Leading up to Saturday night's game, Syracuse Crunch fans were in fairly low spirits. Our formerly first-place team had dropped down to 4th in the Eastern Conference, thanks to a four-game losing streak. Three of those loses (one in the shootout) had taken place in front of the home fans at War Memorial, leaving the Crunch with a fairly dismal home win percentage of 44%. That percentage, in comparison to their away percentage of 73%, made us fairly hungry for a win.We wanted one bad.
And oh, man, did we get one.
The Crunch won against the St. John's IceCaps Saturday night, 6-3. The Crunch had been trailing 3-2 just five minutes into the second period when something amazing happened. And the rest, as they say, was history.
If you haven't seen John's write up of the line brawl that occurred during that game, including the video from our buddies over at Bolt Prospects, then you really need to check it out. It tells you just about everything you need to know. It also shows why this group is now cemented in Crunch fans' minds as "our" team.
We're a blue collar town, as are most AHL towns, but we've always been a bit more rough-and-tumble than some other cities. Our love affair with "goons" is well documented on sites like Hockeyfights.com and YouTube. Heavyweights like Brandon Sugden and Jon Mirasty are still household names around here, despite their departures years ago. We're well aware that you need to score to win games, but we don't really favor teams who can't also play the physical game. We get nervous if there aren't a few guys out there on our ice who can--and who will--stick up for those skilled players.
If there was a doubt this team isn't capable of standing up for itself, those doubts have been absolutely destroyed by Saturday's game. When St. John's right wing Ray Sawada went after Syracuse defenseman Dmitry Korobov, new addition Jean Francios Jacques (who had been trying to go with Sawada for several shifts) was quick to retaliate. Crunch defenseman Radko Gudas couldn't help but jump in as more IceCaps came to Sawada's defense. Suddenly, we had a good old fashioned line brawl on our hands.
Moments into the brawl, the two starting goalies also decided to go at it. Syracuse's Dustin Tokarski and St. John's Eddie Pasquale's throw-down at mid-ice is the centerpiece of the brilliant chaos of the moment. The result was a gorgeous display of dominance from the 5'11, 198 pound Crunch goalie over the 6'3, 220 pound Pasquale.
Although the fights were fun to watch, what was more impressive was how the Crunch responded after the brawl was over. The team had been beaten down by several one-sided whistles in a row, and were clearly showing signs of frustration before the brawl broke out. As Crunch backup goalie Riku Helenius, who saw his own fight back in October, took his place in the crease, everyone in the arena was tense with anticipation. Would Helenius prove to be stable in reliefof Tokarski who was kicked out of the game? Would the Crunch be able to use the energy in the building to push themselves out of the 3-2 hole?
The answer to all those questions was a resounding "hell yes!"
Helenius stopped all 15 shots he faced in the second and third periods, making some fantastic clutch saves in the third especially that kept the Crunch confident. During the rest of the game, the Crunch saw markers from Kyle Wilson, Alex Killorn (his second of the night), J.P. Cote (his first of the year), and Richard Panik (fresh off a three-game suspension) to seal the win. Those four unanswered goals added to the tallies already on the board from Killorn and J.T. Wyman. It was a fun game, and it brought a win the fans desperately needed to see.
With that game in the books, our attention now turns to the AHL All Star game being held in Providence. The Crunch have four All Star representatives at the game this year, the most in franchise history. Defensemen Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas (a late addition) and forwards Tyler Johnson and Richard Panikudas all got the nod. The Skills Competition list came out Sunday, and the following Crunch players participated in the following events:
- Puck control relay: Tyler Johnson, Mark Barberio
- Fastest skater: Tyler Johnson
- Rapid fire: Radko Gudas, Mark Barberio
- Hardest shot: Radko Gudas
- Pass and score: Mark Barberio, Richard Panik
- Breakaway relay: Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, Radko Gudas
In summary of the event results, Gudas scored in the breakaway relay, ranked 4th out of all competing in the hardest shot competition with a shot of 98.7, and scored three times during the rapid fire competition. Johnson came in just under 14 seconds in the fastest skater competition. Barberio and Johnson also came up huge for the East in the puck control relay.
I'd like to wish our All Stars good luck as they represent a large chunk of the Eastern Conference in the game Monday night! Check out this listing at theahl.com to see if the game will be on a network near you.
Transactions of note:
01/21/2013: Alex Hutchings (LW)...Reassigned to Florida (ECHL) from Syracuse
01/21/2013: Charles Landry (D)...Reassigned to Syracuse from Florida (ECHL)
1/21/2013: Jean-Francois Jacques (LW)...Reassigned to Syracuse
01/18/2013: J.T. Wyman (RW)...Reassigned to Syracuse from Tampa Bay
01/18/2013: Mike Angelidis (C)...Reassigned to Syracuse from Tampa Bay
01/17/2013: Mark Barberio (D)...Reassigned to Syracuse from Tampa Bay
01/17/2013: Radko Gudas (D)...Reassigned to Syracuse from Tampa Bay
1/17/2013: Tyler Johnson (C)...Reassigned to Syracuse from Tampa Bay
01/16/2013: Alex Hutchings (LW)...Reassigned to Syracuse from Florida (ECHL)
01/15/2013: Alex Hutchings (LW)...Reassigned to Florida (ECHL) from Syracuse
01/15/2013: Charles Landry (D)...Reassigned to Florida (ECHL) from Syracuse
Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 25-10-2-4
Place in the conference standings (top 8 make the playoffs): Fourth place
Place in division standings: Second
Top scorer: Tyler Johnson, 20-19-39
Top scoring defenseman: Mark Barberio, 6-18-24
Top defenseman, +/-: Tie between Dimitry Korobov, +24, with Radko Gudas right behind at +23
Top rookie: Alex Killorn, 15-19-34
Game attendance: 1/19: 5,944; 1/25: 5, 627; 1/26: 5,714