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Crunch take over first place

by Jamie Kelly / Tampa Bay Lightning

The Syracuse Crunch took sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference and extended their road winning streak to a franchise-record nine consecutive games as they earned a 2-1-0 record this weekend.

The Crunch's three-game weekend slate started Friday night at home as they hosted the Binghamton Senators.  Though they put up a valiant effort by outshooting the Senators, 31-24, the Crunch couldn't generate enough offense to beat Senators goaltender Robin Lehner, falling just short, 2-1. 

Senators forward Tyler Eckford notched both goals for his club, and Lehner proved to be the difference- maker in net for Binghamton as he turned aside 30 of 31 shots.

Crunch forward Richard Panik improved his point-scoring streak to eight consecutive games by scoring the Crunch's lone goal early in the third period.

The Crunch turned right around and traveled to Albany where they would be looking to shake off a tough loss at home to the Senators and extend their road winning streak to eight consecutive games against the Devils on Saturday night.

The two teams traded first and second period goals as Cory Conacher opened the scoring for the Crunch late in the first period, followed by a Joe Whitney tally early in the second period to deadlock the score at 1-1.

The turning point came mid-way through the second period when Crunch forwards Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn scored two quick goals less than three minutes apart to take a comfortable 3-1 lead heading into the third frame.

The Crunch iced the game in the third period when Richard Panik scored at the 8:17 mark, propelling the Crunch to eight consecutive road victories.

Crunch forwards Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik each recorded a goal and an assist in the victory, while Ondrej Palat recorded two assists, giving him a point in eight of nine road victories this season for the Crunch.

Syracuse goalie Riku Helenius turned aside 18 shots in the victory for the Crunch.

Making the trek from Albany to Worcester, the Crunch headed 130 miles to the east for a tilt against the Sharks, looking to extend their road winning streak to a franchise-record nine consecutive games.

Not only did the Crunch extend their winning streak, they did it by exploiting the Sharks defense for six goals en route to a 6-1 victory.

Crunch forward J.T. Brown broke out in a big way, collecting three goals and an assist, earning his first professional hat trick.

The Crunch wasted little time in making their presence felt, scoring three goals through the first seven minutes of the game, highlighted by two quick tallies by Brown.

Worcester responded late in the first period as Bracken Kearns cut the lead to 3-1, but that was all the offense the Sharks would generate as the Crunch reeled off three consecutive markers, defeating the Sharks in decisive fashion, 6-1.

Brown was not the only one on the Crunch who made his presence felt on the score sheet, as Brett Connolly added three assists and Tyler Johnson scored twice to add to his league-leading goal total of 13.

Johnson has been a goal-scoring machine so far this season for the Crunch, collecting 13 in 17 games and ranking fourth in the league with 20 points in 17 games.  His teammate and fellow offensive weapon, Cory Conacher, is tied for sixth in league scoring with nine goals and 18 points through 17 games.

Penalty killing has been a strength for the Crunch this season as they rank second in the league with a 89.1 percent success rate.  The Crunch have seen some success with the man-advantage, converting on 18.9 percent of their chances, tied for seventh in the league.

The Crunch have put up a very impressive record this season, sporting a 12-3-1-1 record for 26 points to rank atop the Eastern Conference standings.

The Crunch's record at home this season (3-3-1-1), has been overshadowed by their incredible string of wins on the road as they sport a 9-0-1 record in visiting buildings and have yet to lose in regulation time on the road.

With their terrific play on the road this season, the Crunch will be more than happy to finish off their five- game road swing with back-to-back-to-back games against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Connecticut Whale and Binghamton Senators next weekend.

These three games will be tough road tests as the Crunch will be looking to extend their franchise-record road winning streak to 10 games.

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