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Crunch fall to the Marlies for the second straight game

Home ice has proved to be the key to success through the first four games of the North Division Final between the Syracuse Crunch and Toronto Marlies. Syracuse seemed poised to make quick work of the baby leafs after games one and two in the salt city but as the series shifted to Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, so did the momentum, and the Crunch lost their second game in a row, 3-2.

The early stages of the first period on Wednesday night indicated that Syracuse, fresh off a monumental collapse just 24 hours earlier, had regrouped, refocused, and set their sights on taking control of the series. Just as he did on Tuesday night, Crunch forward Adam Erne opened the scoring.

Just under five minutes into the opening period, a loose puck somehow found its way into the low-slot where the big power-forward was left wide open to power a shot past Marlies goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo. The goal was unassisted and Erne’s second goal in as many games. The good news is that, Erne, who had been slumping, seems to have found his scoring touch once again. The bad news? The celebration was very short lived.

Just one-minute and six-seconds later, the Marlies were able to respond and get the crowd back into the game. Freshly popped into the lineup after sitting out on Tuesday night, veteran agitator Richard Clune cleaned up a rebound in front of Crunch starting goaltender Mike McKenna. The tying goal was the 11th goal McKenna had given up in under seven periods of play and things weren’t going to get any better for the Syracuse back-stopper.

The bad guys would pick up two more goals in the period courtesy of Kerby Rychel and Trevor Moore to extend their lead to 3-1. Both markers came on the man-advantage bringing their series total up to six powerplay goals. Translation? Syracuse needs to stay out of the penalty box if they want a chance at winning this series. Overall, Toronto dominated the period out-shooting the Crunch 15-to-6.

Ben Groulx elected to make a change to start the second period by pulling McKenna in favor of Kristers Gudlevskis, a decision that makes things interesting going forward. The Latvian was perfect in relief stopping all 14 shots that came his way, and the team responded to the mix-up and posted another tally to cut the Marlies lead to 3-2.

Rookie defenseman Ben Thomas collected a precise turn-around back-hand pass from Slater Koekkoek and rifled a hard slap-shot up and over the trapper of Kaskisuo. For Thomas, the marker is his first of the post-season and first pro playoff goal of his career.

Syracuse would put together their most consistent effort in the third period but couldn’t find the equalizer eventually falling to the Marlies in game four by a score of 3-2.

A lot of questions remain unanswered heading in to game five. Who gets the nod between the pipes? How can the Crunch water down the Marlies offensive firepower? Syracuse will get a chance to do all of these things and hopefully regain control of the series on Saturday night at the Onondoga County War Memorial Arena in Syracuse.