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Crunch Report: Syracuse gets back on track with win vs. Utica

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
LAST WEEK

Wed., Feb. 17 - Crunch vs. St. John's - SOL, 3-2

Fri., Feb. 19 - Crunch vs. Utica - W, 5-4

Sat., Feb. 20 - Crunch vs. Rochester - L, 6-2

THIS WEEK

Fri., Feb. 26 - Crunch vs. Binghamton - 7 p.m.

Sat., Feb. 27 - Crunch vs. St. John's - 7 p.m.

Sun., Feb. 28 - Crunch at Binghamton - 5:05 p.m.

NEED TO KNOW

• Syracuse earned three of six points in Week 20 and holds a 20-22-9-2 record (.481), sixth in the North Division.

• Multi-goal games from Jeff Tambellini Friday and Mike Blunden Saturday give the Crunch 14 for the year.

• The Crunch's five-game homestand ends with a three-in-three weekend, the team's fifth of nine this season.

Swapping blueliners

Matt Taormina was recalled by the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday, swapping roster spots with Slater Koekkoek who was reassigned to the Crunch at the same time.

Taormina, who was a healthy scratch for Tuesday's 2-1 Bolts win vs. Arizona, appeared in one Lightning game earlier this year, Nov. 16. He's played 57 career NHL games, including nine with Tampa Bay between 2012 and 2014, and 47 with New Jersey between 2010 and 2012. He has 12 career NHL points (4g, 8a), all with New Jersey.

In 145 career games with Syracuse, the Providence College alum has 73 points (21g, 52a). He also has 12 points (2g, 10a) in 18 Crunch playoff games. His 31 points with the Crunch this year are tied for second on the team and ninth among AHL defensemen. His 11 goals this year equal a career high (set last season) and rank third in the AHL among blueliners—as do his 124 shots on goal.

Koekkoek, who made his NHL debut March 31, 2015, has played seven games with the Bolts—three last year and four this season. He's averaged nearly nine minutes of ice time this year, but has yet to record a point. With Syracuse, he has 12 points (4g, 8a) in 43 games including his first multi-point effort Feb. 10 (his last AHL game).

WEEK IN REVIEW

Game 51: IceCaps storm back, capture shootut win in Syracuse

St. John's overcame a 2-1 third-period deficit and defeated Syracuse in a shootout, 3-2, Wednesday at the War Memorial Arena. The Crunch are 1-1-2-1 against Montreal's AHL affiliate.

First-period goals from Daniel Walcott (2) and Anthony DeAngelo (5) had the Crunch in front until regulation's final minutes. Michael McCarron scored with 2:34 remaining to force overtime and—after a scoreless extra frame—was the only one of 10 shooters to convert in the shootout.

Kristers Gudlevskis stopped 29 of 31 shots through regulation and overtime, plus four of five bids in the shootout, his first shootout this year. His counterpart, reigning AHL player of the week Zachary Fucale, earned the win, turning aside 27-of-29 and all five Crunch shootout attempts.

No Crunch opponent had been awarded as many power plays as the IceCaps were given Wednesday, eight. St. John's converted on two, while Syracuse was 0-for-4 on the power play. No Crunch player logged more than one point in the loss, but Ryan Martindale, Matt Taormina, Yanni Gourde, and Tanner Richard each logged an assist.

Game 52: Crunch snap skid with 5-4 defeat of Utica

Syracuse defeated Utica, 5-4, Friday at the War Memorial Arena. The Crunch never trailed, building leads of 2-0, 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3. The Comets pulled within one goal four times, but never tied the score. The Crunch scored two power-play goals in the first three minutes, ending up with a season-high three power-play scores.

Four players recorded multi-point efforts, including No. 1 star Jeff Tambellini (2g), No. 2 starMike Blunden (1g, 1a), Tye McGinn (1g, 1a) and Tanner Richard (2a). Tambellini leads Syracuse with 18 goals while Tanner Richard owns team leads of 34 points and 27 assists.Matt Taormina scored his 11th goal to tie a career high. Single assists went to Yanni Gourde, Dylan Blujus, Luke Witkowski, Ryan Martindale and Adam Erne.

Crunch netminder Kristers Gudlevskis grabbed his ninth win of the season with a 25-save performance. Syracuse posted a season-high six penalty kills for the second straight game.

The season series continues March 23 with the seventh of ten meetings. Utica leads the Galaxy Cup series, 4-2. The clubs face off again April 15 at the Aud and April 16 at the War Memorial.

Game 53: Amerks quick strikes too much for Syracuse

The Amerks downed the Crunch 6-2 Saturday at the War Memorial despite 53 shots on goal. Linus Ullmark made 51 stops, the most in a game for an AHL goalie this year. Four goals in a five-minute span (from 18:57 of the first period to 3:56 of the second) put Rochester too far ahead for Syracuse to climb even.

Tim Schaller was the game's No. 1 star with a hat trick and an assist, one of 11 Amerks scorers. Mike Blunden scored two goals for Syracuse (15, 16), his team-leading fourth multi-goal game. Matt Taormina, Jeff Tambellini, Yanni Gourde, and Anthony DeAngelo collected assists. David Broll could not convert on a penalty shot bid.

The Amerks power-play scored twice on two chances, the second of which prompted a Syracuse goalie change from starter Adam Wilcox, who stopped 13 of 17 shots, to Kristers Gudlevskis, who turned aside 16 of 17.

WEEK AHEAD

Game 54: Fri., Feb. 26 vs. Binghamton, 7 p.m. & Game 56: Sun., Feb. 28 at Binghamton

The Senators had won four straight until a 3-1 loss Wednesday morning in Toronto. The club remains last in the Eastern Conference at 21-29-3-0 (.425). The Crunch have won five of seven meetings, but were shut out by the Sens Feb. 13 in Ottawa by Chris Driedger (14-12-1, 2.95). Rookie Matt O'Connor (4-14-2) suffered Wednesday's loss.

Cole Schneider leads Binghamton in scoring at 42 points (17g, 25a), tied for 12th in the AHL. Other Sens among category leaders are Zach Stortini, third in penalty minutes (128), and Mark Fraser second in minor penalties (31).

Game 55: Sat., Feb. 27 vs. St. John's, 7 p.m.

The IceCaps, five points ahead of Syracuse for 11th in the conference, have lost in Binghamton their last two games. They play in Albany Wednesday and Utica Friday before their six-game trip concludes in Syracuse. St. John's has won four of five meetings with Syracuse, all decided in extra time except one.

Gabriel Dumont has a team-high five points versus Syracuse (2g, 3a) in four games. The captain is tied for third in IceCaps scoring behind Bud Holloway (15-29—44) and Charles Hudon (16g, 20a—36). Also at 34 points is Michael McCarron, tied for eighth in the AHL among rookies. Zachary Fucale (14-12-3, 2.98) is 3-0 vs. Syracuse.

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