Q&A: Palmieri Hoping to Prolong Outstanding Season in Syracuse
|"Our team has been great all year. We’ve had a lot of guys going up and down, being in an out of the lineup, and it can be hard to build chemistry. We went through our highs and lows this season, but I think we all came together at the right time and made that impressive run."|
Battling with his Syracuse Crunch teammates in the Calder Cup Playoffs has been a nice capper on a pretty outstanding season for Kyle Palmieri.
The 21-year-old winger from Smithtown, NY finished the AHL regular season with 33 goals and 25 assists in 51 games with the Crunch, a figure that would have been significantly higher had he not been brought up for 18 games with the Ducks. A 2012 AHL All-Star, Palmieri led the AHL in goals and co-led in game-winning goals (7) at the time of his last promotion to Anaheim in March. From there, he scored three goals in seven games with the Ducks, including a two-goal game in a 4-0 win over Detroit.
But with the Ducks out of the playoff picture and the Crunch in the middle of a fight for the postseason, Palmieri was sent to Syracuse on March 26. There he was part of a sparkling 15-3-1-1 run to finish the season, earning Syracuse a seventh seed and a first-round meeting with the St. John’s IceCaps (Winnipeg’s AHL affiliate). After a disappointing 5-1 loss last night in Game 3 of that five-game series, the Crunch are fighting to stay alive in Game 4 in St. John’s tomorrow night.
Palmieri took some time after a Thursday morning practice to talk about his season in Syracuse, his goals for next season and more.
What did you take away from that loss last night?
We came out ready to play and we had our gameplan set, and I thought the first 10 minutes we really took it to them. But we got a couple penalties and got down early. Sexy made a great play and had a nice goal, and I thought we were back in it. But they were pretty relentless in their home rink and they just overwhelmed us. We didn’t have what it took to fight back, but hopefully going into tomorrow night’s game we can take it up another level and take home the W.
|"It’s been an awesome season for me. I was able to produce down here and be confident every game and try to work on my consistency, which I thought really improved over last season ... Hopefully next year, I’ll hopefully put myself in a position to earn a spot on the team."|
Now you’re looking at a do-or-die tomorrow night in Game 4.
Definitely. Coach [Trent] Yawney has really stressed staying in control at all times, and I think for the most part we’ve done that. We’ve never gotten too high or too low. Right now we’ve just got to focus on the first five minutes. It’s a pretty loud crowd they have here in St. John’s and we’ll need to take them out of it early and go from there. We worked on some stuff today, and I think going into tomorrow night’s game, we’re still confident we can win and win the series.
What has the atmosphere been like in Syracuse this year?
Syracuse is an awesome atmosphere. Obviously, playing in front of your home fans, it’s a great opportunity, and all the fans seemed to have a great time in two exciting games that really came down to the wire. Obviously with the [Syracuse University] basketball team and football team here, it’s tough to fight for their fans, but the Crunch faithful have been great all year. Looking back, it was a great regular season and our fans kept it up for the playoffs.
It’s tough to keep a tight-knit group on the AHL level with guys going up and down, but has this group remained close?
Our team has been great all year. We’ve had a lot of guys going up and down, being in an out of the lineup, and it can be hard to build chemistry. We went through our highs and lows this season, and with the coaching change too, it mixed stuff up a lot. But I think we all came together at the right time and made that impressive run at the end of the season to make the playoffs.
What was the key to that run?
I think at that point we looked at it like we had nothing to lose. It was a great run for all the guys, and it was a great experience for all of us. It really goes to show that you’re never out until that last game of the season. For us, it took that last game of the season, going into Albany and having to get two points. Even though I was up in Anaheim for some of that run, our guys did a great job to give us that opportunity to make a run down the stretch.
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Which guys are you closest with on the Crunch?
I’d say [defenseman] Mat Clark is probably my closest friend on the team. He’s been my roommate for all this year, and last year I lived with him for a little bit. We’ve been pretty close the whole time. But all around, it’s a pretty close team, and I don’t think you see that with pro teams all that often, with guys being around each other outside the rink. But this team has great chemistry and we’re all friends with each other. It’s been a great team to be a part of, and hopefully we can turn this series around and extend our season a little bit.
What are your feelings when you look back on this season personally?
It’s been an awesome season for me. I was able to produce down here and be confident every game and try to work on my consistency, which I thought really improved over last season. Coming into this year, the coaches and staff were really stressing on me to play more of a two-way game and be more responsible defensively, and that’s one of the things I focused on this year. I tried not to do too much, as far as playing my role, and I just wanted to be more responsible at both ends of the ice. I was able to improve on that, but I think there’s a long way to go to try and get myself to the next level.
Was that two-goal game against Detroit one that sticks out in your mind?
Yeah, that was awesome. Obviously, at that point in the season, the team was holding onto some hopes for the playoffs. With [Corey] Perry going down [with a shoulder injury], it gave me the opportunity to get some top-six minutes. To do that and get some confidence at that level is huge for me. Hopefully next year, I’ll hopefully put myself in a position to earn a spot on the team.
What’s the biggest difference between the AHL and NHL?
For the most part, on the ice it’s the speed of the game. In the AHL, I’m able to slow it down a bit. In the NHL, everything is going at a million miles an hour. So far in my short NHL career, it’s been tough for me to get my legs under me and be confident, to make plays without being too worried about making mistakes.
When you look ahead to next year, what are your goals?
I want to earn a spot out of camp and be part of that team from the first game. But I’m not looking past right now, and we have a pretty great opportunity to try and sweep two back-to-back in an away barn. As far as next season goes, I’ll wait until the summer to start thinking about training camp.