By Doug Schneider
You wont encounter many Syracuse Crunch players at any Lowell bars after Friday's Crunch-Lock Monsters contest. Almost half the team isn't legally oldenough to drink.
As it has all year, Syracuse will dress 10 players who are 20 or younger. That has been one of the 1-4-1 team's problems to date.
"With young kids, theres always growing pains, said sixth-year coach Jack McIlhargey, who has coached in the AHL since most of his players were in their mid-teens.
McIlhargey leads a team of Vancouver and Pittsburgh prospects. This is the second and final season of the dual affiliation. Next year, the Pens will have an AHL team in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Syracuse has talent, but its top forwards have yet to produce. In the team's first five games, only two Crunch forwards (neither a veteran) had more than two points. Entering Wednesdays game at St. Johns, Syracuse was 1-for-28 on
the power play.
Players who will be key in determining if Syracuse has a chance to win in its first visit to Lowell:
21-Josh Holden, C...Feisty 20-year-old playmaker...Syracuse's no. 2 scorer, with 5 points in 6 games...Canucks' 1996 first-round pick (12th overall)...99 points in 56 games last season as a WHL star at Regina... recovering from a freak injury in which a player's skate severed 10 tendons in his wrist, endinghis WHL season...Calgary native lost a training-camp battle with ex-AHLer Brandon Convery for Canucks 4th center spot.
30-Craig Hillier, G...Another first-round pick (23rd overall, 1996)...Had scintillating 1.33 GAA through teams first 6 games, yet only a 1-1-1 record (His backup, fellow rookie Mike Valley, is 0-3)...Pro debut a road shutout of defending AHL champ Philadelphia...As a 19-year-old last year, went 27-12-4, 2.50 for Ottawa as OHLs top goalie...Disciple of Martin Brodeur, but idolized Grant Fuhr as a kid...Native Nova Scotian was junior teammate of Tim Keyes, Syracuses 3rd-string goalie.
24-Robert Dome, RW...Perhaps the AHLs greatest offensive talent...earned all- star berth last season though hed just turned 19...Czech had 46 points (8 PPG) in just 36 AHL games, before promotion to Pittsburgh...was expected to
see 2nd-line duty in NHL this season...Demoted after a poor training camp...Has had difficulty getting untracked, with 2 points in his first 4 games...Pens first-round pick (17th overall) in 97...already in 4th year of pro hockey...work habits have been questioned.
4-Mark Wotton, D...Returning AHL all-star...5th season with Syracuse, 4th as captain...has had several promotions to Vancouver, which originally chose him in the 10th round of the draft...Undersized (511, 192), but excellent two-way
defensemen had 33 points in 56 AHL games last year...Quiet leader, wont be outworked...At 24, is among teams older players...Often paired with his teams weakest blueliner last year...Native of Foxwarren, Man. (pop. 200), which produced NHLer Pat Falloon.
16-Peter Schaefer, RW...Teams leading returing scorer (63 points in 73 games)...Off to terrible start (0 points through 6 games)...WHL Player of the Year two years ago after 120-point season for Brandon...Booming shot for
average-sized guy (511, 190)...Great puck-carrying skills...Cooled off after a hot training camp start that appeared to have him ticketed for Vancouver...3rd-round draft choice...Originally a LW, started playing RW last year.
15-Valentin Morozov, RW...Rookie is teams early scoring leader, with 7 points in 6 games...Had 5 G, 15 assists last season with Russias Krylja Sovetov.
20-Michael Rozsival, D...Offensive defenseman among early scoring leaders, with 3 points in 4 games...averaged a point a game last season at Swift Current (WHL)...Another of Syracuses 20-year-old AHL rookies...native Czechoslovakian.
Next for Syracuse: At Lowell.
1. Syr, Peter Schaefer, 1, (Pavel Skrbek, Michael Rozsival) 6:54 (PP)
2. Syr, Valentin Morozov, 2, (Mark Wotton, Darren Sinclair)11:53 (PP)
3. Syr, Sean O'Brien, 1, (Skrbek, Josh Holden)18:51
4. SJ, Ryan Pepperall 3, (Adams, Lonny Bohonos) 19:56
5. Syr, Zenith Komarniski, 1, (Morozov, Sean O'Brien) 9:32 (PP)
6. Syr, Holden, 2, (Skrbek, Rozsival) 8:23 (PP)
Syracuse: Craig Hillier (left after first, pulled muscle), Tim Keyes
St. John's: Bonner (pulled after allowing three goals in first), Robataille
St. John's: 39
Notes: Syracuse had one goal in its last 28 power plays (and four in its last
50) entering tonight's game... Morozov had three points for the second
straight night. He leads the Crunch in scoring, with 10 points in 5
games...Crunch defensemen Pavel Skrbek and Michael Rozsival had three and two
assists, respectively... Komarniski's goal was his first as a
pro...Pepperall's goal was his third of the season and second in two
nights...Syracuse D Brent Sopel missed his second straight game with a rib