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Crunch Time: Syracuse remains in first place in the Eastern Conference

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning

Syracuse had another jam-packed week of hockey that saw the team gain four of a possible six points through three games. The Crunch kicked off their week at home with a 3-2 win against the Hartford Wolf Pack before dropping back-to-back games in overtime on the weekend, 2-1 against Bridgeport and 3-2 against Springfield. The team finished its week with a loss as Adirondack downed the Crunch 10-0. Syracuse remains atop the Eastern Conference and one point shy of the top spot in the American Hockey League with a record of 29-12-7.

Syracuse’s week did not get off to the start that it wanted. The team trailed 2-0 to the visiting Hartford Wolf Pack heading in to the third period of the match. The team was looking for an offensive spark after shooting 20 pucks on net with no avail through the first 40 minutes of play. Jake Dotchin got the ball rolling as he wired home a power-play one-timer from Vladislav Namestnikov over the shoulder of Hartford’s Yann Danis. Three minutes later, Dalton Smith was able to find the puck in a mad scramble in front of the Wolf Pack net and slide it home to tie the game. Charlie Dodero was the hero as his shot from the point was redirected by a Hartford defender and into the net for his first career AHL goal, which proved to be the game-winner.

The Crunch hosted the Bridgeport Sound Tigers two days later (Feb. 6) for an exciting matchup that featured great goaltending by Syracuse’s Kristers Gudlevskis and Bridgeport’s David Leggio. Gudlevskis stopped 30 of 32 shots in the 2-1 OT loss. Neither team was able to break the deadlock until the third period when the Sound Tigers struck first. Syracuse would answer under a minute later as Namestnikov showcased his strong skating ability by receiving a pass in full-flight while skating backwards. Namestnikov would then start a pretty passing play before crashing to the net and burying the biscuit on a quick feed from Yanni Gourde on the goal line.

Saturday’s tilt featured two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and also the top two teams in the Northeast Division as the Springfield Falcons visited the War Memorial Arena. Both teams put on quite a show for the Syracuse faithful that was attending, as the game had to be decided in overtime. Captain Mike Angelidis would tie the game up finishing off a nifty tic-tac-toe one-touch passing play featuring Slater Koekkoek and Tanner Richard. Allen York was solid between the pipes, turning aside 34 of 36 Springfield attempts. The two teams combined for an impressive 76 shots on net.

Syracuse closed out its week with a trip to Adirondack to face the Flames. It was the Crunch’s final visit to the Glens Falls Civic Center and one the team will want to forget as soon as possible. The Flames were too hot to handle for the Crunch as they handed the team its worst loss of the season 10-0.

Welcoming back a familiar face

Syracuse’s roster for its game against the Springfield Falcons featured a familiar face in the Lightning organization: Carter Ashton. Ashton was originally selected in the first round, 29th overall, at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Lightning before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played two seasons with the Lightning’s old AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals between 2009-11. His most productive season came in 2011-12 where he recorded 19 goals and 35 points in 56 games for Norfolk. The right-winger adds depth and some scoring touch to the Crunch as the team looks to stay atop the Eastern Conference.

Hello old friend

Syracuse will hit the road for two games this week as it looks to get back in the win column. The Crunch will face off against the Norfolk Admirals (19-24-3) in a back-to-back series. The game will feature Tampa Bay’s current and former AHL affiliates. Syracuse has picked up points in seven of its last eight games and has gone 5-3-2 in their last 10.

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