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Weekly Syracuse Crunch Roundup

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning

Last Week

Fri., Oct. 25 - Crunch at Utica - W, 2-1 (SO)

Sat., Oct. 26 - Crunch vs. Bridgeport - W, 5-0

This Week

Wed., Oct. 30- Crunch at Albany - 7 p.m.

Fri., Nov. 1 - Crunch vs. Rochester - 7 p.m.

Sat., Nov. 2 - Crunch at Binghamton - 7:05 p.m.

Need to Know

  • Syracuse has won three straight games, including both contests in Week 4 at Utica and vs. Bridgeport.
  • Rookie Kristers Gudlevskis earned a shutout in his Crunch debut Saturday vs. Bridgeport, making 22 saves.
  • Nikita Kucherov leads AHL rookies in goals (6) and points (11), with seven points (3g, 4a) in his last four games

The Crunch have won three straight games-outscoring opponents 11-2 in that span-including Week 4 victories over Utica Friday, 2-1 in a shootout, and at home vs. Bridgeport Saturday, 5-0. Syracuse (4-2-1-0) remains fourth in the division and ninth in the conference but sixth by points percentage (.643).

Cedrick Desjardins and Kristers Gudlevskis earned the wins, Desjardins' first of the season and Gudlevskis' first in the AHL. Nikita Kucherov upped his team-leading point total to 11 (6g, 5a), while Vlad Namestnikov and Matt Taormina extended their scoring streaks to six games.

The Week 5 docket features three Crunch games for the first time this year: one home game sandwiched by two on the road. The Crunch play the Devils for their first of six meetings Wednesday in Albany. Syracuse hosts Rochester for the second time on Friday, and the Crunch travel to Binghamton for the third time Saturday.

Gudlevskis in the record books

Kristers Gudlevskis became the 51st goaltender to appear in a game for the Crunch Saturday vs. Bridgeport, but only the fifth to post a shutout in his debut. The rookie's 22-save performance in the 5-0 win was his third game in North American pro hockey, having won two starts with the ECHL's Florida Everblades before the Tampa Bay Lightning reassigned him to Syracuse Oct. 24.

The first four Crunch netminders to debut with shutouts were: Andrew Penner, Dec. 19, 2004, 3-0 at Hershey with 30 saves; Fred Brathwaite, Feb. 18, 2004, 0-0 vs. Binghamton with 36 saves; Craig Hillier, Oct. 10, 1998, 0-0 at Philadelphia with 33 saves; and Patrick Charbonneau, Mar. 9, 1997, 1-0 at Fredericton with 23 saves.

Hillier accomplished the fete in his first-ever pro game while Penner's effort came in his first-ever AHL game following two seasons in ECHL.

Points in bunches

With an assist Friday in Utica and a goal Saturday against Bridgeport, Crunch defenseman Matt Taormina has points in each of his first six games. After missing the season opener, he has nine points (2g, 7a), the most productive six-game stretch of his career. In 2009-10 with the Lowell Devils, he had points in six consecutive games twice: six assists in six straight January games and Vlad Namestnikov has also run his scoring streak to six games, including a goal and an assist in Week 4. With eight points (4g, 4a) since a scoreless opening night, the second-year pro ranks third in team scoring.

Namestnikov's linemate Nikita Kucherov leads the team with 11 points (6g, 5a) and is on a four-game point streak (3g, 4a). Kucherov has tallied three goals and four assists in the past four games. He leads the AHL in power-play points (7), power-play goals (4), rookie goals (6), and rookie points (11). Kucherov is also tied for fifth in the AHL in points. Kucherov had two assists in the Crunch's last game against Bridgeport.


Right wing Eric Neilson recorded his 700th career penalty minute after his 90th career fight (first of the season) Saturday against Bridgeport's Brett Gallant. Saturday was the ninth-year pro's 227th AHL game. During 2012-13, Neilson had 17 fights and 135 PIMs in 39 games.

J.P. Cote notched his 99th and 100th career points Saturday against Bridgeport, his second multi-point effort with the Crunch in 95 games. The 99th point (a goal less than a minute into the second period) turned out to be the game-winning tally, the second game winner of his AHL career and first since Feb. 14, 2009. His 100th point came later in the frame, an assist on Cedric Paquette's shorthanded goal. In 520 career AHL regular season games, Cote has 19 goals and 81 assists.

Luke Witkowski recorded his first and second career points Saturday vs. Bridgeport. He assisted on second-period goals from Evan Rankin and Cedric Paquette. The defenseman from Holland, MI played in three games for the Crunch last season but did not record a point. At Western Michigan he totaled 38 points (7g, 31a) in 152 games.

Special Teams

The Crunch power play continued its hot start to the season in Week 4, with one goal in each game. They were 1-for-6 at Utica and 1-for-5 versus Bridgeport. The Crunch now have power-play goals in six straight games, the longest streak for the Crunch since becoming the Tampa Bay Lightning's affiliate last year.

On the season, the Crunch are 10-for-39 (25.6%) on the man advantage, including 8-for-24 (33.3%) at home. The overall percentage is the AHL's sixth best and the home mark ranks second. Only two teams have more than the Crunch's 10 power-play goals. Of the 10, Nikita Kucherov has scored four power-play goals, tied for the most in the league. His seven power-play points are also tied for first.

The Crunch also scored their third shorthanded goal of the season in Saturday's win. Cedric Paquette scored his second shorthanded goal. No player has more than that and he leads rookies in that category. Only Binghamton has more shorthanded markers (4) than the Crunch's three.

The Crunch penalty kill turned in a 7-for-7 effort against Bridgeport, the most kills in a game this year (previous high was six) and the first time in seven games it didn't allow a power-play goal.

Dominating Second Periods

With its five-goal outburst Saturday vs. Bridgeport, the Crunch continued its dominance of the second period. The five-goal frame was the most scored in a single period by the Crunch since Feb. 13 of last season, when the Crunch scored five goals in the second period in a 6-0 win the Devils in Albany.

So far through seven games, the Crunch have outscored opponents 15-5 in the middle period. The Crunch have scored more second period goals than any other team in the AHL.

That success is mirrored in the shots on goal. The Crunch have outshot opponents 107-55 in the second period. That differential (+52) is higher than any other team in any period so far this season.

On the other hand, the Crunch have been outscored in both the first and third periods, being outscored 3-2 in the first and 10-6 in the third.


Game 6: First-ever meeting with Comets belongs to Syracuse

The Crunch and Comets collided for the first time Friday at the Utica Memorial Auditorium and Syracuse denied the new franchise its first win. A 2-1 shootout victory for the Crunch came in large part from stellar defense and a profusion of shot blocking, limiting the Comets to 20 shots through 65 minutes, with only a tip-in goal on the power play from Colin Stuart evading goalie Cedrick Desjardins in the first period.

The Crunch tied the game in the second on a power-play goal of their own with Nikita Kucherov slamming home the rebound of a Matt Taormina high-slot drive with Vlad Namestnikov potting the secondary helper as all three players extended scoring streaks. Multiple fights helped the Crunch garner momentum as J.P. Cote, Mike Angelidis, Tanner Richard and J.T. Brown all dropped their gloves.

With the game deadlocked after regulation and overtime, Benn Ferriero put the Comets ahead in the first round, but Tanner Richard tied it in the fourth and Cedric Paquette won it in the sixth.

Game 7: Gudlevskis shines in shutout of Sound Tigers

Syracuse scored five times in the second period-once on the power play, once shorthanded and three times at even strength-to defeat the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, 5-0, Saturday at the War Memorial. In his first appearance in the AHL, rookie Kristers Gudlevskis stopped all 22 shots he faced to earn the shutout victory.

J.P. Cote notched the eventual game-winner in the first minute of the second. With an assist later on Cedric Paquette's shorthanded goal in the final seconds of the period, Cote was one of three multi-point performers.

Luke Witkowski had two assists, the first two of his career, and Nikita Kucherov added two helpers to bring his team-leading point total to 11 (6g, 5a). Vlad Namestnikov and Matt Taormina each potted goals to extend their scoring streaks to six games each. Evan Rankin added his second goal of the season on a breakaway.


Crunch at Albany-Wednesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN Radio)

Syracuse meets Albany Wednesday at the Times Union Center at 7:05 p.m., the first of six games between the Tampa Bay and New Jersey affiliates. Last season, the Crunch took six of eight games from the Devils, including a 6-0 win Feb. 13, Syracuse's most lopsided shutout of the regular season. Among returning Crunch players, Brett Connolly led Syracuse vs. Albany with 10 points (4g, 6a) in the eight meetings.

The Devils have won five of their first eight games (5-2-0-1) and are third in the Northeast Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference. However, they're coming off their second regulation loss of the season, a 5-2 defeat in Portland Saturday.

Scott Timmins and Joe Whitney are tied for the Albany scoring lead with 10 points (5g, 5a) each. Both Albany goaltenders, Keith Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood, have a 1.97 goals-against average. Wedgewood is 3-1-0 while Kinkaid is 2-1-1.

Crunch vs. Rochester-Friday, 7 p.m. (ESPN Radio)

The Amerks lost to the Crunch, 5-1, Oct. 12 at the War Memorial, but have fared better since, winning three of their last four games. At 4-2-1-0 through seven games, Rochester has the same record as Syracuse. The Amerks, however, are third in their division and seventh in the Western Conference.

With 10 points each, Luke Adam (7g, 3a) and Phil Varone (2g, 8a) are the Amerks' leading scorers. Varone assisted on Jamie Tardif's goal against the Crunch earlier this month. Nathan Lieuwen is Rochester's leading goalie with a 2.91 goals-against average and a 2-1 record. Matt Hackett is 2-2 with a 3.75 goals-against average.

Nikita Kucherov recorded his first four pro points against Hackett, recording a hat trick and an assist against the Amerks Oct. 12.

Crunch at Binghamton-Saturday, 7:05 p.m. (ESPN Radio)

Syracuse has already met the Senators three times on the young season, with Binghamton winning twice. The Sens battled back for a 4-3 overtime win Oct. 5 to open the season and smushed Syracuse 6-2 Oct. 18 at the War Memorial, but the Crunch blasted Binghamton, 4-1, Oct. 19 at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.

Despite a 3-1 loss to Adirondack Saturday, Binghamton is 5-3-0-0 with 10 points, one better than Syracuse, for third in the East Division and seventh in the conference. The Sens visit the Phantoms Friday before hosting the Crunch Saturday.

The leading scorers for Binghamton are Mike Hoffman (4g-4a-8pts), who has two goals against the Crunch, Mika Zibanejad (2g-5a-7pts), who is currently in the NHL with Ottawa, and Chris Wideman (1g-6a-7pts), who has five assists against Syracuse. Nathan Lawson has started each game for the Sens against Syracuse (2-1) and is 4-1-0 in six games with a 2.25 goals-against average.

Nikita Kucherov leads Syracuse against the Senators with two goals and two assists in the first three meetings.

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