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Syracuse Crunch defeat Bridgeport Sound Tigers, 5-1

The Sound Tigers are not having the best of seasons, but the Crunch played a full sixty minutes for one of the few times all year.

Scott Thomas Photography

Scott Wedgewood made his first start as the undisputed number one goaltender for the Syracuse Crunch a solid one as he stopped fifteen of sixteen shots to backstop the Crunch to victory over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers with a 5-1 score. The Crunch exploded for three goals in less than a minute in the third period to secure the victory.

Shortly before the puck dropped in the War Memorial Arena, the organization announced that they had traded disgruntled goaltender Louis Domingue to the New Jersey Devils for a conditional 2021 7th round pick. With Mike Condon still injured, the team called up Spencer Martin from the Orlando Solar Bears. Since it was done at such a late notice, Martin wasn’t able to join the team in time to be the back-up. That honor went to local high school coach, Daniel Jones (not that Daniel Jones) who was signed to an ATO prior to the game.

Luckily for the Crunch, Jones didn’t have to make an appearance as they handled the 1-6-2-1 Sound Tigers rather easily. While the score was close for the first two periods, the Crunch were in control for most of the night, suffocating the Bridgeport offense with a mix of solid forechecking and aggressive play in the neutral zone.

Perhaps the most promising part of the night was that the Crunch played well with a lead in the third period. After two consecutive games of blowing two-goal leads in the third, Syracuse not only didn’t surrender the lead, they increased it. It was nice to see a game finish in regulation for a change.

The win continued the Crunch’s historical excellent play in the month of November. They now have points in sixteen straight November games (15-0-2-0), a streak that stretches back to the 2017-18 season.

Goals:

First Period

For the first time since the third period of the second game of the season, and for only the third time all season, the Crunch played a scoreless period. Good on them. They outshot the Sound Tigers 10-7 and controlled most of the play, especially 5v5. Scott Wedgewood, now the undisputed number one goaltender in Syracuse, didn’t have to work overally hard, but he did make a nice save on Simon Holmstrom who had toe-dragged around a defender and launched a shot from the left circle.

The Crunch had several chances turned aside by Jared Coreau, the best being a point shot from Dominik Masin that glanced off the goaltender’s left pad just as a Syracuse power play expired.

Second Period

Mitchell Stephens (Boris Katchouk) 1-0 Syracuse

Mitchell Stephens gets the goal, but this play was made by Boris Katchouk. He sprinted across the ice to keep the puck in along the left boards. He then skated in and fired a shot/pass to the front of the net. Coreau got a piece of it but the rebound bounced right to Stephens who banged it home to open the scoring.

Travis St. Denis (Nick Schilkey, Nic Pierog) 1-1

The lead lasted all of 25 seconds when the Crunch were the victims of some bad luck (don’t blame the ref, don’t blame the ref, don’t blame the ref... ). Off a face-off to Wedgewood’s right, Travis St. Denis slashed Cal Foote’s stick out of his hands. It was quite blatant and the second year defender was agitated about the non-call.

He was never able to secure a new stick (and had to try and throw the puck out of the zone at one point). A long shot went to the side of the net where Nick Shilkey flicked a quick backhander to St. Denis (who was unguarded in front of the Crunch’s net) and the forward snapped it home for his first goal of the year. Should there have been a penalty? Probably, but that doesn’t excuse the Crunch for not playing defense. St. Denis was way too open in front of the net.

Daniel Walcott (Otto Somppi, Taylor Raddysh) 2-1 Syracuse

The play evened out a bit after the St. Denis goal, the Crunch had a power play that was unsuccessful, then with time winding down in the period, Taylor Raddysh fought through a check to drag the puck behind the Sound Tigers net. He dropped a pass to Otto Somppi who then backhanded the puck in front of the net. His pass found Walcott in front of the net and the big forward snapped a shot over Coreau’s glove and under the bar for his first goal since April of 2018.

Third Period

Nolan Valleu (Cory Conacher, Dennis Yan) 3-1 Syracuse

It’s always nice when your defensemen chip in with a goal. This was a nice shot by Valleau that gets in just under the bar. Cory Conacher on a rush just a few seconds before had unleashed a laser of a shot from the same right circle that he passed the puck from. It seemed like Bridgeport was expecting him to shoot from there again (who wouldn’t), and were a little slow to pick Valleau as a trailer.

Otto Somppi (Taylor Raddysh, Daniel Walcott) 4-1 Syracuse

If you’re worried about blowing a two-goal third period lead, the best thing to do is make it a three-goal lead. Somppi did that 52 seconds after the Valleau goal. He steamed down the right side of the ice and passed (?) the puck to the center of the ice. Coreau definately read it as a pass and vacated the post a tad early. The puck hit his skate and bounced into the back of the net. Not the prettiest goal, but Somppi will take it. With that, Coreau’s night was over and Jakub Skarek was called in for relief.

Mitchell Stephens (unassisted) 5-1 Syracuse

Skarek skated into the crease, took a swig of water, settled in for the face-off and then promptly gave up a goal. Following the face-off after the Somppi goal, Mitchell Stephens pounced on a loose puck (not really sure what Sebastion Aho was doing) and ripped a shot past the replacement goaltender. The Crunch had ended any thoughts of a third period collapse by scoring three goals in less than a minute.

Boxscore

Highlights

The Josephine “Jo” March Memorial Turning Point of the Game

With about two minutes left in the second period and the score tied, the Sound Tigers were pressing a bit. Cal Foote once again lost his stick, this time it snapped during a collision along the boards. Unlike on the the Bridgeport goal, he was able to get a stick from a teammate - Alex Barre-Boulet. As the Crunch scrambled to defend, a shot was directed at the Crunch net. It was going wide but Scott Wedgewood gloved it down and held onto it, stopping play and allowing the Crunch to get settled.

Why was this important? First of all, Foote is a right-hand shot. Barre-Boulet is a left-handed shot. Also, Barre-Boulet is generously listed at 5’9 while Foote is 6’4”. While I’m sure he appreciated having a stick, his effectiveness would have been slightly compromised should he need to clear the puck. With the Crunch scrambling a bit, Wedgewood made the veteran move and stopped play. Syracuse scored thirty seconds later.

Would Bridgeport have scored if Wedgewood had let the puck flutter by his net? Maybe, maybe not. Why give them the chance? It’s better to glove it down and let the team regroup.

Best Crunch players on the ice

Scott Wedgewood - It wasn’t exactly the most exhaustive workout for Wedgewood, as he only faced sixteen shots, but he was on his game all night long. Something that has plagued him a bit in his last couple of starts (and led to more shots) was rebounds. On Friday night he smothered a lot more pucks and didn’t have to scramble around his crease quite as much.

Boris Katchouk - He only ended up with one assist, but he was one of the best players on the ice all game long. Katchouk ended up taking three shots, but he also had one of his better defensive games. He was quick all night long and broke up plays all over the ice.

Mitchell Stephens - The two goals were scored in two separate ways. The first he established position in front of the net, maintained it, and then poked home a rebound. On the second goal, he just ripped a shot past the goaltender. It was a pure skill move. Hopefully, this is an indication that he has shaken off his early season slump.

Daniel Walcott - This team is just better with him in the line-up. Whether he is drawing penalities or harassing the other team, his play always seems to energize the Crunch. While he didn’t draw any calls tonight, he did pick up a punch in the gut from the goaltender, which is something you don’t see very often. He also provided some offense. Much in the same way Stephens positioned himself in a high-danger area, Walcott set himself up to receive Somppi’s pass and then he made a nice shot to beat Coreau.

Next Game:

The Crunch finish up their home stand with a 7:00 p.m. match-up against the Binghamton Devils on Saturday night. It will be interesting to see if Spencer Martin gets the start or if Coach Groulx goes with Wedgewood again given the goaltender’s relatively easy night of work. There is also a chance that Louis Domingue gets the call for Binghamton.