It was an emotional chain of events that rival most blockbusters.
After demanding a review, the Syracuse Crunch were credited with the game-tying goal. Moments later -- 26 seconds on the amended scoresheet despite more than two minutes mistakenly being added to the clock -- the Grand Rapids Griffins scored a power play goal that stood as the game-winner.
While the Griffins' Francis Pare provided the movie-like twist with a goal in the closing minutes of the six-goal, 20-plus minute second period, Jan Mursak gave the curtain call with a breakaway goal late in the third, as the Griffins topped the Crunch 6-4 in Game 2 of the Calder Cup Finals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Sunday.
"To me, that was the game," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler of the turn of events in the second. "That was huge. We had a lot of momentum, the building was rocking, fans were into it, the players were into it. There was a lot of excitement on the bench."
Syracuse trails the series 2-0, as it travels to Grand Rapids Wednesday for Game 3. Game 4 is set for Friday.
Grand Rapids Leads the Series 2-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 6 goals on 29 shots for the loss. I don't care how you spin that. That's an ugly stat line. Desjardins suffered tonight from going long stretches without seeing any shots and then suddenly having to face a 10 bell scoring chance, like Mursak's game sealing breakaway.
GR Tatar, (12) (Evans, Nyquist), 4:29
GR Grant, (1) (Ferraro), 11:31
SYR Sustr, (1) (Taormina, Paradis), 14:03
GR Ferraro, (5) (Hoggan, Sheahan), 6:23
SYR Panik, (5) (Connolly, Johnson), 10:06 (PP)
GR Jurco, (8) (Sheahan), 12:09 (PP)
SYR Connolly, (4) (Johnson, Palat), 16:12 (PP)
SYR Brown, (4) (Wyman), 18:23
GR Pare, (3) (Ferraro, Paetsch), 18:49 (PP)
GR Mursak, (9) (Hoggan, Paetsch), 14:56
Brett Connolly was the game's third star.
I think these past two games put an exclamation mark on the impact Radko Gudas being absent from the lineup hurts the Syracuse Crunch. They're not giving up huge amounts of zone time or shots, but the number of odd man rushes is out of control, and the team misses its best defenseman. Clearly.
The AHL's top officials should seriously consider whether they want the players or the referees to decide their champion. The degree to which the referees have had an impact so far in this serious has been stunning for a professional league.
Now these players have to decide how much their legacy means to them. A comeback victory against the odds with 3 in a row in Grand Rapids would only add to this group's legend as one of the best assemblages of players in AHL history. Going out with a whimper makes the team look more like a one year, Norfolk wonder. They've worked too hard, I think, to let it go down like that, though. Game Three is Wednesday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Despite the loss, the Syracuse Crunch saw plenty of positives.
The Crunch got their offensive opportunities and held the Grand Rapids' top line to an empty-netter, but had a hard time solving Griffins goalie Petr Mrazek, as they dropped Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals 3-1 at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday night. Game 2 is set for Sunday evening in Syracuse.
"When we lose, we still try and keep that good feeling about ourselves," said Crunch defenseman Jean-Philippe Cote. "We've done some really good things, that's why you can never go too low when you lose and never too high when you win."
"In less than 24 hours we've got another go at them," he added. "We showed a lot of good things."
Long layoff, shaky goal, Mrazek, and the refs cost Syracuse Game One.
Grand Rapids leads the series 1-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 2 goals on 20 shots for the loss. He's a bit infuriating. He was pretty well excellent throughout the game making several big stops along the way, but the eventual game winner was a long slapshot that he allowed to go through him that you simply cannot surrender in a 1-0 game in the Third Period. So frustrating.
GR Callahan, (5) (Billins, Evans), 6:45
GR Sheahan, (3) (Mursak), 12:00
SYR Cote, (1) (Angelidis, Brown), 13:19
GR Nyquist, (2) (Andersson), 19:45 (EN/PP)
Ondrej Palat was the game's third star. There's little doubt he was the straw that stirred the drink on the reformed PTP line tonight with Richard Panik back in the lineup. They got a fair number of scoring chances, but Petr Mrazek is a damned good goaltender. The Crunch definitely learned that tonight.
Also helping Mrazek out was that Syracuse showed just a bit of rust from their long layoff. In the first half of the game it seemed their short to mid-range passes were just a shade off of clicking, and it really allowed Grand Rapids to keep Syracuse away from the kind of zone time domination the Crunch thrive off of. They've got to find a way to better establish their forecheck headed into Game Two.
Beyond that, it should be noted that the refs waved off a goal in the match on a power play in the Second Period that should have tied the game on a crease violation where the replay showed no real contact with Mrazek. Between that and an interference penalty that went uncalled late in the Third Period right before Panik took a call that essentially ended the contest, the refs influence on the game could hardly be underestimated. Again, frustrating, and I think the wave off of the goal definitely deflated Syracuse for the rest of the Second and on into the early Third Period.
So, now Syracuse falls behind the 8-ball with Grand Rapids stealing home ice and playing with house money in Game Two. Hopefully Syracuse will get Radko Gudas back for the contest, because the thought of being down 0-2 before heading west is beyond unappealing.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
For the Syracuse Crunch, it’s all about setting the tempo.
With the Grand Rapids Griffins visiting the Onondaga County War Memorial for Games 1 and 2 of the Calder Cup Finals Saturday and Sunday, the Crunch are focused on their own play more than the Griffins’ talented forwards.
"What we really have to focus on isn't what they're going to bring at us," said Syracuse defensemen Jean-Philippe Cote. "We've got to set the tone, and play as high-tempo as we can."
"We don't want them to dictate the pace of play…We don't want them to play their game; we want them to play our game," said Crunch forward JT Wyman.
That game plan has worked for Syracuse.
After sweeping the Portland Pirates in the first round and the Springfield Falcons in the second, the Crunch topped the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in five games. Ondrej Palat is tied for the league lead in postseason points (20), and Tyler Johnson, the league’s most valuable player, is just three points behind.
Despite being a former first-round draft pick, Philippe Paradis isn’t known for his scoring touch.
The Syracuse Crunch grinder was held without a point in his first 11 games of the Calder Cup playoffs as he was more focused on finishing his checks to soften up the opposition’s defense.
With a chance to eliminate the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last Saturday, Paradis finally broke through to the scoresheet in a big way. The Quebec native scored three times in a 7-0 rout, and the Crunch finished off the Penguins in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
"I was just trying to get the first one," Paradis said. "The game was tight; that one was more important than the other ones. I just put the puck on the net and ended up scoring."
While Syracuse’s Ondrej Palat is tied for the postseason points lead with 20 points, and the league’s most valuable player, Tyler Johnson, is three points behind, the Crunch’s depth players -- the shutdown line and crash and bang guys -- have chipped in with some of the more crucial goals.
With Syracuse hosting the Grand Rapids Griffins in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals Saturday, the Crunch are hoping to continue receiving offensive output from each player.
For Jean-Philippe Cote, leadership begins off the ice.
The Syracuse Crunch defenseman knows that although he needs to use his play as an example for the younger players on his team, there is another element to wearing a letter on his sweater. Cote believes getting the best out of each player begins with making them feel comfortable.
"I like when a guy like (rookie defenseman) Andrej Sustr comes to me like 'Is there anything I can do to be a better player?'" Cote said. "I love it. I like discussing hockey with those younger guys. But to get someone on the team, that happens outside the ice."
Like last year on the Calder Cup-winning Norfolk Admirals, the leadership of captain Mike Angelidis and alternate captains Cote Mark Barberio -- among many others -- has pushed the Syracuse Crunch into the American Hockey League finals.
JT Brown may be a rookie on a line with a pair of veterans, but he certainly doesn't look out of place.
Twelve games into his first Calder Cup run, the Syracuse Crunch forward has been counted on to provide timely goals and tough defense that wears down the opposition's top line. Flanked by JT Wyman and Mike Angelidis, Brown is learning from two guys with plenty of postseason experience.
"You don't have to do too much, they're always doing what they're supposed to," Brown said after practice Tuesday. Syracuse hosts Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals Saturday. "They're vets and they know what needs to be done."
Angelidis, the Crunch's captain who hoisted the cup with the Norfolk Admirals last season, has been impressed by Brown's effort every night.
"He's a fast learner," Angelidis said. "And we're learning things from him too. He's got a good head on his shoulders and he works hard."
After four tight games, Rob Zettler could finally breathe easy.
The Syracuse Crunch head coach, his team leading 5-0 through the first 40 minutes, still kept his team focused on finishing the series off the right way.
Syracuse's Philippe Paradis added a pair of third period goals to finish off a hat trick, as the Crunch routed the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 7-0 to win the Eastern Conference Finals series 4-1 at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.
"It felt good to be able to relax back there for a change," Zettler said.
The Crunch, in the Calder Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history, host the winner of Grand Rapids and Oklahoma City next weekend. That series is tied 2-2.
"I don't think we were expecting a 7-0 finish," said Syracuse defenseman Mark Barberio. "We just wanted to stick to our game plan. It's been successful all season and we were opportunistic with our chances."
Syracuse's 4th liners help put up a touchdown on the Penguins.
Syracuse Wins the Series 4-1
Syracuse Win the Eastern Conference Championship
Cedrick Desjardins stopped all 22 shots he faced for the shutout victory. He was the player of the series, in my opinion. By stealing Game Three, a game where the Crunch played their worst hockey, he really put the Pens behind the eight ball and tonight was the finishing touch.
SYR Namestnikov, (2) (Sustr, Johnson), 16:04
SYR Gudas, (2) (Brown, Wyman), 16:56
SYR Paradis, (1) (Barberio, Sustr), 13:37
SYR Sexton, (4) (Devos), 15:31
SYR Palat, (5) (Sexton, Barberio), 17:58 (PP)
SYR Paradis, (2) (Sustr), 1:02
SYR Paradis, (3) (Sexton, Barberio), 5:43
Phillipe Paradis, Desjardins, and Dan Sexton were the game's three stars. Best line of the night? It was Syracuse's extra forwards Paradis and Cedric Paquette (whom I have dubbed "Dump Truck" for his fleet skating ability and work rate). With the Crunch up 2-0 at the end of the First Period, they seemed to take their foot off the gas the first 5 minutes of the Second Period. It looked like the Pens would make a game of it until the 4th liners came in and started to get zone time and turn the momentum back to Syracuse. They never looked back, and Paradis eventually ran up a hat trick for the ages. None of the goals were cheapies, either. Paradis has a surprisingly good shot and absolutely took Zatkoff to school on each one.
Another highlight? Dmitry Korobov beating the tar out of Paul Thompson. You know Thompson thought he was picking a winnable opponent going up against a Belarussian. Wrong. Korobov beat him like he stole a mortgage payment worth of money from him. Remind me never to get Dmitry Korobov mad at me. He rained fists down on the top of Thompson's head with tropical storm force. Wow.
Radko Gudas sat out the Third Period with what appeared to be a lower body bruise. Richard Panik again sat out of the lineup (making room for Dump Truck), but he was in the morning skate and one would assume he will be available in the next series. Grand Rapids looks to be on the way to winning tonight's game against Oklahoma City, which would knot that series up at 2-2. That means it could be half a week before the Crunch know who their Calder Cup Finals opponent is, and you hope it's a week where Grand Rapids and Oklahoma City beat the daylights out of each other while Syracuse heals. Whichever opponent makes it out of the West, Syracuse will have home ice to begin the series, so they've done just about everything they need to strategically to set themselves up to try to collect another title.
Box score from TheAHL.com.