With their season on the line, the Syracuse Crunch went into a building where they were 0-5 on the season and dominated the Laval Rocket in a 3-0 victory that kept the Crunch’s playoff hopes alive. Cole Koepke scored early while Remi Elie and Anthony Richard added third period goals to send the series back to Syracuse for a decisive Game Five on Tuesday. Hugo Alnefelt made 24 saves in his playoff debut as he came on just ten minutes into the game in relief of injured starter Max Lagace.
The Crunch came out like a team that knew it was facing elimination and the only way to avoid it was to hit everything in sight. The entire first minute of the game was spent in the Laval zone as the forecheck caused turnovers and continued puck possession for Syracuse. Alas, no goals were generated from all of that pressure.
They did continue to push play, though, as they forced Cayden Primeau to make several quality stops. Finally they were able to get one by him and it was a rookie that tallied the first goal for the Crunch.
After some excellent board work by his teammates, Anthony Richard circled out from behind Primeau and threaded a pass through the crease to an open Cole Koepke. The 20-goal scorer buried the feed to give them an early lead.
Cole Koepke (Anthony Richard) 1-0 Syracuse
Richie with the slick feed and Koepke finishes it! pic.twitter.com/ZHYAwwYQla— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) May 14, 2022
Gabriel Dumont came close to doubling the lead shortly after as he flashed in front of Primeau and tipped a puck on net that the Rocket netminder barely kept out of the net with his right skate. Dumont also made a key play in front of the other crease, but this one hurt the Crunch. Following a shot on net, the Syracuse captain bowled Rafael Harvey-Picard into Max Lagace. Lagace, the best player on the ice for Syracuse down the stretch, was racked with pain and had to leave with a lower-body injury.
To add insult to literal injury, Dumont was whistled for a penalty on the play so rookie Hugo Alnefelt entered the net cold, and facing a hot power play. He held them off, although the Rocket thought they had tied the game, twice, on shots that hit the crossbar behind him.
The Crunch regained momentum as the period continued, but couldn’t get one past Primeau who finished the opening frame with 12 saves. Another late penalty by Alex Green forced Alnefelt to make a couple of tough saves, but the period ended, 1-0.
Looking for their second goal of the game the Crunch started out hot in the second period, but Primeau continued to be the best player on the ice as he stopped quality shots from Daniel Walcott, Remi Elie, and Otto Somppi early in the period.
At the other end of the ice, things were a bit slower for Alnefelt as he didn’t have to make a save for nearly six minutes. The first one was a doozy as Brandon Gignac snapped a low-wrister off of a 3-on-2 rush that the rookie stopped with his pad.
Somppi had another golden chance on a tic-tac-toe passing play, but his shot hit the iron behind the Laval goalie. Soon after, Walcott was tripped up in the neutral zone and the Crunch had their first power play.
It was rather underwhelming as their passes were lacking and Laval ended up with the better opportunities, including a couple of odd-man rushes. The power play seemed to sap a little life out of Syracuse and they struggled to get shots on net, netting only one over the next six minutes or so.
The final portion of the period was pretty even with both teams having looks, but not finding the back of the net.
Laval came out strong to start the period and Fredrik Claesson thwarted a dangerous chance when he got his skate on a pass to break up a 2-on-1. While there had been plenty of hits in the game and more than a handful of scrums after whistles, it was a pretty clean game. Then old friend Cedric Paquette and Daniel Walcott had a long, rough tussle in front of the Laval net that ended, after several holds and crosschecks, with Paquette in the penalty box.
Remi Elie made them pay on the power play. The initial shot was blocked and the rebound came out to Barre-Boulet who, instead of firing the puck right back on the net, fed it over to Elie. Primeau was without his stick after a little bit of a collision with Dumont and Xavier Ouellet and unable to make the save.
Remi Elie (Alex Barre-Boulet, Gabriel Dumont) 2-0 Syracuse
Syracuse finally gave themselves a three-goal lead by wining yet another puck battle along the boards. That allowed Richard to emerge with the puck. He pulls up into the open slot and buried a shot past Primeau to extend the lead to three goals for Syracuse.
Anthony Richard (Simon Ryfors) 3-0 Syracuse
Richie builds on our lead! pic.twitter.com/7byw23uTwG— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) May 14, 2022
The opportunities kept piling up for Syracuse as Laval pushed to get back into the game. Koepke had a glorious chance to pick up his second goal of the game, but Primeau stopped him on a partial breakaway.
Laval pulled the goaltender with just under five minutes to go in the game in an effort to bring forth a little positivity from the game. While Laval dominated possession time with the extra skater, they couldn’t manifest a goal. With just over a minute to go Alnefelt made his best save of the night as the 20-year-old kicked out his right leg to deny Gabriel Borque from point-blank range.
The series heads back to Syracuse for a series-deciding Game Five on Tuesday night.