Last season the Syracuse Crunch suffered a disappointing first round playoff loss. At the rate they’re going at this year, there’s an excellent chance they won’t even make it that far. Through 34 games this year, the Crunch have posted a 13-15-3-3 record, which puts them in the basement of the AHL’s North Division. There is still room for a dramatic turnaround, however, with 46 games left. Not yet at the halfway mark of the season, the Crunch are 11 points out of a playoff spot.
If the Crunch want to make a serious run towards the Calder Cup playoffs, they will need to have leading scorer Joe Motzko continue to put up big numbers. Last year as a rookie, Motzko contributed 41 points, and is on pace to surpass that this campaign. An undrafted collegiate player out of St. Cloud State, the 24-year-old Motzko has notched 10 goals and 14 assists through 34 games.
Another key member of the Crunch that must continue to contribute offensively is Alexander Svitov. Svitov, who has played in parts of three NHL seasons, is in his first full season with Syracuse, but at only 22, he is a veteran by way of experience.
Youngsters Tim Jackman and Greg Mauldin have been two reliable forwards for the Crunch. Jackman has scored 15 points through 33 games, and is a +5. The 23-year-old right winger has been a welcome returnee to Syracuse so far this season after spending 19 games up with the Blue Jackets last season. His two game-winning goals leads the team.
Mauldin, who has absolutely blistering speed, is leading the team with a +8 rating so far in only 25 games played. A 22-year-old rookie out of Umass-Amherst, the left wing is having an excellent campaign with 12 points, and is a treat to watch.
Twenty-two-year-old Aaron Johnson has shown some promise and solid play on the blue line. The Nova Scotia native has 9 points so far this year, to go along with 55 penalty minutes and a –4 rating. He leads defensive prospects in scoring.
Goaltending has definitely been a major issue for Syracuse this season. With top goaltending prospect Pascal Leclaire out with an injury, the duties have now been bestowed on 25-year-old Karl Goehring. This season marks the Goehring’s fourth with the Crunch. What he lacks in size he makes up for in quickness and positioning. He stole the show in a recent shootout victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs on January 2nd. Leclaire is 5-6-3, with a 2.34 GAA and a .926 save percentage in 14 games with the Crunch.
The Crunch must turn their season around quickly or else the only thing from the 2004-05 season worth remembering will be Brandon Sugden having the most fighting majors in the AHL.
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