For the first time since November of 2017, the Syracuse Crunch failed to register a point in a game in November as they fell 4-2 to the Hershey Bears on Sunday. Spencer Martin stopped 20 of 23 shots in his Crunch debut while Danick Martel and Ross Colton provided the offense for Syracuse.
Both teams were playing their third game in three days and it showed. The first period was a little sluggish and the teams combined for five penalties in the opening frame. Hershey had a bit more jump and out shot the Crunch early. As the game progressed Syracuse played a little better, but couldn’t sustain their offense. Pheonix Copley provided some juicy rebounds throughout the game, but the Bears did a good job of preventing access to them and clearing the zone.
Martin played fairly well in his first game as Scott Wedgewood’s backup. Of the goals he surrendered, he didn’t have much of a chance as his defense kind of hung him out to dry. All three came from in close and the Hershey players basically outworked the Crunch defenders.
While losses are never great (especially when the Crunch are chasing points in the standings), this one wasn’t too bad. Sometimes a team just doesn’t get the breaks. If the Crunch had gotten a bounce or two, it might have been a different outcome.
Matt Moulson (Mike Sgarbossa, Bobby Nardella) 1-0 Hershey
It was pretty much all Hershey early on as the Crunch struggled with their two big bugaboos this season - turnovers and penalties. It took five and a half-minutes, but their mistakes finally resulted in a goal. Just as Taylor Raddysh’s tripping penalty expired, Mike Sgarbossa sent a centering pass in front of Martin. Dominik Masin was slow in covering Matt Moulson and the veteran tipped the puck past Martin to open the scoring.
Danick Martel (Ross Colton, Daniel Walcott) 1-1
The Crunch tied the game about ten minutes later with a play we haven’t seen a lot of this season - a transition goal. Daniel Walcott started the play out of his own zone with a nice breakout pass that set Ross Colton and Danick Martel up for a two-on-one break. Colton carried it over the blue line and then quickly slid a pass over to Martel.
The quick pass was key as it gave Martel room to make a move on Copley. The speedy forward made a nice move as the pass kind of handcuffed him. He stopped it on his backhand and was able to slide it to his forehand and beat Copley stickside.
Matt Moulson (Chris McCarthy, Alex Alexeyev) 2-1 Hershey
The Crunch almost made it through the period tied, which would have been a boon considering how lethargic they were. Moulsen had other ideas. The puck was centered out from behind Martin’s net and Walcott was in position to intercept it and clear, but Moulson made a veteran move. He snuck in behind Walcott, lifted his stick, stole the puck and fired it past Martin.
Sometimes the other team just makes a good play and it ends up in the back of the net.
Beck Malenstyn (Martin Fehevary, Christian Djoos) 3-1 Hershey
The Bears doubled their lead five minutes into the second period as Malenstyn pounced on a rebound and flipped it past Martin. There were two Crunch players in the area, but Malenstyn was first to the puck and scored what turned out to be the game winner.
Cory Conacher (Cameron Gaunce, Ross Colton) 3-2 Hershey
Syracuse saved their best period of the night for the final one. Coach Groulx shook up the lines a bit as he tried to find a little spark. It paid off with just over eight minutes to go as Cory Conacher whipped a shot from the top of the slot that trickled through Copely and just over the goal line. Conacher has a tremendous shot and this one had some steam on it despite the fact that he was slightly off balance and falling backward as he let it go.
Mike Sgarbossa (assisted by timekeeper) Empty Net 4-2 Hershey
The Crunch pressed over the remainder of the game, but couldn’t find the equalizer. Their two best chances came right after the Conacher goal as Boris Katchouk was denied from the bottom of the circles on a nice save by Copley. Cameron Gaunce followed that up with a clean look from a similar area as to where Conacher’s goal came from, but his shot was blocked away harmlessly. With the net empty and eleven seconds left the Crunch drew up a play, but couldn’t get a clean look at the net. Sgarbossa claimed a loss puck in the neutral zone and slid it into the empty net seemingly after the buzzer had sounded, but after a review it was determined to have gone in before time expired. Whatever.
The Huckleberry “Huck” Finn Memorial Turning Point of the Game
I’m going to go with the Mitchell Stephens charging penalty with 15:47 left in the game. It was one of those hits that were borderline, at slow motion it does appear he hit him from the side and not behind, but he did drive him into the boards a bit and it was an unnecessary hit in the offensive zone. The Bears didn’t score, but it did kill off two minutes and halted the momentum the Crunch had built up over the third period.
The Crunch’s best players on the ice
Tough call because the whole team was kind of blah.
Danick Martel - 1 goal, 2 shots. One of the few players that skated with energy for most of the game, Martel was probably their best forward.
Cameron Gaunce - 1 assist, 2 shots. He set up Conacher’s goal that gave the Crunch a bit of life, but it was his constant presence on the ice that stood out. With some of the defensive substitutions over the last couple of games, Gaunce has flipped back and forth from the left side of the ice to the right and back again. He was out there in all situations again, this time paired up with Luke Witkowski. Again, without proper ice time numbers we can only guess as to how much he was on the ice, but it felt like a 25-28 minute kind of night for him.
The Crunch are off until Friday, November 8th, when they take on the Belleville Senators in Syracuse at 7:00 p.m.