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Crunch return from break with 6-3 win over Devils

Cal Foote scores twice as Syracuse beats up on a familiar foe once again.

Scott Thomas Photography

The Syracuse Crunch probably wish they could play the Binghamton Devils thirty more times this season. On Wednesday night they played, and beat, the Devils for the sixth time this season. With two goals in the third period they pulled away from what was initially a close game to post a final of 6-3.

All season the Crunch have been looking for a little more help from the defense when it comes to offense, and against the Devils they got it. Rookie Cal Foote led the way as he had the first two-goal game of his career, scoring the first Crunch goal and the eventual game winner. Dominik Masin had his first goal of the season. Cameron Gaunce had two assists on the night and Hubert Labrie also added a helper. The blue line also had six of Syracuse’s twenty-eight shots as they were extremely effective in keeping the puck in the offensive zone and setting up the offense.

Individually, Carter Verhaeghe and Gabriel Dumont would love to see the Devils on a regular basis, as well. Verhaeghe scored his 11th goal of the season. Four of them have come against Binghamton. Meanwhile, Dumont, who had been stuck in a scoring slump, tallied two assists for his first multipoint game since November 23rd, when he scored two goals against the Devils.

It wasn’t the best of starts for the Crunch as they found themselves down 2-0 after twelve minutes and twenty seconds of play in the first period. The first goal was scored by John Ramage after a nice individual effort by Kevin Rooney. He had an initial shot shot denied by Eddie Pasquale but was able to secure the rebound. He dropped it for Michael Kapla who slid it across the front of the net to Ramage who banged it into the almost empty net.

The pass from Kapala slid through the narrowest of seams between Pasquale, who was hugging the near post, and Ben Thomas who had dropped to a knee and extended his stick in hopes of cutting the pass off. The other Crunch players had over committed to the side of the puck that Kapala was on, so Ramage had no pressure on him and plenty of time to put the puck in the net.

About five minutes later the Crunch turned the puck over in their own zone and it led a goal. Gaunce had the puck by his own goal line and time to pass it to his forwards. He fired it at Dumont, but the pass handcuffed the captain and he lost possession when Nathan Bastian hit him. Michael McLeod scooped up the loose puck and then dropped it for Blake Pietila. The winger snapped it home from the top of the circles for his tenth goal of the season.

The Crunch weren’t playing bad, but they looked a little sluggish. Binghamton was by far the better skating team over those first twelve minutes and took advantage of the miscues that the Crunch made. After the Pietila goal, Syracuse found their stride. Immediately. As in the very next shift.

Dennis Yan had the puck down low in the Devils zone and fired it on net. His shot was stopped by Cam Johnson, but the puck trickled out to Cal Foote who did the simplest thing possible. He fired it on net.

It went over the glove of a screened Cam Johnson and the lead was cut to one. It was a similar spot and shot that Foote scored his first career goal from last season in Binghamton during his professional debut.

Roughly three minutes later, Carter Verhaeghe tied it off of a broken play. Gaunce took a shot from between the circles that felled a Devils player. Gaunce was able to collect his own rebound and passed it over to Verhaeghe who had circled in behind him. The pass was slowed down as it was deflected by a Devils’ stick and that may have affected Johnson’s timing because he was really late in reacting to Verhaeghe’s shot that beat him over the glove.

The Crunch had crawled back to tie the game and from there, their depth and talent took over for the rest of the game. The second period was almost all Syracuse despite the fact that they were outshot 13-7 by the Devils. The Crunch controlled the puck for long stretches of the middle frame and were rewarded with two goals.

Part of the challenge of facing Syracuse is the fact that all four of their lines can score. It was the Otto Somppi line that set up Foote’s first goal and the Dumont line was on the ice for the second. For their next goal, it was their third line helping out, a line that consisted of Ross Colton, Alex Volkov and Alex Barre-Boule.

Colton won an offensive zone face-off cleanly to Gaunce. The defenseman slid it over to Barre-Boulet who was parked between the circles and waiting for it. The pass was right on the money and the rookie one-timed it over Johnson’s glove. The Crunch had the lead and would not relinquish it the rest of the night.

With Binghamton stunned a bit after giving up three consecutive goals, the Crunch kept the pressure on. On the ensuing face-off, Volkov raced in to the Devils’ zone and beat the defender to the puck. He chipped it to Barre-Boulet who spied an open Foote charging into the zone. The pass was right where it needed to be and Foote ripped it home from the slot for his second goal of the night.

In addition to scoring twice, Foote had a strong game in his own defensive zone. He won several one-on-one battles and his breakout passes were consistently on the tape of his forwards. As his confidence has grown this year, he is looking more and more like a potential difference maker at the professional level.

Following the goal, Binghamton took a timeout to gather themselves and it paid off. For the remaining six minutes of the period they were the better team. As the period ended they were swarming the net and it felt like they were due to score.

With twenty seconds left in the frame, Brandon Gignac fulfilled that destiny. He began the play by driving into the Crunch zone. The puck ended up with Josh Jacobs who slid the puck in front of the net to Gignac, who had circled behind the net. The winger fired the puck and it deflected it off of Pasquale’s glove and into the net.

The pass from Jacobs to Gignac was eerily familiar to the one Kapala had made on the first Devils’ goal. It came from Pasquale’s right, through a tight slot in front of Thomas and to an open teammate to the goaltender’s left. This time, Pasquale almost made it over in time, but the shot had just enough juice on it to make it into the net.

With their lead trimmed to one on enemy ice, it wouldn’t be out of hand for the Crunch to play a little conservative over the final period. They did the opposite of that, pushing the play in the Devils direction. It was a clinic on how to play aggressively responsible, or as Coach Groulx likes to say, “playing with audacity”. Five minutes into the period, it paid off as they extended their lead back to two goals.

The Crunch used their forecheck to keep the puck in the zone and it eventually ended up with Hubert Labrie on the left-hand boards. He swung the pass to his defensive partner Masin. The fourth year player had time to walk the puck to an open space at the right circle and he unleashed a blast.

At this point the details are a little fuzzy. The end result was the puck in the back of the net, but whether or not Gabriel Dumont touched it on the way by is in a bit of a dispute. Initially the goal was credited to Masin, but it was announced that Dumont had scored it. The AHL site had Dumont listed as the goal scorer, but has since changed it back to Masin. For the purposes of this review we’ll go with Masin getting the goal. It’s the first of the season for him. But don’t be surprised if that changes by Thursday.

The Devils again tried to get back into the game and had a bit of a flurry of shots, but Pasquale denied them all. The Crunch kept the pressure on and Boris Katchouk followed his own rebound to score his fourth goal of the season and salt the game away.

It was a well-played road game for the Crunch, who just seem to have Binghamton’s number this season. All four of Syracuse’s lines contributed and they played a much more disciplined game than they had on Saturday. In fact, both teams combined for just two penalties - one on Masin that was a ticky-tack hooking as he defended a two-on-one and one on Ramage for throwing a punch at Concacher during a post-whistle scrum. Neither team capitalized on their man advantage, which had to be a relief for Binghamton.

Eddie Pasquale was very good in net as he turned aside 30 of 33 shots. The second goal was one he might like to have another shot at, but it would have taken spectacular saves to stop the other two.

Syracuse returns home and takes on the Utica Comets at 7:00pm on Friday.

Raw Charge 3 Stars:

3. Alex Barre-Boulet - 1 goal, 1 assist

2. Cal Foote - 2 goals

1. Gabriel Dumont - 0 goals, 2 assists

(Box Score)