I just need to say one thing: Kristers Gudlevskis, I am so proud of you.
So. Proud. Of. You.
This past weekend was a special one. Although no milestones were broken or personal records beaten, Gudlevskis got to shine again and again. I've watched him closely this season, and my emotions have risen and fallen with his, perhaps more so than with anyone else on the team. I've done my fair share of fretting over the Tampa Bay Lightning's goalie rotation situation, and I felt a lot of frustration and anger on his behalf as his playing time faltered while he was shunted back in forth between Tampa and Syracuse. I worried, I fretted, I winced, I hoped, I waited.
This past weekend, I got to cheer. And Gudlevskis (or, as I affectionately call him, Skittles) got to cheer, too.
The Crunch is on a five-game winning streak, their longest of the season thus far, and Gudlevskis has backstopped them in each of those victories. Although it's unusual for an AHL goalie to get five starts in a row, a coach deciding to go with the "hot hand" certainly isn't unheard of. However, just a few short weeks ago, very few people would have bet on Gudlevskis being the hot hand for two games, let alone five.
Before this stretch, the aforementioned rotation situation had appeared to take a toll on Gudlevskis' confidence (completely understandable), and Crunch head coach Rob Zettler was leaning on Adam Wilcox more often than not. But Gudlevskis made such a strong statement with his performance down this stretch that Zettler just kept playing him. It's been great to watch, and Gudlevskis' confidence has been reflected back in the over-all effort and energy level that the rest of the Crunch has shown. It's perfect hockey synergy, and it's exactly the way it's supposed to be.
On Friday and Saturday this past week after each of the Crunch's victories, Gudlevskis was the last player off the ice both nights. On Friday night it seemed like more of a happy accident, but the crowd reacted positively, and he was visibly thrilled with the win. Saturday, Gudlevskis seemed to intentionally hang back a bit and then took a small lap around center ice, applauding the fans that cheer for Crunch. It was an amazingly sweet gesture, one that also gave the fans a chance to recognize him, too.
He deserves this level of confidence, and he deserves to feel secure in his game. I've never seen him this happy with himself and his level of play in Syracuse, and I'm so thrilled for him.
Other transactions, player, and organizational news:
-Defenseman Ben Thomas, who signed an amateur tryout contract with the Crunch and an entry-level contract with the Lightning this past week, made his pro debut with Syracuse Saturday night. He ended the night a -1.
-Forward Brian Hart is back with Syracuse after the recall of Joel Vermin to the Lightning.
-The Crunch are again participating in a Change for Change initiative this season, and are hoping to raise even more than last season with an extended campaign. Change for Change is an initiative created by Crunch Captain Mike Angelidis and his teammates that aims to raise money for pediatric cancer research at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital and help improve the odds for children with cancer. All TampaCuse fans can help out by donating through their Go Fund Me page.
Syracuse Crunch media highlights:
The Crunch's SoundCloudhas been updated with broadcasts and player interviews from the past week.