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Syracuse Crunch week two: Tambellini leads the way

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When looking at the Crunch's off season acquisitions, one of the major question marks was veteran Jeff Tambellini. Once a high-flying AHL scorer, many wondered if he still "had it" after several seasons in Europe. That question may already be answered after the Crunch's game this past Saturday.

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Syracuse Crunch forward Jeff Tambellini celebrates one of his goals this past Saturday night when the Syracuse Crunch opened their home schedule against the Binghamton Senators. Syracuse won the game 2-1.
Syracuse Crunch forward Jeff Tambellini celebrates one of his goals this past Saturday night when the Syracuse Crunch opened their home schedule against the Binghamton Senators. Syracuse won the game 2-1.
Scott Thomas

To say that the Syracuse Crunch's summer veteran acquisitions over the past several seasons haven't worked out would be a bit of an understatement. It's been kind of a frustrating piece for the organization as a whole in a lot of ways, as one of the things AHL teams need to succeed are impact veterans who can lead and, when needed, score. Last season's big off season signing, Jerome Samson, played in just 26 games for Syracuse before jumping ship for Europe. In 2013-14, veteran forward Geoff Walker managed to hang around until March, but he played sporadically until he was sent to the ECHL to "help the Florida Everblades." Many of the veterans who weren't already organizational guys who have made an impact in the past - Dan Sexton and Jon DiSalvatore, for instance - were brought in several months after the season had already started, when it was clear that summer signings weren't getting things done.

This pattern appears to have changed drastically with the signing of Jeff Tambellini and Tye McGinn, two forwards the Tampa Bay Lightning brought in for Syracuse and for depth this past summer. Before landing in Syracuse, McGinn had 163 games of AHL experience; Tambellini had 176. Before leaving North America for Europe a few seasons ago, Tambellini was known for his scoring touch, totaling 201 points over those 176 games. McGinn's career total of 79 points is a bit less impressive, but his leadership capabilities are undeniable.

Both forwards played a big part in Syracuse's big 2-1 win over divisional rival Binghamton last night at the Onondaga County War Memorial. Tambellini scored both of the Crunch's goals, while McGinn dropped the gloves in a spirited scrap with the B-Sens' Colin Greening. Here's a video of the fight, from Bolt Prospect's Jeremy Houghtaling:

Although fighting is on its way out of hockey, there will always be a special place for a good tilt in the hearts of many Crunch fans. One of the best things McGinn could have done to start his career with the Crunch was participate in a good fight if the time was right (which it was).

Meanwhile, Tambellini looked right at home on the War Memorial's newly expanded ice surface, scoring exactly when the Crunch needed him to. His first tally was just 16 seconds into the game, a bid made possible by Tambellini's sharp eye and accurate shot. He caught Binghamton goalie Matt O'Connor sleeping and took full advantage. His second tally came at the 17:43 mark of the third period, effectively putting an end to a game that was quickly becoming rather chippy.

It's probably safe to say that the Binghamton/Syracuse rivalry has been reignited with the placement of both in the AHL's new North Division.

If there was any other story marking Saturday night, it would have to be the performance of Crunch goalie Kristers Gudlevskis. Gudlevskis made 27 saves on 28 shots and saved the game multiple times during the third period, working his tail off in order to keep the Senators from getting ahead in the game. The Crunch was whistled for four penalties in the third, which tested both Gudlevskis and the team's increasingly fatigued penalty kill. Both the PK--led by defenseman Luke Witkowski--and Gudlevskis stood tall, denying the Senators a power play marker.

The Crunch play today against the Hartford WolfPack in Hartford at 5 EST, but are then off until Friday when they return the favor and welcome the WolfPack to Syracuse. The Crunch will then travel to Utica on Saturday to face the Comets, a team Syracuse has already found a natural rivalry with. The competitive spirit between the two teams will probably be even more enhanced this season, as it obviously was with Binghamton last night, as the Comets are also now in the AHL's North Division.

Latest Stats for the Syracuse Crunch:

  • Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 2-0-0-0

  • Place in Eastern Conference: 3rd

  • Place in North Division: 2nd

  • Top scorer: Jeff Tambellini (2-1-3)
  • Top scoring defenseman: Dylan Blujus (0-3-3)

  • Top defenseman, +/-: Dylan Blujus and Anthony DeAngelo (+2)

  • Top scoring rookie: Anthony DeAngelo (0-2-2)
A rundown of the AHL's new standings system can be found over at Syracuse.com.

Other transactions and player news:

  • Slater Koekkoek was recalled by the Tampa Bay Lightning this past week. He was re-assigned to Syracuse today (Sunday). No word yet on whether he will be available for the Crunch's game at Hartford this afternoon.
  • Tambellini will face his brother, Adam Tambellini, twice this week. Adam is with the Hartford WolfPack.
  • Both Gudlevskis (link) and Adam Wilcox (link) have new masks.

Syracuse Crunch media highlights:

  • The Crunch's SoundCloud has been updated with broadcasts and player interviews from the past week.
  • A rundown of the Crunch's promotional schedule so far can be found on their website.
  • Be sure to use the hashtags #SyrCrunch, #BelieveInBlue, and #TampaCuse when tweeting about the team.
  • Video highlights from Syracuse's win last night over Binghamton: