After 5-1 Loss to Sens, Crunch Focus on Playoffs

By Jeremy Houghtaling

After the game, it was barely mentioned.

The regular season had gone from the present tense to the past.

Following a 5-1 loss to the Binghamton Senators at the Onondaga County War Memorial Sunday, the Syracuse Crunch immediately turned their attention to the postseason.

Syracuse, seeded No. 3 in the Eastern Conference as the East Division champions, finished the regular season 43-22-6-5, and hosts No. 6 Portland in the first round. The Crunch are home Saturday and Sunday, and the Pirates host Game 3 and 4 (if necessary) Thursday and Friday.

"We've got a few days here to prepare for them, a few days to rest, and we'll be ready to go on Saturday," said Syracuse coach Rob Zettler.

Coming into Sunday's loss, the Crunch had won three straight and had points in each of its last six games.

"I still think we're coming in on a nice roll," said Crunch defenseman Mark Barberio. "We're just going to have to put this game behind us and make sure come this week, we're ready to go."

The regular season finale focused on Syracuse being ready for the playoffs. Tyler Johnson, who finishes the regular season with a league-leading 37 goals, was held out of the game, as well as captain Mike Angelidis, forward Ondrej Palat and defensemen Jean-Philippe Cote and Matt Taormina.

"The guys that didn't play, didn't play for a reason," Zettler said. "They were banged up, it wasn't just simply to rest guys."

All are expected back in time for the playoffs, along with Richard Panik and Radko Gudas, currently up with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

With many holes to fill in the lineup, many of the guys coming out of juniors or college recorded substantial ice time.

Defensemen Artem Sergeev, undrafted out of Val d'Or of the QMJHL, was paired with Brian Lee during his professional debut. The Russian was disappointed with his first game, but chalked it up to a learning experience.

"I made a couple mistakes, I'm hoping to not make them anymore," said Sergeev, who was on the ice for a pair of Binghamton goals.

The Senators' Corey Cowick opened the scoring in the first, and Derek Grant and Cody Ceci added goals in the second.

Andrej Sustr's point shot on the power play put the Crunch on the board with a little more than 13 minutes to play. Tanner Richard provided the screen in front, but Barberio and Dan Sexton were credited with the assists.

Cole Schneider provided Binghamton with extra insurance less than six minutes later, and Buddy Robinson buried the final goal with less than a minute to play.

The Senators' Mark Cheverie made 29 saves on 30 shots, but was pulled with 11 minutes to play. In relief, Scott Greenham made seven saves.

Pat Nagle, making his first AHL start with the Crunch, finished with 32 saves.

But that's over. That may as well be ancient history.

"Come Saturday night puck-drop, it's going to be an intense battle," Barberio said. "We're just really excited for it."

Pictured: Crunch goalie Pat Nagle defends the net against the Senators' Dustin Gazley during a breakaway in the first period at the Onondaga County War Memorial Sunday.