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The Crunch own best record after solid week

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

After securing five out of a possible six points over the previous three games the Syracuse Crunch have earned the best record in the AHL at 20-7-2-3 and a four-point lead atop the Binghamton Senators in the East Division.

In their first meeting since swapping NHL affiliates, the Syracuse Crunch bested the Norfolk Admirals last Friday night. Behind a strong power-play that scored on three out of four opportunities and a three-point night from Crunch leading-scorer Tyler Johnson, Syracuse earned a 4-2 victory.

The momentum was carried into Saturday night’s game against St. John’s before it disappeared midway through the second stanza. After jumping out to a 4-0 lead, the Crunch surrendered the next five goals falling 5-4 in overtime.

The Crunch were able to bounce back on New Year’s Eve day against East Division rival, the W-B/Scranton Penguins. With two goals from Richard Panik and a strong showing by keeper Dustin Tokarski, who is tied for second in the AHL with 13 wins, the Crunch ended 2012 with a big 2-1 division victory.

One downside on the week was J.T. Brown suffering a broken collarbone Friday night that will keep him out for six-to-eight weeks. Brown had been solid this season for the Crunch, collecting 17 points in 26 games.

Syracuse is on point

By earning points in all three games during the last week, the Crunch have now gained at least a point in eight out of their last nine contests. Their only regulation defeat came at the hands of the Penguins right before the holiday break on December 22. The Crunch also suffered a shootout loss and an overtime defeat during the span going 6-1-1-1 and gaining 14 out of a possible 18 points.

What’s his name

Crunch rookie Vladislav Namestnikov scored his first professional goal Saturday night against St. John’s. Namestnikov had been battling an injury, but returned to the lineup Friday against Norfolk where he recorded an assist on Alex Killorn’s first period goal. Both his goal and assist during the weekend came on the power-play. Namestnikov now has accumulated four points during his rookie campaign.

Cory Howe

Cory Conacher, who got off to a hot start this season before fizzling a bit, has picked it back up recently. Saturday night Conacher put on his best Gordie Howe impression as he scored a goal, recorded an assist and registered a fight, which is known as a Gordie Howe hat trick. Conacher is currently ranked third on the team for scoring with 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) on the season.

Special Crunch

The Syracuse special teams have been stellar all season and this week was no different. The Crunch saw 14 power-play opportunities through their last three games and capitalized on six of those chances. In six of their previous seven games the Crunch have scored at least once on the power-play as well. The power-play also has been complimented with a strong penalty-kill. During the past three games opponents were only able to muster one goal on the man-advantage in ten tries. Both the power-play and penalty-kill are ranked as the sixth-best units in the league.

The week ahead

The Crunch will travel to familiar territory this weekend for a back-to-back with the Norfolk Admirals. This is the first time the 16 Crunch players who sported the Admirals sweater on the way to a championship last season will return to the Norfolk Scope. Not only was it home to the 16 players, it was a very good home that saw a professional hockey record 28-game winning streak as well as a four-game sweep in the Calder Cup Finals.

The Crunch have only faced the Admirals once this season and it was this past weekend when Syracuse came out on top, 4-2.

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