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Syracuse Crunch week 3 recap: Crunch struggles to find winning combination

As predicted, the Crunch's first weekend without Jonathan Drouin's talent is a rough one, with injuries and call ups depleting and exhausting their roster. The Crunch would only earn two points out of a possible six.

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The recall of Lightning forward Cedric Paquette is just one of five different recalls the Syracuse Crunch saw in the past seven days.
The recall of Lightning forward Cedric Paquette is just one of five different recalls the Syracuse Crunch saw in the past seven days.
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

When Jonathan Drouin was recalled early last week--mere minutes after this site's recap of Syracuse's week two, actually--fans probably had a slight sinking feeling in their gut. The fact that Drouin's recall was also accompanied by a second recall--that of defenseman Luke Witkowski--didn't help any either. It was expected that Drouin had another week with the Crunch, so to lose him earlier than that and then see one of the team's top blue liners go as well was tough. But, Syracuse certainly knew it would have to find a way to win without Drouin eventually anyway, and one could say that it would be easier after one weekend instead of two.

Unfortunately, the bad luck for both organizations had only started.

By the end of the week, the injury bug struck the Lightning hard and the Crunch saw its entire first line called up by Tampa Bay. Drouin was soon accompanied by linemates Cedric Paquette and Jonathan Marchessault. Forward Mike Blunden also added some frequent flier miles to his account, being recalled by the Bolts not once but twice in a matter of days.

Just like that, Syracuse's top four scorers were all with the Lightning. Although two, Blunden and Marchessault, were returned before the weekend was out, it wasn't enough and the weekend pretty much went down the tubes. The Crunch only managed to snag two out of a possible six points.

Honestly, the fact that Syracuse was able to salvage any points from their first three-and-three was pretty amazing. Friday night, the Crunch pushed the Worcester Sharks to overtime and earned their first OT win of the season. Nikita Nesterov, who saw comparable counterpart Arteem Sergeev start the season by being sent down to the ECHL a few weeks ago, banged home the game winner at the 5:08 mark of OT. Dalton Smith and Mike Angelidis also scored for Syracuse during regulation, while goalie Kristers Gudlevskis made 26 saves on 28 shots. Angelidis' tally was kind of a big one for the Crunch's captain: it marked his 100th goal of his career.

However, Friday night's game would turn into the highlight of an otherwise disappointing weekend. Saturday night, the Crunch were in Portland for the first time since sweeping the Pirates in the first round of the AHL playoffs two seasons ago. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 30 of 32 shots, but it wasn't enough as a depleted Crunch saw their offense wither. The Crunch's only goal was scored by Cody Kuynk in the third period. In addition to their offensive troubles, Syracuse also saw their power play woes worsen: not only did Syracuse go 0-for-4 on the man advantage, but both of the Pirates goals were shorthanded tallies.

Sunday, the Crunch finished out their weekend with a stinkbomb of a game against the Springfield Falcons, a team Syracuse has played every weekend so far this season and had gone 1-1. Although Marchessault and Paquette were returned in time for the 3:00 game, the Crunch only scored one goal again. This time it was scored by prospect Joel Vermin. Springfield, on the other hand, took advantage of every defensive breakdown the Crunch gave them and scored five goals on 30 shots. Goalie Gudlevskis was left in for the entirety of the game, even though he allowed three goals in just the first period of the game. Some coaches might have pulled their goalie after that, even just to prove a point to the rest of the team, but head coach Rob Zettler elected to leave Gudlevskis in for the duration.

Syracuse will have the next four days to regroup before playing at home on Halloween. The Rochester Americans will visit the Crunch for the first time this season that night. Then, on Saturday, Syracuse will visit Binghamton for the first time this season. The Crunch won the only other game its played against Binghamton so far after Binghamton smoked Syracuse during the AHL's preseason.

Latest Stats for the Syracuse Crunch:

  • Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 3-3-1-0

  • Place in Eastern Conference (top 8 make the playoffs): 11th

  • Place in Northeast Division: 5th

  • Top scorer: Jonathan Marchessault (2-5-7)
  • Top scoring defenseman: Nikita Nesterov  (1-1-2)

  • Top defenseman, +/-Jean-Philippe Cote, +4

  • Top rookie: Joel Vermin (2-2-4)

Other transactions and player news:

-Crunch defenseman Joey Mormina did not play this past weekend. He reportedly suffered a concussion last weekend and has been out since.
-Jeff Costello (LW) and Danick Gauthier (LW) were recalled to the Crunch from Florida of the ECHL to replace Blunden and Marchessault (RW).
-Costello made his AHL debut Saturday night.
-Gauthier made his 2014-15 season debut Saturday night.
-Crunch forward Eric Neilson also made his 2014-15 season debut Saturday night.

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.