Crunch Fall to Admirals for Second-Straight Night, 2-1

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Jesse Blacker broke a tie with less than nine minutes remaining, lifting the Norfolk Admirals over the Syracuse Crunch for a second-straight night, 2-1, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

The Crunch, who fell in the shootout to the Admirals Friday, spent most of the game rotating through five defensemen, after Jean-Philippe Cote was ejected for an illegal hit to the head at the 11:41 mark of the first period.

"Cote is a valuable guy," said Syracuse coach Rob Zettler. "One, just having him out of the lineup period is just tough. But playing five D is tough too, especially in back-to-back games."

"I thought the five of us did a great job of keeping it pretty simple and moving the puck," said Crunch defenseman Joey Mormina. "We only gave up one even strength goal on a broken play there. We battled hard and gave ourselves a chance to win."

The Admirals capitalized on the ensuing power play after Cote's major penalty, with Rickard Rakell notching his second goal in as many nights.
yracuse found a response from an unusual source one period later.

Eric Neilson, who took up his usual role with a first-period tilt against fellow pugilist Zack Stortini, banged in a rebound to tie the game midway through the second stanza. Max Parent and Dmitry Korobov were credited with the assists.

"It was a good play by (Danick) Gauthier to bring it in," Neilson said. "I'm playing with good players, I'm just going to the right spots."

For his coach and teammates, it was nice to see Neilson register his first goal of the season.

"If there's such a thing as hockey karma, (Neilson) gained a lot of it there with a great fight that got us going," Mormina said. "He battles hard every night, every day in practice, and he got rewarded. We need contributions from everyone in the lineup, and he stepped up big tonight."

"He keeps sticking up for his teammates, he's fighting for his teammates when things go wrong out there," Zettler said. "Guys like that deserve those kind of goals. He was going to the net, he was in the right place."

The game remained tied until Blacker's tally midway through the third. Although the Crunch had several scoring opportunities, they couldn't tie the game.

"We had chances, we just didn't bury them," Zettler said.

Kristers Gudlevskis, making his first start since being recalled by Syracuse earlier in the week, finished with 22 saves. Former Crunch netminder Igor Bobkov made 21 saves in net for the Admirals for the win.

"I thought he played fine," Zettler said of Gudlevskis. "I don't think he got a whole lot of action. I thought we got in the way of a lot of shots tonight."

Syracuse (11-8-1-2) looks to get back on track when it travels to St. John's for a two-game set starting Tuesday.

"As (Zettler) said, we've got to move forward," Neilson said. "We can't hang our heads, we've got to keep plugging."

Pictured: Crunch goalie Kristers Gudlevskis makes a save through a screen by the Admirals' Devante Smith-Pelly at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.