The Syracuse Crunch kicked off their quest for the Calder Cup with a solid 5-3 win in their opening game against the Laval Rocket. With the victory they take an early lead in the five-game series and maintain their home ice advantage. Max Lagace stopped 28 of 31 shots and Anthony Richard scored twice. Rookie Cole Koepke added a goal and an assist while Gemel Smith and Remi Elie also picked up goals.
Due to some injuries the Crunch started three rookies on defense. Nick Perbix would have been in no matter what but with Sean Day and Alex Green on the sidelines, Frank Hora and Declan Carlile were called upon to start the series.
It was a rough start for the Crunch as an early too-many-men penalty put Laval on the power play. Alex Belzile was able to put a rebound shot past Max Lagace to give the Rocket the lead.
Despite the early hole, the Crunch came out and played with pace and a little edge. They were on their forechecking game early and a couple of hits in the Laval zone led to a turnover that Remi Elie blasted home to tie the score.
Remi Elie (unassisted) 1-1
The play went back and forth following the goal with each team having their surges. The dislike between the two teams was obvious as each whistle was seemingly followed by a scrum. A late penalty by Lucas Condotta led to a Crunch power play. Like Laval earlier in the period, the Crunch capitalized.
Anthony Richard made a nice play to get to a loose puck and then wheeled it on net. Cole Koepke was stationed in front and he tipped it past Kevin Poulin.
Cole Koepke (Anthony Richard, Gage Goncalves) Power Play, 2-1 Crunch
Koepke repaid the favor early in the second period as he entered the Laval zone cleanly. His shot hit Tory Dello but bounced right to Richard who put it home easily.
Anthony Richard (Cole Koepke, Ryan Jones) 3-1 Crunch
Richie cleans up a juicy rebound! pic.twitter.com/q38RRe5Lzg— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) May 7, 2022
Syracuse came close to putting the game away early as Ryan Jones and Charles Hudon had a 2-on-0 down low in front of the Laval net. Jones slid the pass over to Hudon but the 30-goal scorer saw his shot swallowed up by a lunging Poulin. Max Lagace went post-to-post himself a few minutes later as he robbed Xavier Ouellet shorthanded.
The Crunch managed to kill off a penalty but in doing so a shot broke Fredrik Claesson’s skate. He wasn’t able to get off the ice or really move from just outside the crease. Laval was able to keep the puck in the zone and Joel Teasdale eventually put one past Lagace and Claesson to make it 3-2.
The temperature went up a couple of notches after the goal. First Gemel Smith was incensed after catching a hit up high, then old friend Danick Martel slashed Max Lagace on the back trying to get at what he thought was a loose puck. The Crunch did not take to that kindly and a major scrum ensued. Martel, Cedric Paquette, and Gabriel Fortier ended up in the penalty box and the Crunch had a power play.
Gemel Smith made them pay for their insolence as a shot from Hudon hit the post with a shot and Smith knocked down the rebound before batting it into the net.
Gemel Smith (Charles Hudon, Alex Barre-Boulet) Power Play, 4-2 Crunch
The Crunch were doing pretty well in the third period at pushing play and not sitting back on their two-goal lead. Despite that, Laval managed to find a little life on a counter-rush. J.S Dea had an opening into the Crunch zone and he slid a pass across the crease to Alex Belzile who beat the Syracuse defender and tipped it past Lagace to make it 4-3 with over 13 minute to go.
From that point on, though, the Crunch locked it down allowing just two more shots on goal the rest of the way while generating a flurry of their own chances. Anthony Richard added an empty-net goal with under 30 seconds in the game to ice the game away. It was a solid win for the Crunch after a week off.
It was good to see the Crunch come out strong in Game One. With six rookies in the line-up it would be understandable if they were a little hesitant to begin the game. They didn’t. Despite the early goal by Laval, Syracuse was the quicker team at the beginning. Things evened up a bit throughout the night, but at no point did anyone on the Crunch look overwhelmed by the atmosphere.
Lagace was strong. His overall numbers weren’t spectacular (3 goals on 31 shots) but he made several key saves when the game was still close, none bigger than the one on Ouellet at 3-1.
The two teams are right back at it Saturday night for Game Two in Syracuse.
3. Max Lagace 28 saves
2. Cole Koepke 1 goal, 1 assist
- Anthony Richard 2 goals, 1 assist