The Syracuse Crunch skated into Friday's contest with the Toronto Marlies having dropped their last three contests in overtime.
A matchup with a Toronto team that boasts a lineup full of offensive threats forecasted a high-scoring affair at the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena, and that's just what fans were treated too.
The Crunch were able to strike first late in the opening period, when the AHL's leading scorer for defenseman. Matt Taormina, wristed a shot through traffic and past Marlies net-minder Antoine Bibeau. Assisting on the Crunch's first goal was recent "Cruncher of the month" Mike Halmo, and Tanner Richard.
“It’s the guys around me and the guys in front of the net,” Taormina said. “There’s Tanner in front of the net and Halmo in front of the net so the goalie isn’t seeing a lot.”
The home team came out of the locker-room for the second period and wasted little time before extending their lead to two goals. Jeremy Morin collected a pass from Joel Vermin along the right wing boards and sent a rocket of a snap-shot over the left shoulder of Bibeau.
Just when it felt as if Syracuse was in complete control of the game, Toronto stormed back and scored three unanswered goals in rapid succession to snag back the lead. Byron Froese, Tony Cameranesi, and Brendan Leipsic registered the markers for the Marlies.
“They have a good team,” head coach Ben Groulx said. “We had to grind this one out.”
With virtually all of the energy sucked out of the building, the Crunch, as resilient as ever, raised the pressure on the Marlies defense and sneaked one past Bibeau.
On 5-on-3 Crunch advantage late in the middle stanza, 2017 AHL all-star Taormina set up shop at the top of the right wing circle and blasted a missile off of the post and into the back of the net to even the score.
“We were moving the puck around and not necessarily doing what we normally do, but we found a way to get it,” Taormina said. “Tanner found me in a great spot and I was able to actually hit it and have it go in this time.”
The regulation period began just as the second period had, with a Syracuse tally. This time Daniel Walcott rushed into the attacking zone and sailed a puck in the direction of the Marlies cage. Bibeau made the initial stop but left a juicy rebound out in front that Yanni Gourde was able to swoop in and jam home to give the Crunch a 4 to 3 lead.
“I thought Wally (Walcott) played one of his best games,” Groulx said. “He created things, he played with energy, sacrificed himself blocking shots. I really like his game.”
The final Crunch goal came just five minutes later when a bouncing puck hit Tanner Richard and slowly slid past the goal-line.
The Marlies would score once more just past the halfway point of the period but it wouldn't be enough as the Crunch held on to snap a three game losing streak by the score of 5 to 4.
Adam Wilcox made 17 saves on 20 shots, while Kristers Gudlevskis stopped 6 of the 7 shots he faced in the third period.
“Many guys had a nice effort tonight,” Groulx said. “It’s a nice win for us.”
The Crunch (19-9-2-5) are back in action Saturday against the surging Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins (27-7-3)
Goaltender Adam Wilcox left the game after the second period and did not return. Groulx said that he suffered an eye injury. Nick Riopel will be recalled from the Kalamazoo Wings.