The North Divison-leading Syracuse Crunch skated into this past week with a handful of tough matchups on the schedule. After an impressive home victory over a good Hershey Bears team on Wednesday and a solid effort that resulted in a shootout loss to Binghamton on Saturday, it was the St. John’s IceCaps turn to visit the barn.
Things got chippy between the two divisional foes before the puck even hit the ice to start the opening period. Crunch forward Jeremy Morin lined up beside one of the AHL’s biggest agitators, Bobby Farnham, and the two players wasted zero time before throwing punches.
“We know what kind of player he is and he always plays pretty hard and throws big hits,” Morin said. “We were trying to get him a little rattled up and it worked. We got the win.”
The opening face-off chaos set the tone for the rest of the opening period of play. Four different Crunch players hit the back of the net in under three minutes to give Syracuse what they thought was a commanding lead. Among those scoring were Matt Taormina, Mike Halmo, Cory Conacher, and Morin.
St, John’s marched right back at the 13:24 mark of the period when the Crunch, who were on a powerplay, coughed up the puck at the blue-line and sent IceCaps forward Markus Eisenschmid in all alone on Crunch goaltender Adam Wilcox who was unable to make the stop.
The IceCaps responded with two more goals in rapid succession from Jacob De La Rose and Mark MacMillan to dwindle the Crunch lead to a mere one goal.
“It was more so the end of the first and start of the second where we took our lead for granted,” Conacher said. “We got a little fancy and started to cheat a little bit to the offensive side of things and it cost us.”
The second period began just as the first period did with more physical play and the Crunch offense putting the pedal to the floorboard. They cashed in for the third time of the night on the man advantage just two minutes in when the returning Eric Condra took a feed from Conacher and batted it softly past IceCaps rookie net-minder Charlie Lindgren to regain a two goal lead.
Just past the mid-way point of the frame, Morin again got in on the scoring fun when he collected a loose puck in the slot and sent a low shot through the five-hole of Lindgren to extend the Crunch lead to 6-3.
“We are really happy with Morin’s game tonight,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “I thought it was one of his best efforts.”
The drama was far from over however, as Daniel Audette posted a marker for the IceCaps just 58 ticks after Morin to bring the IceCaps within two goals once more.
The first half of the third period was the quietest portion of the entire evening but it wouldn’t last long. Jacob De La Rose potted his second tally of the evening on an IceCaps powerplay to bring the Crunch lead to 6-5.
Moments after the goal a large scrum broke out in front of the benches that led to the ejection of IceCaps agitator Bobby Farnham and former Crunch enforcer David Broll.
In a wacky turn of events that would only fit this particular contest, Farnham re-appeared in the tunnel shirtless where he then proceeded to chirp in the direction of Crunch fans.
In total, the two teams combined for 96 penalty minutes on the evening.
The Crunch was able to hold on for a 7-5 victory after an empty net goal by Cory Conacher who finished the night with four points.
“For me, we were challenged physically and I’m very proud of our captain and our team,” Groulx said. “I’m very happy with the outcome.”
The Crunch (18-9-4) are back in action on Friday when they travel to Blue Cross Arena to take on the Rochester Americans (14-18-1).