Fri., Apr. 19 - Crunch vs. Norfolk - W, 6-1
Sat., Apr. 20 - Crunch vs. Worcester - W, 4-3 SO
Sun., Apr. 21 - Crunch vs. Binghamton - L, 5-1
Sat., Apr. 27 - Crunch vs. Portland, 7:30 p.m.
Sun., Apr. 28 - Crunch vs. Portland, 7:30 p.m.
Need to Know
- Syracuse captures East Division championship, the second title in team history and the first since 2001-02.
- Tyler Johnson named AHL MVP, the first Crunch player in team history to receive the award.
- Three-seed Syracuse opens the Calder Cup Playoffs at home Saturday vs. six-seed Portland.
Eastern Conference Quarter Finals
(3) Syracuse Crunch vs. (6) Portland Pirates - Best-of-Five
Game 1 - Sat., Apr. 27 - Portland at Syracuse - 7:30 p.m.
Game 2 - Sun., Apr. 28 - Portland at Syracuse - 7:30 p.m.
Game 3 - Thurs., May 2 - Syracuse at Portland - 7:00 p.m.
*Game 4 - Fri., May 3 - Syracuse at Portland - 7:00 p.m.
*Game 5 - Sun., May 5 - Portland at Syracuse - 7:30 p.m.
Syracuse quest for Calder Cup begins Saturday vs. Portland
The Syracuse Crunch begin the best-of-five Eastern Conference Quarter Finals against the Portland Pirates with Games 1 and 2 taking place at the War Memorial on Saturday and Sunday. Syracuse would also host Game 5 on Sunday, May 5, if necessary. The Crunch and Pirates did not face off at all this season. In fact, they haven’t played each other since the 2009-10 season when they split a pair of regular-season matches; the franchises have never met in the Calder Cup playoffs.
The 97 points earned by Syracuse, a record of 43-22-5-4, is the third highest total in team history. The Crunch reached 102 points in 2005-06 and 100 points in 2007-08, both during 80-game seasons. The 2012-13 East Division title is the club's second division championship, having captured the 2001-02 Central Division. The Crunch were the Western Conference's first seed in '01-02 and were a three seed in 2007-08. Last season, as a seven seed, the Crunch were bounced in the opening round by St. John's.
Running the numbers
Syracuse finished the regular season with the most goals, 247, or 3.25 per game. The Crunch ranked 10th in goals-against average, 2.64, surrendering 201 goals. The team's plus-46 goal differential is the second best in the AHL. The Crunch managed the third most shots on goal, 33.41 per game, while allowing the fewest, 25.70 per game. Syracuse owns the AHL's best points percentage when scoring first, 0.864, with a 35-3-4-2 record in 44 games when scoring first. The Crunch set a franchise record for most consecutive road victories, winning nine straight away from home Oct. 19-Nov. 25, the longest such streak in the league this season.
Special teams rankings have the Crunch 12th on the power play at 17.4% (61-for-350) and 9th on the penalty kill at 84.4% (297-for-352). Syracuse allowed only three shorthanded goals, fewest in the league.
Syracuse had the third-most penalty minutes in the AHL, 21.21 per game, and the second most major penalties, 102. Radko Gudas led the Crunch in penalty minutes, 207, while Eric Neilson had the most fighting majors, 16.
Syracuse has four of the AHL's top plus-minus performers: Radko Gudas (+32), J.P. Cote (+27), Tyler Johnson (+26) and Ondrej Palat (+26).
The Crunch promoted seven players to the Tampa Bay Lightning for their NHL debuts, more than any other organization: Cory Conacher, Alex Killorn, Richard Panik, Ondrej Palat, Radko Gudas, Tyler Johnson and Mark Barberio, plus head coach Jon Cooper.
Tyler Johnson earned the American Hockey League's Les Cunningham Award (most valuable player) and Willie Marshall Award (goal scoring champion). Johnson is the first player in Crunch history to win the league's MVP award and the fourth American born player. The Spokane, Wash. native posted 37 goals and 28 assists for a team-best 65 points, the eighth best total in the AHL. The 37 goals are three short of the Crunch single-season record held by Lonny Bonhos (1995-96).
Johnson's plus-26 is tied for fourth best in the league. His 19 multi-point performances and 12 power-play goals were most on the Crunch. The second-year pro earned his first call up to the NHL in March, posting six points (3g, 3a) in 14 games. Since returning, Johnson has seven points (5g, 2a) in three games including his second hat trick of the season.
On the lookout for Pirates
Portland, AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes for two seasons, returns to the playoffs after missing out last year by two points. They had made the playoffs the previous four seasons, three times as the Buffalo Sabres' top development team (2008-11) and once with the Anaheim Ducks (2007-08). Prior to a three-year affiliation with Anaheim, Portland partnered with the Washington Capitals from its inaugural 1993 season through 2004-05.
The Pirates finished the 2012-13 slate at second at 41-30-3-2 (87 points), second in the Northeast Division, sixth in the Eastern Conference and 15th in the league. The Pirates won two of their final three regular season games and were 6-5 over their last 11. Portland was the fifth-best home team during the regular season at 24-11-2-1, while their road record was 23rd, 17-19-1-1, or 51 points to 36. Only Toronto, Providence and Binghamton had more home victories. Portland compiled the longest home winning streak in the AHL this season, eight games, Dec. 11-Jan. 8. Syracuse, meanwhile, strung together the league's best road winning streak, nine games, Oct. 19-Nov. 25.
At 233 goals against, the Pirates have allowed the most goals of any team remaining in the AHL playoffs, and the only team in the Eastern Conference with a negative goal differential (minus-3). The Pirates have given up more shorthanded goals, 16, than any other team in the AHL, while Syracuse has surrendered the fewest, 3. The Crunch hold opponents to the fewest shots per game, 25.70, while the Pirates allow the sixth most, 31.53.
The Pirates are led by center Andy Miele (19g-34a-53pts), rookie right wing Chris Brown (29g-18a-47pts), and defenseman David Rundblad (9g-30a-39pts). Right now, the Pirates have two goalies sharing time. Mark Visentin is 15-12-1 in 30 games while Mike Lee is 9-6-0 in 16 games. On Monday the Coyotes assigned goaltender Chad Johnson and forward Nick Johnson to Portland. This year Chad is 2-0-2 in the NHL and 16-15-1 with Portland. Nick has six points in 17 NHL games and nine points in 14 AHL games.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Game 74: MVP Johnson stars as Crunch romp Admirals, 6-1
Tyler Johnson’s hat trick helped key a 6-1 victory for the Syracuse Crunch over their division rival the Norfolk Admirals Friday at the War Memorial. Johnson scored his 34th, 35th, and 36th goals of the season on the same night he was named the Les Cunningham Award winner as the AHL's most valuable player for the 2012-13 season. Mike Angelidis started the scoring with less than five minutes remaining in the first period when he deflected a J.T. Wyman backhand shot past netminder Frederik Andersen. After Johnson made it 2-0 Syracuse just 38 seconds later, Wyman picked up his second point and first goal of the game, wristing a shot from the right circle on the rush to give the Crunch a 3-0 lead with 58 seconds remaining in the first. After the Crunch took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission, the Admirals replaced goalie Frederick Andersen with backup John Gibson. Syracuse continued to expand its lead when, at 11:56 of the second, Vlad Namestnikov deked the puck between the legs of Norfolk defenseman Hampus Lindholm and then slipped a backhand shot through goalie John Gibson’s five-hole. Norfolk had its only goal of the game when former-Crunch player Patrick Maroon scored his 25th of the year on goalie Cedrick Desjardins 13:32 into the second period. Desjardins stopped 26 of 27 shots. After Norfolk’s goal, Tyler Johnson buried the Admirals with two goals in a nine-minute span to make it 6-1.
Game 75: Syracuse clinches East Division in shootout victory over Sharks
Three players scored for the Crunch in a shootout, Cedrick Desjardins stopped all three Worcester shootout attempts, and the Crunch clinched the East Division with a 4-3 win over the Sharks Saturday at the War Memorial. Syracuse scored the first three goals of the game and had a 3-0 lead in the third period, but Worcester scored three goals in 6:49 to even the game, 3-3. The Crunch got the scoring going midway through the first when Brett Connolly stashed a rebound past Sharks goalie Alex Stalock at 11:39 of the first. Stalock stopped Dan Sexton’s initial point shot, but Connolly backhanded the puck between his legs to put Syracuse up 1-0. The Crunch scored the game’s next two goals in a 1:50 span in the second period. Philip-Michael Devos potted his seventh of the year at 3:50 of the second period, and Tyler Johnson scored his league-leading 37th goal of the year to give Syracuse a 3-0 lead. After the Sharks came back and tied it 3-3 in the third, the game went to overtime, and then a shootout. Dan Sexton kicked off the shootout scoring and gave the Crunch a 1-0 advantage after he wristed one high glove side past Stalock. After a Desjardins save, Brett Connolly snuck one five-hole on Stalock to give the Crunch a 2-0 shootout lead. Desjardins then stopped two more Sharks shootout shots, and J.T. Wyman fired a wrist shot off the post and into the net to end the shootout in the fourth round and clinch the team's second-ever division championship.
Game 76: Crunch fall short to division rival Senators in regular season finale
Crunch goalie Pat Nagle made 32 saves in his first career AHL start, but Syracuse lost 5-1 to the Binghamton Senators to wrap up their regular season. The Senators scored the game’s first three goals in a 10:15 span from the end of the first period to the middle of the second frame. After Corey Cowick’s opening period goal made it 1-0 Binghamton, Sens forward Derek Grant scored his team-leading 19th of the season on a high wrist shot that beat Nagle 1:56 into the middle frame. The goal gave the Senators a 2-0 advantage, and Cody Ceci scored his first career American Hockey League goal for Binghamton less than three minutes later to put the Sens up 3-0. Crunch defenseman Andrej Sustr scored his second AHL goal, at the 6:47 mark of the third period to bring Syracuse within two. Sustr wristed a shot from the point, and it hit off Sens defenseman Daniel New and over the shoulder of netminder Marc Cheverie. Binghamton added two goals in the last ten minutes of the game to take it 5-1. The Crunch split the season series with the four-seed Senators, with both teams at 4-3-0-1 against each other.