It was just one of those weeks for Syracuse. After getting humiliated in St. John's, losing 6-2 on Tuesday and then 5-1 on Wednesday, the Crunch returned to central New York to a snowy landscape and prepared themselves to encounter a War Memorial arena full of fans wielding stuffed toys. They also had to face the rival Rochester Americans on the ice.
It was Teddy Toss Saturday this past week, and the Crunch was hoping that goals would rain down along with those teddy bears and other assorted animals. The night didn't quite go off as planned, but the Crunch managed to close out the week with a win. For a depleted team desperate for points, it would do.
For those unfamiliar with the tradition, a teddy bear toss
is a popular Christmas season promotion at many minor and junior hockey arenas throughout North America. Fans are encouraged to bring teddy bears to the game, and to throw them onto the ice when the home team scores its first goal. The toys are then gathered up to be donated as Christmas presents to hospitals and charities.
The most stuffed animals ever collected during one of these events was done so by the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL in 2007, when 26,919 of the toys rained down on the ice surface at Saddledome (where they share the building with the NHL's Calgary Flames) . There weren't quite as many at the Crunch game Saturday night, but fans still made a good showing, as you can see by the video:
Syracuse Crunch Teddy Bear Toss, Dec. 14 (via Jeremy Houghtaling)
In the Crunch's case, all animals are donated to the local Salvation Army. The toys are then distributed to local needy families. If any animal is gently used and needs a cleaning, the toys are refurbished by Stanley Steemer, who generously donates their time and equipment to help out.
Not all of the animals that are donated are gently used or store bought. Build-A-Bear workshop also donated some materials; Crunch players and children from the Salvation Army's after school program had fun one day building toysthat were also tossed Saturday night. A cute video and story of the experience the kids had with Matt Taormina, Luke Witkowski and Cedrick Desjardins can be watched and read over at CNY Central.
Syracuse has had weird luck when it's come to this tradition. The Crunch started it three years ago, when Syracuse was still affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks organization. Much like this year, the team was in a rut at the time of the toss and, unfortunately, didn't manage to score until almost the end of the third period. By the time this happened, frustrated fans had already tossed their bears after an opponent's goal. It was a disappointing start to the tradition, to say the least.
Last year, fans got to celebrate the toss properly. Brett Connolly scored, the goal was good, and excited fans threw their stuffed animals. This year, the Crunch appeared to score mid-way through the first when Artem Sergeev's shot ricocheted off the pipes. The music went off, the players celebrated for a second, and play was awkwardly stopped when hundreds of bears went flying.
It was awkward because the goal was waved off, but that action by on-ice officials didn't happen fast enough to stop the fans from littering the ice surface with their stash of bears. The Crunch organization decided against fighting the inevitable, and the scoreboard told fans to toss the stuffed animals despite the no-goal.
A few minutes later, Connolly scored what would have been the teddy bear toss goal, and a few more stray animals found their way onto the ice. Dmitry Korobov and Witkowski got the assists. This led several observers to joke that maybe the Crunch should have a teddy bear toss every game, as it seems to coincide with Connolly scoring.
Connolly's goal would eventually prove to be the game-winner. Goalie Kristers Gudlevskis pitched his second shut out of his AHL season and the Crunch snapped what was a four-game losing streak. Although Syracuse's dismal power play has not helped things any--the Crunch have been unable to convert on 22 man-advantage opportunities over the last 5 games-the team's disciplined play was a large part of Saturday's victory. The Crunch only allowed four penalty minutes during the game, which kept Rochester's top-five power play contained and off the score sheet.
Syracuse plays in Hershey Wednesday night this week before returning home to face Binghamton on Friday. The Crunch then travels to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Saturday.
Latest Stats for the Syracuse Crunch:
Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 12-10-1-2
Place in the conference standings (top 8 make the playoffs): Ninth
Place in division standings: Fourth
Top scorer: Nikita Kucherov, 13-11-24
- Top scorer still active with the team: Cedric Paquette, 7-6-13
Top scoring defenseman: Dmitry Korobov, 0-12-12
Top defenseman, +/-: Jean-Philippe Cote, +6
Top rookie: Nikita Kucherov, 13-11-24
- Top rookie still active with the team: Cedric Paquette, 7-6-13
Home Game attendance: 12/15: 5587
Other Syracuse Crunch Player notes/transactions:
-J.P. Cote returned to the line-up Saturday after a two-game suspension. Cote was issued a match penalty last weekend and missed both games the Crunch played in St. John's.
-Gudlevskis faced 27 shots Saturday in his shut out.