The Captains and the Crunch: 12/29

JustSports PhotographyGreetings from the GC!

Who can forget this picture?  There are actually two of these in our collection, and they look very similar.  Chris Bourque scored the overtime winner against the Hartford Wolf Pack in the home opener on October 24, and then scored with 20 seconds-and-change left in the game on December 5 against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, breaking a 1-1 deadlock and sending the Chocolate and White to victory.

Why the fuss?

Because he’s back.

After missing the last three games with an upper-body injury, alternate captain #17 returns to the lineup and he is going right to work with top-line minutes.  He comes back with the league’s longest active point streak under his belt as well (eight games, 4G-7A=11 points).  It goes without saying that this is a massive boost to the power play.  He was missing from the lineup a week ago Sunday, when the Bears last played Syracuse and came back from 3-0 down to win 5-4 in overtime.

Three games felt like an eternity without Bourque – but the Bears did grab two wins in his three absences and still scored a combined 13 goals.  Now, the top offensive player is back in there again.  I wouldn’t want to be on the Syracuse defense tonight.  The Bears are climbing the ladder – fast – in goals per game average and it’s great to see.

Besides Bourque, you will notice another familiar face – and letter-wearer – back in the lineup.  Whether it be because of a quick heal or because of the recent recall of our other alternate captain Zach Sill to Washington, Mitchell will play.  Mann calls it “a boost of energy in the room to get this week started off right.”  Who can argue that?  Mann said yesterday after practice that Mitchell could be ready to go as early as the New Year’s Eve contest against Lehigh Valley at GIANT Center, and here he is ready to jump in for the first time since November 21.

Here is a chat I had with Mitchell just before game time:

Syracuse, however, will also have a new-look lineup – one that is actually bigger than the 20-player minimum.  Captain Mike Angelidis, Mike Blunden, Yanni Gourde and Tanner Richard have returned from NHL recall duty in Tampa Bay to bolster Rob Zettler’s forward lineup; former (Adirondack) Phantoms forward Luke Pither has been signed on to a tryout; and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, although having played on Sunday, is rested and most likely will bring his 5-0-0 record against the Bears to the opposite crease.   Forward Henri Ikonen, who took the hit from the suspended Liam O’Brien last Sunday, did not play in Syracuse’s last two games, and it’s not clear if he is ready yet for tonight.

Back on the side of the Chocolate and White, goaltender Mark Dekanich departs the cold and rainy central Pennsylvania for sunny Orlando to join his South Carolina Stingrays teammates for their game against the Solar Bears tonight.  He made 18 saves on 22 shots in his Bears debut on Sunday against the Binghamton Senators, and backed up Dan Ellis on Saturday in the 5-0 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

This means that Dan Ellis and Justin Peters are BOTH okay.  Morning skate looked as normal as ever today, and it’s fantastic news that Ellis’ injury suffered during the third period of Saturday’s game against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was not serious.  Peters suffered his injury during the first period of the last contest against Syracuse, and has ramped up his practices ever since resting for two days.  Great news all around, indeed.

That’s about as positive as things can be as we get set for tonight’s matchup with the Crunch.  Despite all of their roster issues, the Crunch are a respectable 12-12-4-1 on the young season and just saw an eight-game win streak against the Bears snapped last Sunday.  Here’s hoping for a big W for the good guys – which would be a nice birthday present for last Sunday’s hero, Sean Collins, who turns 27 today.

Game notes are all set right here.

Air time is at 6:20 and a reminder that you can tune in to all home games inside the GIANT Center live on 88.9 FM.  The rest of the broadcast availability can be found by clicking the link above.