Calder Cup playoffs, quarterfinals update: #SyrCrunch trail 0-2   Leave a comment

Unless something changes, Syracuse Crunch fans will be able to walk away from one of the most dissatisfying seasons in recent memory Wednesday night, when the Crunch play game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Syracuse is down 2 games to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Round one of the Calder Cup playoffs is a best of five series, so one more loss will seal the deal and send the Crunch’s players to the golf course much sooner than anyone would have wanted.

It’d be nice to be able to say that it’s hard to believe that a team who was sitting atop their conference a mere few months ago could fall out so quickly. It’d be even nicer to be able to say that it’s harder to believe that a team who led their division for more than half the season could fall out so quickly. But for those who have been paying attention, this latest blow to what should have been a satisfying, fun ride for Syracuse and their fans is anything but surprising.

Regardless of what the standings have said, this was not a good season for the Syracuse Crunch. It just wasn’t. It ended the way it should have: with the Crunch losing nine of their last ten regular season games, being out-scored and out-hustled in nearly every outing. Those who have watched and worried all season, however, honestly felt that every game should have gone that way, and the fact that Syracuse was able to stick it out at the top for as long as they did was nothing short of a miracle.

That miracle has run out, and Syracuse’s season is on the brink of running out, too.

What’s probably the most frustrating thing with all of this is that the reasons the players and the coaching staff are giving for losing are things that were echoed by writers on this site back in November. According to quotes in a recent Syracuse.com article, the players are concerned about a lack of communication, a lack of energy and motivation, and a lack of organization on the ice. Those exact issues were ones that were pointed out as huge problems in the beginning of November in an article written by myself and John Fontana. Among the highlights:

How is it a team of skilled and talented players, those who could play at the NHL level as part of a concise unit, cannot find that same direction and motivation with their AHL teammates? It seems like a clear sign something is wrong.

When the status-quo holds and the product remains tepid and mediocre (making a showing but not putting together a winning effort) there’s a problem. It’s a problem higher than the guys on the ice.

The effort the Crunch is currently displaying is too disorganized, too scrambled, and too disconnected from each other to be capable of generating consistent efforts that translate to wins.

This is the second season the Syracuse Crunch are underperforming, and the second season that player recalls have been cited as the reason the compete-level is underwhelming from a talented roster. At what point is the problem acknowledged? At what point is everyone – players and coaches – held accountable for the lack of results?

How well does what was written in November match what is being said now? It appears nearly identical. So, are the players really saying that they have learned nothing since those times of troubles six months ago that will help them to overcome and persevere when this team needs to the most? And if so, what does that say about the leaders in the dressing room and behind the bench?

Yes, Syracuse’s roster has been dinged by recalls and injuries. Yes, their level of apparent scoring talent is lower than any other team in the Conference’s top 8. But shouldn’t there still be more that this roster can give? Something? Anything? The Crunch has been outscored so far by a 9-1 margin. Surely there’s got to be a better showing than that buried somewhere in this team’s potential.

Then again, maybe this group was doomed before they even started.

It’s been a point of idle chatter among Crunch fans as to whether the coaching staff has continued all of the team building exercises that former head coach Jon Cooper started during Syracuse’s 2012-13 season. That team, with many holdovers from a Norfolk Admirals squad that had won the Calder Cup the season before, was just about as close as a team could get. Cooper’s goal was to keep it that way. Players joined a bowling league with each other. They practically embodied the idea that a family who plays together stays together.

The past two seasons, news of that kind has been scarce. Although players continue to talk about how close they are, their stories to prove that closeness revolve around video game tournaments and team dinners, activities that, while normal and probably good in their own right, don’t exactly scream total team bonding. Has Cooper’s obviously successful plan been abandoned for some reason? If so, would continuing to follow that plan have changed anything this season?

Obviously, there’s a lot of questions and not a lot of concrete answers. However, if the goal is progress, then these questions are things that Syracuse’s players and coaching staff should be chewing on this summer.

How long they have to chew on them, however, is up to them.

ICYMI @RawCharge: #SyrCrunch playoff preview: round one vs. the Penguins   Leave a comment

What’s done is done, and although it’s obvious that the last few weeks of the Syracuse Crunch’s season didn’t work out as expected or hoped, there’s no use worrying about it now. It’s all water under the bridge. Spilled milk that there’s no use crying over.

A new season starts Monday. Playoffs have arrived in Syracuse.

The Syracuse Crunch finished the season in 5th place in the Eastern Conference and second in the Northeast Division with 92 points and a record of 41-25-10-0. Their 5th place seed means that the Crunch draws 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (WBS) as their first round opponent in the Calder Cup playoffs. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins finished the year with 97 points and a 45-24-3-4 record.

Syracuse took the regular season series with the Penguins 3 games to 1. Yanni Gourde was the player with the Penguins’ number, scoring three goals and netting two assists against them over all four contests. On the other side of the red line, Penguins’ center Jayson Megna will be the one for Syracuse’s defense to keep an eye on, as he netted four goals against Syracuse over the course of the season.

In net, Syracuse saw half of their mixed bag of goalies from this season play against WBS. Allen York only backed up for one game against the Penguins and did not play, while current Crunch backup Adam Wilcox arrived on the scene too late to get a game in against this conference foe. Andrei Vasilevskiy was the only Crunch goalie to take a loss against the Penguins this season, letting in 5 goals on 35 shots back on November 10th. He redeemed himself on January 17th when he came into the game in relief of Kristers Gudlevskis and helped to backstop Syracuse to a win. Gudlevskis himself claims a 3-2 victory against WBS that happened on November 15th, and also was the winning goalie in overtime on March 20th, when Syracuse won 2-1.

In net for the Penguins for the duration of this series will surely be AHL Rookie of the Year and the AHL’s Most Outstanding Goalie Matt Murray. Although Murray had a 0-2 record against the Crunch this season, he is not a player to underestimate. From theahl.com’s coverage of Murray’s top goalie award:

Murray owns a record of 25-9-3 in 39 appearances, and his 1.51 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and 12 shutouts not only lead the league in 2014-15, they also all represent the second-best marks in the 79-year history of the AHL.

Murray set an AHL record for longest shutout streak by a goaltender when he held Wilkes-Barre/Scranton opponents off the scoreboard for 304 minutes and 11 seconds between Feb. 8 and Mar. 8, a stretch that included four consecutive shutout victories. Murray is an impressive 13-3-3 on the road this season, and since the All-Star break overall, he is 15-2-1 with 17 goals allowed and nine shutouts in 18 starts.

The article also points out that Murray is a big reason that Wilkes-Barre/Scranton led the league in team defense: they ended the season at 2.15 goals per game with a total of 163 goals against. In contrast, the Crunch allowed an average of 2.92 goals per game. Their 219 goals against total led the Eastern Conference in the worst way possible and points to a clear deficit in Syracuse’s game: it’s hard to win when the puck’s always in the back of your own net.

Both the Crunch’s parent club and WBS’ parent club are in the playoffs. As of writing this, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins are both tied 1-1 in their respective opening-round series. Should either team drop out by the end of the first round (sorry, Lightning fans, but this needs to be said), both the Crunch and Wilkes-Barre could see reinforcements arriving.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has five players up top who are eligible to return for the AHL postseason. They are forward Scott Wilson (19-22), and defensemen Brian Dumoulin (4-29), Derrick Pouliot (7-17), Taylor Chorney (4-15), and Scott Harrington (2-10). The Crunch has three players in Tampa Bay who can come back for the playoffs. They are defenseman Nikita Nesterov (3-11), goalie Vasilevskiy, and forward Vladislav Namestnikov (14-21).

The reassignment of these players is completely up to the NHL parent club. Sometimes, when a player has been up and playing in the NHL consistently for a while, like Nesterov, the parent club will elect to not send them down and instead let the player rest up for next season. Theoretically, if the moment of a send down decision arrives, it’s very possible that Syracuse only sees Vasilevskiy. Goalie Ben Bishop is expected to run the gauntlet in the playoffs for Tampa, and Vasilevskiy’s overall usage by the Lightning during the regular season was low. Nesterov and Namestnikov have been seeing steady NHL time, and it’s very possible that Tampa elects to let them rest rather than have them play out the AHL playoffs.

In the AHL, the conference quarterfinals are a best-of-five series. The other three rounds are in a best-of-seven format. The Crunch-Penguins series will follow the following schedule:

Game 1 — Fri., April 24, 7:05 p.m. — Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Game 2 — Sat., April 25, 7:05 p.m. — Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Game 3 — Wed., April 29, 7 p.m. — Syracuse, N.Y.
Game 4 — Thu., April 30, 7 p.m. — Syracuse, N.Y. (if necessary)
Game 5 — Sat., May 2, 7:05 p.m. — Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (if necessary)

Syracuse is still waiting for a fully healthy roster. It’s currently expected that Crunch captain Mike Angelidis and Crunch defenseman and alternate captain Joey Mormina, both of whom have missed nearly three weeks of games due to injuries, will return in time for the playoffs. However, both were still practicing in red no-contact jerseys this past week. The status of Crunch defenseman Charlie Dodero, who was hurt this past Saturday during the first period and did not return to the game, is unknown at this time.

Having Angelidis back will be huge for Syracuse if it occurs. The Crunch has sorely missed Angelidis’ attitude, leadership, and ability these past few weeks. There’s just a visible change on the bench when Angelidis plays, and many are hoping rather desperately for his return this Friday.

Tickets for the April 29th game of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals are on sale now and range from $19 to $23 (day of game charges may apply). Tickets can be purchased by contacting the Syracuse Crunch office at (315) 473-4444, in person at the Syracuse Crunch office, or the Oncenter Box Office. Tickets can also be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com (additional fees may apply).

Final Regular Season Stats for the Syracuse Crunch:

  • Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 41-25-10-0

  • Place in Eastern Conference (top 8 make the playoffs): 5th

  • Place in Northeast Division: 2nd

  • Top scorer: Jonathan Marchessault (24-43-67)
  • Top scoring defenseman: Slater Koekkoek (5-21-26)

  • Top defenseman, +/-Jean-Philippe Cote, +14

  • Top rookie: Joel Vermin (12-21-33)

Other transactions and player news:

-Crunch players JP Cote, Mike Angelidis, and Eric Neilson are teaming together and are encouraging Crunch fans to save their change and donate it to a great cause. The funds will go to pediatric cancer research and will stay in the CNY area. TampaCuse enthusiasts can get in on the action, too, by going to the team’s Go Fund Me page.

Matthew Peca scored his first professional goal this past Saturday.

-The Crunch released defenseman Bryant Molle and signed defenseman Dan Milan this past week, although Milan has yet to suit up for the Crunch.

Syracuse Crunch media highlights:

The Crunch’s SoundCloud has been updated with broadcasts and player interviews from the past week.

Syracuse Crunch 2014-2015 team awards:

Bryant & Stratton “Smart Player” of the Year Award – #37 Yanni Gourde
This award goes to the player recognized as the smartest player on the ice throughout the year. He is in the right place at the right time to make the necessary play.

Columbia College “Go for Greater” Player of the Year Award – #18 Jonathan Marchessault
This award goes the player who continues to go for greater—through his on-ice play, assistance in the community or team leadership.

Davis-Ulmer “Crunch Protector” Player of the Year – #33 Dalton Smith
This award goes to the player who is always first to stick up for his teammates.

Eastern Shore Associates “Most Improved” Player of the Year – #6 Dylan Blujus
This award goes to the player who has shown the most improvement throughout the year.

Ephesus “Brightest Prospect”/Rookie of the Year Award – #65 Slater Koekkoek
This award goes to the best prospect of the year.

Gannon Pest Control “Pest of the Year” Award – #71 Tanner Richard
This award goes to the player who was voted by the fans as the hardest to play against for an opposing team.

NBT Bank “Plus/Minus Play of Year” Award – #37 Yanni Gourde
This award goes to the most dependable Crunch player, the one who leads the team in the plus/minus category. Gourde leads the team at plus-16.

NYCM Insurance “Insurance Player of the Year” Award – #37 Yanni Gourde
This award goes to the player with the most insurance goals on the season—insuring his team a win.

Lamacchia Power Forward of the Year Award – #10 Mike Angelidis
This award goes to the team’s best power forward.

Change of Pace Wing of the Year Award – #18 Jonathan Marchessault
This award goes to the team’s best winger.

IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year – #29 Eric Neilson
This award recognizes the Crunch player for exemplary community service. This is the third consecutive year Neilson has received this award.

Defenseman of the Year – #65 Slater Koekkoek
This award goes to the team’s best defenseman.

RE/MAX MVP Award – #10 Mike Angelidis
This award goes to the Most Valuable Player on the ice.

Here’s what I want the #SyrCrunch to do tonight   Leave a comment

Tonight, I want our Syracuse Crunch players to get back to enjoying their sport again.

I know the past few weeks have been tough. I know they haven’t been fun. It certainly hasn’t been fun from our side of the glass, so I’d imagine that it’s much worse on the other side.

As fans, we’re tough on our team. We always have been, and we’ll be the first ones to tell you that we are. But I’ve never once worried about that, because I can promise they’re much harder on themselves than we could ever be on them. Being tough on them shows how much we care, how passionate we are, and how much we want them to win, especially when we know that they can win.

We know this group can win.

Tonight is generally one of the most fun nights of the season. Players get recognized. Fans get appreciated. Memories, the good ones that make it worth going through everything we all do–players included–are shared.

I’ve always loved the last game of the regular season, simply because it’s generally a reminder of why we all do this, year after year. It’s important just because of that. Regardless of the outcome of a season, it reminds us of the sacrifice, of the excitement, of the passion, of the heart that is hockey.

Everything is so tense right now. It doesn’t need to be that way tonight. Tonight, I want our guys on the Crunch to forget about the standings. I want the team to forget about the record, the division, the conference. Screw it all.

I want them to play hockey.

But, more, I want them to enjoy it again.

We have hockey next week while a lot of other AHL teams, some of whom are closing their doors completely after this weekend, don’t. That’s good enough right now. The chips’ll fall, and we’ll face what’s next on Monday, once the whole picture has been made clear. It will be what it will be.

So, for tonight?

Enjoy hockey, boys.

Enjoy hockey.

Posted April 18, 2015 by allokago in Uncategorized

#SyrCrunch week 25 in review: Frittering away a division lead

Syracuse Crunch fans have been dreading this moment all season. For those who have been refusing to listen and have only been looking at the standings, they’re probably confused about what’s going on. For everyone else, this was an expected, but horribly frustrating, reality to finally come to pass.

The wheels have come off the Crunch’s season. And unless a miracle happens very quickly, “one and done” will forever be associated with the once-promising 2014-2015 Crunch.

Syracuse has lost six of their last seven games. That run, a downward slide riddled with call ups to the Lightning and injuries that severely tested the much-touted depth of Tampa Bay’s farm system, has slapped Syracuse out of first place in the Northeast Division.

Worst yet, the Crunch not only lost their hold on the division–a hold that was 8-points deep not that long ago–but they also lost their hold on one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference. In one week, Syracuse fell from 3rd place to 5th with three games remaining in the season, losing, at least for the moment, their grip on home ice advantage for the first round.

The good news is that the Crunch is out of first in the Northeast only because of a tie-breaker that the Hartford Wolf Pack currently owns. It is still possible that Syracuse could win the division, but it isn’t going to be easy. Both teams have three games left. Syracuse plays Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Hartford technically has the tougher schedule of a three-in-three for the final weekend of the AHL season.

Syracuse plays Albany (10th in the Eastern Conference), Adirondack (11th in the Western Conference), and Bridgeport (14th in the Eastern Conference) to end their regular season. The points are there for Syracuse to grab. But, the Crunch has had the nasty tendency of playing to the level of their opponent this season, and could very well find themselves losing all three games if they’re not careful.

Hartford plays Bridgeport twice with Albany in-between, so the same stands true for the Wolf Pack. The points are there to grab, and if their play recently is any indication of how well they will succeed, grab them they will. Hartford is 7-2-0-1 in their last 10 games. Syracuse is 4-5-1-0.

The Crunch has defied a lot of odds this season. But, this is clearly a team that has yet to fully embrace an identity. With one week left of regular season play, it’s now or never for Syracuse to decide what they want their legacy to be.

Latest Stats for the Syracuse Crunch:

  • Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 41-23-9-0

  • Place in Eastern Conference (top 8 make the playoffs): 5th

  • Place in Northeast Division: 2nd

  • Top scorer: Jonathan Marchessault (23-41-64)
  • Top scoring defenseman: Slater Koekkoek (5-19-24)

  • Top defenseman, +/-Jean-Philippe Cote, +14

  • Top rookie: Joel Vermin (11-20-31)

Other transactions and player news:

-Crunch players JP Cote, Mike Angelidis, and Eric Neilson are teaming together and are encouraging Crunch fans to save their change and donate it to a great cause. The funds will go to pediatric cancer research and will stay in the CNY area. TampaCuse enthusiasts can get in on the action, too, by going to the team’s Go Fund Me page.

Brayden Point scored his first professional goal this past Friday, a marker that tied the game and helped the Crunch win over Bridgeport in overtime.

-Syracuse Crunch captain Mike Angelidis sat out the weekend with an upper body injury that will be re-evaluated at the beginning of this week.

-Syracuse Crunch defenseman Joey Mormina was injured Saturday night and did not play on Sunday. He is now considered day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

-Syracuse Crunch forward Jonathan Marchessault was returned to the Crunch Sunday morning from Tampa Bay, where he scored his first NHL goal Saturday night. Marchessault netted four points (1g, 3a) in the Crunch’s victory Friday, his first 4-point game of his career.

-The Crunch signed defenseman Bryant Molle to a PTO on Sunday to replace Mormina. Molle, who skated in his first AHL game Sunday, was with the Reading Royals of the ECHL.

-Goalie Adam Wilcox made his professional debut Saturday night, a 3-1 loss for the Crunch against Springfield.

Syracuse Crunch media highlights:

The Crunch’s SoundCloud has been updated with broadcasts and player interviews from the past week.

ICYMI @RawCharge: #SyrCrunch week 24 in review: Costly clinch?

e Syracuse Crunch can’t be happy with the way they got into the Calder Cup playoffs. But, happy or not, Syracuse is in. The cost of that clinch, however, has yet to be determined.

It could be high.

Although the Crunch officially punched their playoff ticket this past Friday, it did so in the midst of a four-game losing streak, one that dates back to last Saturday. Syracuse has only earned one point since Friday, March 27th. But, due to the way Calder Cup slots are calculated, the Crunch was able to sneak into the playoffs because the Albany Devils won their game this past Friday in the shootout.

Yes, that exact combination – a Devils shootout win – was what one of the top teams in the AHL needed to make the playoffs. Without that, Syracuse might still be hanging out, waiting to clinch that berth.

Admittedly, the Crunch’s current losing streak isn’t exactly inspiring confidence among the Crunch’s fan base, although one could say that Syracuse has been battling this kind of adversity all season. However, there’s worse news to be had than Syracuse’s current 4-game losing streak.

For all of this season, one of the constants in Syracuse has been team captain Mike Angelidis. A lot has been said about his season, which has been one of his most successful of his 9-year AHL career. His 38 points is third on the team in scoring, and ties his career-high for points (set back in 2010-2011). His performance earned him his second career call up to Tampa Bay not that long ago.

But, points aside, Angelidis is also considered to be the absolute heart and soul of this team. His sweat, blood, and tears has gone into everything Syracuse has achieved this season. He’s led by example and he’s one of the bigger reasons the Crunch is where it is at this moment, leading the Northeast with six games remaining.

Angelidis left Friday’s contest with about five minutes remaining in the third. Although no one seemed to know what happened, it was reported Saturday morning that he was hurt while blocking a shot Friday and would not be playing that night. A Crunch fan in attendance at the game reported the following:

It should also be mentioned that Crunch goalie Kristers Gudlevskis had left the game around the same time as Angelidis on Friday. Saturday evening, it was reported by Crunch broadcaster Dan D’Uva that Gudlevskis experienced cramping during the game and was all right. Back up Allen York played Saturday’s loss in Bridgeport.

It’s pretty much an accepted, if not difficult to swallow, fact that most hockey players are playing through and hiding their pain at this point in the season. But if either of these guys are hurt for any extended period of time, things do not look good for Syracuse’s hopes at all.

Goalie Adam Wilcox was signed this past week, and it’s possible that he might start seeing some time if Gudlevskis is hurt in any serious way. Sure, the team claimed it was only cramps, but hockey fans know how this goes, especially once playoffs start coming up. If he is hurt worse, it’s hard to believe that the Crunch will be able to rely on York, who has only played a sparse 8 AHL games since the beginning of February. But, it might be harder to think about throwing Wilcox into some serious AHL regular and playoff minutes with so little preparation.

However, although goaltending is usually a playoff team’s bread and butter, it’s incredibly hard to believe the Crunch will be able to push forward without Angelidis. No information is available at the moment about his projected healing time or what the injury even is. Angelidis is literally this team’s identity. He is a huge motivator, he’s been a force on the penalty kill and has been logging power play minutes lately. He’s this team’s captain, and he deserves so much credit for where the Crunch is right now.

Moving forward without him is almost inconceivable right now.

Syracuse needs a lot of things at the moment. A defenseman or two from Tampa would be nice, so hopefully some Bolts will return to good health soon (and stay there). A prolonged burst of scoring from guys like Ryan Martindale, who has scored three goals in the Crunch’s last three games, would also go a long way towards that Northeast Division title.

Actually, it should be noted that Martindale has been on a tear since he was traded to the Crunch at the deadline, going 7-4 in 14 games (he was 8-5 in 45 games for the San Antonio Rampage before he was traded). That kind of pace definitely needs to continue, and it would also be great if guys like Cody Kunyk would start scoring again (Kunyk hasn’t scored a goal since March 6th).

But, honestly, most of all, Syracuse needs Angelidis to be okay.

Latest Stats for the Syracuse Crunch:

  • Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 40-21-8-0

  • Place in Eastern Conference (top 8 make the playoffs): 3rd

  • Place in Northeast Division: 1st

  • Lead on the next closest team in the Division: 4 points

  • Top scorer: Jonathan Marchessault (22-38-60)
  • Top scoring defenseman: Slater Koekkoek (5-19-24)

  • Top scoring defenseman still with the team: Jake Dotchin (6-13-19)

  • Top defenseman, +/-Jean-Philippe Cote, +14

  • Top rookie: Joel Vermin (11-20-31)

Other transactions and player news:

-Crunch players JP Cote, Mike Angelidis, and Eric Neilson are teaming together and are encouraging Crunch fans to save their change and donate it to a great cause. The funds will go to pediatric cancer research and will stay in the CNY area. TampaCuse enthusiasts can get in on the action, too, by going to the team’s Go Fund Me page.

-Both Matthew Peca, signed a contract last week, and Brayden Point saw power play time during the Crunch’s games this past weekend.

-Peca netted his first professional point in the Crunch’s loss to Bridgeport Saturday night, an assist on Kevin Lynch’s 2nd goal of the season.

Syracuse Crunch media highlights:

The Crunch’s SoundCloud has been updated with broadcasts and player interviews from the past week.

Eric Neilson has been named the Man of the Year for the #SyrCrunch….again!

Man of the Year team award winners named

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today the individual team winners of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year awards, selected by their respective clubs for their outstanding contributions to the local community and charitable organizations during the 2014-15 season.

From this list of finalists, representatives from IOA/American Specialty and the AHL will choose the winner of the 2014-15 Yanick Dupré Memorial Award. The AHL’s annual Man of the Year award is named after the late Yanick Dupré, who died in 1997 at the age of 24, following a 16-month battle with leukemia. Dupré, an AHL All-Star in 1995, played four seasons with the Hershey Bears and also skated in 35 National Hockey League games with the Philadelphia Flyers.

This year’s winners of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year awards are:

Mathieu Tousignant, Adirondack Flames (1st-time winner)
Dan Kelly, Albany Devils (2nd)
Michael Sdao, Binghamton Senators (1st)
Aaron Ness, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (1st)
Kyle Hagel, Charlotte Checkers (5th)
Shane Harper, Chicago Wolves (1st)
Tom McCollum, Grand Rapids Griffins (2nd)
Davis Drewiske, Hamilton Bulldogs (2nd)
Ryan Bourque, Hartford Wolf Pack (2nd)
Mike Moore, Hershey Bears (4th)
Jonathon Blum, Iowa Wild (2nd)
Bruno Gervais, Lake Erie Monsters (1st)
Zack Stortini, Lehigh Valley Phantoms (1st)
Kevin Raine, Manchester Monarchs (1st)
Zach Budish, Milwaukee Admirals (1st)
John Kurtz, Norfolk Admirals (2nd)
Matthew Ford, Oklahoma City Barons (1st)
Jordan Szwarz, Portland Pirates (1st)
Justin Florek, Providence Bruins (1st)
Nick Petrecki, Rochester Americans (4th)
Zach Miskovic, Rockford IceHogs (1st)
Quinton Howden, San Antonio Rampage (1st)
Corey Cowick, Springfield Falcons (2nd)
Will O’Neill, St. John’s IceCaps (1st)
Eric Neilson, Syracuse Crunch (7th)
Derek Hulak, Texas Stars (1st)
Tom Nilsson, Toronto Marlies (1st)
Alex Biega, Utica Comets (1st)
Barry Goers, W-B/Scranton Penguins (2nd)
Konrad Abeltshauser, Worcester Sharks (2nd)

The winner of the 2014-15 Yanick Dupré Memorial Award will be announced later this month.

This is the 7th time in Eric’s career that he has been named the Man of the Year for his team. Last season, as you may remember, Eric was also awarded the Yanick Dupré Memorial Award for everything he has done for the Syracuse community.

The following is the release from the team itself:

Syracuse, NY – The American Hockey League announced today that Eric Neilson of the Syracuse Crunch has been selected as the winner of the Yanick Dupré Memorial Award as the 2013-14 IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year.

This award has been presented annually since 1998 to an AHL player for his outstanding contributions to his local community and charitable organizations. The Yanick Dupré Memorial Award winner is selected by the AHL and representatives from IOA and American Specialty from among 30 individual team Man of the Year honorees.

A six-time recipient of his team’s Yanick Dupré Award nomination (in five different AHL cities), Neilson has continued an impressive tradition of community service that has been a hallmark of his career. Since joining the Crunch organization in 2012, Neilson has gone above and beyond in his efforts to give back to the Syracuse community.

Neilson’s efforts this year were highlighted by his creation of the “Breakfast with a Champion” program, designing, developing and executing his initiative designed to teach elementary school students the importance of nutrition and healthy eating. Neilson was involved in every step of the program’s planning process, from pitching it to local schools to shopping for groceries to supplying students with tickets to Crunch games as rewards for their participation.

Neilson’s commitment to children was also seen in his work with as the primary speaker in the Crunch’s anti-bullying program, and as the team’s main spokesman for Upstate University Hospital including their “safe kids” public service initiative about concussion prevention. He dedicated time to issues such as men’s and women’s health causes also, generating awareness for breast cancer and heading up the team’s winning “Mustache Movember” team for prostate cancer research.

The AHL’s annual Man of the Year award is named after the late Yanick Dupré, who passed away in 1997 at the age of 24 following a 16-month battle with leukemia. A second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1991, Dupré played four seasons in the AHL with the Hershey Bears and was an AHL All-Star in 1995.

Congratulations, Eric!! Well deserved, again.

ICYMI at @RawCharge: forward Matthew Peca signed, will head to #AHL #SyrCrunch

The Syracuse Crunch is on the very edge of the Calder Cup playoffs. As of this morning, their magic number for clinching a playoff berth was 4. That number could be lowered to zero if things play out right tonight. According to the AHL’s most recent Playoff Primer, the Crunch could clinch a berth tonight if one of the following two scenarios play out:

(a) a regulation or overtime win vs. Binghamton AND an Albany loss (reg/OT/SO) vs. Manchester

OR

(b) a shootout win vs. Binghamton AND an Albany regulation loss vs. Manchester.

Once Syracuse clinches, their next order of business will be to remain atop of the AHL’s Northeast Division, something the Crunch has managed to do for the last several weeks. The Crunch is currently 7 points ahead of second-place Hartford, a team Syracuse will play on Friday. As long as that gap stays open, Syracuse will be sitting pretty in one of the top three spots in their Eastern Conference, and will have home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

As the first round is a best-of-three, home ice is pretty important, especially to a Syracuse team that has made a living out of winning in the Onondaga County War Memorial this season. Two seasons ago, the Crunch had home ice for the first round the playoffs, and swept the Portland Pirates to move onto the second round. That season, Syracuse wasn’t nearly as proficient and comfortable in the War Memorial as they have been this season. Syracuse could definitely get a leg up in the playoffs with home ice advantage for at least the first round.

Thankfully for the offensively-strapped Crunch, help is on the way. Last week, the Lightning brought Bradyen Point to the Crunch. This week, they’ve signed another forward who has the potential to jump into the mix immediately and assist Syracuse: Matthew Peca.

Peca was signed by the Lightning to a two-year, two-way contract for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 season. He was also signed to an amateur try-out contract (ATO) with the Syracuse Crunch, where he will remain for the remainder of the Crunch’s season. It’s been reported that Peca will wear number 22 in Syracuse. It is not yet clear whether he will be available for tonight’s contest against Binghamton.

Peca has spent the past four years playing for the Quinnipiac Bobcats, and was recently touted by the New Haven Register as “the best player to ever come through the Hamden campus.” Although currently on the small side-Peca is 5-foot-8, 155-pounds-he reportedly doesn’t let his size get in the way of playing big. He  played in 157 career NCAA games with Quinnipiac, registering 42 goals and 143 points.

His point totals, however, only tell half the story. According to the Register, Peca brings with him a lot of good hockey sense, energy, and an innate desire to sacrifice his body in order to get the win:

But his knack for doing the little things endeared Peca to teammates. Just a shade over 160 pounds, he never shied away from contact in the corners. He was outstanding on face-offs; took countless double-shifts on the penalty kill; devoured minutes in tight games. And his enthusiasm for throwing himself in front of opposing slap shots seemed borderline maniacal.

Peca’s signing gives Crunch fans a reason to be optimistic about their forward depth, even without the likes of Vladislav Namestnikov. This is especially helpful since the Crunch’s defense is still looking thin while Slater Koekkoek, Luke Witkowski and Nikita Nesterov remain with Tampa. With the AHL playoffs right around the corner for Syracuse, Peca definitely has the chance to jump in and make a difference right away.

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