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Crunch Report: Syracuse tries to battle its way into the playoffs

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
LAST WEEK

Wed., March 23 - Crunch at Utica - W, 3-1

Fri., March 25 - Crunch vs. Albany - W, 3-1

Sat., March 26 - Crunch vs. Rochester - W, 3-1

THIS WEEK

Fri., April 1 - Crunch vs. Toronto - 7 p.m.

Sat., April 2 - Crunch vs. Rochester - 7 p.m.

Sun., April 3 - Crunch at Utica - 3 p.m.

NEED TO KNOW

• Syracuse holds a 30-25-10-3 record (.537), four points behind Utica for a playoff spot with eight games to play.

• The Crunch's five-game win streak is the AHL's longest active streak and the team's longest since February 2015.

Yanni Gourde has a five-game scoring streak with three goals and five assists and now ranks third in scoring (42 pts).

News and Notes

Jonathan Drouin has four goals in three games. In 15 contests with Syracuse he' has nine goals and two assists. . . . Yanni Gourde has more assists this year, 29, than he had last year, 28. With eight points over his five-game scoring streak, he's risen to third in Crunch scoring at 42 points. . . . Kristers Gudlevskis has started—and won—five consecutive games. His record stands at 14-10-6 with a goals-against average at 2.81, tumbling from 3.06 before the streak. . . . Joel Vermin was reassigned by Tampa Bay to Syracuse Tuesday. . . Ben Thomas made his professional debut Saturday. The 19-year-old defenseman from Calgary had 90 points (22g, 68a) in 213 career WHL games. . . . Over the last six games, the Crunch power play is 6-for-25 (24.0%) and its penalty kill is 18-for-19 (94.7%).

WEEK IN REVIEW

Game 66: Syracuse grabs another round from Comets

The Crunch downed the Comets Mar. 23 in Utica, 3-1. After falling behind, 1-0, the Crunch potted the last three unanswered. Adam Erne (12) tied the game midway through the second period, from Tanner Richard and Yanni Gourde. Joel Vermin (6) gave Syracuse the lead on the power play late in the second, from Matthew Peca and Ryan Martindale. The eventual game-winner was Vermin's first of the year.

Vermin assisted on a Peca empty-net goal (6) with 15 seconds left in the third; the two have three and nine multi-point games, respectively. Jeff Tambellini had his goal streak snapped, but extended his point streak to five games.

Kristers Gudlevskis earned his third straight win, stopping 28 of 29 shots. The Crunch penalty kill was 3-for-3. The Comets hold a 4-3 advantage in the 10-game Galaxy Cup series; they next play in Syracuse April 16.

Game 67: Crunch earn first victory vs. Devils

Syracuse earned a 3-1 victory over the Devils Friday at the War Memorial, the first time in five meetings Albany has lost to the Crunch. Dylan Blujus, Ryan Martindale and Jonathan Drouin provided the Crunch goals as Kristers Gudlevskis posted his fourth win in seven days, denying 29 of 30 shots.

The Crunch scored first, at 8:41 of the opening frame. Blujus (6) converted on a right-point shot to cap a series of chances. Matthew Peca and Tye McGinn earned helpers. Albany's Ben Johnson tied the score three minutes later, but Ryan Martindale regained the Crunch advantage 1:17 after that. Yanni Gourde and Slater Koekkoek assisted.

Jonathan Drouin provided an insurance marker at 7:42 of the third. Tanner Richard andAdam Erne assisted. Richard's 40th assist leads the Crunch as the third-year center becomes the first on the team to reach 50 points.

Game 68: Win streak extended to five with victory over Amerks

Syracuse defeated Rochester Saturday at the War Memorial, 3-1, the team's fifth straight victory. The Crunch jumped the Amerks in the standings to fourth in the North Division.Ryan Martindale posted his second three-point performance in as many Saturdays, assisting on the first two Crunch scores and potting the third.

Jonathan Drouin recorded his ninth, a power-play score at 8:11 of the first, from Matthew Peca and Martindale. Yanni Gourde potted his 13th later in the frame with Henri Ikonen and Martindale setting it up. The trio produced the last Crunch score at 11:55 of the second. Martindale has eight points (4g, 4a) in five games.

Ikonen's multi-point effort is the second of his career and first since Dec. 12, 2014. Gourde has 10 multi-point performances in 63 games; he had 15 in 76 games last season.

Kristers Gudlevskis was the game's No. 2 star with 39 saves, his most in a win since a season-high 47 Nov. 14 vs. Utica. This month (5-0-0 in six appearances) his goals-against average is 1.92 and his save percentage is .936.

WEEK AHEAD

Game 69: Fri., April 1 vs. Toronto, 7 p.m.

Toronto became the first AHL team to clinch a postseason berth on March 19, but a slew of Marlies have been plucked by the Maple Leafs, the NHL's last-place team. Eleven players have made their NHL debut with Toronto this year. Since the Feb. 29 trade deadline, 15 players have been recalled by the Maple Leafs. All-Star William Nylander (18g, 27a) is among those remaining in the NHL. Six players have signed ATOs with the Marlies since Mar. 19.

T.J. Brennan, the Marlies' top scorer at 67 points, has almost double the goals of any other AHL defenseman, 24. His 43 assists are third in the AHL. Only Hershey's Chris Bourque has more points, 72. Brennan has seven points (2g, 5a) vs. Syracuse to lead the team. Marc Arcobello has 10 points in March (3g, 7a) and 54 for the season (23g, 31a).

Game 70: Sat., April 2 vs. Rochester, 7 p.m.

The Amerks have lost three straight and five of six. They've fallen six points behind Syracuse at 32-32-2-1 (.500), fifth in the division. Their goals-against average is 3.25, 26th in the AHL. Linus Ullmark (10-12-0, 3.26) is winless in five appearances, allowing 20 goals in that span; he is 4-0 vs. Syracuse despite 15 goals against. Andrey Makarov (7-8-2, 3.03) missed 11 weeks due to injury and is 1-1-0 in three appearances since returning with a loss vs. the Crunch.

The team's top three scorers started this year with other North Division teams: Cole Schneider (19g, 33a) and Eric O'Dell (23g, 22a) with Binghamton, and Justin Bailey (17g, 23a) with Toronto.

Game 71: Sun., April 3 at Utica, 3 p.m.

The third-place Comets (33-23-7-4) have three more victories than Syracuse and one game in hand. Utica has won its last two (5-1 at Binghamton and 3-2 vs. Rochester) after going winless in five games (0-2-2-1) with only six goals.

New Hartford native Mike Zalewski (14g, 14a) returned after missing 11 games and scored the Comets' first goal in Tuesday's win vs. Rochester. Alexandre Grenier (14g, 25a) had the second goal in that contest, his third appearance since being loaned from Vancouver. Carter Bancks (12g, 22a), who's played in all 67 games, had the game-winner.

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