Syracuse Crunch week 26: Looking for, and finding, positives; prospect Joel Vermin joins the team

Syracuse Crunch forward Mike Angelidis celebrates his game-tying goal against the St. John's IceCaps on March 26th, 2014 at the Onondaga County War Memorial. Syracuse would win the game 3-2. - Scott Thomas

The Crunch, while not on the playoff hunt this year, is still on the hunt for pride in a season with far too few victories to celebrate. Keeping this in mind, the team is starting to build a case for themselves for next year.

We're not mathematically eliminated (from the playoffs), but maybe, you know, we are (eliminated)...We have a young team, we lost a lot of older guys with (organizational) injuries and a lot of these young guys stepped up as leaders. It's a big promise for us for next year. You have all these guys who are younger now, they're going to be leaders next year who are gonna step up. This team's going to be a great hockey team next year, I think. They have all the tools here to do that...if I was a Crunch fan, I'd be looking forward to this team next year.

~Syracuse Crunch captain Mike Angelidis, from an interview with Crunch broadcaster Dan D'Uva

Looking forward to next year is just about all Crunch fans have right now. But at this point in the season, most were already resigned to that anyway. And that's okay. It's also okay to be unhappy about that, and it's certainly okay to have moments of melancholy over what was/could have been last season when thinking about the mess this season turned out to be. But, in that same respect, it's also perfectly fine to be content with just looking forward to next year.

The Crunch has been trying to give the Syracuse fan base a taste of the excitement next season could bring, and, for the most part this past week, they were successful. The Crunch is currently on a four-game points streak, during which they won two games convincingly (and one not-so-convincingly, but a win is a win). They also hung in there this past Saturday against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference when they forced rival Binghamton all the way to the shootout before surrendering.

So, things are looking up for next season. Here's a collection of positives from the past week:

-Crunch rookie defenseman Artem Sergeev has 9 points in 59 games with Syracuse this season. He has the second-worst +/- for defenseman on the team (-9). But none of that mattered this past Wednesday, when Sergeev scored a shorthanded, game-winning goal with under three minutes remaining in the third period. The goal was Sergeev's second game-winner of the season.

-Rookie goalie Kristers Gudlevskis is certainly finding minutes with Syracuse, something Tampa wanted when they swapped Riku Helenius for him. Gudlevskis has started the last four games Syracuse has played. He won three, a streak that including shutting out the Adirondack Phantoms on Sunday, March 23rd. He lost the fourth and final game of that playing streak in the shootout this past Saturday, where he stopped all but one of the shooters the Binghamton Senators put out there.

-Rookie Maxime Langelier-Parent had his first career AHL multi-point game Friday night, where he had a goal and an assist.

-Friday night also saw Jonathan Marchessault's seventh multi-point game of season. Marchessault was traded to the Crunch, along with Dalton Smith, from the Columbus organization at the trade deadline. He has scored three goals and netted four assists with Syracuse since the trade. All of those goals and three of those assists have come in four of the last five games Marchessault has played with Syracuse.

-Brett Connolly had his 12th multi-point game of the season Saturday, which extended his point streak (3g, 5a) to five games. It probably is not a coincidence that the Crunch tends to peak when Connolly does.

-The Crunch's struggling power play unit also started to click again this past week. Syracuse has scored on the power-play in five straight games for the first time since Dec. 28-Jan. 8. Angelidis has started to see regular power play time again, and although he only has one goal in the past stretch of games to show for it, his tenacity and intensity is starting to finally rub off on the other members of that unit.

Syracuse's new-found spirit comes just at the right time to set a positive dressing room example for new Lightning prospects coming into town. Forward Joel Vermin, a seventh-round pick in the 2013 draft, has been assigned to Syracuse. Vermin had six goals and 12 assists for Bern of the Swiss-A league this past season (where he played under former Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher). Elite Propects had the following to say about him:

Joël Vermin is a smart forward with a lot of offensive tools. Has a nice set of hands, good puck controll and is poised with the puck on his stick. Can make high-light reel moves, but needs to get stronger, as he shies away from contact and can easily get pushed around.

Side note: Some time on the smaller ice surface of the Onondaga County War Memorial will show him rather quickly what happens why a player tries to shy away from contact in the AHL.

Latest Stats for the Syracuse Crunch:

Other Syracuse Crunch Player notes/transactions:

-Defensemen Andrej Sustr and JP Cote returned to the Crunch line up this past week. Both were out for weeks due to injury. Forward Geoff Walker also returned to Syracuse's roster.

-Defenseman Jordan Henry was returned to Florida of the ECHL.

Syracuse Crunch media highlights:

Syracuse Crunch SoundCloud: features full broadcast of this past week's games, audio interviews with players and coaches, and other highlights.

Syracuse Crunch vs. St. John's IceCaps (3/26/14):


Syracuse Crunch vs. Adirondack Phantoms (3/28/14):

Syracuse Crunch vs. Binghamton Senators (3/29/14):


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