The Syracuse Crunch lost to the Toronto Marlies on Tuesday night in game four of the AHL’s North Division finals. The 2-1 defeat ended the Crunch’s season as they were swept out of the second round.
For an actual recap of the game, feel to watch the highlights:
The difference in the game came down to two things: special teams and goaltender Garrett Sparks. Toronto converted two early power plays (they finished 2-for-5 on the night), while the Crunch were denied on both of their attempts.
For the third time in four games, the Crunch had to play with a short bench. In Game One, an injured Gabriel Dumont tried to play, but wasn’t able to finish the match. In Game Three, Olivier Archambault was injured early and ended up leaving the game. He did not play in Game Four. The trend of players leaving the ice early continued Tuesday night, but this time it wasn’t an injury that reduced the roster. It was, instead, a bad decision by forward Alex Gallant.
Alex Gallant, the Syracuse Crunch's enforcer playing in his first game of these playoffs, has been ejected in the first period for this targeted hit on Toronto Marlies forward Mason Marchment. Toronto heads to a five-minute powerplay up 1-0 in Game 4. pic.twitter.com/s85D36gZoZ— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) May 8, 2018
Gallant was in the game in place of Archambault, but he clearly wasn’t in the line-up to score goals. He was there to land a few big hits and just generally make life miserable for Toronto’s defensemen and forwards on the forecheck. However, that is not what that hit was. That hit was a flagrant elbow delivered to an unsuspecting opponent, and it rightly deserved the game misconduct that got tacked onto the five minute elbowing penalty.
Starting Gallant was an interesting decision by coach Ben Groulx. This was Gallant’s first appearance in the playoffs. All season long, the coach juggled the line-up expertly, plugging in call-ups and PTO players and getting the best out of them. But this time, things didn’t quite work out.
The decision to play Gallant can be justified. Gallant gives the Crunch a more physical forecheck, and when playing in front of a home crowd like Syracuse was Tuesday might, a big hit can electrify the building and get the team going. That said, what happened on Tuesday was a worst case scenario. Gallant delivered a dirty hit, was kicked out of the game, and the Marlies scored on the ensuing power play.
If Groulx had gone with skill over brawn and had instead started Alexey Liponov, would the game have ended end up differently? Maybe, maybe not. Even if he had stayed in the game, Gallant wasn’t going to get much more than five or six minutes of ice time, but, honestly, the same goes for Liponov. In the end, the Marlies just had too much talent for a banged up Crunch team to overcome.
Instead of a play-by-play recount of the game, here is the game in pictures. Thank you to Scott Thomas for providing both these photos and the vast majority of Crunch photos that have accompanied these recaps throughout the season. His work makes Raw Charge that much better.
Erik Condra - The Crunch’s captain had one assist in the series against Toronto. Part of the struggle for Syracuse over the last week was the lack of scoring depth. Unlike the previous series against Rochester, the offense was shut down by the experienced Toronto defense. Amidst a season that featured so many rookies doing so many great things, Condra was one of the veterans in the clubhouse that helped guide the young players through an up-and-down season.
Mathieu Joseph - The rookie was one of the players most affected by the injuries to the forward lines. Without Gabriel Dumont on his line, Joseph was held off the scoreboard in the last three games of the series, although it wasn’t for lack of trying. He had a few open chances that were denied by Garrett Sparks.
Mitchell Stephens - If any photo sums up the series, it would be this one. One of the Crunch’s forwards is free in front of the net, and is denied by Garrett Sparks. Sparks stopped 21 of 22 shots in that final game. After a rough start (by his standards) in Game 1, where he gave up 4 goals on 28 shots, he stopped 67 of 69 over his next two starts.
Connor Ingram - The rookie netminder bounced back Tuesday night from a rough start on Sunday where he allowed 7 goals on 30 shots. In Game Four, he stopped 21 of 23 and kept the Crunch close enough all night to attempt a comeback. He had an up and down season, as might be expected for a rookie netminder, but finished the regular season on a high note. His performance during Game 2’s double overtime was an all-time great in Syracuse history, and shows that he might be the number one in Syracuse moving forward.
Cal Foote - The AHL doesn’t release information about ice time for players. If they did, I’m sure more than one fan would be surprised at how much time a 19-year-old with 13 total professional games under his belt accumulated. Foote finished the post season with 7 games played, 2 points totaled, and 0 penalty minutes. That is fairly impressive considering the amount of time he was roaming around. For an organization that is a little thin on defensive prospects, Foote showed enough glimpses of future potential that both Crunch and Lightning fans should be excited to see his career develop.
Reid McNeill - The one shot that got past Sparks. A point shot from Reid McNeill hit off the post and trickled behind the Toronto goaltender. In this game, much like the rest of the series, the Marlies forced the Crunch into having to grind their goals out. There was no space in the neutral zone, very few turnovers, and just little space over all. That did not play to Syracuse’s strengths. and that showed up on the scoreboard.
Daniel Walcott - The Crunch forward/defenseman, along with Troy Bourke, mixes it up in a post scrum whistle with the Marlies in this photo. The Crunch were visibly frustrated by the Marlies play, which, according to some players, may have skirted the line of interference. To those watching, though, it was a fairly clean series (with the exception of the Gallant hit). For some of the rookies on the team, this series was an eye-opening experience on how hard it is to win in the post-season. Goals aren’t scored on wonderful 2-on-1 rushes or tic-tac-toe passing plays. Players have to grind through screens and holds that are overlooked by the refs. It should be a good learning lesson moving forward.
Matt Peca- Peca salutes the crowd one last time.