I hope you'll forgive me that this is a few days later than it might have been otherwise, but I've been busy savoring the moment and gathering my thoughts.
You see, in the nine years I've been a Crunch fan, the team has never made it this far.
In fact, in the 19 years the Crunch has existed, they've only made it this far one other time.
Having a silly grin on my face has pretty much been my job description the last 48-hours.
The Syracuse Crunch swept Eastern Conference semifinal rival Springfield in four games to advance to the third round of the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs Friday night, giving the 2012-2013 Crunch squad seven playoff victories in a row and securing their place in Crunch history. The sweep was the Crunch's first-ever four-game sweep in franchise history, and marked only the 10th time in AHL history that a team has swept both the first and second round.
Just in case you're curious, out of those 10 teams who have swept both the first and second round, seven of them went on to win the Cup.
And for the sake of noting for Tampa fans, this was the fourth consecutive playoff series sweep for a Lightning AHL affiliate, dating back to last year's Calder Cup playoffs, when the Norfolk Admirals swept the final two rounds on their way to winning the 2012 Calder Cup.
During the Crunch's sweep of the Northeast Division champion Falcons, Syracuse outscored Springfield 18-7. That total was helped by a game-three shutout by Crunch goalie Cedrick Desjardins. It was also helped by a game-two hat trick from forward Tyler Johnson, the first hat trick in Syracuse Crunch playoff history. Johnson had 5 total goals in the series, bringing his playoff total to 7. Johnson is only surpassed in that category by Oklahoma City's Mark Arcobello (9 goals).
During the course of the series, the Crunch also saw goals from defensemen Mark Barberio and Matt Taormina. Forwards Richard Panik, J.T. Brown, J.T. Wyman, Brett Connolly, Dan Sexton, Ondrej Palat, and Mike Angelidis all added their tallies as well. Palat is currently tied with Arcobello from OKC in league playoff points. Each player has 15.
The Crunch does not yet know their round three opponent; the Crunch (seeded 3rd) will face either the Providence Bruins (1st) or the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (5th) in the Eastern Conference Finals. Syracuse will have home ice against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but will not have it against Providence.The Bruins currently lead that series 3-2, with game 6 scheduled for Monday night at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
The Crunch had home ice advantage against round-one opponent Portland and swept the Pirates in three games. They did not have it against Springfield and still took it to the Falcons. The Crunch's domination on the road that was evident during the regular season has continued. During the regular AHL season, the Crunch was 24-9-2-2 away from the Onondaga County War Memorial. That record has clearly given this group the confidence that they can play in any building, no matter how far away from home.
In addition to their confidence inside and outside of Syracuse, special teams have also been a huge asset to the Crunch. The power play has played a part in 8 goals out of the 30 total goals the Crunch has scored through two playoff rounds. Surprisingly, the penalty kill has also scored 4 of those 30 goals, which makes 12 goals out of 30 a result of special teams. The Crunch has not allowed a short handed goal in the playoffs thus far.
When Tampa Bay relocated last year's Calder Cup champions to Syracuse, Crunch fans pretty much knew this group wasn't going to be a hard group to fall in love with. What I don't think we dared to hope for, however, was how awesome all of this has truly been. Syracuse has never had such a special group like this, where there's so much passion, effort, and accountability. It's been an absolutely amazing ride so far, and I can't wait to see what's next!