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A poor first period dooms Syracuse to a 3-2 loss to Grand Rapids

Crunch have their backs up against the wall, facing a 3 games to 1 series hole.

Scott Thomas Photography

A poor first period and one bad turnover in the second proved to be too much for the Syracuse Crunch this evening in their 3-2 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Crunch now find themselves with their backs up against the wall.

1st Period

Syracuse came out with plenty of energy as they quickly pushed the pace and put a few solid chances on Griffins’ goaltender Jared Coreau. One of the more noticeable Crunch players in the early portion of the period was Anthony Cirelli. Cirelli’s forechecking and stickwork were evident as his play helped generate some chances for Syracuse. Unfortunately, the momentum of the period turned once Cirelli was called for interference.

The ensuing power-play for Grand Rapids didn’t convert, but it did allow the Griffins to grab a foothold on the pace of play. From then on, the Griffins largely controlled the period.

Syracuse look off after they killed the Cirelli penalty. Defensively the Crunch were doing an “ok” job at pushing Grand Rapids to the outside; however, whenever Syracuse tried to transition into the neutral zone they either made poor passes or tried to skate through to many Griffins players. This led to either a turnover or the puck being dumped back into the Crunch zone.

Syracuse’s best opportunity came around the middle frame of the period when Adam Erne came up through center and forced the play behind the net. Erne then tried to do a wraparound on Coreau only to have the puck trickle out in front of the net where numerous Crunch and Griffins players scrambled for it. During the scramble, a Syracuse player (couldn’t identify who) was able to get some form of a shot off, but the chance went wide.

The Crunch were able to maintain some offensive zone time after Erne’s play, but a poor pass from Jake Dotchin (which was intended for Slater Koekkoek) was intercepted by Martin Frk who was set free on a partial breakaway (both Dotchin and Koekkoek hustled back to at least partially disrupt Frk). Syracuse goaltender Mike McKenna made a solid save on Frk to keep the game notched at zero.

Grand Rapids continued to control the pace of the game as the period progressed. They were rewarded when the puck took a rather odd bounce off a Crunch defender near the front of the net. Ben Street was able to corral the puck and put it past McKenna to put Grand Rapids up 1-0 with ten minutes left in the first period.

Grand Rapids controlled the remaining ten minutes of the period. Syracuse had some small opportunities, but the Crunch just looked off. Passes weren’t crisp, they couldn’t control the puck, and they kept finding themselves facing odd-man situations in the neutral zone.

The Griffins added to Syracuse’s messy first period by scoring off a point from Dan Renouf that ended up behind McKenna after it deflected off a Crunch player.


Syracuse takes some odd penalties.

Crunch need to focus on making crisp passes and forcing Grand Rapids defense to make mistakes by using their forcecheck.

2nd Period

This was a much better period from the Syracuse Crunch. Throughout the period the Crunch were able to slow down the Griffins pressure them into mistakes. The Crunch finally got some power plays and were able to garner some form of momentum to help them try to close the gap.

Syracuse received an early power-play with 17:42 left in the second period. The Crunch were able to generate some dangerous chances early in the power-play, but an unfortunate tripping call on Cirelli (his second penalty of the game) nixed their opportunities. Shortly after Cirelli’s penalty Dotchin was called for a questionable roughing penalty (that in my opinion was a bit weak) which put the Crunch on a shortened five on three.

Syracuse killed both penalties and continued to push the pace against Grand Rapids, producing some offensive zone time, but no clean shots. The Griffins were doing a very good job at either forcing shots to the outside or outright blocking them. However, Syracuse’s pressure drew a tripping penalty on Tyler Bertuzzi to give the Crunch another power-play with 12:26 left in the second.

The ensuing power-play was part impressive and part aggravating. Early on during the man advantage Syracuse moved the puck around the offensive zone and put some dangerous shots on Coreau; however, as the power-play continued Syracuse started to get too cute with their passes and lost some of the momentum they had garnered earlier. Sadly, the Crunch couldn’t capitalize on their second power-play, but they were still forcing Grand Rapids into some mistakes in the defensive zone.

Unfortunately, Grand Rapids showed how deadly they could be during transition. The play started with Michael Bournival battling behind the Grand Rapids net. Bournival was able to win a puck battle and then skated towards the right half-boards where he tried to shuffle a pass to the Crunch (player couldn’t be seen on the livestream) defensemen who was pinching in to help him. Bournival’s pass slid off his stick and trickled to a Griffin’s player who then chipped the puck past the pinching Crunch defenseman and pushed the play up ice.

The resulting play created an odd man rush for Grand Rapids where Dan Renouf scored from the high slot to put the Griffins up 3-0.

Syracuse could’ve folded after this goal. They had carried play for much of the period and one mistake put them in a 3-goal hole. This is Syracuse though; this team doesn’t know what quitting means. 1:12 after Grand Rapids went up 3-0 Syracuse finally answered back. Cory Conacher (being the lovable honey badger that he is) won a puck battle behind the Griffins net to establish possession for Syracuse. Conacher then fed a pass to Yanni Gourde who held the puck for a quick second, looked at Coreau and then sniped one past the Griffins netminder to put the Crunch on the board with 9:15 left in the second.

Syracuse continued to maintain pace for the remainder of the period, but outside of a late power-play that was largely ineffective (due to poor passing and very odd shot choices) the second ended with nothing else to note.


Erne is noticeable every single time he is on the ice. [I’m sure he Erned the attention. - Acha]

The Crunch started to get a little greasy as the period progressed. It appeared to cause issues for Grand Rapids.

3rd Period

Syracuse continued to impose the same pace they had employed during the second period. An early power-play to Syracuse assisted in the Crunch’s pressure, but outside of a mad scramble in front of Coreau nothing of note occurred during the power-play. Once Grand Rapids killed their penalty they were able to counter attack a little and put a small scare into Syracuse, but McKenna stood strong in net.

The next few minutes consisted of back and forth play between the two teams until Gabriel Dumont chipped a bouncing puck past two Griffins defenders near their blueline where Michael Bournival sped past both defensemen to close in on Coreau. Bournival stick handled once and then chipped the puck past Coreau to put the Crunch within one. The War Memorial absolutely exploded with energy at this point and the lingering feeling of a comeback started to feel like a real possibilty.

Syracuse’s desperation enabled them to control the third period for large portions (like the second) and they forced Coreau to make some incredible saves. None were more jaw-dropping than his robbery of Tye McGinn up close. A point shot was tipped near the net and trickled towards McGinn who immediately corralled the puck and whipped it towards the net only to have Coreau absolutely rob him with his glove.

Not to be outdone by his counterpart, Mike McKenna had his own stylish glove save a few minutes later when Grand Rapids had an odd man advantage in the Crunch zone. The shot came from the high slot and McKenna swallowed the shot with his glove hand to keep the game within one. An eruption of cheering happened afterwards for McKenna.

Unfortunately, the Crunch shot themselves in the foot with two penalties roughly 35 seconds apart. First, a high sticking penalty on Ben Thomas and then Dotchin was shipped to the sin bin for a tripping infraction. The ensuing five on three power-play for Grand Rapids was nerve wracking to say the least. The Griffins didn’t get the grade A chance they wanted, but they were able to force McKenna into a few difficult positions; however, the Crunch penalty killers stepped up big time and made the Griffins over pass the puck and hesitate on shots.

Once the Crunch killed the five on three there was a noticeable shift in how they played. The desperation was becoming more apparent and the Crunch players were pushing past Griffins players in order to get any kind of pressure on Coreau. This play-style led to a power-play opportunity with 2:21 left in regulation.

Coach Benoit Groulx pulled McKenna to give Syracuse a six on four advantage, but even with Syracuse cycling the puck and taking intelligent shots it just wasn’t enough to get past Jared Coreau. The Griffins goaltender stood tall over the final 2:21 of regulation by stonewalling the Crunch’s efforts at tying the game. The Griffins’ penalty killers also deserve credit for blocking shots and forcing Syracuse to take shots from less than optimal locations.

There was a post game scrum with a number of Crunch and Griffins players. I’m unsure what exactly started the scrum, but I believe Conacher was at the center of the scuffle. One big issue I had with this was how Taormina was essentially being pummeled by a Grand Rapids player while the referees simply stood to side and watched. The referees already had a rather...strange game with their calls, but their actions at the end of the game left a bad taste in my mouth.

Syracuse fell to Grand Rapids 3-2 and now trail the Griffins in the series 3 to 1. It’s a big hole the Crunch find themselves in, but it isn’t implausible to believe in a comeback. Outside of the first period the Crunch outplayed their opposition for large portions of the game. Penalty trouble hurt the Crunch this evening (the penalty kill was perfect, but spending so much time killing penalties means the Crunch aren’t creating offense either) and a tendency to become a little too pretty with their passes stagnated their transition game.