For two nights in a row the Syracuse Crunch had a two-goal lead in the third period. For two nights in a row the Syracuse Crunch surrendered a two-goal lead in the third period. For two nights in a row the Syracuse Crunch were forced to play extra hockey due to their inability to maintain a two-goal lead.
For one night, the Crunch emerged victorious.
Unlike Saturday night against Rochester, the Crunch were able to find the back of the net first in overtime and beat the Toronto Marlies 4-3. Gemel Smith had the game winner just 39 seconds into the bonus period to snap Syracuse’s three-game losing streak. Cal Foote, Ross Colton, and Taylor Raddysh also scored for the Crunch as Louis Domingue stopped 15 of 18 shots, including a dangerous shot in the bonus session, for the win.
It was one of the Crunch’s most complete efforts of the season as they stymied a Toronto team that has yet to lose in regulation. A few lapses of attention in third period prevented Syracuse from winning the game in regulation, but the overall effort and the way the Crunch bounced back in the third period were positive signs for a team struggling to create an identity early in the season.
They hemmed up the Marlies in all three zones of the ice, forcing turnovers and errant breakout passes in the Toronto zone while clogging up the neutral zone. After last night’s loss to Rochester Cory Conacher acknowledged that it would be a tough game and that they would have to work hard to match the Marlies speed. He told Lukas Favale that the key to the game would be to “slow [the Marlies] down and get in their way.”
That’s exactly what the Crunch did for most of the night (with two glaring exceptions that led to goals). Using a fairly simple game of dumping the puck into the zone and forechecking hard, the Crunch had much more of a north and south game then they usually do. There were not as many cross-ice passes through the neutral or offensive zones as we are used to seeing.
What there was a lot of was puck possession and it led to offense. The Crunch ended up outshooting the Marlies 35-18, and that doesn’t include the seemingly dozen chances by Syracuse that went just wide or off of the side of the net (they also hit two posts). The only reason this game wasn’t a blowout was that Joseph Woll bailed out the Marlies for 95% of the match.
It’s a good game for the Crunch to build on as they head into another week with a long break (no games until Friday) before hitting a busy stretch of the schedule.
Pontus Aberg (Timothy Lilegren, Tanner MacMaster) 1-0 Toronto
The Crunch were playing so well early on this game, completely dominating the Marlies at 5v5. Toronto wasn’t mustering much offense at all as they had a total of 2 shots through the first half of the period. Dennis Yan got a little aggressive with a crosscheck in the offensive zone and Toronto took the lead on what was basically (if not statistically) a power play goal.
Syracuse had a couple of chances to clear the puck before the goal. Boris Katchouk tried to bat a puck along the boards out of the zone, but the Marlies were able to keep it in. They worked the puck over to the right circle and with a big crowd of players in front of him Louis Domingue was not able to see Timothy Lilegren pass the puck back over to Pontus Aberg in the left circle. The goalie was slow to slide over and Aberg had a wide open net to wrist it into just after the penalty officially expired.
So the good news was that it didn’t count as a power play goal. The bad news was that the Crunch were behind despite one of their best periods of the year.
Joseph Woll Own Goal (The Stanchion, Cal Foote) 1-1
Cal Foote (Otto Somppi)
To beat a hot goaltender you need a bounce or two. The Crunch finally created their bounce eight minutes into the second period. Cal Foote dumped the puck into the Marlies zone along the right-side glass. Woll went behind the net to knock it down, but it never made it to him. The puck hit a stanchion and took a hard left turn to the crease. Chances are it would have skittered through the crease but Woll, in his desperation to get in front of it, deflected it ever so slightly with his stick into the net. Yea unfortunate bounces! Foote was credited with the goal.
Ross Colton (Mitchell Stephens, Boris Katchouk) 2-1 Syracuse
Syracuse kept the pressure on, limiting Toronto’s time with the puck and it paid off with a legitimate goal this time. The puck was pushed into the Marlies zone by Katchouk (who makes a nice play to not go offsides) and the Marlies defender was caught between reaching for the puck and using his body to shield off Mitchell Stephens. He did neither and Stephens skated right around him with the puck. A quick feed to Colton in front of the net and the second-year center fired it past Woll for his first goal of the season.
Taylor Raddysh (Gemel Smith, Alex Volkov) Power Play Goal 3-1 Syracuse
As hard as the Crunch had been working on their north/south game, they do still have the ability to score pretty goals going side to side. On yet another power play, Alex Volkov sent a pass over to Gemel Smith in the right circle. As the defense collapsed on Smith, he passed it back to the left where Taylor Raddysh used his skate to ever so gently deflect the puck into the net. Was it a kicking motion? Not according to the replay officials.
Garret Wilson (Pontus Aberg, Tyler Gaudet) 3-2 Syracuse
Turnovers. They’re a bummer. With the Crunch changing up ice, Dominik Masin was chilling behind his net waiting for a teammate to come back so they can start a nice clean breakout. Unfortunately, he got a little casual with the puck, Gaudet saw it was off his stick a bit and Masin had his eyes up ice so he nicked it with his stick and stole it from Masin. He made a pass out to Aberg at the left circle who made a nifty deke on Ben Thomas before sliding it to Wilson who wristed a shot past Domingue. Not much the goalie could do on that one.
Tyler Gaudet (Kenny Agostino, Jordan Schmaltz) - 3-3
Sometimes you need your goaltender to make a save. Louis Domingue was having a pretty good day and it was hard to fault him for either of the first two goals. This one, however, he should have stopped. Gaudet simply skates into the Crunch’s zone and with a slight screen beats Domingue on the far side with his shot. It was a good shot, yes, but one that Domingue most likely punches away with his blocker 99 times out of 100.
Gemel Smith (Luke Schenn, Alex Volkov) - 4-3 Syracuse
For the second night in a row the Crunch were playing extra hockey. Things started off a little dicey as Domingue had to make a nice save on Aberg who cut in front of the net and tried to beat the goalie.
Eventually the puck found its way onto Gemel Smith’s stick. He didn’t mess around. Entering the Marlies zone on the left side of the ice he was one on one with Rasmus Sandin. Smith played the puck off of Sandin’s right skate, then dragged it around his left skate and roofed a backhander over Woll’s glove for the game winner. It was quite nice.
The Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov Memorial Turning Point of the Game
With fourteen seconds left in the second period the Crunch were looking to head into the second intermission with a nice two-goal lead. The Marlies had other ideas. Darren Archibald fired a shot from the left circle that Domingue kicked out with his left pad. The problem was that he kicked it right to the middle of the ice where winger Zach O’Brien was skating to. It would have been a slam dunk into an unguarded net for O’Brien except for the play of Masin. Instead of fumbling for the puck he shielded O’Brien away from the front of the net and the puck went out of harm’s way. A late goal like that would have been a deflating moment for a team that has struggled with their confidence a bit this season.
Best Crunch Players on the ice
Alex Volkov - 2 assists, 5 shots: For the first time all season, Alex Volkov looked like the Alex Volkov we’ve come to know over his first two seasons. He was superb on the forecheck, relentlessly hounding the puck and causing several turnovers. Volkov also had his best offensive game of the season with his two assists. The pass to set up the Raddysh power play goal was simply divine.
Cory Conacher - 0 goals, 0 assists, 6 shots, 1 post, 1 spectacular save against: For someone who didn’t record a point in the game Conacher was a dominating offensive presence. He generated six shots on net, had one ring off the post in the third (his second post in two games) and was absolutely robbed by Woll on one shot:
The line of Boris Katchouk/Ross Colton/ Mitchell Stephens - 1 goal, 2 assists, 6 shots: This line was dangerous throughout the game as they hounded the Marlies in the offensive zone and forced several turnovers or won battles along the boards. There was a really nice chemistry and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them stick together for a few more games.
The Crunch kick off a busy weekend (three games in three days) and a busy November (fourteen games in thirty days) with a home tilt against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Friday, November 1st at 7:00 p.m.