Let’s get this out of the way first. The Syracuse Crunch did a lot of good things in their 7-6 overtime loss to the Rochester Americans on Friday night. First of all, they scored six goals. A team usually wins when they score that many. They went two for three on the power play. Again, an excellent stat. They also played the first thirty minutes of the game very well. They were disciplined. They controlled the puck and limited Rochester’s chances. They also battled back when a little adversity struck.
Unfortunately, they also did some things poorly. Scott Wedgewood did not have a great game as he gave up 7 goals on 28 shots. The Crunch’s penalty kill gave up two power play goals to a team that came into the night succeeding on less than 9% of their opportunities. As well as they played in the first 30 minutes, they were outplayed in the final 30 minutes, especially in the last ten minutes of the third period.
The Amerks ended up on top of a back-and-forth game that saw thirteen total goals and both teams battling back from deficits. Rochester had the final say as Lawrence Pilut scored the overtime winner with forty-one seconds left. For the Crunch, it’s their third loss in a row, and the third game in a row they’ve surrendered more than six goals.
Despite another “good week of practice,” the Crunch fell into some of their bad habits (turnovers) and paid for it with goals allowed. This may be a case of too much practice and not enough actual game action, but Syracuse needs to figure out their defensive issues quickly or they risk falling out of the race early in the season.
Some individual highlights:
Gemel Smith: 2 goals, 1 assist
Luke Schenn and Cameron Gaunce: two assists each
Alex Barre-Boulet: a goal to run his points streak to five games
Daniel Walcott: returned to action.
Yup, that’s about it.
Gemel Smith (Cal Foote, Scott Wedgewood) Power Play 1-0 Syracuse
I’m not sure why the Amerks defense decided to back off of Smith and let him get a clean look at the net. Maybe they thought he was going to pass it, or that a wrist shot from that area should have been stopped by their goaltender (it probably should have). Whatever the case may be, they let him take the shot and he ripped it home. Wedgewood picked up the assist, joining Louis Domingue with one point in the stat sheet. Domingue picked up his assist in the season opener against ...yup, the Amerks.
Curtis Lazar (Lawrence Pilut, C.J. Smith) 5-on-3 Power Play 1-1
Peter Abbadonato tripped up an Amerk just outside of their zone. Then, down a man, Alex Volkov hip-checked - nope apparently he tripped - another Amerk, giving them a 5-on-3 power play. Rochester came into the game with a scintillating 8.3% success rate with the extra skater. Still, it wasn’t wise to give them an opportunity to get back into the game, and they took advantage.
It started with excellent puck work by the Amerks with two extra men on the ice. Smith fed it back to Pilut, who was able to complete the cross-ice pass to Lazar before Wedgewood could shift over. Lazar released it quickly and the score was tied. The Crunch dominated play for most of the period, but a couple of penalties undid a lot of the work.
Boris Katchouk (Ross Colton, Luke Schenn) 2-1 Syracuse
Ross Colton took a hit to make a play. I’m not sure it’s a tradeoff he wants to make every night of the season, but he made sure his pass got through before getting walloped by William Borgan. Katchouk took the opening and shot/passed a puck that hit something in front of the net and ricocheted behind. Hammond, with no idea where the puck was, went to the far post. Katchouk went to the near post with the puck and tucked it home. He then celebrated by making a beeline to Borgan and letting him know that he didn’t appreciate Borgan’s hit on his friend Ross.
Casey Fitzgerald (Curtis Lazar, Jean-Sebastian Dea) 2-2
This goal was a bit of a bummer because it came after a nice give-and-go rush by Taylor Raddysh and Abbadonato. Raddysh fed Abbandonato and the rookie couldn’t bury the shot. It led to a counter attack by Rochester and Lazar made a nifty toe-drag move around a sliding Cameron Gaunce before feeding it tow Fitzgerald for the goal.
Sean Malone (Casey Fitzgerald, Rasmus Asplund) 3-2 Rochester
Uh-oh. There was a definite “here we go again” feeling as the Crunch were a little flat after the Fitzgerald goal. On the very next shift Sean Malone poked a puck past Wedgewood and all of a sudden the Crunch are trailing despite outplaying Rochester for much of the game.
Ben Thomas (Alexander Volkov, Gemel Smith) 3-3
Having seen his team spiral down in their previous two games, Coach Ben Groulx did the right thing after Malone’s goal. He called a timeout. He calmed them down and reminded them that they were playing a good game (at least according to Smith during a quick intermission interview). After getting a chance to catch their breath, the Crunch were right back at it.
Volkov slung the puck around the boards and Thomas skated over, stopped it and, wristed it on net. He could try that shot thirty five times and it would maybe go in once. Luckily this was the one time. It skittered along the ice and through all the sticks, skates, and bodies in front of the net and didn’t hit anything. Chances are Andrew Hammond never saw it until it was in the net.
It doesn’t have to be pretty to be effective.
Cory Conacher (Cameron Gaunce, Luke Schenn) 4-3 Syracuse
Being pretty is nice, though. After finding iron in on a wide open net in the first, Conacher redeems himself with a pretty toe-drag snapshot through the defenders legs. What a fluid shot this was and it gave the Crunch the lead once more. This time it was Rochester on the back foot as the Crunch scored twice in just over a minute.
J.S Dea (Scott Wilson) 4-4
After battling back from two quick goals and gaining the lead, the Crunch needed to keep the pressure on and keep the Amerks from scor……
Oh man. That was not pretty. Nolan Valleau’s pass through a dangerous part of the ice was knocked down by Scott Wilson. Somehow Smith and Volkov missed the puck and Dea burned one past Wedgewood. Tie game (spoiler - this won’t be the last time Dea ties the game up). Also, this may be the point the game officially came off of the rails.
Alex Barre-Boulet (Cameron Gaunce, Chris Mueller) Power Play 5-4 Syracuse
The Crunch regroupped and got four of the next five shots on net. Then Walcott drew another undisciplined penalty from the Amerks, and the power play went to work. They didn’t work too long as Mueller won the face-off to Gaunce. Gaunce slid the puck over to Barre-Boulet who stepped into a shot from the top of the left circle and ripped it by Hammond to give the Crunch yet another lead.
Barre-Boulet’s positioning on the power play has been different than last year. This season he’s been mostly on the left point, helping quarterback it with Gaunce as opposed to down low where he was last season. He will still occasionally rotate down there, but for the most part he’s stayed up top and that plays to his passing strength as well as his shooting skills.
Gemel Smith (Nolan Valleau) 6-4 Syracuse
It looked like the Crunch had iced the game when Smith scored his second of the night. It wasn’t anything complicated, just a rush down the right side of the ice and he blew one past Hammond (and chased the goalie from the game). The momentum was all on Syracuse’s side with under thirteen minutes left in the game.
And then they just... Stopped playing.
Curtis Lazar (CJ Smith, Zach Redmond) Power Play 6-5 Syracuse
Rochester started to dictate play again and were rewarded with a power play when Dominik Masin was called for hooking just over halfway through the period. The Rochester power play (which I remind you was at 8.3% before the game) came through. Lazar picked up his second goal of the game by wristing a shot through a crowd and past Wedgewood to bring the Amerks to within one and tamper down the excitement in the crowd.
J.S. Dea (Lawrence Pilut, Scott Wilson) Extra Attacker 6-6
The Crunch were so close to clearing the puck and ending the game on two occasions right before the goal. First Mueller made a diving poke at the puck and almost had enough to get it out of the zone. Then Conacher knocked down a pass at the top of the slot, but his stick was slightly tangled with Rasmus Asplund and he couldn’t free it in time to clear it out. The stupid black disk found it’s way to Pilut who fired a shot on net. Somehow in the scrum Dea got a stick on it and put it past a sprawled out Wedgewood. The Amerks had tied it with just twelve seconds left in the game.
Lawrence Pilut (J.S. Dea, Curtis Lazar)
The Crunch worked really, really well in overtime as they controlled the puck for most of it. Mueller probably had the best chance as he roared down the slot on Jonas Johansson, but the goalie made the save. He actually made all three of his saves in overtime. With time winding under a minute Pilut found himself alone in the right circle. He whipped a shot on the short side, beating Wedgewood’s glove and ticking the inside of the post. It was a pretty nice shot, to be honest.
The Benjy Compson Memorial Turning Point of the Game
I had about four different moments starred in my notes for potential turning points in the game. The Groulx timeout was the most likely candidate for much of the second half of the night. However, one other moment edged it out and it came at the end of the game.
At the 17:13 mark of the third period Nolan Valleau took a holding penalty (for some reason the stats say it was Volkov, but I’m 99% sure it was Valleau). Syracuse was clinging to a 6-5 lead and Rochester was humming. As the power play was winding down, Rochester also pulled their goalie.
As Valleau’s penalty expired he made a rush to the puck which was in the Crunch’s zone and he disrupted a play. That led to the puck exiting the zone and Mueller at the red line with a chance to seal the game by firing it into the empty net. He took his shot and it was knocked down by Pilut. The Amerks never surrendered possession of the puck after that and Dea eventually tied the game. If Pilut doesn’t knock that puck down, the game is over and the Crunch have an exciting 7-5 win instead of a depressing 7-6 overtime loss.
Syracuse’s Best Players of the Game
Gemel Smith - 2 goals, 1 assist. Smith has been fantastic with the Crunch. He now has five points in five games with Syracuse.
Daniel Walcott - The stat sheet reads 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 shots and a -1, but Walcott had a huge impact on this game. He drew two penalties that led to goals and was a constant thorn in the side of almost every Amerk on the ice. Every shift he had seem to finish in some sort of scrum.
Walcott does what Walcott is good at. Legal hit. Randell takes an unnecessary penalty stepping in to lend a hand. pic.twitter.com/nrHJKewyGT— Let's Go Amerks (@LetsGoAmerks) October 27, 2019
Unlike their last loss the Crunch don’t have time to sit and dwell on their missed opportunities as they are right back at taking on the Toronto Marlies at 5:00pm on Sunday.