed his first Crunch game since Jan. 10.

The Amerks scored three straight goals for a 3-2 lead, but Joel Vermin, set up by Matthew Peca and Tye McGinn, scored his fifth to even the score. Two more strikes for Rochester—part of a five-goal third period—put the Amerks back ahead by two. Jake Dotchin's first goal of the season, a power-play strike at 16:46 from Dylan Blujus and Cam Darcy, kept the Crunch alive until a pair of empty-net tallies in the last two minutes.

Linus Ullmark earned his fourth win in as many starts vs. Syracuse with 29 saves. Evan Rodrigues was the first star with his team's third goal. Kristers Gudlevskis allowed four goals on 25 shots in 45:06. Adam Wilcox came on for 13:08 of relief, saving four of five shots. The Crunch last gave up seven goals Feb. 27, 2015, vs. Albany.

Game 62: Falcons strike back vs. Syracuse

Syracuse could not replicate its performance from a week earlier against the Falcons, and lost Sunday in Springfield, 4-2. Three goals in the second period—all the result of deflections—pushed the home team ahead despite a shorthanded goal from Jeff Tambellinicreated by a Yanni Gourde breakaway.

Tambellini scored his second of the game and 21st of the season in the third (his fifth power-play goal) to pull the Crunch within a goal, but the Falcons survived a 14-shot barrage in the third. Niklas Treutle and Adam Wilcox finished with 28 saves each, but Springfield finished with more shots—including one into an empty net.

A week after posting season highs for goals (6) and power play offense (3-for-8), Syracuse was 1-for-5 on the man advantage. The Falcons, who were 1-for-7 the previous week, went 2-for-6. The season series ends tied, 2-2.

WEEK AHEAD

Game 63: Fri., March 19 at Binghamton, 7:05 p.m.

The 10-game season series between Syracuse and Binghamton concludes Friday in Broome County. The Crunch have won seven of nine against the last-place Senators. Syracuse's only regulation loss to Binghamton this season was in Ottawa. Syracuse is 1-0-1-1 in Binghamton with a third-period comeback and shootout win last time Feb. 28. Against the Senators, Anthony DeAngelo has 10 points (10a) and Matthew Peca has nine (2g, 7a).

Despite their 28th-place standing, the Sens have points in three straight (2-0-1-0) including a 6-1 rout of Rochester Sunday. Five players recorded multiple points including No. 1 star Phil Varone (1g, 3a) and No. 2 star Jason Akeson (3a). In seven games since being traded from Rochester, Varone has 10 points (2g, 8a) and Akeson has 11 (3g, 8a). The game's No. 3 star Casey Bailey (1g, 1a) has 11 points (3g, 8a) in 15 games since being acquired from Toronto. Those three players are the top scorers among those on Binghamton's active roster—at 42, 41 and 29 points, respectively.

Rookies Chris Driedger (15-12-3, 2.92) and Matt O'Connor (6-17-2, 3.42) have combined for the AHL's 28th ranked goals-against average, 3.26. The Sens lead the AHL in penalty minutes per game, 18.64.

Game 64: Sat., March 20 vs. St. John's, 7 p.m. & Game 65: Sun., March 21 vs. St. John's, 5 p.m.

The IceCaps, in their first season as Montreal's affiliate, have defeated the Crunch in five of six meetings heading into the final two matchups of new North Division rivals. St. John's has three points more than Syracuse for fifth place. Forty-five players have dressed for the IceCaps this year, compared to 34 for Syracuse.

Bud Holloway's 52 points are best on the team and tied for fourth in the AHL. He's also tied for fourth in power-play points at 24. Charles Hudon leads the club in goals, 20, and captain Gabriel Dumont leads them against Syracuse with eight points (3g, 5a) and plus-5. NHL All-Star Game MVP John Scott has four points (2g, 2a) in 18 games.

Rookie Zachary Fucale (14-15-4, 3.04) is 3-0-1 vs. Syracuse including a 39-save shutout Feb. 9. Original IceCap Eddie Pasquale (10-7-0, 2.55) is 2-0-0 against the Crunch. Four ofDaniel Walcott's 11 points are versus St. John's.

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