The Goalies 'R' Good Enough

If you like goals, last week was Christmas in April for you.

The Goalies 'R' Good Enough
Syracuse's Alex Barre-Boulet battles Belleville Senator Zachary Massicotte for the puck. Photo by Scott Thomas. Scott Thomas Photography

Neither goaltender for the Syracuse Crunch wants to take the reins in net. That said, their lackluster performance in some areas of play this week seemed to play out like the Cyndi Lauper Goonies song (The Goonies 'R' Good Enough): “What’s good enough for you, is good enough for me.” The goaltending was just good enough to get 2 wins and 5 out of a possible 6 points this week. Alnefelt got the extra start this weekend, and didn’t look as comfortable as the goaltender that was getting heaps of praise last week for his play against Utica last Sunday.

Still, just like the Goonies, the Crunch never say die when things aren’t going their way on the ice, and it showed at times this weekend. It didn’t matter if it was officiating, a lackluster power play, or some really stinkers of goals against. Hugo Alnefelt and Max Lagace are no exception, they will let in a cluster of bad goals that have fans scratching their heads, and then come up with a big time save to keep the team in the game. No matter what dangers lay on the ice for the Crunch, they keep marching forward in hopes procuring that treasured silver cup at the end of the season.

Friday Night’s Game

Hugo Alnefelt got his 28th start of the season. Max Crozier sees some more ice time in place of Ryan Jones.

The Crunch were celebrating their Pride Night by wearing special jerseys throughout the game.

Syracuse wasted no time to get out in front, and Gage Goncalves scored one minute in from a great keep by Simon Ryfors. It was Goncalves 11th goal of the year.

Just 43 seconds later, Jack Finley set up Gabriel Fortier for his 11th goal of the season. After scoring, as he was skating past the Belleville goalie, Dylan Ferguson, he clipped him on his way through the crease and it made Ferguson go down in pain. The contact was incidental, but Ferguson went out of the game.

It was 2-0 Crunch right out of the gate. It seemed like they were ready to stamp a statement on this game. Things were continuing to go smoothly for the Crunch until Captain Gabriel Dumont took a penalty. Dumont is one of the Crunch’s best penalty killers, and so it makes sense that the Senators scored to get within one while he was in the box. Alnefelt probably wants this one back as looked to knock it out of the air, lost sight of it, and the Sens hammered home the rebound.

To make matters worse, a minute later Alnefelt let in another unusually soft goal. Once again it looked like Alnefelt had trouble tracking the puck, and that left the net wide open for the Senators to shoot in the game-tying goal.

To their credit, the Crunch battled back and fought hard for their goalie. Alnefelt, after all, has bailed them out of plenty of games. Late in the period it looked like things were going their way when the Crunch got a power play, and then things weren’t going their way and they let in a shorthanded goal. It’s hard to blame Alnefelt for the last goal because the Crunch let Belleville get an odd man rush on him.

At the end of the first it was 3-2 Belleville, and all of the momentum Syracuse gained from the onset of the game had washed away.

In the second period the Crunch were able to get their power play to click with a familiar play. Goncalves sent a pass to Barré-Boulet from his office and he one-timed it in for his 21st goal of the season. At the end of the second, it was a tie game.

The third period was much like the first, the Crunch came out of the gate strong. Jack Finley led a rush up the ice and took a shot 23 seconds into the period and scored for his 9th goal of the year.

Then two minutes later Félix Robert joined the party and scored his 17th goal of the season to give the Crunch a 5-3 lead.

Unfortunately for the Crunch, Belleville wasn’t going to go down without a fight. It first started with a seemingly harmless shot from the blueline. Alnefelt once again had trouble seeing the puck, and he let in an unobstructed goal to let the Senators get within one. Not much longer the game was tied  off of a rebound chance that Alnfelt served up.

After that, Alnefelt did seem to calm down a bit, and he fell into a groove and made some stops that kept the Crunch in the game. It was heartening to see him bounce back from those earlier goals that he almost assuredly wish he could have another shot at saving.

Eventually the game went into overtime and then into a shootout. In the shootout the Crunch sent out their specialist Goncalves, and he did was he’s done all season in the skills competition - he scored. Alnefelt shut the door, and no Belleville skater could figure him out. It was enough for the extra point, and the Crunch stayed in a deadlock tie for second place in the North Division.

Saturday Night’s Game

It was essentially the same lineup as Fridays except it was Max Lagace in net. Crozier switched pairing spots with Phillipe Myers on the projected lines. That said, Coach Ben Groulx isn’t afraid the break out the line blender early on in games.

In the first period, on the first shift the Penguins wanted to set the tone, and forward Jonathan Gruden sent that message with hit up high on Simon Ryfors. It was a bit of a blindside hit and it looked like it could’ve been a shoulder to head hit by Gruden. Trevor Carrick immediately skated over an started hammering Gruden. For Gruden he received a 2 minute minor for the illegal hit, but Carrick got a 10 minute misconduct.

After the Pens opened the scoring Félix Robert continued to stay hot and he scored in his third straight game. It was his 18th goal of the season and tied the game at one.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton wasted no time in regaining the lead as Ty Smith scored just over a minute after the Robert goal.

In the third period, the Penguins scored to make it 3-1, and it seemed like the Crunch were beginning to lose their composure a bit. Players were getting visibly frustrated from the officiating on the ice, even though they’d had plenty of opportunities to score on the power play.

Then they got one more opportunity on the power play, and Alex Barré-Boulet reminded everyone what he could do. He scored his 22nd goal of the season, and the goal tied the franchise record in career goals for the Crunch with Mark Hartigan with 107 goals.

Later on in the period, in typical Barré-Boulet fashion, he tipped in a goal to help his team tie the game, and he surpassed Hartigan in all time goals as a member of the Crunch. It was his 23rd goal of the season, and ABB was heating up.

With the game tied, neither team could score in regulation, and the game went into overtime.

In overtime Phillipe Myers took a puck from none other than Barré-Boulet and onetimed it into the back of the net. Myers was visibly elated to get the goal. It didn’t look like a typical game winning goal, this looked to be a cathartic celebration for Myers who has had a rough stretch of games the past few weeks.

The Crunch were victorious over the Penguins, and they swept the season series. Every game was won by one goal, and the last two games went into overtime. It’s too bad the Penguins aren't going to make the playoffs because the prospect of these two teams meeting again within a series would’ve been pretty fun. The Crunch were resilient in this game. They played a team that mirrors their style of play. Both teams like a fast paced flow of play with as few whistles and stoppages as possible. Either way, the Crunch kept pace with Rochester in the North Division, and continued to be in second statistically.

Sunday Afternoon’s Game

Veteran Ryan Jones comes back into the lineup for Max Crozier, and Hugo Alnefelt got another start against a division opponent this weekend in an important game to decide who gets to be in 2nd and 3rd place in the North Division.

Early on in the game, Ryan Jones was tripped awkwardly in the corner, and the Crunch got an early power play opportunity. Unlike Saturday night they took advantage of it from the get go, as Trevor Carrick fired a shot from a Goncalves pass and it went through unimpeded. It was Carrick’s 15th goal of the season, and he adds to his career high for a season.

Much like the rest of the series the Comets and the Crunch are so evenly matched its hard for either to have a lead for very long, and just a few minutes later the Crunch gave up a bad turnover in the offensive zone and it led to a Utica odd man rush and they scored handily to tie it.

A few more minutes later the home team Comets scored again to go ahead 2-1.

At the beginning of the second period, after failing to convert on a power play, Rudolfs Balcers threw a shot on net from the half wall, and Utica goalie Akira Schmidt let the puck go through his five hole. The game was tied 2-2. It was Balcers 7th goal of the season.

A few minutes later, after they stole the puck in the neutral zone and countered, Simon Ryfors took a pass from Alex Barre-Boulet and dropped it back for Gage Goncalves who scored to put the Crunch ahead 3-2.

Some poor puck management with 8:42 left in the second led to a Utica shot on net that went past Alnefelt to tie it 3-3.

Just 10 seconds later Daniel Walcott took the puck in the offensive zone and made a shot that Jack Finley tipped in to regain the lead. It was 4-3 Crunch, and this was turning into quite the playoff preview between these two teams. It was Finley’s 10th goal of the season.

The teams went back and forth exchanging chances for a few minutes, and it was former Lightning prospect Nolan Foote who took a puck in the slot and shot it in to once again tie it 4-4.

The rest of the third period was like that. Both teams just exchanged blows like two prize fighters that were playing for a ceremonial belt. The third period ended in a tie, and the overtime was just as tight. It was a nail biter as each team got their chances in each end. Ultimately though the hockey gods couldn’t have a game like this be decided any other way than a skills competition. So it went to a shootout, and Utica was able to make one more play on Alnefelt than Syracuse was able to make on Schmid. They scored a couple goals, and it was enough to seal the deal. Since Utica lost to Rochester Saturday, and Syracuse was able to secure a point, the Crunch still edge Utica and Rochester in the standings for second place.

Still, one can’t hope but wonder what this first round will look like. Either way, hockey fans are in for a real treat. These three teams can’t be any more even on the ice.

Coming Up
Rochester is next on the deck for the Crunch. Syracuse will see Rochester Wednesday in Rochester, and then Friday they’ll play them at home. The Crunch haven’t been quite as successful against the Amerks as they have been against the Comets. So far they’ve got a .500 record against the Amerks, and that seems about right considering both teams are deadlocked in a race for second place in the North Division.

Saturday the Crunch will play the Rocket at home. Laval is fighting for their playoff lives, and they’ve been a tough opponent for Syracuse. The Crunch are 2-4 against Laval this season, and they will have a chance to even up the record after this Saturday when they see them again Friday April 14th in the second to last game of the season.

Who will the Crunch alternate playing with the Rocket? You guessed it, the Utica Comets. The Galaxy Cup series so far is 7 wins for the Crunch and 5 wins for the Comets.