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Weekly Crunch Roundup

Monday, 04.08.2013 / 5:22 PM / Features
By Peter Pupello  - Lightning Beat Reporter
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Weekly Crunch Roundup

Last Week

Fri., Apr. 5 - Crunch vs. Hershey - L, 4-1

Sat., Apr. 6 - Crunch at Hershey - W, 2-1

This Week

Tue., Apr. 9 - Crunch at Lake Erie, 7 p.m.

Fri., Apr. 12 - Crunch vs. Bridgeport, 7:30 p.m.

Sat., Apr. 13 - Crunch vs. Rochester, 7:30 p.m.

Need to Know

- Syracuse secured a playoff berth Friday, marking the 11th postseason appearance in the Crunch's 19 seasons.

- Rob Zettler earned his first victory as head coach Saturday, his fifth game, in the Crunch's 2-1 win at Hershey.

- Leading the East Division at 40-21-4-5, Syracuse plays in Cleveland Tuesday and is home Friday and Saturday.

WEEK IN REVIEW

Game 69: Syracuse clinches a playoff spot in loss to Hershey

The Crunch fell to the Bears, 4-1, Friday at the War Memorial but still wrapped up the 11th playoff berth in team history thanks to losses from the Albany Devils and Manchester Monarchs. Halfway through the first period, Hershey struck first. Boyd Kane deflected a shot past Syracuse netminder Cedrick Desjardins. Seven minutes later, J.F. Jacques scored his first goal with the Crunch this season (his sixth overall), a rebound of his own redirect of an Angelidis drive following a blue-line steal. That was all the offense Syracuse had, as they were outshot for just the second time in 19 games. Hershey took the lead back on a Tomas Kundratek goal with just 38 seconds left in the second period and did not relent. Peter LeBlanc added an insurance tally halfway through the third period and Kundratek finished the scoring with an empty-netter to give the Bears a 4-1 win. The Crunch power play was 0-for-1 on the night, its seventh consecutive game without a man-up marker.

Game 70: Crunch top Bears for Zettler's first win

After losing the first four games since Rob Zettler took over as head coach, Syracuse beat Hershey, 2-1, Saturday at Giant Center. Crunch goalie Riku Helenius helped the cause, stopping 19 of the 20 shots he faced for his 17th win. Syracuse scored the game's first goal halfway through the first period when J.P Cote's shot from the top of the left circle beat Dany Sabourin, caught iron, bounced straight down and trickled over the goal line. The defenseman's third goal on the season was set up by Phillip-Michael Devos and Alex Hutchings. After almost 30 minutes of scoreless hockey, the Bears evened the game with 55 seconds left in the second period. Joey Crabb buried a rebound past Helenius to get Hershey on the board. With the game tied 1-1 early in the third period, Ondrej Palat one-timed a pass from Tanner Richard to give Syracuse a 2-1 lead. It was Palat's 12th of the year in the AHL and first since being sent down from Tampa Bay earlier in the week. Richard, celebrating his 20th birthday, collected his first professional point in his second game. The Crunch power play was again scoreless, now 0 for its last 31.

Transactions

04/08/2013 Mark Barberio (D) DEL Recalled from loan by Tampa Bay (NHL)

04/08/2013 Matt Taormina (D) ADD Returned on loan from Tampa Bay (NHL)

04/06/2013 Matt Taormina (D) DEL Recalled from loan by Tampa Bay (NHL)

Notes

- Syracuse has six games remaining in the regular season (five at home) and has 89 points, most in the East Division and third most in the Eastern Conference. Providence has 93 points and North Division-champion Springfield has 91. Binghamton trails Syracuse by two points, ranking fourth in the conference.

- Ondrej Palat scored his 12th goal for the Crunch Saturday, his first point since returning from Tampa Bay Apr. 13 (two games). He notched two goals and two assists in first 14 NHL games for the Lightning. He has 45 points for Syracuse (12g, 33a), leading the team in assists, and trails only Tyler Johnson and Brett Connolly (both currently in the NHL) for points. His goal Saturday was his fourth game-winner of the season.

- Week 26 marked the Crunch debut of four players: defensemen Andrej Sustr and Luke Witkowski, and forwards Tanner Richard and Philippe Paradis. Richard, who had 62 points (11g, 51a) for Guelph in the OHL this year, celebrated his 20th birthday Saturday by recording his first professional point, an assist, in his second pro game. Luke Witkowski, following his fourth season at Western Michigan, made his pro debut in that contest, recording one minor penalty. Paradis has one fighting major in two games since coming to the Crunch via trade from the Rockford IceHogs. Sustr, out of Nebraska-Omaha, has three shots on goal in two games after two games with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

- The Crunch power play is scoreless over its last eight games (including 0-for-3 in two games last week), its longest drought of the season. Syracuse's power play is 13th in the AHL at 17.2% (56-for-325), slipping from 7th at 18.9% (56-for-296) as of Mar. 16. The Crunch last scored with a man up Mar. 16 vs. Albany and haven't converted on the last 31 chances. Syracuse was 0-for-25 on the power play over four games Dec. 8-14, the team's previous worst skid of 2012-13.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Crunch at Lake Erie—Tuesday, 7 p.m.

The Syracuse Crunch play their final road game of the regular season Tuesday night when they visit Cleveland to face the Lake Erie Monsters, AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. It's the second of two meetings this season between the two, and the first at Quicken Loans Arena. The Monsters won the first match this season, 4-2, Jan. 19 in Syracuse. The Crunch's 24 road wins are the most in the AHL.

The Monsters won twice last week, beating Rochester on Friday and knocking off the Marlies in overtime on Wednesday. They have just five games left on the season, four at home. After squaring off with the Crunch on Tuesday, the Monsters finish off their road schedule with a game in Hamilton on Friday. They then face the Bulldogs in Cleveland on Saturday.

The Monsters have back-to-back wins, but are just 4-5-1-0 in their last ten games and are 31-30-3-7 overall. With 72 points, Lake Erie is fourth in the North Division and 12th in the Western Conference. The Monsters are led by rookie centers Andrew Agozzino (18g-30a-48pts), and Mike Sgarbossa (19g-25a-44pts), along with right wing Bill Thomas (21g-18a-39pts). Both Agozzino and Sgarbossa are in the top ten in rookie scoring. In goal, Calvin Pickard has played in 43 games and has a 17-19-5 record, a 2.55 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.

For the Crunch, Ondrej Palat scored the only two goals in the 4-2 loss against Lake Erie in January. Riku Helenius allowed three goals in the loss.

Crunch vs. Bridgeport—Friday, 7:30 p.m.

The Syracuse Crunch close out the regular season on a five-game homestand, starting with a game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Friday. The Sound Tigers beat the Crunch 7-2 Dec. 9 in Bridgeport in the only prior meeting this season. The Sound Tigers are looking to sweep the season series from the Crunch for the second straight season.

The Sound Tigers play games on Tuesday and Friday in back-to-back weeks. They host the Sharks Tuesday before visiting the Crunch Friday, then are off again until next Tuesday when they host the Pirates.

The Sound Tigers are 5-4-0-1 in their last ten and are 30-29-6-5 on the season. With 71 points the Sound Tigers are third in the Northeast Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference. They are four points behind Hershey for the eighth and final playoff spot. Bridgeport is led by center Brock Nelson (22g-27a-49pts), left wing Nino Niederreiter (26g-22a-48pts), and defenseman Matt Donovan (13g-28a-41pts). Since being sent to the AHL, Rick DiPietro has played the majority of the games in goal for the Sound Tigers. In 14 games the former first overall draft pick (2000) is 7-6-0 with a 2.99 goals against average. He's made an appearance in seven straight games for Bridgeport.

For the Crunch, J.T. Brown had one of the two goals in the first match against Bridgeport. Riku Helenius got the start, but allowed four goals in just over 20 minutes before being replace by Dustin Tokarski. Helenius received the loss in the game.

Crunch vs. Rochester—Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

For the tenth and final time this season, the Crunch face their I-90 rival, the Rochester Americans, Saturday night at the War Memorial in Syracuse. The Amerks have controlled the season series, winning seven of the first nine meetings, including a 1-0 win in the last match Mar. 27 in Rochester. That game was Crunch Head Coach Rob Zettler's first game as head coach. The Crunch have points in four of the nine contests with the Amerks (2-5-1-1).

This is the second of three straight three-in-three weekends to close out the season for Rochester. The Amerks faced the Monsters, Phantoms, and Devils this past weekend, winning the final two games in shootouts. They host the Barons on Friday before visiting the Crunch on Saturday and going to Albany on Sunday.

With two straight wins and victories in seven of the last ten, the Amerks have moved to 39-27-3-1 on the season. That puts them in second place in the North Division and sixth place in the Western Conference. They are seven points behind the Marlies for the top spot in the North Division. The Amerks are led by right wing Mark Mancari (21g-38a-59pts), center John Larsson (16g-23a-39pts), and defenseman Brayden McNabb (5g-31a-36pts). Larsson has played three games for the Amerks after playing his first 62 with Houston. He has two points in three games with Rochester. Goaltender David Leggio continues to pace the AHL with 36 wins, including seven against the Crunch.

Ondrej Palat leads the Crunch with ten points (4g-6a) in seven games against the Amerks. Riku Helenius has lost all five of his appearances against Rochester, while Cedrick Desjardins won the only time he faced the Americans as a member of the Crunch.