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Syracuse Crunch lose in overtime to Belleville Senators

Ryan Lohin makes his debut, but the offense is stifled in the loss.

Scott Thomas Photography

The Syracuse Crunch survived seven penalties, but could only walk away with a point in their penultimate trip to Belleville as they lost in a shootout, 2-1, to the Senators. Cory Conacher scored his 22nd goal of the season but it wasn’t enough as Belleville tied it midway through the third period. Logan Brown and Adam Tambellini scored in the shootout while the Crunch could only beat goaltender Marcus Hogberg once in the skills competition.

It was a tightly played game that didn’t feature a whole lot of Grade A chances for either side. On the few shots that did make it through, Hogberg and Eddie Pasquale turned them aside. It was the second loss in a row for the Crunch since they clinched a playoff spot. They didn’t play poorly against a Belleville team that is scrapping for every point, but they most definitely could have played better. There will be plenty for Coach Groulx to go over in practice on Thursday.

Turning Point:

Nolan Valleau was whistled for a slash with 1:32 left in overtime. At first glance (and second) it looked like a good defensive play as he just put up his stick to alter the shot of a Belleville forward during a one-on-one play. While the Senators didn’t score on the ensuing power play, they did keep the Crunch in their own zone for the duration thus preventing them from having an opportunity to score in OT.

Syracuse Crunch Goals

1. Cory Conacher from Andy Andreoff and Dennis Yan (1-0 Crunch)

Dominik Masin had slid a backhander just wide of the net prior to the sequence that started the goal. Belleville controlled the loose puck, but the clearing attempt was batted down by Andy Andreoff. The Senators almost controlled it again, but Dennis Yan poked it away from the Belleville player. The puck came to Andreoff who backhanded a pass over to Conacher in his office and the veteran one-timed a rocket past Hogberg. It was his 22nd goal of the season and the most since his MVP season of 2011-12 when he scored 39 for the Norfolk Admirals.

Belleville Senators Goals:

1. Nick Paul from Logan Broan and Erik Burgdoerfer (1-1)

This is what happens when the Crunch get caught in the offensive zone. Behind the Senators’ net, Carter Verhaeghe was decked by Erik Burgdoerfer. The defenseman moved the puck up and then was challenged by Andreoff. While that was going on, the Senator’s had a numbers advantage and Nick Paul was left all alone in front of the net. Just minutes earlier he was in a similar spot and had his shot deflected aside by Pasquale. This time he didn’t miss on the one-timer and slid it past the goaltender just as Drake Batherson cut in front of Pasquale.

Goaltending:

Eddie Pasquale - 24 saves on 25 shots. Pasquale kept the Crunch in the game in the first period, especially during the first penalty kill when it was a shooting gallery. His best save was the one on Brannstrom mentioned earlier. Not only did he stop that shot, he knocked aside two more right after. He also stopped Jack Rodewald on a breakaway early in the second when the game was still scoreless.

He stopped one of three in the shootout, getting beat twice by forehand shots. The difference maker was Adam Tambellini and it was just a really nice, quick shot from close in.

Marcus Hogberg - 20 saves on 21 shots. There just wasn’t a lot of rubber thrown at Hogberg, who has stopped 50 of 51 shots in the last two games he’s started against the Crunch. His best save was early in the second when Alex Barre-Boulet was all alone in the right circle. The rookie fired a one-timer that Hogberg knocked up into the air with his glove and then corralled the rebound.

In the shootout he made a nice poke check on Nolan Valleau when the defenseman tried to stickhandle his way into the crease.

Special Teams:

Syracuse Power Play: 0 for 3: The power play was...meh. There was some good zone time but not a lot of shots on net. Verhaeghe had the best chance on a giveaway in front of the net but he fired it over the net.

Syracuse Penalty Kill: 7 for 7: The first penalty kill was a disaster. The Crunch couldn’t clear the puck and were back in a shell. The Senators were able to move the puck at will and had clean look after clean look. If they hadn’t turned the puck over on a miss-played pass they could still be firing away on Pasquale.

Following that kill, they were back to their normal aggressive selves for the other six times they were shorthanded. The kill with 1:32 left in overtime was one for the ages. Gabriel Dumont, Herbert Labrie and Dominik Masin were on the ice for the entire time and did an epic job of blocking shots and knocking away passes. With about 20 seconds left Dumont blocked a shot and was in obvious discomfort. Despite being barely able to move he stayed on the ice and was ready to block two more shots if they had come his way.

Three Stars of the Game:

3. Eddie Pasquale - He was the difference in the first period and made several key stops throughout the game. The Crunch don’t get a point without his play in net.

2. Vitaly Abramov - 1 shot - He may not have shown up on the scoreboard, but he was dangerous in the first period. He had a chance to put the Senators ahead in the first when he corralled a rebound in front of Pasquale, but he slid the puck through the crease.

1. Nick Paul - 1 goal, 4 shots - He and Logan Brown were two of the best players on the ice for the Senators.

Notes

  • Ryan Lohin made his debut for the Crunch. The recent Lightning signee centered a line with Dennis Yan and Daniel Walcott, and spent some time on the penalty kill. He was fine. It was obvious that he was playing to not make a mistake and didn’t have too many noticeable moments on the ice. Chalk that up to nerves and playing in his first professional game. Now that he has that out of his way, he’ll have to pick up the intensity in order to stay in the line-up.
  • Someone who was noticeable was Dominik Masin. The defenseman had to have been on the ice for 25+ minutes and played like a seasoned veteran. He moved the puck out of the zone with alacrity and pinched in more often offensively than he has for most of the season.
  • Oleg Sosunov was on the ice as well and was fine in his own zone. The issue since his last recall has been that he is a black hole on offense. He was credited with a shot, but it was a wrister from the blueline that didn’t have much of a chance of going in. While he doesn’t have to be the next incarnation of Bobby Orr, he should be a bit more involved in the offense.
  • The offense as a whole was just a bit off all game long. A lot of the play in the Senators’ zone was along the boards. Shots from the point were knocked down and cleared without a follow-up shot. When Crunch forwards had the puck in the open they held it for a tick too long and Belleville was able to recover and knock the pucks away.
  • Ben Thomas and Mitchell Stephens were both scratched due to injuries. Per Lukas Favale on the radio broadcast, Thomas could have played and Stephens may be back by the weekend. There really is no hurry to rush them back at this point. It gives Coach Groulx a chance to play and evaluate some of the other players such as Matt Spencer and Ryan Lohin.
  • It is possible that the Crunch could face the Senators in the first round. If that happens it could be a tough series. The Senators were vastly improved at the deadline with the addition of Vitaly Abramov and Erik Brannstrom. They won’t be an easy out.

Box Score