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Crunch time: Syracuse goes 3-0 last week; extends winning streak to six

by Doug Spencer / Tampa Bay Lightning

The Syracuse Crunch have been rolling off the W’s in the past few weeks, taking home wins in all three of their games this past week. The Crunch improved their record to 16-7-3, which gives them 35 points for the season. The team remains in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and second in the Northeast Division.

On Wednesday, December 10, the Crunch visited the Springfield Falcons for a Northeast Divisional showdown. It was a battle of the goaltenders, as both Syracuse’s Andrei Vasilevskiy and Springfield’s Anton Forsberg turned in solid performances. Russian defenseman Nikita Nesterov, last week’s prospect of the week, scored his third goal of the season at 18:01 of the first frame. Captain Mike Angelidis and Vladislav Namestnikov were credited with the assists. The goal would be the game winner, as Mike Blunden added an empty-net tally in the third period. Vasilevskiy recorded his second straight shutout, stopping all 26 of Springfield’s attempts. It was a night of the Russians, as Vasilevskiy, Nesterov and Namestnikov were named the game’s first, second, and third stars respectively.

The Crunch returned home on Friday night to face off against the Hershey Bears. The Bears scored first and were able to keep the Crunch off the board with some stellar net minding by Philipp Grubauer. However, Syracuse kept plugging away and was finally able to break through with an Angelidis’ goal at 4:13 of the second period. The Crunch then took over the game and the score sheet, as Joel Vermin, Dalton Smith and Henri Ikonen each netted one goal to bring the final score to 4-1. Vasilevskiy made his third straight start after a strong showing on Wednesday. He turned in another outstanding performance, stopping 29 of 30 Bears’ shots. It appears as though the highly-touted Russian goaltender is rounding into form and demonstrating his game changing ability. He was named the CCM/AHL player of the week in recognition of his play in the past two games.

Syracuse closed out their week with a tilt in Utica. It was a low scoring game, as neither team was able to find the back of the net until the third period. The Comets scored first, with just under five minutes to play in the game. The Crunch kept pressing hard and were rewarded when Angelidis scored his 10th goal of the season with 2:11 left in regulation. Yanni Gourde stepped up once again to score the game winning goal at the 6:00 mark into the OT frame. The win capped off a 3-0-0 week for the Crunch and improved their winning streak to an impressive six games.

Streaking along

The Syracuse Crunch are in the midst of a six-game winning streak. The Crunch got the streak rolling back on November 29 with a 4-1 win against the Hershey Bears. In the past six games Syracuse has outscored its opponents 20-8. The team has also managed to record back-to-back shutouts in wins over Rochester and Springfield thanks to the play of Vasilevskiy.

Not feeling Blu

Syracuse rookie defender Dylan Blujus is getting used to the pro-style of hockey. The youngster is in his first season with the Crunch after playing the past three seasons with the OHL’s Brampton/North Bay Battalion. Blujus has started his professional career well, helping the Crunch to sit amongst the Eastern Conference’s elite teams. Syracuse’s assistant coach Stacy Roest noticed a bit of a learning curve with Blujus, stating that his speed has gotten better as he adapts to the pro style of hockey. With improved skating, Blujus has been able to chip in more with the puck. “You are always looking for puck movers and he does that really well.” Roest said. He kicked off December with a bang, registering an assist in a win against Hartford. He also helped get the scoring fest started by assisting on a Vermin tally against Hershey this past weekend. As he continues to grow and become more comfortable, Blujus will only see his role increase with the Crunch.

Next please

The red hot Crunch will look to keep the fire going with three games this week before the Christmas break. Syracuse will try to extend their winning streak to seven games when they visit the Rochester Americans (10-16-1) tonight. The team will then go to Hartford to face off with the Wolf Pack (15-9-2). In their final showdown before the holidays, the Crunch will play the Albany Devils (12-9-1). It will be an exciting week of holiday hockey as the Crunch look to keep building on a strong start to the season.

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