Friday, December 21, 2012

Heeting up 12/21

It wasn't all that long ago when the Phantoms were grossly out-shot in a road game and Scott Munroe almost single-handedly got them a standings point.

There's a lot of parallels between that game, an overtime loss at Providence, and tonight's game at Syracuse. This time, though, the Phantoms won -- and they can thank rookie goaltender Cal Heeter for their 4-3 shootout victory.

He made 32 saves over the final 45 minutes of action, including 29 combined between the second and third periods. The Phantoms had just nine shots on goal during those two periods, which is a good way to allow a high-octane team like the Crunch to storm back from a 3-0 deficit and tie the game 3-3.

You can't fault Heeter on any of the goals, though. Richard Panik scored on a power play after Ondrej Palat set him up with a great pass, the defense left the red-hot Alex Killorn wide open in front of the net and he got off a quick shot and then Tyler Johnson scored on a second-or-third-chance rebound.

I thought an interesting storyline in this one was how Heeter made two big glove saves on Cory Conacher in the third period. Then, Conacher switched it up and went blocker side in the shootout.

Heeter saw it the whole way and kicked it away. That wound up being your ballgame, as Garrett Roe, Brayden Schenn, Jason Akeson and Danny Syvret had scored on their shots to help the Phantoms win both the shootout and the game 4-3. Akeson had himself a day, scoring twice in Adirondack's best first period of the season. Harry Zolnierczyk scored 71 seconds into the game and Akeson scored on a power play just over a minute later to put Adirondack up 2-0 before the game was three minutes old.

I wrote earlier this week about how Murray wanted Akeson, he of the 10 assists and zero goals, to be a little more selfish and shoot the puck a little more. That goal was a pretty good example of that in action. He took a pass from Schenn and walked along the goal line. Akeson probably could have tried to force a pass to Syvret, who was cutting to the far post, but he kept it himself and beat Tokarski.

Then Schenn made a beautiful pass to Akeson later in the period. He stole the puck from J.P. Cote at the blue line and just barreled down the left wing. Evan Oberg tried to slide and block Schenn's pass, but he fed it past Oberg and goalie Dustin Tokarski right to Akeson at the far post. A quick one-timer later and the Phantoms were up 3-0. Hard to imagine this game ending in a shootout at that point.

But there were signs the Crunch were threatening. They rolled off eight consecutive shots at one point in the first period. You had to figure it was only a matter of time before they broke through. They did -- a couple of times -- but Heeter came up with a lot more big stops than any team could reasonably expect their goaltender to make and still walk away with a victory. Yet that's exactly what they'll do.

This is the fourth time they've won back-to-back games all season. First since their win streak last month, when they did it twice in a row (the first two, then the last two). They'll have a chance to make it three in a row tomorrow at Bridgeport, which would match their season-high win streak.

I'll be there, so check for a pre-game blog post in the evening. Post-game will follow.

It will be interesting to see how that one develops, since Adirondack has a pretty lengthy bus ride overnight and Bridgeport was idle tonight. The first period is probably going to be big there, but as we saw tonight it's by no means any indicator of guaranteed success. This turned into a wild one.

Another note: Brayden Schenn's two assists on Akeson's goals gave him 29 points. He's tied with Johnson and Hershey's Jeff Taffe for fourth in the AHL. Springfield's Cam Atkinson has 30, while Oklahoma City's dynamic Edmonton duo of Justin Schultz and Jordan Eberle each have 38. And the Phantoms are now a ridiculous 10-2-1 when he scores a point and 2-12 when he is held without.

This was Adirondack's 13th one-goal game of the season, about half of the 27 games they've played. They're now 7-5-1 in them. It was their third straight, fifth in six, and eighth in 12.

Division: Kris Newbury had three points and Cam Talbot made 39 saves as Connecticut thrashed Manchester 5-2. They probably were still a little sour from that 9-2 loss a couple weeks ago. Igor Bobkov made 35 saves to lead the old Syracuse Crunch -- now Norfolk -- over Albany 2-1.

Until next time,


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