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Crunch Time: Syracuse looks to get back on track during five-game homestand

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
LAST WEEK

Tue., Feb. 9 - Crunch at St. John's - L, 4-0

Wed., Feb. 10 - Crunch at St. John's - OTL, 4-3

Sat., Feb. 13 - Crunch at Binghamton - L, 2-0

THIS WEEK

Wed., Feb. 17 - Crunch vs. St. John's - 7 p.m.

Fri., Feb. 19 - Crunch vs. Utica - 7 p.m.

Sat., Feb. 20 - Crunch vs. Rochester - 7 p.m.

NEED TO KNOW

• Starting Wednesday vs. St. John's, the Crunch begin a five-game homestand, all against division opponents.

• Syracuse owns a .480 points percentage (19-21-9-1) which ranks sixth in the division and 13th in the confence.

Jeff Tambellini, Syracuse's points per game leader (0.70), returned from injury Saturday after missing nine of 10.

WEEK IN REVIEW

Game 48: Crunch get iced by St. John's

Zachary Fucale, the 20-year-old rookie from Laval, Quebec, stopped all 39 Crunch shots Tuesday at Mile One Centre for his first professional shutout and his 11th win in 28 games. Nikita Scherbak, Michael McCarron, Matt Ellis and Gabriel Dumont provided the goals in a 4-0 St. John's win. Syracuse slipped to 1-1-1-0 against the IceCaps.

Syracuse held St. John's to 19 shots, the fewest for a Crunch opponent this year, including a season low two shots in the third. St. John's scored on both, Ellis's insurance marker at 16:54 and a Dumont empty-net goal at 18:58. Sherbak and McCarron scored earlier power-play goals. Bud Holloway collected three assists. Dumont also had three points.

The Crunch power play was scoreless in three chances, as Kristers Gudlevskis made 15 saves in the loss, dropping to 8-9-4. The 20-shot disparity in favor of the Crunch (39-19) is team's highest of the year. Their previous best was 19 Nov. 20 at St. John's (47-28), a 4-3 overtime loss.

Game 49: Overtime decision belongs to IceCaps

St. John's came back from a 3-2 deficit in the third period to defeat the Crunch in overtime Wednesday, 4-3. Charles Hudon was the No. 1 star with the game-winner and an assist. The Crunch outshot the IceCaps 39-19 for the second consecutive night, but slipped to 1-1-2-0 vs. their division foe.

Slater Koekkoek potted a goal and an assist for his first multi-point game of the year and second of his career. The second-year defenseman was recalled by Tampa Bay after the game.

Andrew Yogan put the Crunch ahead 3-2 in the third period with his second goal in his third game with Syracuse. Daniel Walcott potted two assists for his first career first-point game.Dylan Blujus scored a power-play goal as the Crunch went 1-for-3, but the team's penalty kill allowed three goals for the first time.

Kristers Gudlevskis took the overtime loss with 15 saves and Zachary Fucale stopped 36 shots.

Game 50: Senators silence Crunch in Ottawa

Syracuse was shut out by Binghamton, 2-0, Saturday. Neither side scored until the third period at Canadian Tire Centre, home of the Ottawa Senators. Kyle Flanagan, nephew of Syracuse University women's ice hockey head coach Paul Flanagan, scored on the power play with 3:25 left for his first game-winning goal of the year.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped each of the other 26 shots he faced in his first game with Syracuse since Dec. 31. He had won seven consecutive games (two in the AHL, five in the NHL) until consecutive appearances at Canadian Tire Centre, Tampa Bay's 5-1 loss Feb. 8 and Syracuse's 2-0 loss Saturday, allowing five goals total.

Tye McGinn appeared in his 300th pro game—89 in the NHL and 211 in the AHL including 48 with Syracuse. No one has appeared in more games for the Crunch this year than McGinn (48 of 50) while also playing two games for Tampa Bay. Charlie Dodero had his first AHL fight of the year in his eighth game; he had four in 36 Crunch games last season.

Syracuse was outshot, 28-21, after outshooting St. John's, 78-38, over the previous two games.

WEEK AHEAD

Games 51: Wed., Feb. 17 vs. St. John's, 7 p.m.

The IceCaps swept a midweek series from the Crunch in St. John's last week and lead the season series at 3-0-1-0. They subsequently split a pair with Toronto and now hold a 22-19-7-3 record (.529), fourth in the North Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference. St. John's has four contests in Syracuse: Feb. 17, Feb. 27, March 19 and March 20.

Goalie Zachary Fucale (13-11-3, 3.05) has been named CCM/AHL Player of the Week with three wins, including a shutout of Syracuse. He posted a 1.32 goals-against average and stopped 107 of 111 shots in that span—including 75 of 78 in two matches with Syracuse. Original IceCap Eddie Pasquale (6-5-3, 2.87) is winless in four games.

Bud Holloway, the 27-year-old winger who spent the last four seasons in Europe, leads the club at 44 points (15g, 29a), tied for fifth in the AHL. He had three assists vs. Syracuse Tuesday. Charles Hudon, 21, leads St. John's in goals with 16. Gabriel Dumont leads St. John's with five points vs. Syracuse (2g, 3a).

NHL All-Star Classic MVP John Scott has played six games for St. John's since the trade from Arizona. He returned from paternity leave Saturday.

Game 52: Fri., Feb. 19 vs. Utica, 7 p.m.

The Comets have won six of seven, scaling the standings to third in the North Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference at 24-17-4-3 (.573). Utica has four wins in five meetings with Syracuse including two victories in three games at the War Memorial. The clubs play 10 games this year, challenging for division supremacy for the first time.

Alex Friesen has five points against Syracuse but he's in the NHL with parent Vancouver. All-Star Hunter Shinkaruk leads the team in points, 37, and goals, 20. Brendan Gaunce has 28 points (14g, 14a)—four vs. Syracuse.

Joe Cannata (13-9-2, 2.57), who earned his first AHL shutout vs. Syracuse Oct. 24, has won his last three starts. Richard Bachman (10-7-4, 2.58) has won four of six with a shutout. In his seven pro seasons, Bachman has logged NHL time with Dallas, Edmonton and Vancouver. Utica's 2.85 goals-against average ranks 14th in the league.

Game 53: Sat., Feb. 20 vs. Rochester, 7 p.m.

The Amerks' offense ranks 28th in the AHL and the team has been outscored 8-2 over its last three games, all losses, including two shutouts. At 23-24-2-1 (.490), Rochester is one point ahead of Syracuse for fifth in the division.

A three-way tie atop the Rochester leaderboard features Phil Varone (12g, 14a), Jason Akeson (7g, 19a) and Cal O'Reilly (5g, 21) at 26 points each. Varone's minus-23 is tied with Springfield's Alex Grant for worst among active players, but seven of his 26 points have come in five games vs. Syracuse (3g, 4a), a team best.

Four Rochester goalies have faced the Crunch this season. Linus Ullmark (4-6-0, 3.05) has defeated Syracuse in the last two meetings, Feb. 5, 5-4, and Jan. 27, 6-5. Nathan Lieuwen (12-0-1) has two shutouts in his last four games.

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