As weekends go, this past one was a tough test for the Syracuse Crunch. No weekend so far this season seemed to have contained as many challenges. The Crunch was due to face three different teams, teams who were/are all in the playoff picture in their conferences. All three teams could be considered rivals, in some way. And all three teams had something to fight for.
All contests had their unique and challenges, and to come away with four out of six points was something Syracuse would be more than happy to take. The Crunch won Friday and Sunday against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (WBS) and Springfield, respectively, but lost to Utica in-between, on Saturday. However, four points were gladly taken considering WBS was breathing down the Crunch's neck in points in the Eastern Conferece, Springfield was on edge of the playoff bubble and fighting to stay there, and Utica was in the top three of the Western Conference.
Goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis shined on both Friday and Sunday, stopping 40 out of 42 shots between the two games. His confidence was never rattled during either game, and this clearly rubbed off on those in front of him. Gudlevskis netted his 21st win of the season Friday, and his 22nd Saturday.
The highlight of the weekend was most certainly Friday's game. Syracuse and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton definitely had a playoff vibe going in the Onondaga County War Memorial that night. The score was 1-1 at the end of regulation. Yanni Gourde had scored for the Crunch, Tom Kostopoulos for the Penguins. Both teams survived 4-on-4 overtime, so the game went to 3-on-3. The Penguins had 6 shots on goal. The Crunch only one.
Then, with just over two minutes left in overtime, the Crunch's second shot of the extra frame went past Penguin's goaltender Matt Murray. The shot had come from defenseman Slater Koekkoek, and would count as Koekkoek's first OT game-winner.
Such a strong weekend did much to further the Crunch's post-season hopes. Syracuse remains in first place in the Northeast Division and is now seven points ahead of second-place Hartford. Syracuse is guaranteed either the first, second, or third seed in the Eastern Conference if they can hold onto first place in their division, so keeping Hartford at bay is really the only major concern Syracuse has.
The Crunch plays Hartford one more time before the end of the season. They also currently have a game-in-hand on the Wolf Pack.
Syracuse will visit the Leigh Valley Phantoms on Wednesday before playing at home Friday, against Bridgeport, and Saturday, against Rochester.
The Crunch's SoundCloud has been updated with broadcasts and player interviews from the past week.