The Syracuse Crunch continue to find ways to win. This week’s winning journey against the Laval Rocket was about jumping out to an early lead and sitting on it. It had a surprise hero, a consistent scorer, and a game-winning goal from an unlikely source.
Wednesday Night’s Lineups
Jack LaFontaine is in the net for his first ever start for the Crunch. LaFontaine is a former 3rd round pick from the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2016 NHL Draft. Last year, he left school early at the University of Minnesota, signed with Carolina, and made his NHL debut. He played in 2 games for Carolina before he was sent down to the AHL to play for the Chicago Wolves where he played 13 games and posted a .885 save percentage. He was somewhat surprisingly not offered a contract and the Crunch signed him to a deal this summer.
Max Lagace was backing him up. This is a notable backup assignment because Lagace has been injured since December 7th against Rochester. Also, Gabriel Fortier was inserted back into the lineup after missing the last game against Bridgeport.
Tonight's projected lines against Laval ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/YFTdtRIeYr— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) December 21, 2022
At the other end of the ice, former Syracuse Crunch players Mitchell Stephens and Peter Abbandonato were on the ice for the Rocket.
At the 15:21 mark of the first period, Gage Concalves slipped the puck past goaltender Kevin Poulin to find Gemel Smith who was crashing the net and scored to make it 1-0 Crunch.
Smith’s goal gave him a 13-game point streak which is the 2nd longest point streak in Tampacuse history behind Boris Katchouk’s 14 games.
A neat little backdoor pass from Gonzo to Smitty pic.twitter.com/obKcW3EV1N— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) December 22, 2022
A few shifts later, a wonky bounce led to a chance right in front of the net for Lucas Edmonds, and Poulin made a really good save to keep the score at 1-0.
Then the very next shift Cole Koepke sent another cross crease pass to Edmonds, who finished off the play past a diving Poulin, to make it 2-0 Crunch.
These backdoor feeds seem to be working for us tonight pic.twitter.com/YTCl3dVkY2— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) December 22, 2022
In the second period, there was a weird moment where Daniel Walcott was called for an apparent delay of game, and then Darren Raddysh 30 seconds later was called for delay of game. LaFontaine stood tall, and the Crunch defenders did a good job of not giving Laval much to shoot at, and a few posts later and the penalties were both killed.
The Crunch had a few power play chances of their own in this period, but were unable to convert against the league’s worst penalty kill with a 70.2% kill rate.
At the end of the second the shots were Syracuse 26 and Laval 18.
In the third period, the Crunch killed a penalty and were given a couple of power plays, but they were unable to get much offense going. LaFontaine continued to stand tall in net. Aside from a flubbed playing of the puck behind the net, LaFontaine looked pretty confident in his play.
At the 1:30 mark of the game Laval pulled their goalie, and with 44 seconds to go they broke the Crunch’s shutout bid and made it 2-1. The Rocket made it interesting in the final seconds of the game, and they were able to throw a few pucks on net. However, LaFontaine looked strong and the skaters in front of him were able to clear the pucks when they needed to to earn Syracuse the victory.
The first star of the game, Jack LaFontaine, had a .969 save percentage as he stopped 31 of 32 shots on goal. The second star of the game, Lucas Edmonds, scored the game winning goal. The third star of the game, Gemel Smith, scored the game opening goal, and continued his scoring streak to 13 games.
Tomorrow's game against the Rochester Americans has been postponed. pic.twitter.com/YQTgx0IptP— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) December 22, 2022
Friday’s game against Rochester was canceled, but we will keep you updated on the game when it gets rescheduled and we’ll have it covered when it gets played.
Syracuse will play at Laval for the second and third time next Wednesday and Friday respectively.
The Crunch are currently tied with Rochester for second in the North Division. The Amerks have a game in hand though, and won’t play again until Wednesday against Utica. The stakes should be raised against a Rochester team that was already pretty evenly matched with Syracuse.
The Crunch have been doing a fantastic job of putting player’s personalities on display this year. If you haven’t seen the gingerbread building competition between Gage Goncalves, Declan Carlile, Jack Thompson, and Jack Finley do yourself a favor and give it a watch.