It wasn’t the prettiest win during the Ben Groulx Era in Syracuse, but the Crunch spoiled the Cleveland Monsters’ home debut by outscoring them 2-1 on Friday night. Alex Barre-Boulet opened the scoring by deflecting Luke Schenn’s point shot in the first period. Peter Abbadonato scored his first professional goal on the power play in the second, and it held up to be the game winner as Scott Wedgewood stopped 31 shots in his Crunch debut.
Syracuse struggled to control the puck most of the night as they continuously turned the puck over in their own zone and in the neutral zone. While they did manage to muster 24 shots of their own, they were only able to sustain pressure in the offensive zone in brief spurts for most of the night.
They did roll out a slightly adjusted line-up from the season opening game against Rochester as Schenn and Gemel Smith made their Syracuse debuts along with Wedgewood (Otto Somppi and Luc Snuggerud were the resulting scratches). Both were as advertised as Schenn laid a thumping open-ice hit on Sam Vineault in the third period, while Smith was one of the better forecheckers for the Crunch throughout the game.
As a whole, Syracuse survived their turnovers by limiting Cleveland’s second chances at the puck and staying out of the penalty box. Still, it’s an exhausting way to win the game, especially when coupled with some of the post whistle shenanigans both teams participated in throughout the night. It will be interesting to see if some of the feistiness carries over into tomorrow’s match-up.
During one of the few moments of puck possession in the first period the Crunch worked the puck back to Luke Schenn and he fired it on net. Alex Barre-Boulet was in front and tipped it past a screened goaltender.
The second power play unit took over after the first unit struggled to keep the puck in the zone. Gemel Smith kept the puck in with a nice play and then they cycled the puck from the blue line to the middle of the ice and Ross Colton made a nifty pass to Abbadonato at the right circle and he one-timed it home for his first professional goal.
Not a great look for the Crunch as Abbadonato flings the puck across the ice to….well, somebody. It just didn’t happen to be a member of his own team. Adam Clendenning took the shot and it hit off Sam Vigneault and trickled through Wedgewood.
The Henry Fleming Turning Point of the Game:
Six-and-a-half minutes into the second period the Crunch were sitting on a two-goal lead and starting to generate some time in the offensive zone. Perhaps this is where they would find their feet and put some pressure on the Monsters. Well, not so much. Nolan Valleau got turned around in his own zone and hooked a Cleveland player. It was an obvious penalty, but Valleau was quite chuffed about it and expressed his displeasure to the officiating crew. That earned him an extra two minutes in the penalty box.
The Monsters had a four minute power play and the chance to cut into the lead and they started off with some pressure, launching a flurry of shots at Wedgewood. Then, Stephan Matteau (not that Stephan Matteau) wheeled into the Crunch’s zone. He lost his balance, and the puck, and as he descended to the ice he stuck his stick out and hauled down Chris Mueller. Just like that the power play was over for two minutes and the Crunch escaped without losing any ground on the scoreboard.
Three Best Players for the Crunch:
3. The Boris Katchouk / Jimmy Huntington / Taylor Raddysh line. Nominally the fourth line tonight, they seemed to spend the most time in the Monsters zone, especially late in the game. Katchouk had a golden opportunity to seal the game in the last few minutes but had the puck poked off his stick by Andrew Peeke. Raddysh had a nice dish to Ben Thomas about a minute before that play that took a desperate dive from Justin Scott to break up.
2. Luke Schenn. The veteran blueline not only assisted on a goal and provided the most entertaining hit of the night, but he also had some fairly clean exits out of the defensive zone. With the Crunch spending the majority of the night casually flinging pucks to the neutral zone, it was nice to see him hit some clean passes and actually get the puck working through center ice.
1. Scott Wedgewood. Not a bad debut for the experienced netminder. He made 31 saves on 32 shots, limited his rebounds and did exactly what the Crunch picked him up to do - give them a chance to win. He didn’t have to make a lot of sprawling, acrobatic saves because his positioning was dead on. There was a shot by Gabriel Carlsson from the left circle in the second period that Wedgewood didn’t even flinch. Seriously, he looked like the goalie that’s painted on shooting targets. The puck hit him square and he casually covered it up.
The two teams are right back at it on Saturday. Same time (7:00pm) and same place (Cleveland).