2013 Calder Cup Finals: The biggest game in Syracuse Crunch history is the biggest test for this team
On the brink of elimination and on the verge of a grand finale -- a winner-take-all game seven -- the Syracuse Crunch play what must be one of the biggest games in Syracuse sports history tonight.
I don't know Syracuse sports history that well. I know about the Orange and Syracuse University - nice run to the Final Four this year, by the way.
I don't know about the first AHL winners who hailed from Syracuse, nor do I know much about the teams that Alex Ackerman has boasted about from the past (2007-08), though I do know of the reputation of at least one player from that team (Zenon "Zeke" Konopka).
I do know the Crunch franchise has not been here before, though; game six of the AHL Calder Cup Finals. The team sits on the brink of elimination while also on the verge of a last chance, a last gasp, at the glory.
What I also know is that this is more of an emotional investment than the 2011-2012 Norfolk Admirals team, at least from afar. That's not judging teams, or comparing teams... But an actual fight, a struggle to get past an opponent didn't exist in the 2012 AHL playoffs. The Ads rolled over all challengers from early February until the last horn sounded in Ricoh Arena in Toronto when they bested the Marlies in a series sweep.
That team captured people's attention and showed the world what they could do. Were they infallible? No, but the chips fell in such a way that their mortality wasn't on display as much as their drive for success.
That's what I know about this team - that some of them know the taste of that sweet success. I know this game - game six of the Calder Cup finals - is the biggest Crunch game in the history of modern Syracuse hockey. It's not a finite point, though. It's simply looking for a last chance. A last dance.
It's up to the efforts of the efforts of the Syracuse Crunch for this to be the penultimate game of the 2013 Calder Cup Finals. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik, Brett Connolly, Vladislav Namestnikov, Radko Gudas, Mark Barberio, Cedrick Desjardins and others - you're charged with getting this team to the next game.
Petr Mrazek, Danny DeKeyser and all the rest of the Grand Rapids Griffins are charged with ending this mother once and for all. They've already played a long haul of playoff games, they've already shown their capable of silencing the onslaught of Tampacuse offense. This all should be over, done with, moot by this point.
But it's not. And it ain't gonna' be if the bounces go a certain way and the hockey Gods will it.
The Norfolk Admirals won the Calder Cup in 2012, the biggest accomplishment by a Tampa Bay Lightning AHL/IHL affiliate, yet tonight's game is bigger. It's a chance to overcome, one of the key driving forces in sports... It's what we emotionally invest in as fans - winning in against-the-odds moments and overcomign adversity.
This series could be done and over tonight, that's a fact Crunch fans need to accept; home ice hasn't been an advantage and the Crunch left Syracuse in a 2-0 hole after starting the series at home. It's not an insurmountable challenge to overcome, but it has seemed like one for this team at various times during the season.
Tonight's game can also serve as a transitory device to a final confrontation between two conference champions: the winner-take-all game seven, where all bets are off and nothing is left for tomorrow - because it no longer exists.
I don't know Syracuse sports history, what's happened in town in the past that outweighs the value of the events tonight at Onondaga County War Memorial. SU may have gone elsewhere and won bowl games and other titles in other towns ... But tangibly, in the city limits? This, even a minor league title, is an event of huge weight in the context of sports history for the city...
And if all goes well, the next game - scheduled (if necessary) for Thursday - will wipe its relevance away in a flash