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Crunch time: Syracuse sits in first place in the Northeast division

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning

The Syracuse Crunch entered the American Hockey League All-Star break right where they wanted to be, atop the Northeast Division and sitting one point shy of the Manchester Monarchs for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Crunch won both of their games this week, warding off the Phantoms 4-2 and the Wolf Pack 3-2 to improve to 26-11-5 on the season. They are currently ranked third overall in the AHL.

On Friday, January 23, the Crunch continued their solid performances at home by beating the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 4-2. Cody Kunyk opened the scoring for the Crunch, notching his sixth of the season at 7:21 of the first. The Phantoms would take a one-goal lead into the second period before the Crunch buried three unanswered markers to secure the win. Yanni Gourde potted two while Henri Ikonen also tallied for Syracuse. Andrei “The Giant” Vasilevskiy stood tall between the pipes, stopping 30 of 32 Phantom attacks. He recorded a .937 save percentage in the winning effort.

The following night, Syracuse welcomed Northeast Divisional rival Hartford to the War Memorial Arena. The Crunch’s special teams would prove to be the difference maker in this contest. Mike Blunden got the hometown boys off to a good start by ripping one home just 1:29 into the game. After Hartford scored two, Blunden would cut the lead to one with his second goal of the game, which he scored shorthanded off a beautiful feed from Vladislav Namestnikov. Captain Mike Angelidis secured the W for Syracuse with his power-play tally. Vasilevskiy made his second consecutive start and captured the win on the back of another 30-save performance in which he earned a .937 save percentage.

AHL All-Stars

The Syracuse Crunch had two representatives, Vladislav Namestnikov and Jonathan Marchessault, at this year’s installment of the AHL All-Star Game held in Utica, N.Y. The two forwards did the Crunch proud, putting in a good showing at the skills competition. They were partners for the shootout relay and also put up a combined five points in the game. Marchessault finished with a goal and an assist for three points on the night while Namestnikov had two helpers. Marchessault’s marker came with 25 seconds left to play as the Eastern Conference attempted to tie the game. Unfortunately, the Western Conference would prevail 14-12. Nonetheless, it was a great weekend for both young players that showcased some of the talent the Crunch possess this season.

Back at it

Syracuse will resume league play this Friday, January 30, when they take on the Rochester Americans (18-24-1) at the War Memorial Arena. The Crunch will then travel to Pennsylvania to do some winter Bear hunting as they take on Hershey (23-13-4). As the team gets closer to the playoff stretch, each game and point matters.

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