It seems that whenever the Syracuse Crunch have needed a bit of a pick-me-up this season, the Binghamton Devils have appeared on the schedule. Going into Tuesday’s game, the two teams had met eight times with the Crunch winning seven of those games. In those eight games, Syracuse has outscored Binghamton 31 to 14. Nothing changed on Tuesday as the Crunch skated to a 4-0 win. Eddie Pasquale and Connor Ingram combined to stop 22 shots, and the Syracuse penalty kill was successful in shutting down all five Devils’ power plays.
The Crunch are in the middle of a grueling stretch of eight games in fourteen days. Originally, Syracuse was supposed to be enjoying a nice five-day break before their three-games-in-three-days stretch this weekend, but this game was thrown in after the scheduled one was postponed due to a snowstorm on January 19th. Given that, it was nice to see the Crunch go out and beat Binghamton in a workmanlike fashion.
Binghamton has had a bit of a roster shuffle of late due to the New Jersey Devils calling up a few of the more familiar faces in this rivalry. Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, centers John Quenneville and Michael McCloud, and winger Nathan Bastian are all players who have had some success against the Crunch in the past but weren’t in Binghamton last night. Syracuse cared not for their roster struggles and dominated their replacements for most of the game.
Eddie Pasquale started his fourth consecutive game for the Crunch as Ben Groulx rode the hot hand in net. Unfortunately, just 13:25 into the first period, Pasquale left the net and headed back to the locker room. There was no apparent injury on the play, and he returned in uniform in the second period to sit and watch as Connor Ingram finished off the shutout. Following the game, General Manager Julien BriseBois told The Syracuse Post-Standard that the veteran goalie was feeling ill.
BriseBois said Eddie left game with illness and it is not expected to be anything long term— Syracuse Hockey (@syrhockey) February 27, 2019
Pasquale didn’t miss much action as Binghamton struggled to generate any serious offense all game long. Even with their power plays, most of the action was limited to a defense-to-defense pass and then a long shot wide of the net. Their best chance came shorthanded with about four-and-a-half-minutes to go in the second period. Jan Rutta tried to force a pass across the ice in the neutral zone that was picked off and resulted in Ryan Smeltzer breaking in alone on Ingram, but the Crunch netminder easily knocked aside the shot.
As for the Crunch offense, three of the four goals came from turnovers from the Devils. In the first period Brady Brassart tried to connect with Carter Verhaeghe in the neutral zone. The pass was well ahead of Verhaeghe but Devils’ center Egor Sharangovich batted it right to the Crunch’s leading scorer. Verhaeghe blew by Sharangovich, cut in front of the net, beat goaltender Cam Johnson up high and then knocked over John Ramage.
It was a pretty dominating way to pick up his 60th point of the season. It was also Verhaeghe’s 24th goal of the season, as he continues his breakout season.
The Crunch’s second goal came less than a minute later as Mitchell Stephens won an offensive zone face-off to Andre Andreoff. The veteran winger tapped it back to Nolan Valleau, who drifted to the middle of the ice and launched a shot from the point. Johnson stopped it but Stephens, unmarked in front of the net, was able to bang home the rebound for his sixth goal of the season.
For the first time since his return from injury, Stephens was lined up in his more familiar center position with Andreoff sliding over to the left wing. Coach Groulx (after spending a week talking about how much he likes having 12 forwards and four lines) went with an 11/7 rotation with Hubert Labrie back healthy.
With a two-goal lead after 20 minutes, the Crunch were in control of the game and they didn’t let up over the final 40 minutes of the game. They extended their lead with two more in the second period, both goals coming off of turnovers by Binghamton in their own zone.
First up, it was Andreoff picking up his 19th goal of the season just after a Binghamton power play expired. A loose puck came to the right circle, and Tariq Hammond was by himself. Unfortunately, his first touch was a little strong and the puck hit his teammate Eric Tangradi in the skates. Andreoff picked up the puck and wristed it past Johnson for the 3-0 lead.
The “poetic justice” broadcaster Lukas Favale mentions in that clip? Well, the Devils had an unsuccessful five-on-four power play that was winding down. They also had a really bad line change right before Andreoff’s goal that resulted in six Devils skaters on the ice. Now, this wasn’t a case where a player jumps onto the ice too quickly. They had six skaters in the Crunch’s zone for about 5-10 seconds with no call.
That’s how bad their night went. Not only could they not keep the puck in the zone with two extra skaters, even when they got away with a blatant penalty, they still gave up a goal. Andreoff snapped a five-game goalless streak with the tally and had two points in his return to his natural position.
Speaking of snapping a long scoring drought, Boris Katchouk posted the Crunch’s final goal of the night on a similar play with about two minutes to go in the game. Ross Colton was by himself along the boards to Johnson’s left. Tangradi and Eric Gryba deprived him of the puck, but couldn’t control it. It came out to Katchouk, who snapped the shot home.
It had been 13 games since the rookie last scored a goal or recorded a point. His last goal came on January 25th against Springfield. Hopefully this gets him back on track. Neither his goal or Andreoff’s goal was assisted (and a case could be made that Verhaeghe’s could have been unassisted, as well). The Crunch took advantage of the Devils’ mistakes all night long.
The third period didn’t feature too much action. Binghamton was obviously frustrated, and a lot more scrums developed after stoppages. Dominik Masin took umbrage to an unsolicited left jab from Brandon Braddock during one of these get togethers and challenged his much larger opponent to a fight. It didn’t go well for the Crunch defenseman. He never even got his gloves off before Braddock dropped him to the ice with a clean right uppercut. It was the only battle the Devils won all night.
With the win, the Crunch move back into a virtual tie atop the North Division standings with the Rochester Americans. Both teams have 33 wins and 71 points, but the Crunch have accomplished those feats in one less game. The Amerks play on Wednesday with a chance to regain their outright lead before the two teams meet for a home-and-home series this weekend.
3 Connor Ingram - 17 saves
2 Mitchell Stephens - 1 goal, 5 for 9 from the face-off dot
1 Andy Andreoff - 1 goal, 1 assist