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Crunch Time: Syracuse continues to lead Northeast division

by Doug Spencer / Tampa Bay Lightning

The Syracuse Crunch went 1-2-0 this week as the team remains atop the Northeast Division with a record of 33-15-8. The Crunch sit just three points back of the Hershey Bears for the top spot in both the Eastern Conference and the American Hockey League.

After defeating the Rochester Americans 4-3 on Sunday, February 22, Syracuse fell to the Amerks 4-3 last Wednesday night. Andrei Vasilevskiy was back between the pipes for the Crunch and stopped 30 shots in the loss. Vladislav Namestnikov and Jonathan Marchessault chipped in with two points apiece.

Friday night’s tilt was a high-scoring affair as the Crunch and Albany Devils combined for 13 goals, including a five-goal first period. All four goalies – Kristers Gudlevskis, Allen York, Scott Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont – made an appearance in this contest, something that does not happen very often at any level of hockey. Three Syracuse skaters: Cody Kunyk, Joel Vermin and Marchessault, all finished the game with three points.

Syracuse was able to secure its lone win of the week with a 4-1 victory over the visiting Utica Comets. After allowing seven goals the night before, Kristers Gudlevskis turned in a strong performance, stopping 38 of 39 shots to lead the team to the W.

Don’t stop me now

Before this season Crunch fans knew Vladislav Namestnikov was a good player. Now the rest of the hockey world knows. In his past six games, the Zhukovskiy, Russia, native has scored five goals and 11 points to help the Crunch to a 4-2-0 record. His current six-game point streak is his longest of the season, and he is showing no signs of slowing down.

After starting the season with the Lightning, Namestnikov has responded well since being re-assigned to the AHL. In his first four games with Syracuse in December, he recorded two goals and five points. During the 2013-14 season he notched 19 goals and 48 points in 56 games. This year he is producing at over a point-per-game pace with 14 goals and 35 points in just 34 games. The confidence and poise that Namestnikov possess are on display nightly as he has created many highlight-reel goals with his silky mitts.

With Namestnikov red-hot and leading the charge up front for Syracuse, expect him to keep his point totals rolling.

Walking the plank

Syracuse kicks off its March schedule with a match up against Portland as the Pirates (30-22-3) roll in to the War Memorial Arena. The Pirates are two points out of a playoff spot at the moment, so the Crunch will be in for a tough game. Syracuse will have a rare Saturday off before they head off to Binghamton to face off against the Senators (22-26-7).

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