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Syracuse Crunch lose 3-2 to Providence Bruins

Boris Katchouk snapped an 11-game goalless drought in the loss

Scott Thomas Photography

With fifteen seconds left to go in a one-goal game, the puck came to Cal Foote at the left circle. The rookie was wide open and wound up for a slapshot. Unfortunately, the shot was blocked aside and time expired before the Syracuse Crunch had a chance to tie the game. Providence held on for a 3-2 victory. For the Crunch, it was their third straight game without a victory (and third straight game scoring two or fewer goals).

The game shouldn’t have been that close at the end. If not for the play of Eddie Pasquale, the Crunch could have easily been down four or five goals by the time the final horn sounded. The veteran made 24 saves in the first two periods to keep the Syracuse within striking distance, but the offense never came around to bail him out.

First Period

Well, this one was all Providence. Aided by two power plays and the Crunch’s inability to clear the puck from their own zone, the Bruins fired 14 shots at Eddie Pasquale. The Syracuse netminder batted all of them aside. Most importantly, as he has for most of the season, he limited the rebounds or directed them away from danger. Providence didn’t have many second chance opportunities.

It was a combination of turnovers, losing puck battles, and losing face-offs that kept the Crunch pinned back in their own zone. Instead of making simple passes and plays, the Crunch tried to be a little too fancy in their clears. Dennis Yan tried to weave the puck around a few defenders and ended up losing the puck behind the net instead of just passing it to an open teammate. It wasn’t just him, though; several players made made or weak clears that Providence was happy to take advantage of.

On the offensive side, the Crunch had a little momentum towards the end of the period. There is room to move through the neutral zone against the Bruins, the Crunch just have to get there with the puck. The best chance came from Carter Verhaeghe who was sent in on net alone by a nice cross-ice pass from Gabriel Dumont. The Crunch’s leading scorer never really had a clean handle on the bouncing puck and Dan Vladar was able to bat aside his attempt when Verhaeghe finally got a shot off.

There was a brief moment of worry about five minutes into the period when Taylor Raddysh crumbled to the ice after taking a shot from Emil Johansson off of the leg. He limped to the bench and was looked over, but didn’t miss too much time. He started a mini-rush late in the period by reading a breakout pass correctly and picked off a pass. The Crunch weren’t able to capitalize on the rush, but at least it kept the puck out of their zone for 30 seconds or so.

The Second Period

The good news - the Crunch were only outshot nine to six in the middle frame. Unfortunately, one of those nine shots managed to beat Eddie Pasquale. The period followed the script of the first, lots of zone time for the Bruins and minimal time on offense for the Crunch. Syracuse took two more penalties - Ross Colton and Dennis Yan with needless stick penalties - and the Crunch did a pretty good job of killing them of.

In fact, the best offense of the first half of the period for the Crunch came shorthanded when Boris Katchouk made a nice move in the Bruins’ zone to get around his defender. He sent a pass to the middle of the ice but Brady Brassart wasn’t able to get to the puck as he was tied up.

Pasquale made two fantastic saves in the period. Just over a minute into the period (and after Dumont scrapped with Jeremy Lauzin) he sprawled out with his right pad to stop Jordan Szwarz who was all by himself in the left circle. It was his blocker that knocked aside the second chance for the Bruins as Stuart Percy tried to catch him sliding from post to post, but Pasquale was able to reach back and knock it away.

The goal came a few minutes later when the Bruins were working the puck down low. Szwarz slid a puck across the front of the net and Methuselah Lee Stempniak fired a one-timer home. The 2003 draft pick recorded his 5th goal of the season on the Bruins’ 22nd shot of the game.

Following the penalty things got a little better for the Crunch. They did go to the power play a couple of times and had some decent looks at net. Ross Colton and Dennis Yan rang shots off of posts, but they still weren’t able to to beat Vladar.

Third Period

With about eight minutes to go in the game, the Crunch finally woke up a bit and started playing hockey. The only problem: they were down 3-1 at that point. They did manage to get within one after a late tally by Dumont, but even with a final flurry of activity they couldn’t steal the game from the Bruins.

It looked like they were finally finding even footing with the Bruins five minutes into the period when Dumont spun Johansson off of the puck in the Providence zone. The Crunch captain scooped up the loose puck and fed it to Boris Katchouk who snapped a wrister past Vladar to tie the game at one.

The crowd was into the game and despite getting outplayed for most of the night, the Crunch had a chance. That lasted less than 20 seconds. With the puck in the neutral zone Nolan Valleau kind of got caught in no man’s land, and Peter Cehlarik’s pass sent Stempniak in on a two-on-one with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. A quick pass to JFK and he slid it past Pasquale to reestablish the lead.

Two minutes later, Stempniak picked up his third point of the night as he fed the puck to Gemel Smith in the left circle on the power play. Smith’s shot hit the crossbar and went in to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead.

As he is wont to do, Coach Groulx pulled the goaltender with more than seven minutes to go. The extra skater didn’t really help and much of the time was actually spent in the Crunch’s zone. Luckily, the Bruins couldn’t get a clear shot on the net and the Crunch escaped with the puck and Pasquale returned to the net (on the fly).

With just over five minutes to go and the Crunch with a face-off in the Bruins zone, Coach Groulx yanked his goaltender again. This time it worked as Dumont won the face-off and the Crunch had a couple of quick chances. Andy Andreoff took a hit behind the net to move the puck to Verhaeghe. His pass from below the goalline found Dumont alone in front and he whipped an off-balance shot that went just past Vladar to bring the Crunch within a goal.

A late penalty to Dumont (he was called for a trip while battling for a loose puck) sapped some of the steam from the Crunch’s offense and their last minute barrage of shots did nothing except make the shot counter a little closer (33-20). Cal Foote had a shot deflected wide with about 15 seconds to go and that would be the closest the Crunch came to tieing the game up.

Special Teams

Crunch Power Play - 0 for 3 - Just a handful of chances against one of the best penalty kills in the league (Providence entered the game second in the league). The usual crisp passing and decision making just wasn’t there and the Crunch didn’t really have any dangerous looks.

Crunch Penalty Kill - 5 for 6 - Honestly, the penalty kill was pretty good. They just took too many penalties and got a little scrambly on the goal by Smith. Other than that they limited shots and had two pretty good chances shorthanded.

Goaltenders

Eddie Pasquale - 30 saves on 33 shots - Once again, another loss that can’t be pinned on the goaltender. Without his play in the first two periods this game could have been 6 or 7 to 2. One goal he gave up was on a two-on-one and the other two were snapshots from unmarked players in front.

Dan Vladar - 18 saves on 20 shots - He wasn’t busy, especially in the first two periods, but he made the saves he had to when it counted. His best stop was on a one-timer from Oleg Sosunov midway through the third period. He got just enough of a pad on the shot to direct it to the post where it was swept away before Alex Volkov could jump on it.

Notes

  • If there was room for a fourth star it would go to Boris Katchouk. The rookie had a heck of a game, especially short-handed. He started two shorthanded, odd-man rushes and was a pest the entire time he was on the ice.
  • Brady Brassart and Ben Thomas returned to the ice. They took the spots of Ryan Lohin and Matt Spencer. They played alright but weren’t really a factor in the game. Thomas’ return was nice because it adds to the depth on the blueline (hopefully Cameron Gaunce will be back next week).
  • This is the second game in a row that the Crunch played a team fighting for a spot in the playoffs and the second time that the Crunch have been outplayed. Coach Groulx doesn’t mind losing as long as the team plays its best. That hasn’t been the case the last two nights.
  • The loss, coupled with Rochester’s 4-2 win over Laval, trimmed the Crunch lead to just one point in the North Division. They need to turn things around in a hurry to keep from dropping to the second spot where they would face the Toronto Marlies in the first round.

Three Stars

3. Eddie Pasquale - 30 saves on 33 shots. See above

2. Gemel Smith - 1 goal, 3 shots. He was one of the best forwards for the Bruins all night and finally got the goal that ended up being the game winner

1. Lee Stempniak - 1 goal, 2 assists. Great game from the 14-year vet. His feed on the second Bruins goal was perfect.

Box Score