This past Saturday night, Syracuse Crunch fans finally got our first true look at the new Syracuse Crunch. Everything seemed to come together: the new jerseys that were unveiled were rocking, the arena was brightly lit with brand new, NHL-quality LED lights, the mascot was having fun (please don't ask me to say more than that), and the team itself lived up to all the hype that had been building the past few months. To be frank, everything was darn near perfect, and I'd bet that the sold out crowd of almost 6,500 people would agree that what we saw that night was something special. I am nearly positive that everyone, with maybe the exception of Hershey Bears fans, walked away satisfied.
I have a bit of a fluff piece about some of the other aspects of Opening Night 2012 up at my blog, Chairman How's Glorious Army. If you're interested in how things were done by the Crunch organization itself and what fans were treated to, it's there to read. I do want to say here that if you're a Tampa BayLightning fan coming to Syracuse for a game, then staying for the Shootout Show is a must. It's the ending of the nightly game broadcast, and it's done in the basement of the Memorial. It's basically an all-access pass to the player featured that night on the show. Dan D'Uva, our new broadcaster, takes audience and phone-in questions and comments, and a meet-and-greet is always on the schedule. Bring a Sharpie and something for the player to sign, then settle in for a great interview. It's a good time, especially after a win.
I knew going in Saturday night that we were probably going to have a good time. Many of my friends in Tampa Land had gotten me very excited about the prospects and the players that make up our new group, so I wasn't at all concerned about not being entertained. But, wow. Even with all that prior knowledge, what we got Saturday night here in Syracuse was probably one of the best hockey games I've seen played, let alone one of the best I've ever seen in October.
What follows is an update of our stats I will do every weekend I update. Feel free to let me know if there's something else you'd like to see regularly!
- Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 1-0-0-1
- Place in the conference standings (top 7 make the playoffs): 5th
- Place in division standings: 2nd
- Top scorer: Cory Conacher, 2-3-5 (Conacher is also currently first in the league in scoring)
- Top scoring defenseman: Mark Barberio, 1-1-2
- Top defenseman, +/-: Radko Gudas, +1
- Top rookie: Vladislav Namestnikov, 0-2-2
- Game attendance: 6,434 (sell out)
Saturday night was crazy. It was one of the fastest, most intense games we've seen played in the Memorial in years. I know this team, as the Norfolk Admirals, played Hershey more than they played Rochester Americans last year, so there was probably a bit more history there than there was against the Amerks Friday night. But no matter the history these two groups of players might have, Hershey is pretty accustomed to skating out of the War Memorial as winners. There are truly only a handful of times I can remember beating the Bears on our own turf. The game wasn't a blow out, but I don't think anyone expected one. Hershey always competes, and is usually pretty stacked.
This is the first season I can honestly say the same about us, at least thus far, and that's so incredibly exciting. I can't even communicate to you how much. Everything you all promised me came true. The team was talented, for sure. Not one goal was a "garbage" goal. They were all gorgeous goals. The team was also rough-n-tumble enough to stick up for each other when things got chippy, which will win over Syracuse fans faster than you can blink. Head Coach Jon Cooper made himself extremely visible on the bench, constantly talking to his players, the officials and captain Mike Angelidis. As some Crunch coaches in the past have been compared to statues, this was a pleasant change to see.
The players that stuck out to me the most were Conacher, Angelidis, and Gudas. I'm sure that doesn't really come as a surprise. We were all warned about Conacher and Angelidis. We knew the talented that was associated with those names, and after seeing them in action on our side, I'm quite glad they're here. Gudas was a bit of a surprise, if only because the name meant nothing to me before last night. However, I've always been a bit of a defenseman admirer, and Gudas reminds me strongly of Dan Smith, one of the best d-men I've ever seen play at this level. He seems to have the leadership, speed, and shot blocking skills that really allow a player to dominate at this level. I really enjoyed watching him whenever he was out there.
One weekend obviously doesn't mean much in the grand scope of an entire season, but I have a feeling it is still quite the indication of what we're in for this year. I am so incredibly excited. With no home games next weekend, Crunch fans are going to be dying for October 27th, which is the next time our boys take the ice for a game at the War Memorial!