With the second-place Albany Devils falling to the Rochester Americans on Saturday afternoon, the Crunch’s meeting with the Comets became that much more important. Syracuse looked to pad their lead at the top of the North Division and that is exactly what they went on to do at the Utica Auditorium.
At the 1:49 mark of the first period, the Crunch would strike to quiet the home crowd. Shorthanded, Joel Vermin skated the puck down the right wing and cut to the front of the net, where he fired a quick wrist shot past Comets goaltender Thatcher Demko.
Less than two minutes later, the Crunch extended their early lead to two goals. After some nice work down low in the offensive zone by Henri Ikonen and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, the puck bounced to the right-point where Adam Comrie was waiting to wire a one-timer into the back of the Utica cage.
After falling behind early and playing the majority of the opening period trailing by two, Utica got one back late in the frame. Comets captain Carter Bancks received a long stretch pass from New Hartford native Mike Zalewski and deposited it over the glove of Crunch goalie Adam Wilcox. The Crunch enjoyed a one-goal lead for the remainder of the first period.
That lead didn’t last much longer though as the Comets netted the equalizer seven minutes into the middle stanza. Evan McEneny’s point shot found its way through traffic and trickled past Wilcox and over the goal-line. With the contest now knotted at two goals apiece, in an interesting move, head coach Ben Groulx pulled Wilcox in favor of Kristers Gudlevskis.
The change may have sparked a little bit of energy on the bench because just six minutes later, the Crunch regained the lead. A lose puck popped out to the high slot and on to the stick of rookie blue-liner Dominik Masin, who registered his second pro goal. Cory Conacher and Matthew Peca had the helpers.
In the third period, Utica would strike once more to make things interesting. A Jordan Subban slapshot beat Gudlevskis clean just past the 10-minute mark to send the Aud into a frenzy. Former Crunch forward Pascal Pelletier had the primary assist while Comets captain Carter Bancks notched his second point of the evening.
After a scoreless second half of the third period and a scoreless OT period, the teams headed to the skills competition.
Gudlevskis turned aside all three Utica shooters while Cory Conacher scored the lone goal of the shootout to earn the Crunch a huge two points on the road.
Syracuse (22-12-4-5) is back in action on Thursday against the Albany Devils (25-17-1-1).