With a chance to come within a point of clinching the North Division title, the Syracuse Crunch wilted under the offensive pressure of the Rochester Americans in a 5-2 loss on home ice Saturday night. The Amerks scored the first five goals of the night as they outshot a disinterested Crunch squad 30-11 over the first two periods of the game. A late second period goal by Alex Barre-Boulet and an early third period goal by Dennis Yan made the score a little more respectable than it should have been.
In the midst of the lackluster performance was the debut of Tampa Bay Lightning second round draft pick Gabriel Fortier. He became the 10th rookie to appear in a game for the Crunch this season. Sporting the number “9," Fortier had a steady amount of play throughout the game, including some power play time.
Atte Tolvanen made his second start in as many nights and had his least effective game as a Crunch netminder as he allowed 5 goals on 35 shots. While there may have been a couple of goals that he would like to have back, he wasn’t the reason the Crunch were digging the puck out of the back of the net early and often. It was a total team breakdown that contributed to the loss.
When the best thing the fans can celebrate is a win in a fight, it’s probably not a great period. The Crunch were outshot 15-3 by the Amerks and outscored 2-0, but at least Gabriel Dumont put Eric Cornel on the ice in their brief little tussel. Other than that, Rochester pretty much dominated the opening 20 minutes.
Wayne Simpson opened the scoring before the fans could find their seats. It was started by one of Ben Groulx’s favorite things [ed note - not really]: a turnover in the defensive zone. The Crunch had the chance to clear it when Boris Katchouk directed a pass from the halfboards to....no one? He literally slid it to the middle of the ice where there were no players.
It might have been ok if Cal Foote hadn’t slipped, tripped, or been pushed over as he cut in front of his goaltender. Alas, he did take to sliding on the ice as the puck went by him. Kevin Porter was there to collect the lonesome puck and he passed it over to his teammate Simpson, who tapped it past a caught-in-between Tolvanen for the goal.
Making it look easy pic.twitter.com/AXxFcsylaU— x - Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) April 6, 2019
Twas not a pretty sight.
From then on it was pretty much all Rochester throughout the period. They had the puck most of the time and when they didn’t have it, the Crunch helped them get it back with a little bit of sloppy play.
While the Crunch were only credited with three shots, they did have a few more chances than that, but their strategy of point shots were mostly deflected wide or easily swallowed up by Adam Wilcox. There was a one or two minute stretch where they actually looking alright, but that moment was fleeting.
The Amerks took advantage of an odd-man to double their lead. It was Rochester’s fourth line that rushed down the ice with a three-on-two advantage. Dalton Smith drew Dominik Masin to him and squeezed the puck by the Crunch defenseman. Andrew MacWilliams was left free and clear to direct the puck past Tolvanen.
6⃣4⃣ --> 3⃣7⃣ --> 2⃣ pic.twitter.com/hCZCAUJ3sM— x - Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) April 6, 2019
As the period drew to its conclusion, things became a little more physical. Katchouk and Porter collided. Brady Brassart hit Porter along the boards. As the puck moved up along the boards, Katchouk flew into CJ Smith and knocked him over. Then Porter buried his stick into Katchouk. Melee ensued. Gloves were in faces, sticks were in ribs, and linesmen were diving into the scrum. After all of that nonsense, the only penalty was on Katchouk for his charge on Smith. The Amerks were back on the power play.
Gabriel Dumont wasn’t satisfied with the mischief and decided that the fans would like to see a quick bout on the ice. Eric Cornel agreed to drop his gloves and they went for a little spin (literally) before Dumont snuck an uppercut in that dropped Cornel onto the ice. Dumont tossed his helmet off and skated directly to the tunnel amidst the cheers of the crowd and the sticktaps of his teammates.
PP goal from V‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/6k1xYB6OC5— x - Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) April 7, 2019
This makes us happy pic.twitter.com/BCvzRsMAnN— x - Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) April 7, 2019
If you can’t see those Tweets, those aren’t Syracuse goals. This one is though:
The referees must have had a chat with the two teams between periods. After such a bad period for the Crunch-and based on some of the antics throughout this series-it wouldn’t have been unexpected if a cavalcade of fights marred the final period of the night. Instead, it was a rather pedestrian affair that was mostly played in the Rochester end.
The Crunch pulled within three just about six minutes into the period as Dennis Yan sniped a shot between two converging Amerks and past Wilcox for his 11th goal of the season. The play was started with a clean rush through the neutral zone by Alex Barre-Boulet who set up the goal with a nice drop pass to Yan.
Yan scores. Amerks still up 5-2. pic.twitter.com/eZLnXE0vTT— Let's Go Amerks (@LetsGoAmerks) April 7, 2019
The Crunch kept up the pressure and, for the first time all night, Wilcox had to be the best player on the ice. Unfortunately for Syracuse’s comeback hopes, he was. There was a flurry of shots from the home team, capped off by Fortier rattling one of the goaltender’s cap, err mask. That led to Wilcox frantically signalling to the refs that the helmet wasn’t on correctly. They didn’t notice so the former Crunch netminder ripped the helmet off of his own head. His timing could have been a little better as Foote had just unleashed a shot that luckily went wide of the net.
Rochester seemed content to sit back and defend, although they had momentary excursions into the Crunch’s zone, mostly on odd-man counterattacks. On those few occasions Tolvanen held his ground and made the stops.
Syracuse couldn’t find any more offense despite their improved play. They came close when Hubert Labrie, still looking for his first goal as a member of the Crunch, rang one off the crossbar off of a nice behind-the-net feed from Carter Verhaeghe. The final horn sounded with the Crunch behind by the score of 5-2. The Amerks, with the clean two points, pulled within three points of the Crunch with a game in hand.
- Gabriel Fortier had a nice debut. He was a lot more involved in the offense than Ryan Lohin was in his debut. It helped that he started on a line with Carter Verhaeghe and Taylor Raddysh and ended on one with Verhaeghe and Barre-Boulet, but he held his own.
- It was a little surprising that Groulx stuck with Tolvanen all game long. It wasn’t his fault that the Crunch were down five goals, but it would have been a good game for Corbin Boes to get a little exposure.
- The fact that the Crunch carried the play in the the third is nice, but it’s also a little frustrating. If they had played with that type of assertiveness in the first forty minutes they wouldn’t be down four goals going into the last period.
- Not sure if it was punishment or a desire to see how some other players would perform on the power play, but the unit that got the most time on their two main chances with the extra skater was comprised of Raddysh, Fortier, Yan, Volkov and Cal Foote.
3. Wayne Simpson - 2 goals
2. All the pups that showed up for the Crunch’s Pucks for Paws night
1. Any Crunch fan that stayed through all 60 minutes of the game