The Syracuse Crunch met up with their I-90 rivals, the Rochester Americans, for the final time this season, and put an exclamation point on a dominant season series.
The hometown team controlled play from the moment the puck hit the ice on Saturday night, jumping to a quick 1-0 lead off a strong individual effort from Erik Condra. The veteran forward capitalized off a Rochester mishap at their own blue-line, walked into the high slot and fired a wrist-shot past Amerks starting goaltender John Muse. It was the first of many for Condra on the evening with assists coming from Matthew Peca and Mathieu Brodeur.
“I’ve played a lot more, I’ve had some solid practices, so I’ve felt like I’ve been in better shape,” Condra said. “I feel better on the ice and it just carried over into goals this time.”
The Crunch continued to pepper Muse with shots through the opening minutes of the first frame, and again solved him, but this time with the man-advantage. Mike Halmo set up shop in Gretzky’s office and hit Yanni Gourde on the doorstep. Gourde easily tapped it into the back of the twine to give Syracuse an early 2-to-0 lead.
Five minutes later, it was Condra netting his second tally of the contest with the helpers going to Daniel Walcott and All-Star defenseman Matt Taormina. Condra wrapped around to the top of the left circle and sent a quick shot past the blocker of Muse for the three-goal lead.
“You put him in any situation and you know he will get the job done,” Crunch head coach Ben Groulx said. “He’s a pro and he’s such a great example.”
Other than some rough stuff, the first half of the middle stanza was quiet until Rochester finally broke Adam Wilcox’s shutout bid on the powerplay at 11:03. Alexander Nylander took a pass from Derek Grant and one-timed it through the five-hole of the Crunch net-minder.
Syracuse wasted little time before getting it back on the strength of a hat-trick marker from Condra. Condra had been robbed of the milestone score just minutes before but made no mistake about his second crack at it. Yanni Gourde delivered a sweet pass to Condra who buried it from a tough angle to notch his first career hat-trick.
“It was a little surreal. I had to think about it for a second just to make sure I had the hat-trick,” Condra said. “I was pretty excited about it. Great play by Gourde in the middle there, he’s a great player and he made another great play and I just hammered it home.”
Rochester tallied two more times in the regulation period but the Crunch would hold strong and walk away victorious in front of over 6,000 fans at the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena.
“It’s been a tough month with a lot of traveling and many games and we were missing many guys,” Groulx said. “It was a grind but I’m very happy with the way we ended up winning those two games.”
Adam Wilcox made 27 saves on 30 shots while Muse turned aside 31 out of 35 Crunch bids.
The Crunch (28-17-5-5) are in action again next Friday when the Hershey bears (28-16-8-3) come to town.