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

by Doug Spencer / Tampa Bay Lightning
Cruisin’ along

The Syracuse Crunch are coming off a very successful weekend that saw them go 2-0-0 in their back-to-back games against the Hartford Wolf Pack and the Rochester Americans. The Crunch are now 4-1-0 at home in their past five games, which includes the Frozen Dome classic played at the Carrier Dome. After sweeping their opponents, the Crunch have improved their overall record to 13-7-3 for 29 points on the season. They currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference and second in the Northeast Division behind only the Springfield Falcons.

On Friday, December 5, the Crunch downed the Hartford Wolf Pack 6-5. The team got off to a very hot start, scoring five goals in the first frame alone. Even more impressive was the fact the Crunch scored three goals before hitting the four-minute mark of the period, which chased Hartford goaltender Mackenzie Skapski from the net. Vladislav Namestnikov opened the scoring for the Crunch just 59 seconds into the game as he capitalized on the power play. Namestnikov finished his season debut for the Crunch with 3 points and was a plus-1. Syracuse’s captain Mike Angelidis chipped in with two goals. The Crunch also received singles from Joel Vermin, Jake Dotchin and Yanni Gourde. Kristers Gudlevskis turned aside 30 of 35 shots to record a .857 save percentage.

The following evening the Crunch welcomed the Rochester Americans into the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena for a New York state tilt. It was a heated contest as there were numerous penalties taken by both teams. Jerome Samson scored what would eventually be the game winner at 17:08 of the first period. Namestnikov recorded the only other goal on an empty net to seal the victory for the Crunch. Andrei Vasilevskiy played against his former goaltending partner on the Russian national junior team, Andrey Makarov. Vasilevskiy turned in an impressive 34-save night to earn his first North American professional shutout and the first star of the game.

Vlad to be here

Young center Vladislav Namestnikov had an explosive start to his AHL season this past week with the Crunch. In only two games, the native of Zhukovskiy, Russia, has recorded two goals and five points. The Crunch have gone 2-0-0 since his return to the lineup. Syracuse assistant coach Stacy Roest talked about what Namestnikov brings to the Crunch. “It’s funny to say because he’s only a young player, 22 years old, but he brings experience and just speed,” Roest said. “That level down there, any time you can add speed to your line-up it helps a lot.” The pivot started the season with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL, recording three goals and seven points through 23 contests. Roest also pointed out that Namestnikov has shown improved confidence with the puck, which has allowed him to make plays when he wants to.

Shutting the door

Saturday night was a special one for rookie goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. As previously mentioned, Vasilevskiy earned his first career shutout in the AHL and North American professional hockey for that matter. Andre “The Giant” definitely lived up to the name with an impressive 34-save performance to lead the Crunch over the visiting Americans. In his young professional career, there are bound to be both ups and downs, but for right now, Vasilevskiy is humming along quite nicely. Roest noted the improvements in Vasilevskiy’s game: “He looks like he is getting more comfortable, getting more confidence in the net. He is just playing a calmer game.” Roest also mentioned that Vasilevskiy is handling the language barrier well and starting to feel more comfortable communicating with teammates, something that will only improve as the season progresses.

Bring ‘em on!

After a strong showing at home last weekend, the Crunch will open up their week tonight with a tilt against the top-ranked team in the Eastern Conference and Northeast Division, the Springfield Falcons (17-7-1). The Crunch have been playing some great hockey of late, and the addition of offensive dynamo Namestnikov will only help against the Falcons. Syracuse returns on Friday, December 12, in hopes to continue their home cooking against the Hershey Bears (13-9-1). The team will close out its week back on the road as they face off against the Western Conference leading Utica Comets (16-5-3). It will be an exciting week, as the Crunch take on both conference leaders.

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