Crunch Defeat IceCaps in Physical Affair

By Jeremy Houghtaling

The tempers boiled over before the opening faceoff and never fully cooled down.

The Crunch's Jeremy Morin and the IceCaps’ Bobby Farnham needed to be separated before the puck dropped and Syracuse captain Luke Witkowski had a run-in with Farnham moments later. The next 60 minutes featured 12 goals, a pair of fights and 96 penalty minutes, but Syracuse emerged with a 7-5 win over St. John’s at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

“I’m very proud of our captain, our team and the way we responded today,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “I thought we took charge of this game right off the bat. They came back — we maybe let our foot off the gas a little bit — but you have to give credit to the other team. They showed character. … For me, we were challenged physically lately, and I’m very proud of our captain and our team with the way we stood up for ourselves.”

Ten different Syracuse players registered a point. Cory Conacher recorded a pair of goals and assists, while Erik Condra and Matt Taormina each had one goal and two helpers. Morin scored twice, Adam Comrie had two assists, Mike Halmo had one goal and one assist, and Cameron Darcy, Ben Thomas, Gabriel Dumont and Witkowski each had one helper.

Adam Wilcox finished with 11 stops for the win, as the Crunch held the IceCaps to five shots on goal in the first, two in the second and nine in the third.

Both power plays converted multiple times, as Syracuse went 3-for-4.

“Our power play guys tonight were the difference in this game,” Groulx said. “They move the puck well. It’s nice to see them being rewarded for the way they work and the way they move the puck.”

Morin and Farnham tangled as both sides lined up for the opening faceoff. After being separated and issued warnings, the puck was dropped.

“We wanted to get off to a hot start, and that was important to us,” Morin said. “He came in pretty hot there. I wasn’t going into the game thinking that at all (going after Farnham), but we know what kind of player he is and keep an eye on him when he’s on the ice. We know he likes to run around. We got him riled up and he didn’t finish the game. So it’s good for us.”

Fourteen seconds in, Farnham and Witkoski came together. The result was a large scrum with a pair of players from each side heading to the box. It was just the beginning.

“You know what type of game he plays,” Witkowski said. “He came and hit me late. I just tried to grab him and got him in the face. You know he’s going to play hard.”

In a penalty-filled first period, Syracuse jumped out to a 4-0 lead in a 2:47 span. The IceCaps answered with three goals in a 4:03 span to cut the Crunch lead to 4-3 before the first intermission.

“They’re right behind us in the standings, so obviously it’s an important game for both of us,” Morin said. “You never know. You can’t predict how a game is going to go, but that was the way it was going. It was pretty physical, and both teams were up to the task early.”

Condra and Morin scored in the first 11:45 of the second period, but Daniel Audette answered to cut the St. John’s deficit to two less than a minute later.

Jacob de la Rose brought the IceCaps to within one with 10:04 remaining. After a multiple penalty kills and big saves by Wilcox, Conacher sealed the win with an empty-netter in the final minute.

“We didn’t expect it to be an easy game, and we kind of got off our game after we got that lead,” Conacher said. “That bit us in the butt a little bit, but luckily a guy like (Wilcox) has won us a lot of games. We try to do everything we can to win this one, because he knew he wasn’t his best tonight, but when it counted he made some big saves for us.”

Syracuse (18-9-0-4) travels to Rochester Friday, but the Crunch return home for a rematch against the IceCaps the next day.

“Expect the same game,” Witkowski said.

Pictured: Crunch players celebrate a goal against the IceCaps at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

For more pictures from the game, visit the BoltProspects Facebook page.

To listen to postgame interviews, go to this SoundCloud page.