Crunch Fall to Americans in Home Opener


By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch came into the night shorthanded on the blue line.

The Crunch iced a lineup with just five defensemen after one player was hurt and another had a family issue arise. Syracuse held Rochester to 18 shots on goal, but the Crunch fell to the Americans, 3-2, in overtime in the homer opener at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

“My hat’s off to our D. The five of them were outstanding (in their) second game in two nights,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “It’s very demanding and my hat’s off to them because they hung in there and they did a fantastic job.”

Cory Conacher and Kevin Lynch each scored once for Syracuse. Ben Thomas added a pair of assists, while Matthew Peca and Mitchell Stephens each had one.

Thomas, veterans Mat Bodie and Jamie McBain, and rookies Matthew Spencer and Erik Cernak each logged big minutes to make up for not having a sixth defenseman dressed.

Connor Ingram, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s third round pick in 2016, made 15 saves in his first pro start. Groulx summed up his thoughts on Ingram’s performance in three words — “Not good enough” — and Ingram knows there’s plenty to work on before his next start.

“It was good,” Ingram said. “I think it was a long time coming, and it’s good to get the first one out of the way.”

Former Lightning prospect Adam Wilcox, who was traded from the Crunch last season, made 24 saves for the win in goal for Rochester.

“We don’t have a lot of returners from last year, but it’s a little different seeing him in another sweater,” Lynch said. “He played really well tonight.”

Groulx liked what he saw from his team early in the night, but C.J. Smith opened the scoring for the Americans 10:33 into the game.

“I thought we had a strong first period,” Groulx said. “We were generating, had chances and could have been ahead I believe 2-0, but we don’t score a goal and they scored I believe a bad goal.”

Conacher evened the score with a shot from the right wing circle before the first intermission, but Kyle Criscuolo put Rochester back in front less than two minutes into the second period.

Lynch netted the equalizer with 8:09 remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime.

“I think it shows the resilience of this team,” Lynch said. “We’re all trying to get to know each other a little bit. There’s still a lot of things we can get better at and a lot of things we can clean up, but I think we played better tonight than we did last night for sure.”

Kevin Porter tracked down a puck in the corner, brought it toward the slot and scored 39 seconds into overtime to win the game for Rochester.

The Crunch collected one point in the first two games of the 2017-18 season.

“Disappointing,” Groulx said. “I thought we worked hard last night and worked hard today. We had many chances. Not opportunistic enough. They were very opportunistic. Their goalie was very, very good.”

Syracuse (0-1-1-0) begins a three-in-three weekend at home against Belleville Friday.

“Overall, you score three goals in a weekend. That’s not enough,” Groulx said. “You limit the other team to 38 shots. That’s pretty good, especially today with five defensemen. One point only is disappointing.

“We have many things to work on and we’ll do that next week.”

Pictured: Crunch forward Cory Conacher drives to the net against the Americans 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.