Crunch Fall to Bulldogs in Shootout, 2-1

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Kristers Gudlevskis believed his team should have won.

The Syracuse Crunch goalie, having stopped 28 of 29 shots in regulation and overtime, turned away the first eight shootout attempts. But the Hamilton's Mike Blunden broke through for the lone shootout goal, as the Bulldogs topped the Crunch, 2-1, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

"I just try to stop the puck, because I think we deserved to win this game," Gudlevskis said. "That's it, just focus on that. I've worked on the shootout in practice a lot."

Syracuse coach Rob Zettler echoed the sentiments.

"I thought we deserved a better fate tonight," Zettler said. "I thought we had more chances overall. We did a good job with the kill. You end up losing in the shootout, kind of a gimmicky loss."

After the first two periods passed without any scoring, Brett Connolly put the Crunch on the board less than seven minutes into the third by finishing off a feed from Vlad Namestnikov in the left wing circle.

"Vladdy made a couple good plays last night, and tonight he made another one," Connolly said. "It was good that I could put it in."

The Bulldogs netted the equalizer less than four minutes later, when Louis Leblanc scored on a rebound.

For Gudlevskis, his mindset didn't change throughout the back-and-forth third.

"I just try to focus all the time, don't blow the concentration," Gudlevskis said. "Make sure I'm ready for the next shot."

"I thought he was aggressive," Zettler said of Gudlevskis. "I thought he was out at the top of the paint challenging shooters all the time. I really liked his game tonight."

Syracuse failed to convert on all nine of its shootout attempts. Former Crunch player Blunden scored the game-winner and Hamilton goalie Robert Mayer made 31 saves in the win.

"It's a shootout," Connolly said. "Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't."

Yanni Gourde, in his second game in a Syracuse uniform, created scoring chances all night but didn't register a point. His penalty shot in the third was turned away, and he hit the pipe in the shootout.

"He's got a lot of energy," Zettler said. "He has a lot of poise with the puck. I thought he was playing well, that's why I kept putting him out there."

Syracuse (24-26-4-6) finishes out a three-game weekend with a trip to Albany Sunday.

"We're not going to lose too much sleep over losing a game in a shootout," Connolly said. "We've got another game tomorrow, and we're looking to finish this three-in-three strong."

Pictured: Crunch goalie Kristers Gudlevskis makes a save on Bulldogs forward Drew Schiestel at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.