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Crunch Report: Syracuse picks up wins over Portland and Springfield

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
LAST WEEK

Wed., March 2 - Crunch vs. Lehigh Valley - SOL, 3-2

Fri., March 4 - Crunch at Portland - W, 3-1

Sun., March 6 - Crunch at Springfield - W, 6-3

THIS WEEK

Fri., March 11 - Crunch vs. Bridgeport - 7 p.m.

Sat., March 12 - Crunch vs. Rochester - 7 p.m.

Sun., March 13 - Crunch at Springfield - 5 p.m.

NEED TO KNOW

• Syracuse earned five of six points in Week 22 and holds a 24-23-9-3 record (.508), sixth in the North Division.

• In the last four games (3-0-0-1) Tanner Richard has eight points (2g, 6a) and Mike Blunden has seven (5g, 2a).

Jonathan Drouin's suspension was lifted Monday and the former third overall pick is expected to play Friday.

Blunden reaches new heights

Not only has 6-foot-4 alternate captain Mike Blunden taken over the title of tallest player on the Syracuse roster (recently traded Joey Mormina previously held the distinction at 6-foot-6), Blunden has established new career highs in goals (21) and points (38)—with 17 games to play. He totaled 18 goals and 37 points in 68 games with Hamilton in 2013-14. He also hit 37 points in 74 games with Rockford in 2007-08.

Blunden recorded his 13th multi-point game Sunday in Springfield (2g, 1a). Eleven of his last 21 games have been multi-point performances, amassing 24 points (14g, 10a) in that span (since Jan. 16). He's sizzled in the last eight games, posting eight goals and 11 points. Six of the eight scores are power-play markers. His six multi-goal games are double any other Crunch player. He had nine multi-goal games in his 10-year career before this season.

WEEK IN REVIEW

Game 57: Phantoms survive Crunch in shootout

The Crunch produced 53 shots, tying a season high, but Anthony Stolarz stopped 51 and Lehigh Valley won a shootout, 1-0, to beat Syracuse, 3-2, Wednesday at the War Memorial.Mike Blunden recorded two points (1g, 1a).

Tye McGinn scored at 59:30 to force overtime, his 18th marker; he had scored with nine seconds left three days earlier. Adam Erne, Anthony DeAngelo and Jeff Tambellini earned single assists in the game.

Adam Wilcox, who got a shootout victory in his previous start, stopped 30 of 32 shots and two of three shootout bids in defeat. Stolarz, an All-Star, set a Phantoms record for saves. Stolarz was first star and Wilcox was second.

Game 58: Syracuse clamps down on Pirates

Tanner Richard registered two points, including his first game-winning goal of the year, as Syracuse topped Portland 3-1 Friday at Cross Insurance Arena. Yanni Gourde scored his eighth of the year to pull the Crunch even after the Pirates had scored an early power-play goal.

Adam Wilcox, making a third consecutive start for the first time, earned the victory with 29 saves. Mike Angelidis added an empty-net goal for insurance, his seventh of the year.Daniel Walcott, Anthony DeAngelo and Tye McGinn also notched assists.

Game 59: Season-high Crunch production buries Springfield

The Crunch scored six goals for the first time in almost a year (March, 25, 2015) in a 6-3 victory Sunday in Springfield. Five players collected multiple points—including a trio of three-point performers—helping Syracuse record back-to-back wins for the first time since Jan. 16-18. Adam Wilcox denied 32 of 35 shots for his eighth win.

Tanner Richard posted his third three-point game of the year (his second in four contests) with two assists and the game-winning goal, his second straight. Richard totaled two game-winners in his first 183 AHL games. His 42 points lead Syracuse while his 33 assists are third in the AHL. Joel Vermin scored a goal, his first since Nov. 14.

Mike Blunden had his second three-point game of the year (2g, 1a) and Tye McGinn had his first (1g, 2a). McGinn's eighth multi-point effort of the year marked the fourth time in his career he had at least three points in a game. Tony DeAngelo extended his scoring streak to seven games with his fifth multi-point performance (1g, 1a). Matthew Peca had his seventh multi-point game (2a), his second since returning from injury.

WEEK AHEAD

Game 60: Fri., March 11 vs. Bridgeport, 7 p.m.

The Sound Tigers have won their last two games and rank fifth in the Atlantic Division at 31-22-3-3 (.576). In the only previous meeting with, Kristers Gudlevskis shut out the Sound Tigers with 31 saves Nov. 29.

Rookie Stephon Williams suffered that loss and is 8-9-0 in 17 games. Christopher Gibson has seen more than twice as much hockey with 38 appearances and a 17-10-6 with two shutout and a 2.76 goals-against average.

Bracken Kearns owns most of the club's top offensive marks with 21 goals, 28 assists, 49 points, 12 power-play points, 114 shots and a plus-21 while appearing in 58 of 59 games. He ranks tied for seventh in AHL scoring. The team's power play ranks 29th in the AHL and last on the road at 7.8% (9-for-115).

Game 61: Sat., March 12 vs. Rochester, 7 p.m.

The Amerks' point total is one short of Syracuse, but they have four more wins and two games in hand. Therefore, their .518 points percentage edges Syracuse's .508 for fifth in the North Division and 10th in the conference.

The Crunch are 2-2-2-1 against Rochester with the Amerks winning the most recent three. The first six matchups were decided by one goal. The top two Amerks weapons, Phil Varone and Jason Akeson, were shipped to Binghamton in exchange for two other familiar faces, Cole Schneider and Eric O'Dell. That pair owns Rochester's top scoring totals at 46 and 40, respectively. Another trade moved defenseman Joey Mormina from Syracuse to Rochester.

Rookie Linus Ullmark (7-8-0, 3.09) has won three starts versus Syracuse while Nathan Lieuwen (14-9-1, 2.72) is 1-1 against the Crunch. The Amerks rank 24th in both goals-against average (3.18) and goals per game (2.67).

Game 62: Sun., March 13 at Springfield, 5 p.m.

The Crunch visit Springfield for the second time in as many Sundays to face Arizona's affiliate, which has so far yielded the highest goals-against average in the league, 3.41, and the smallest point total in the Atlantic Division, 49. At 21-30-3-4 (.422), the Falcons are 14th in the Eastern Conference. They've lost four straight.

The Falcons' leading scorer Dustin Jeffrey (46 points in 45 Falcons games) was traded to Pittsburgh March 7, leaving Greg Carey as the club's top producer at 39 points. At 25 goals, only he and captain Craig Cunningham (17) have more than 10 goals. Brendan Shinnimin, out with injury most of the year, had two points vs. Syracuse Sunday.

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