Crunch Come Back, But Come Up Short in Shootout

By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch came out flat Friday, and the Adirondack Phantoms took full advantage.

The Phantoms tallied goals on the first two shots of the game, and led 3-0 before the first intermission. The Crunch spent the rest of the game playing catch-up, and despite tying the game in the third, fell short in the shootout, 4-3, at the Onondaga County War Memorial.

"It was a good comeback, the guys battled hard," Syracuse forward Tyler Johnson said. "But at the same time, we shouldn't put ourselves in that position. We shot ourselves in the foot."

Harry Zolnierczyk opened the scoring 1:11 into the contest, and Jason Akeson padded the Phantom lead with a goal a little more than a minute later.

Akeson found the back of the net for the second time with less than five minutes left in the first.

"We weren't working hard and we weren't working smart," Johnson said. "We just weren't playing our game."

The Crunch, who are no strangers to comeback victories this season, knew that the game was far from over.

"The good thing with our team is we always think we're going to win the game, no matter what the score," Johnson said.

Richard Panik put Syracuse on the board during the Crunch's first power play less than six minutes into the second, finishing off a feed from Ondrej Palat. Johnson was also credited with an assist.

"I was on the back door, and (Palat) passed it to me," Panik said. "I tried to one-time it, but it slid off my stick and went slowly into the net."

Alex Killorn brought Syracuse to within one with about six minutes left in the middle frame, scoring his fifth goal in as many games. Matt Taormina and Brett Connolly each had an assist.

With two Phantoms in the box and less than 12 minutes left in regulation, Johnson notched his 17th goal of the season when he pounced on a rebound created by a Mark Barberio shot to knot the game at three apiece. Connolly registered his second point of the night on the play.

Syracuse sent Adirondack scrambling throughout the rest of regulation and overtime. The Crunch finished with 43 shots - a new season-high - not including a couple shots that went off the pipes during overtime.

"I think we had a lot of momentum there, even in the overtime we hit a lot of posts…It's just one of those things, sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn't," Johnson said.

"We had so many chances, we hit so many posts…It was just bad luck," Panik said.

The shootout didn't go the Crunch's way either. Taormina, Palat, and Panik each capitalized on their chances, but the Phantoms' Danny Syvret provided the game-winner in the seventh round.

Crunch netminder Dustin Tokarski finished with 20 saves. Phantoms goalie Cal Heeter had 40.

Eastern Conference-leading Syracuse (17-6-1-3) hopes to get off to a better start when it hosts division rival Wilkes-Barre Scranton Saturday.

"It's a good game - the one point - but it's not good enough for us," Johnson said. "We're going to be working hard."

"We have to be ready for tomorrow," Panik said. "We have to be ready for the first shift."

Top: Crunch forward Tyler Johnson navigates in the Phantoms' zone at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.
Above: Crunch forward JT Wyman deflects a shot just wide of Phantoms goalie Cal Heeter at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.