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Stephens and Cirelli both off to hot starts with Crunch

The pair is tied with Cory Conacher for the team lead in points

by Megan Cahill / SyracuseCrunch.com

LAST WEEK
Fri., Oct. 13 - Crunch vs. Belleville - W, 4-2
Sat., Oct. 14 - Crunch vs. Utica - L, 3-2
Sun., Oct. 15 - Crunch at W-B/Scranton - L, 6-1 

THIS WEEK
Fri., Oct. 20 - Crunch vs. Binghamton - 7 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 21 - Crunch vs. Springfield - 7 p.m.

Crunch earn first win of the season

The Crunch played their first three-in-three of the season in Week 2, earning two of a possible six points. The Crunch opened the weekend with a 4-2 win over the Belleville Senators followed by a 3-2 loss to Utica Saturday and a 6-1 defeat to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Sunday. . . . The Crunch have two more three-in-threes this season. . . . Following Sunday's setback in Wilkes-Barre, the Crunch sit at 1-3-1-0 (.300), sixth place in the North Division.

Top Performers

Cory Conacher had points in all three games in Week 2, extending his scoring streak to four games (3g, 1a). Conacher notched an assist in Friday's win over the Senators, then added goals Saturday and Sunday. After netting five power-play goals in 56 games for the Crunch last season, Conacher potted his first of the year-a 5-on-3 goal-Sunday against the Penguins.

Conacher has points in 13 of the last 14 Crunch games, dating back to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against Providence, producing 22 points (11g, 11a). During the 2016-17 regular season Conacher had at least a four-game scoring streak three times; his regular season-high nine-game point streak was Jan. 25-Feb. 12.

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Anthony Cirelli is tied for the team lead with four points (1g, 3a) following a three-point effort in Week 2. Cirelli, a rookie, scored his first professional goal Friday against Belleville, icing the Crunch's win with an empty-netter. It also capped the first multi-point game of his career. Cirelli finished his week with an assist Saturday.

A scoring change by the AHL resulted in an assist being awarded to Cirelli from the Crunch's game Oct. 6, which became the first pro point of his career. Cirelli now has four points (1g, 3a) in eight career regular season AHL games. 

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Mitchell Stephens kept pace with Conacher and Cirelli among the Crunch leaders, adding two assists over the weekend. The rookie forward earned a helper on Dennis Yan's game-winning goal Friday then set up Erik Cernak's first North American professional goal Saturday. Although his four-game point streak was snapped Sunday, Stephens remains tied for the team lead with four points (1g, 3a).

There's another first

Of the Crunch's seven goals during Week 2, three were first professional goals. Dennis Yan potted his first professional goal in his sixth pro game Friday against the Senators. He added a second goal, the eventual game-winning goal, for the first multi-goal game of his career. 

Anthony Cirelli also struck for his first professional goal Friday, depositing an empty-net goal. That goal came in his sixth career regular season game; Cirelli also skated in all six Calder Cup Finals games for the Crunch in 2017.

Defenseman Erik Cernak capped the weekend of firsts Saturday against Utica, tying the game in the third period with a right circle blast. His first North American pro goal comes in his fourth game; he played professionally in Slovakia for two seasons before transitioning to the OHL.

That leaves Mathieu Joseph and Alex Volkov as the next in line for their first goals.

Rookie Impact

The Crunch have skated 10 rookies in 2017-18, second most in the AHL; Ontario has skated 11 to lead the league. Crunch rookies are responsible for five of the team's 10 goals (50%) to begin the season. Only Bridgeport Sound Tigers' rookies have scored a greater percentage (5-for-8; 62.5%) of their team's goals this season.

Upcoming: Binghamton, Springfield

Syracuse faces the new manifestation of AHL hockey in Binghamton when the new Binghamton Devils visit Friday. The Devils had been in Albany since 2010 before replacing the departed Senators in Binghamton. The Crunch and the Devils held 4-3-1-0 head-to-head records last season as Albany finished third in the North Division.

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The Springfield Thunderbirds make their lone appearance in Syracuse Saturday. The teams split their two meetings in 2016-17. Springfield, the top farm club of the Florida Panthers, are off to an 0-4-0-0 start to the season, with their last three games decided by a goal. This weekend marks the second consecutive three-in-three for Springfield; the Thunderbirds play at home Friday and Sunday.

Week 2 Results

Friday, October 13 | Game 3 vs. Belleville | W, 4-2

Belleville 0 2 0 - 2 Shots: 11-7-8-26 PP: 0/4

Syracuse 1 1 2 - 4 Shots: 21-16-6-42 PP: 1/11

1st Period-McGinn 1 (Peca, McBain), 2:04 (PP). 2nd Period-Yan (Cirelli, Akeson), 9:17. 3rd Period-Yan 2 (Akeson, Stephens), 3:53. Cirelli 1 (C. Conacher, Bournival), 19:05 (EN). . . . Leighton 1-1-0 (26 shots-24 saves). A-4,344 

Saturday, October 14 | Game 4 vs. Utica | L, 3-2

Utica 1 1 1 - 3 Shots: 10-3-6-19 PP: 2/7

Syracuse 1 0 1 - 2 Shots: 8-11-7-26 PP: 0/5

1st Period-C. Conacher 2 (Bodie, Cirelli), 19:14. 3rd Period-Cernak 1 (Stephens, Walcott), 3:22. . . . Leighton 1-2-0 (19 shots-16 saves). A-5,445

Sunday, October 15 | Game 5 at W-B/Scranton | L, 6-1

SYR 0 1 0 - 1 Shots: 4-7-14-25 PP: 1/8

WBS 1 3 2 - 6 Shots: 12-13-6-31 PP: 1/7

2nd Period-C. Conacher 3 (Bodie, Joseph), 12:04 (PP). . . . . Ingram 0-1-1 (31 shots-25 saves).

Category Average/Total AHL Rank (Prev)

Power Play 5.9% (2-for-34) T-25th (T-21st)

Penalty Kill 83.3% (25-for-30) T-14th (T-15th)

Goals For 2.00 GFA (10) T-25th (25th)

Goals Against 3.40 GAA (17) 18th (T-11th)

Shots For 29.80 SF/G (149) 13th (17th)

Shots Against 22.80 SA/G (114) 1st (T-1st)

Penalty Minutes 19.40 PIM/G (97) 4th (20th)

Category Leader

Points 4 C. Conacher, Cirelli, Stephens

Goals 3 C. Conacher

Assists 3 Cirelli, Stephens

PIM 23 McGinn

Plus/Minus +3 Stephens, Yan

Wins 1 Leighton

GAA 2.75 Leighton

Save % .877 Leighton

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