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Crunch Wrap: Syracuse takes two to stay in second

The Syracuse Crunch had a three-game winning streak going into Sunday. They started the streak by winning definitely last week against the leader of their division, the Toronto Marlies. It was defense and spectacular goaltending that got them the win, but their offense has woken up these past few games to show they can just as easily beat teams by out scoring them. Still, on this Sunday they learned that they still have some things to learn about putting away teams.

Wednesday Night’s Game

Hugo Alnefelt got his third straight start in this game which is a good sign that his health is trending in the right direction. Noticeably absent was Darren Raddysh, the Crunch’s all-star defenseman that at times has carried the play for this team. Less noticeable, but just as intriguing, were Jack Finley and Shawn Element’s absence from the lineup. When healthy, these players have been mainstays in the lineup for the Crunch.

This further fueled possibilities that the parent club might be working a trade, and it was speculated that this might be roster management moves to protect their players. Either way, the Crunch were without their best defenseman and they’d need to find a way to beat a divisional opponent in the Cleveland Monsters.

While the Monsters are dead last in the North Division, they had plenty of success scoring against this Crunch team. Wednesday night seemed to continue to tell that story too.

The Crunch struck first at 4:14 of the first period. Gabriel Fortier had a sensational steal in the offensive zone, Declan Carlile fired a shot that rebounded straight to Alex Barré-Boulet who scored to make it 1-0. It was Barré-Boulet’s 18th goal of the year.

At 14:35 Trevor Carrick took a puck from Phillipe Myers and fired a one timer from the top of the circle to make it 2-0.It was Carrick’s 8th of the season as a member of the Crunch.

To start the second period, Cleveland came out and scored to get within one.

Then 55 seconds later, rookie Lucas Edmonds, skating like he was fired out of a cannon, scored to make it 3-1.

To start the third period both teams exchanged goals again with the Monsters scoring to make it 3-2, and Edmonds scored a few minutes later to put the Crunch back up by 2.

Then it was Cleveland’s turn to score minutes after their opponent and it was 4-3, and then Simon Ryfors jumped into the yo-yo of this game and scored minutes later to put the Crunch up by 2 goals. It was 5-3 Crunch, but with the way the momentum was shifting they wouldn’t be up for long.

In fact, Cleveland must have been tired from all that scoring to comeback because this time it took them 8 minutes to score. This time on the power play they scored to come within 1 goal, and it was 5-4 Crunch. The Crunch were holding on for dear life, and Cleveland was scrambling to get the game-tying goal. They pulled the goalie and captain Gabriel Dumont had one of the hardest working empty net goals of all time to make it 6-4. It was that final push that finally shut the door on the Monsters comeback bid.

Even with all hope of winning lost, the Monsters still wouldn’t go away, and with 20 seconds left in the game they scored to make it 6-5.

The Crunch would hold on to win, but it was a game that despite the scoring it felt like they had a secure hold on. Coach Groulx probably didn’t appreciate all of the times they let the Monsters back into the game, but the offense was clicking, and when they pushed the pace of play Cleveland couldn’t stop them.

Friday Night’s Game

Darren Raddysh did get to play in his first game for the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night, and then the Lightning sent Raddysh back to Syracuse on Friday. Most believed it was a paper move to ensure that Raddysh was on the roster for playoff eligibility purposes. Raddysh didn’t actually play in Friday’s game, and was recalled by the Lightning later.

Max Lagace was in net Friday. Max Cajkovic got his first game with the Crunch this season after being recalled from the Orlando Solar Bears. Gabriel Dumont was curiously out of the lineup, and Gabriel Fortier slid into his spot as the top center. Tyson Feist, also recalled from Orlando, played in his first game with the Crunch since November.

The first period was pretty tightly played for both teams. The Crunch struggled a bit with discipline and because of that Lehigh Valley had double the shots that the Crunch had in the period 16-8.

Later on in the period, Ilya Usau made a clever shot to an open net, and Cole Koepke redirected it over the goaltender’s pads. It was Koepke’s 5th goal of the season. It was his first goal since January 14, but Koepke has been due for some time. He’s been in the right position, he’s been making the right plays, and it makes sense that a goal off a flubbed shot would find his stick and allow him to score. It was 1-0 Crunch.

In the second period Jones made it 2-0 by absolutely sniping the puck past the Phantom’s goalie.

Later on in the period, Félix Robert scored his first goal since December 16th to make it 3-0.

In the third period Robert scored again, this time on the power play, to make it 4-0. It was 13 and 14th goals of the season.

A few minutes later, Lehigh Valley scored to end the shutout bid for Lagace and make it 4-1.

It just wasn’t very close after that, and it was probably one of Syracuse’s more complete games. It had a lot of good team defense, great scoring, and some stellar goaltending.

Sunday’s Game

Hugo Alnefelt was in net, and Daniel Walker was scratched. Still no Gabriel Dumont who looked to be injured during the Wednesday game against Cleveland, but Lukas Favale of ESPN Syracuse later said Dumont was out for “personal reasons”. Maxim Cajkovic and Jaydon Dureau were in the lineup, and the Crunch once again had to figure out a way to win without its Captain and star defender.

Just 5 minutes into the game, Utica scored first to make it 1-0.

Later on in the first period, the fourth line of Jaydon Dureau, Maxim Cajkovic, and Daniel Walcott had a tremendous rush up the ice and fired it in on the Utica goalie Isaac Poulter who made the save and froze the puck. The face off was immediately won by the Crunch and Alex Barré-Boulet was there to tie the game and score his 19th of the season.

At 9:28 it was Lucas Edmonds turn to continue staying hot. Declan Carlile fired a shot from the blue line, and Edmonds tipped it for his 10th goal of the year.

At of the first, 17:45 Edmonds took a puck on a breakaway and he was fighting off defenders to score his 11th goal of the season and make it 3-1 Crunch.

The Crunch took a late penalty in the first period, and Utica wasn’t able to do anything with it. In the second period the Crunch had just killed off the penalty when the Comets scored to get within one. It was 3-2 Crunch.

At 9:54 Barre-Boulet and Trevor Carrick played a little catch with the puck, and Carrick took the puck back and fired a one timer to score his 9th goal of the season and make it 4-2 Crunch.

At 12 minutes the Crunch took a penalty, and Utica took over on the power play. The Crunch did a good job of killing the penalty, but the Comets gained momentum. A few minutes later Utica was still buzzing and they scored to once again pull within one. It was 4-3 Syracuse.

A few minutes later the Utica Comets tied the game, and the Crunch were reeling heading into the dressing room for the 2nd intermission.

In the third period, the Crunch couldn’t gain any momentum. The Comets went ahead 5-4, and then when the Crunch were given a power play opportunity, they squandered it when Utica scored a shorthanded goal.

Special teams was the story of this game. Even though neither team scored a power play goal, the Crunch lost all of their momentum whenever they took a penalty, and they took 7 in total. In fact, it felt like they took almost every penalty in the penalty book minus fighting.

Towards the end of the game they could have used a good fight because Utica was not content with sitting back with a two goal lead. At one point a Utica forward ran Hugo Alnefelt as he was behind the net playing the puck, and Declan Carlile was there to keep them honest. This Utica team loves to bully the Crunch players, and it would have been nice if there was a player that was on the roster that could bully them back.

Coming Up
This week the Crunch will continue their streak against divisional opponents. Both Laval and Rochester will come into the War Memorial Arena to face the Crunch whom they are chasing in the standing.  On Friday they will play Laval who is sitting at 56 points and they have a 2-3 record against.

On Saturday they will play Rochester who has 57 points and they have a 3-5 record against. Rochester is right behind Syracuse in 4th place. With the loss against Utica, Syracuse fell to third place in the division.

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