The most difficult part of the Syracuse Crunch’s 10-1 victory over the Utica Comets was determining the three stars of the game afterwards. The press went with:
3. Boris Katchouk - 2 goals, 1 assist
2. Cal Foote - 2 goals, 1 assist
1. Taylor Raddysh - 5 assists
It’s no doubt that Raddysh was the number one star. Anytime you have a direct hand in five different goals you deserve the the number one star. Three of his helpers were primary assists and he had two shorthanded assists. Not a bad night for the rookie.
After him, though, there are a wealth of choices. Foote and Katchouk had excellent games, but so did Carter Verhaeghe with his two goals. Troy Bourke also had three points on one goal (his first of the season) and two assists. Gabriel Dumont joined the three point club as well as he scored his first goal in in seven games and added two helpers. Let’s not forget the goaltender. It might have been a blowout, but Eddie Pasquale made 32 saves on 33 shots, and if he hadn’t had his stick knocked out of his hands by a teammate, might have had a shutout.
Needless to say the Crunch, sporting their orange alternate jerseys for the first time this season, dominated from the drop of the puck as they tied a franchise record with 10 goals. They were pressing play from the very beginning of the game, racking up 18 shots in the first period. While an early power play failed to connect, it wasn’t from a lack of chances as they spent almost the entire two minutes in the zone.
Just after the man advantage expired, the Crunch kept the puck on the Utica side of the ice and it paid off as Nolan Valleau netted his first goal of the season on a sweet diagonal pass from behind the net by Raddysh. The defenseman drifted in to the top of the left circle and wristed it past goaltender Ivan Kulbakov.
The Crunch were flying through the neutral zone all game. It was by far their best transition game of the season. Utica could just not handle their speed, which was on full display ten minutes after Valleau’s goal.
Dumont brought the puck across the zone and slowed down a bit, which allowed Raddysh to skate to an open part of the ice to Kulbakov’s left. The captain flipped a pass to the rookie, who drew his defenseman wide, giving him a little more space in the center of the ice. Carter Verhaeghe was driving the net and cut inside defenseman Jesse Graham. Raddysh saw the opening and passed it over to Verhaeghe, who deflected it past the goaltender for his 12th goal of the year.
More transition play led to the third goal of the period for the Crunch. This time it came on the power play. The second unit was on the ice with 90 seconds to play in the period. Cal Foote started the rush by hitting Raddysh in stride with a breakout pass. The rookie got it through the neutral zone before dishing it off to Boris Katchouk at the far boards. He waited for the seam to develop between the defenders and fed it Foote, who never stopped skating. The defender had his head up the whole way, drifted to the top of the right circle, and wristed it past the goaltender.
Meanwhile, Eddie Pasquale didn’t have a ton of work to do as he only faced nine shots, but he made the most of them. The highlight: A stone-cold robbery of Darren Archibald. Brendan Gaunce fed the puck from Pasquale’s right over to an open Archibald. The one-timer was snatched out of the air by Pasquale as he darted across his crease.
Surely the Comets would come out with a little better play in the second right? Sure they had played the night before, but they weren’t going to let the Crunch skate them out of the building, right?
Three minutes into the period it was Troy Bourke’s turn to get his first goal of the season, and it came as a result of his hard work. He chased down a loose puck, beating out an icing call. He then tied up the defender behind the net, allowing Dennis Yan to poke the puck free and feed it out to Olivier Archambault (back in the line-up in place of Otto Somppi). Archambault fired it at the net and Bourke deflected it past Kulbakov for the fourth goal of the night.
For the second time in the last two meetings between these teams, Kulbakov was yanked after allowing four goals. In comes Thatcher Demko who had played the night before and most likely was scheduled to play tomorrow, as the Comets have a three-games-in-three-nights stretch. Demko was greeted by a Cory Conacher semi-breakaway that he turned aside. He made a few more saves and the Comets started to put together some decent play. They even started to pile up some shots after a penalty by Valleau.
Perhaps they were going they were going to make a game out of it after all.
Carter Verhaeghe put a stop to that nonsense with his second goal of the game. Dumont started the play by forcing Jaime Sifers to rush his pass up the boards. Guillaume Brisebois wasn’t able to get a handle on the puck and Verhaeghe stole it. He skated in front of Demko and lost the puck a bit, but it bounced off of Sifers and past the goaltender.
When you’re hot, you’re hot. That’s 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) in 11 December games for Verhaeghe.
The Comets did get a goal back a few minutes later. Cam Darcy attempted a wraparound that is stuffed by Pasquale. The rebound came out to Vincent Arseneau, who shot it stick side on the goaltender. If Pasquale still had his goalstick, there is a good chance he would have knocked it away, but unfortunately Ross Colton had accidentally knocked it out of his hand trying to block out another Comet in the crease.
After that, things looked like they might be turning the Comets’ way. First, Raddysh committed a high-sticking penalty. Then, on the power play, Utica forward Reid Boucher is knocked over by the mere touch of Cameron Gaunce’s stick. The ref decided it was a cross check and Utica suddenly had a 53-second 5-on-3. They did not convert on the first penalty, and as it ended the puck came to Raddysh leaving the box.
He passed it to Dumont, who chose not to shoot. Instead, he circled behind Demko and then tried to pass it out front. The puck was deflected, but still got to Cory Conacher, who fired it past the goaltender for the shorthanded goal. Conacher snapped an eight-game goalless streak with the tally.
The third period started with Kulbakov back in net and was pretty evenly played. Then the Comets made the mistake of going back on the power play. Down a man, Andy Andreoff had the puck in his own zone when he spied Dumont breaking up the ice. He sent an aerial pass to the captain, who controlled it at the Utica blueline and busted in on a breakaway. A deke to the backhand and he had the Russian goalie out of position and slid the puck in on his forehand.
Easy as pie.
The Crunch made it three shorthanded goals in a row twenty five seconds later. This time it was Boris Katchouk scoring his third shorty of the season as he took a pass from Raddysh, deked to his forehand and beat Kulbakov.
With an eight-to-one lead, the Crunch would sit back and just dump the puck in for the rest of the game, right? Nope. They kept the pressure on and kept cycling the puck down low. This led to the ninth goal of the game.
Troy Bourke and Ross Colton did all of the dirty work along the boards, and Colton fed the puck to Cal Foote (who decided he’s Bobby Orr all of a sudden). He drifted in to the top of the right circle and wristed a shot off the crossbar and in for his second goal of the night and fourth in two games.
Dennis Yan made it an even ten as the Crunch kept their forecheck up with less than two minutes to go. Volkov chipped the puck into the zone and chased after it. He took out the Comets defender, allowing Bourke to get the loose puck. He then slid it over Yan who put it past Kulbakov for the tenth Syracuse goal of the night.
It was the first time since 2008 that the Crunch have hit double digits on the scoreboard.
Raw Charge Three Stars:
3. Gabriel Dumont - 1 goal, 2 assists - hit everything he saw in a Utica uniform
2. Eddie Pasquale - 32 saves on 33 shots. Despite the blowout he was extremely sharp.
1. Taylor Raddysh - 5 assists gets you the first star every time.