“Crunch or Be Crunched” –Phantoms Preview


No rest for the weary, as the Phantoms head up to the ‘Cuse for their second game in as many days–with another to come at the PPL Center tomorrow.  They’ll try to avenge their opening night loss at the PPL Center, and “Stoli The Goalie” should get the call in net tonight for the men in orange.  Here are some notes for tonight’s away game, should you be following along on AHL Live or 1470AM.  This time der Eishockeyzuschauer sends his notes digitally, rather than on a whiteboard:


So far as the team’s first nine games of this 2015/16 AHL season for the Syracuse Crunch have been concerned, it’s been all about that goaltending situation. It’s quite possible that Syracuse will be using its fifth different netminder already this season when the Lehigh Valley Phantoms visit the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena tonight.  Yes, that’s right — five different goaltenders in a span of just ten games!

Latvia’s 2014 Olympic veteran Kristers Gudlevskis started the first two games for Syracuse this fall (including the season-opener against those Hamilton Street Heroes at the PPL Center in Allentown) and conceded just four goals while registering back-to-back victories.  But the 23-year-old workhorse, who appeared in 46 games (2.81 avg, .900 svpct) for the Crunch last season, wound up missing the next six games for upstate New Yorkers after being recalled by the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. In the meantime, Syracuse went with untested Tommy Wilcox, the rookie from the University of Minnesota who was the 6th round pick of Tampa Bay at the 2011 NHL Draft, and journeyman Allen York, the 26-year-old journeyman from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who once made 11 NHL appearances for the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2011/12 campaign, in their next four games and lost all four on the trot while giving up no fewer than four goals per contest.
Highly touted Russian goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, the 21-year-old who was 1st round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2012 NHL Draft, arrived in Syracuse on a conditioning assignment after missing the beginning of the new season through injury and conceded just two goals in as many starts (.965 svpct) for the Crunch–but has since departed.
Gudlevskis, who was sent back to Syracuse by Tampa Bay on the first of November, was unimpressive (four goals allowed on just 25 shots) against the visiting Albany Devils on Friday night and could be suffering a letdown as a result of the recent demotion, as is sometimes the case — it is a fact that the Latvia national team netminder had a strong showing while stopping 31 of 32 shots faced against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Black Hawks in his one and only NHL start for the Lightning this season.
And so Syracuse could very well turn to the recently arrived Kevin Poulin against Lehigh Valley on Saturday. The 25-year-old veteran, who has appeared in 50 NHL games (3.07 avg, .899 svpct) for the New York Islanders in his career and was first choice for the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers (46 ga, 2.87 avg, .912 svpct) last season, has not played at any level this season after being claimed off the wavier wire by the Tampa Bay Lighting when the Islanders attempted to assign Poulin to their farm club towards the end of training camp. Poulin, who was sent to Syracuse by Tampa Bay on October 25th, does have a two-way contract which shells out $ 275,000 for AHL service so the Crunch might want to make him start earning it at some point.
The Syracuse Crunch have definitely been fortified by the recent arrival Russian defenseman Nikita Nesterov, the third-year pro who played in the annual AHL All-Star game last winter. The 200-pound rearguard was demoted to Syracuse on Friday after appearing in just six of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s first 15 NHL games this season. Perhaps eager to prove he does not want to be back riding the buses, Nesterov had a goal on his AHL season debut for Syracuse against Albany on Friday night.
The Crunch have been receiving stand out play from rookie defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, the 19-year-old native of Sewell, New Jersey, who was the 1st round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2014 NHL Draft; the undersized DeAngelo (9 ga, 3 go, 8 pts, 0 pen, + 1 def) leads the entire Syracuse team in scoring so far this season.
Up front the danger man for Syracuse remains the small but skillful Jonathan Marchessault (5’9″ 177 lbs). The 24-year-old right wing has never scored less than 21 goals in each of his first four years as a professional and is clearly on pace (8 ga, 4 go, 7 pts, 4 pen, + 4 def) to maintain that record. Marchessault has proved himself to be particularly fatal for Lehigh Valley, scoring two goals in each of his last two games against the Phantoms.
Look for a “hockey night” post in the morning, as the Hamilton Street Heroes will return to face off against the Binghamton Senators tomorrow late-afternoon.
See you at the arena,

Categories: Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Phantoms Hockey

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