When an AHL team appears to be on the skids, a looming 3-in-3 against historically tough in-state rivals--in this case, the Albany Devils, the Binghamton Senators, and the Rochester Americans--can sometimes be the last thing a team needs. When a team was outscored by a wide margin the previous week (as wide as 14-1, in fact, but who's counting?) that challenging 3-in-3 can suddenly look like climbing Mt. Everest without a rope. With that kind of gauntlet in front of them, most teams might hope for a three-point split and be happy.
Lucky for all involved, a team that would settle for that is not the Syracuse Crunch. Nope, at least not right now, and not by a long shot. In fact, after everything was said and done Sunday, the Crunch officially had the best record in the American Hockey League.
The Crunch swept the weekend, earning all six points possible and outscoring their three opponents by a 12-7 margin. Over the course of the weekend, 8 different Crunch players scored goals, including Mike Angelidis, who had a three-point weekend, Carter Ashton, who scored his first goal in a Crunch uniform Saturday, and Vladislav Namestnikov, whose weekend haul included two game-winning goals and three assists. Syracuse also saw their defenseman speak up, with Jake Dotchin and Matt Corrente scoring goals. Defensemen Corrente, Slater Koekkoek, Joey Mormina, and JP Cote all also picked up a handful of assists throughout the weekend.
On the goalie front, Kristers Gudlevskis played Friday and Saturday, stopping 40 of the 44 shots he faced during the two games against Albany and Binghamton. Allen York played on Sunday in Rochester, giving Gudlevskis a well-deserved rest and getting himself up off the pine. York stopped a respectable 26 of the 29 shots he faced. Of the three goals York let in, one was a power play goal and one was a break-away goal.
However, the weekend had one dull spot: Syracuse's struggling power play let in their 9th short-handed goal of the season Saturday night. Overall, Syracuse's power play was 1-for-12 on the weekend, and is also clearly a defensive liability. It just seems as though a four-forward unit doesn't work with this team. There's too many defensive liabilities out there with the Crunch's young and fairly inexperienced blue line, especially with Luke Witkowski and Nikita Nesterov still up with the Lightning, for the team to run four forwards and one defenseman. Also, of note is that the forward who scored the Crunch's lone power play goal all weekend was Angelidis and not a guy like Namestnikov. Syracuse is in desperate need of a game-plan change, like a defenseman who can step up and be able to quarterback the man advantage.
The Crunch will have all of two days to recharge before heading back to Rochester on Wednesday. Syracuse will then face another challenging weekend when Albany comes back to town on Friday followed by the Utica Comets, who are currently in second place in the Western Conference.