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Crunch Time: Syracuse preps for Calder Cup Playoffs

by Doug Spencer / Tampa Bay Lightning

It was a rare winless week of hockey for the Northeast Division leading Syracuse Crunch as the team dropped both of their contests this past week. The team’s current record is a solid 33-17-8 with the Crunch sitting six points ahead of the eighth place Worcester Sharks.

On Friday, March 6, Syracuse squared off for the lone time this season against the Portland Pirates. Syracuse got the puck rolling when captain Mike Angelidis potted his 17th goal of the season just before the midway mark of the opening frame. The Pirates responded a mere 32 seconds later and would add two more unanswered tallies in the first period. Portland notched two more, one in each of the remaining frames, to take a 5-2 win. Cody Kunyk added the other marker for the Crunch in the losing effort.

Syracuse enjoyed a rare day off Saturday before heading down to Binghamton to face off against the Senators. The Crunch again were able to take an early lead thanks to Yanni Gourde’s team-leading 22nd tally of the season, which he scored on the man advantage. The Senators stormed back and added four unanswered tallies before Tanner Richard could pull Syracuse to within two. However, it was a little too late as Binghamton held on for the 4-2 win.

Playoff picture

With only 18 games remaining for the Crunch in the regular season, the team will be gearing up to make a run at the Calder Cup in this year’s AHL playoffs. Syracuse currently occupies the top spot in the Northeast Division, which gives them the third overall seed in the Eastern Conference. Unlike the NHL, the AHL playoffs take the three divisional leaders and the following top-five ranked teams. The top ranked team will play the eighth seed and so on.

If the playoffs were to start today, the Crunch would be facing off against the sixth-place Portland Pirates (33-22-3). Syracuse has only played Portland once this season, a 5-2 loss last week. The Pirates are the AHL affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes and feature brothers Philip and Henrik Samuelsson, sons of former NHLer Ulf Samuelsson.

Three in three

Syracuse will be looking to get back to its winning ways this week with three games in as many nights. The action kicks off Friday when the Crunch host the Adirondack Flames (29-22-4) at the War Memorial Arena. The Crunch will then hit the road for a pair of divisional matchups, facing the Albany Devils (26-23-5) on Saturday night and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (22-29-6) on Sunday. With the team only six points safe in the playoffs, the Crunch will be looking to get some wins and solidify their position among the Eastern conference’s elite.

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