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Crunch Time: Wrapping up the week for the Lightning's AHL affiliate

by Doug Spencer / Tampa Bay Lightning

After coming off of a big win at the Frozen Dome Classic on November 22nd, the Crunch hit the road for a rematch against the Utica Comets. The Comets were able to get the better of Syracuse with a 5-4 win. The team was unable to avoid a second straight loss on Friday, November 28th, as Binghamton defeated the Crunch 6-3. The following night, the Crunch downed the Hershey Bears 4-1 to finish the week 1-2-0. Syracuse’s overall record now sits at 11-7-3, good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 25 points.

On Wednesday, Syracuse and Utica faced off in their second game of their home-and-home series. Syracuse won the first game 2-1 in the Frozen Dome Classic the previous Saturday. However, Utica emerged victorious in this tilt with a strong four-goal second period leading the way. Syracuse’s Yanni Gourde opened the scoring 1:23 into the second period. Utica would pot three unanswered markers before Philippe Paradis would tally for the Crunch. Jonathan Marchessault and Tanner Richard scored just over a minute apart to tie the game, but Utica would score with under five minutes left in regulation to win the game. Gourde put in another strong performance with a goal and three points on the night. Andrei Vasilevskiy was between the pipes, going 30 for 35 and recording a .857 save percentage.

The Crunch returned home for a match against the Binghamton Senators on Friday night. It was an action packed first period that saw five goals scored between the two teams. The Senators opened with two unanswered tallies before Paradis exploded for three straight and his first hat-trick of the year. Unfortunately, that would be all the scoring the Crunch could muster on the night as Binghamton rolled on to score four more unanswered tallies to win the game 6-3. Kristers Gudlevskis was in net for the Crunch, stopping 27 of 32 attempts. Binghamton scored one goal on the empty net, which was good for a .843 save percentage.

Saturday night, the Crunch were in Hershey, Pennsylvania, for a game against the Bears. After losing their previous two contests, the Crunch were fired up to get the win and finish the week on the right note. Paradis opened the scoring for the Crunch with his fourth tally in two games. The Crunch also received two tallies from Cody Kunyk and one from Marchessault to cruise to the 4-1 victory. Vasilevskiy stood tall in this one, stopping 19 shots in the final two frames to finish with 28 saves on 29 shots and a .965 save percentage. His strong performance earned him the third star of the night.

Lighting the lamp

After a slow start, the Crunch have started to pick up the pace offensively, in particular, Gourde and Marchessault. Both players are tied for the team lead in points with 19 a piece -- Gourde has 9 goals, 10 assists while Marchessault has 8 goals and 11 assists. Both players have now cracked the top-15 in AHL scoring, sitting at 10th and 11th respectively. Gourde is also in the top-15 goal-scorers in the AHL with his nine tallies ranking 14th. He is only four markers back, however, from Chicago Wolves sniper Ty Rattie for the AHL lead.

Getting their Phil

It was quite the week for Syracuse’s Paradis as he recorded more points in three games than the rest of the season combined. He opened his week with a solid performance against Utica with a goal and an assist before following it up with a hat trick against Binghamton. The hat trick was his first multi-goal game of the season and also his highest point total for a single game so far this year. He closed out the weekend by scoring the first goal in the team’s 4-1 win over Hershey. Crunch head coach Rob Zettler has noticed that Paradis is playing with more confidence. “He is looking for plays. He’s holding on to the puck longer, showing a little more patience,” Zettler said, adding that Paradis has shown much improvement since teaming up with Gourde and Richard to form a productive line he can rely on. “He seems to have more offensive confidence with that line. Paradis is a physical guy who can make room with big hits while Richard is a playmaker and Gourde is a little speedster. So, they are clicking well.”

Who’s next?

After being on the road for two games last week, the Crunch will be looking forward to a mini homestand this weekend. On Friday night, the Crunch play hosts to the Hartford Wolf Pack (11-8-2) for a Northeast Division showdown. Saturday, December 6th, the team will welcome the Rochester Americans (9-11-1) to town. It should be a good ‘ole battle for I-90, so be sure to check it out.

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