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Syracuse Crunch continue playoff push

The Lightning's AHL affiliate remains atop the North Division as the regular season winds down

by Press Release / Syracuse Crunch

Syracuse was 1-1-1-0 in Week 22 and remains first in the North Division at 30-20-6-5. The team's .582 points percentage ranks sixth in the Eastern Conference. The Crunch are 24-11-5-3 against division opponents and face North foes in 13 of the remaining 15 games. 

The Crunch play the Atlantic Division's Lehigh Valley Phantoms in Allentown, Pa., Wednesday before visiting Utica Friday and hosting Albany Saturday.

Top Performers

Cory Conacher recorded two goals and five points in Week 22, highlighted by a four-point performance in Wednesday's win vs. St. John's. The game marked Conacher's 13th multi-point game of the year-a team high-and his third career four-point effort (second this year).

Conacher, who added an assist Friday vs. Springfield before missing Saturday's contest, leads Syracuse at 52 points and 38 assists. He's third in the AHL for both categories. 

Conacher has 80 points (26g, 54a) in his Crunch career, ninth most in the Crunch-Lightning era.

Tye McGinn scored a goal in each of three games last week. It's the 10th time a Crunch player has scored a goal in three consecutive games this season. McGinn has four goals and five points in six games since returning from injury. 

In eight games this season, McGinn has six points (5g, 1a). Last year, he appeared in a team high 72 games, producing the third most goals (20) and points (44).

Matt Taormina posted an assist in each game last week, improving his season total to 37 helpers, three more than any other defenseman in the AHL. His 50 points are second on the team, eighth in the AHL and tied for most by a defenseman. He has 10 points in his last 11 games.

Byron Froese potted two goals and one assist in his first two games with Syracuse. His total of 26 goals is one short of the league lead. He has goals in seven consecutive home games, the longest such streak in the AHL this year.

Froese latest to make Lightning debut

Center Byron Froese was recalled by Tampa Bay Monday and made his Lightning debut in New York. Froese made his Crunch debut Saturday against Springfield. He was acquired with a second-round pick from Toronto in exchange for Brian Boyle Feb. 27.

Froese is the 46th player to appear in a game for both Tampa Bay and Syracuse since the clubs partnered in 2012. Froese is the ninth player added to that list in 2016-17. Froese is one of 14 players who have played for Tampa Bay and Syracuse this season. 

Froese is the 40th player to skate in a game for the Crunch this season. Seventeen of the 40 made their Crunch debut this season. 

The Soaring Gourde

Yanni Gourde scored his first NHL goal Saturday, an unassisted, shorthanded, game-tying goal in a 3-2 win against Florida. Gourde has a goal and two points in seven Lightning games this season, plus 22 goals and 46 points in 55 games with Syracuse. Four of his AHL goals this season are shorthanded, a league high.

Gourde's most recent stint with the Bolts began March 5 in the midst of a six-game scoring streak for the Crunch. Eight points during the streak push his Syracuse career scoring total to 155 points, seventh most in franchise history.

He has climbed five spots during the streak, jumping Derrick Walser (154), Larry Courville (152), Mathieu Darche (149), Brian Loney (149) and Derek MacKenzie (148). Joakim Lindstrom ranks sixth at 159 points.
 
Upcoming: Lehigh Valley, Utica, Albany

The Phantoms, Wednesday's opponent, have won five of six and rank second in the conference at 39-18-3-0 (.675). The Crunch won the only previous matchup 4-2 Dec. 7 in Syracuse. T.J. Brennan leads Lehigh Valley at 50 points (18g, 32a), tied with Matt Taormina for most in league by a defenseman. Greg Carey has the team's goals lead at 26, tied with Byron Froese for second in the AHL. Alex Lyon (24-11-3, 2.62) is third in the league for wins (24) and shutouts (4).

The Crunch face the fourth-place Comets Friday. Syracuse leads the 12-game season series at 4-3-1-0. Utica won six straight until a 4-1 loss Saturday at Lehigh Valley and 5-0 win Sunday vs. Binghamton. Alexandre Grenier has 10 of his 40 points vs. Syracuse. Rookie Curtis Valk has 41 points (15g, 26) to lead Utica.

Albany, one point behind the Crunch at 34-25-1-1, visits Syracuse Saturday. The Devils have won their last two and four of six. They're led in scoring by rookie John Quenneville at 41 points (12g, 29a) and in goals by Ben Sexton at 19. The Devils have the AHL's second best penalty kill. Goalies Ken Appleby (16-11-0, 2.44) and Mackenzie Blackwood (13-10-2, 2.83) split time.

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