SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … In their 12th year of existence, the Syracuse Crunch are poised to rewrite the franchise record books in 2005-06, with eyes on bringing a Calder Cup championship to the Salt City for the first time since the AHL’s inaugural 1936-37 season.
The Crunch are on a 23-8-1-0 roll since mid-December and have reeled off seven straight wins by a combined score of 31-10, tying the team mark set in 2000 and moving into second place in the North Division, a position occupied exclusively by either Grand Rapids or Manitoba for nearly four months. Syracuse’s 35 wins are four off the record established by the 2001-02 team that also claimed the Crunch’s only division title to date.
Fourth-year pro Mark Hartigan is having an MVP-type season for Syracuse, currently ranking fourth in the league’s scoring race with 65 points (28g, 37a) in only 42 games. Hartigan, who played in the 2006 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic, has recorded at least one point in 25 of his last 26 outings, and his current seven-game goal-scoring streak is tied for the longest such run in the AHL since current Carolina Hurricane Matt Cullen scored in eight straight games for Cincinnati in 1997-98.
Andy Delmore continues to have a career year as well, leading all AHL defensemen with 50 points in 46 games. Delmore, who won a Calder Cup as a rookie with Philadelphia in 1998, went off for four goals in Syracuse’s 9-4 win over Binghamton on Wednesday night, the last three coming within a span of 98 seconds. He is the first AHL blueliner to score four goals in one game since Baltimore’s Mark Ferner accomplished the feat against Hershey on Feb. 10, 1991.
Delmore’s partners on the Syracuse defense corps include Aaron Johnson, an AHL All-Star as a rookie in 2004; Jamie Pushor, a Stanley Cup champion with Detroit in 1997; Marc Methot, who won the Memorial Cup with London last season; and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, who is second on the team in both plus/minus rating (+14) and penalty minutes (125).
Geoff Platt scored his 20th goal of the season over the weekend, becoming the first Crunch rookie to reach that plateau in six years. Joe Motzko has scored 13 power-play goals for Syracuse, which ranks seventh in the AHL in efficiency with the man advantage, and Ben Simon has four shorthanded markers, tying a club record. Second-year pro Greg Mauldin and rookies Alexandre Picard and Andrew Murray have also hit double digits in goals, while Peter Sarno, who finished second in the AHL in assists last season, has recorded 29 points in 25 games in an injury-shortened campaign.
In net, Andrew Penner and Mike Ayers, who had nine career AHL wins between them entering the season, are a combined 25-10-1 for the Crunch.
Head coach Gary Agnew, who has seen 19 of his players recalled by the parent Columbus Blue Jackets already this season, leads the Crunch back into action this week with four games, including home contests against division leaders Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday and Grand Rapids on Friday.
MORE XM GAMES ANNOUNCED … Two more games have been added to the schedule of AHL contests to be carried live on XM Satellite Radio and XM Canada.
XM will air Tuesday’s game between San Antonio and Peoria (8:00 ET) and Wednesday’s game between Omaha and Manchester (7:05 ET) on Home Ice channel 204.
Up to 15 AHL games are scheduled to be available on XM this month; future broadcasts will be announced later this week.
SMYTH CLIMBS SCORING LIST … Manchester forward Brad Smyth passed former Monarchs head coach Bruce Boudreau on the AHL’s all-time goal-scoring list when he collected his 317th career goal on Friday night against Norfolk.
Smyth, who played for Boudreau in Manchester last season, added number 318 on Sunday in Philadelphia.
The former league MVP and scoring champion is now 13th all-time, and needs just seven goals to crack the top 10.
TROTZ TO BE HONORED … The Portland Pirates will honor current Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz with induction into the team’s Hall of Fame on Feb. 26.
Trotz spent four seasons as the Pirates’ head coach, leading the team a Calder Cup championship in 1994 and a return to the Finals in 1996. He won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach in 1993-94.