The Syracuse Crunch kicked off the second round of the playoffs against the Toronto Marlies on Thursday night. Unfortunately, the Crunch were missing two of its biggest offensive weapons as Matthew Peca and Gabriel Dumont were both scratched with injuries. Toronto took the lead early and never gave it up in route to a 6-4 victory.
Toronto kicked off the scoring as Martin Marincin sent a point shot towards the net. Adam Brooks deflected it and it appeared to be going wide until it ricocheted off of the back of Dominik Masin’s leg and off of Eddie Pasquale’s arm before trickling over the net. Mason Marchment started the scoring play with a pass out from behind the net.
The Crunch found themselves short-handed twice in the period, which is about right for them. With all of the practice they’ve had down a player this year, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they would tie the game despite only having four skaters. Mathieu Joseph stole the puck near center ice and skated in all alone on Garret Sparks. The Crunch rookie snapped a shot just over Sparks’ blocker and into the back of the net.
Unfortunately, before the penalty was over the Marlies would regain their lead. Dmytro Timashov converted a nifty blind pass from Trevor Moore to restore the advantage just 42 seconds after the Joseph goal.
The Crunch started the second with a little more aggression and started to gain a little more possession. It paid off with their first power play midway through the period. With Colin Greening in the box for tripping, Carter Verhaeghe launched a shot from the middle of the ice just inside the blue line. Sparks stopped most of it with his pad, but there was enough juice on the puck for it to trickle over the goal line. Mitchell Stephens had the only assist.
The Marlies responded on their next power play with a near identical shot. Travis Dermott took advantage of a screen in front of Pasquale to wrist one home. Andreas Johnsson and Carl Grundstrum had the helpers.
For the first time in the playoffs, the Crunch headed into the third period trailing on the scoreboard. They would need to find some offense if they were to steal the game from the Marlies. They would find the goals they needed, but unfortunately they wouldn’t be able to keep the Marlies from finding the back of the net as well.
It took almost nine minutes for the Marlies to get a shot on net in the third period. Alas, that shot went in as Mason Marchment deflected a goalline pass by Fredrick Gauthier past Pasquale.
Down two goals the Crunch desperately needed to score, and thanks to a broken play they did. Alex Volkov stormed into the zone all alone. Along the boards he lost control of the puck, but was able to recover. The flub threw off the Marlies defenders a bit and Volkov found a bit of a seam in front of the net. He flung the puck at the net and Kevin Lynch was there to poke it past Sparks.
With the Crunch pressing there was bound to be some holes in their defense and the Marlies exploited one. Trevor Moore was able to corral a puck behind the Crunch players and Syracuse scrambled to recover. Pasquale denied Moore’s initial attempt but the Toronto fourth-liner recovered his own rebound. He was able to work the puck back around the Crunch net and it found an unguarded Pierre Engvall in front who shot it past Pasquale to make it 5-3.
With time winding down, Coach Groulx pulled Pasquale from the net. The gamble paid off as Kevin Lynch banged home a rebound for his second goal of the game to close the deficit to one with more than a minute to go in the game.
Sadly, that was as close as the Crunch would get and with 36 seconds left, a soft clear by Toronto’s Ben Smith had just enough speed to find the empty net and any hope of a comeback for Syracuse was extinguished.
The final score was 6-4 with Eddie Pasquale stopping 15 of 20 shots. The Crunch mustered 32 shots at Garrett Sparks but he stopped 28 of them for his fourth win of the post season. The two teams meet again in Toronto for Game Two on Saturday.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a more detailed recap and some analysis from Hardev who was live at the game.