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Syracuse Crunch black aces to head to Tampa Bay Lightning

With the unfortunate elimination of the Syracuse Crunch from the playoffs, many players will be reporting to Tampa.

Scott Thomas Photography

Sadly, the Syracuse Crunch were eliminated last night from the AHL playoffs. We are extremely proud of all of the players on that team. At the beginning of the year, in our staff conversations, I mentioned that this season was going to go one of two ways: either the Crunch would struggle with so many rookies in the line-up, or they would be amazingly good.

They ended up being a little bit of both.

The rookies struggled to start the season, but once they got it figured out, they went on a tear for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, the lack of playoff experience for those young guns got them in the end. The Toronto Marlies are also an incredibly talented team and had a good amount of experience in the playoffs. The Crunch fought hard, but they just couldn’t get over the hump.

Now with the Crunch’s season over, some players will be headed home, but many of them will be headed to Tampa Bay first for some practice time. The Lightning have been fortunate through two rounds of the playoffs to have only had one injury, forcing Ryan Callahan to miss two games in the first round.

For the players coming to Tampa Bay, it will be so that they can stay in shape in the event that they are needed in the playoffs, and to keep practicing. For some of the younger prospects, it will be an opportunity for them to be around the NHL team, sit in the press box and watch some hockey, and hopefully learn something that they can take into their summer workouts and into the next season.

So where is everyone going to go? I’ve broken the Crunch roster down into different categories since there are some players that may come down for a week before being sent home and others that will be here until the Lightning are finished in the playoffs. A handful could also be on their way down to the Adirondack Thunder as they continue into the next round of the playoffs against the Florida Everblades.

We should get some official word in the next day or two as players start traveling and arriving in Tampa.

Coming to Tampa for the rest of the playoffs

Edit: The Lightning have come out with their list, and we are adding/subtracting accordingly:

  • The Crunch Coaching Staff
  • RW Mathieu Joseph
  • C Carter Verhaeghe
  • C Matthew Peca (banged up)
  • C Mitchell Stephens
  • LW Alexander Volkov (banged up)
  • G Connor Ingram
  • Erik Cernak
  • Ben Thomas

The remaining players are either higher-end prospects that aren’t far off from making the NHL roster in the next year or two, or are veterans that have some NHL experience. Joseph, Stephens, and Volkov all impressed this season as rookies and showed why they were selected in the draft by the Lightning. Peca has spent time on the Lightning’s roster this season and is capable of stepping in if needed.

The Lightning probably don’t need to keep Ingram around, but having an extra body in net for the Black Aces when they’re practicing is necessary and he can lend a hand to Peter Budaj. If another goaltender were to be injured, he’d then be the third goalie.

The defense in this category are way down the depth chart and the furthest from the NHL. Cernak might be the closest to actually playing in the NHL, but that still puts him down as the fifth defenseman on the right side.

No Gabriel Dumont, which means that he might be more injured than we’d feared. Best of luck to him.

Could be coming down, but might not be here the whole way

  • RW Erik Condra
  • C Alexei Lipanov
  • W Jonne Tammela
  • LW Dennis Yan
  • D Dominik Masin
  • D Daniel Walcott

These players are the ones that are lower on the pecking order for getting into a game. Some of them may also just be sent home because you only need so many bodies on the Black Aces squad. Yan could have been in the first list, but I think he’s a little behind the rest of the forwards I listed in that category.

Condra is a bit of a mystery. He hasn’t been in the NHL in a while for the Lightning and is a free agent this summer. It’s also possible that he will be given the option of coming down or going home, so I’m not sure if he’ll actually be here.

Lipanov and Tammela are younger guys that could come down for a few practices and then head back home to Europe. Lipanov played in juniors this season and Tammela was hurt up until towards the end of the season.

Could be going to Adirondack

  • W Jonne Tammela
  • C Otto Somppi

Tammela was in the previous list, but he also fits here. With the knee injuries he has dealt with, he’s a great candidate for going down to the ECHL for the rest of the playoffs for the Adirondack Thunder. The playing time would be good for him as he needs to make up for as much lost development time as he can. Somppi is a bit small for the ECHL, but coming out of juniors, it could also be good for him to get some ECHL playing time. Matthew Spencer and Shane Conacher are already with Adirondack, however the former is injured.

Everybody Else

If I didn’t list a player here, it’s either because they’re injured and not playing or I don’t think they’ll be coming to Tampa. This is mostly older and/or low-end AHLers or players on AHL deals. The players on AHL deals are eligible to go to the ECHL. There’s probably only so many players that the Lightning can loan there, but also, an older player is unlikely to want to go play in the ECHL even in the playoffs and would rather go home and rest and recuperate.

So, best of luck to the Adirondack Thunder, and see the rest of these guys soon!