Crunch Finish Sweep of Falcons With 5-2 Win

By Jeremy Houghtaling

With a one goal lead and the third period winding down, Matt Taormina found the puck on his stick and looked for an open shot.

After his first attempt was blocked, the Syracuse Crunch defenseman drove toward the net wristed another toward the Springfield Falcons' net. He lost track of it there.

"I shot and I didn't hear anything until the crowd reacted," Taormina said. "I finally knew it actually went in."

The goal put the exclamation point on Syracuse's 5-2 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday, as the Crunch swept the Falcons 4-0 to move on to the conference finals.

"They were pressing, they could feel it," Syracuse coach Rob Zettler said of Springfield. "Then Taormina steps up and scores that goal, it's huge. It put a stamp on it for us."

Syracuse is the 10th team in AHL history to start the postseason with at least seven consecutive wins, and the Tampa Bay Lightning's AHL affiliate has won 17 straight playoff contests. The Crunch play the winner of Providence and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Bruins leads the series 3-1 with the next game being Saturday.

"Our expectation was always to be here, it was really clear from the beginning of the season," said Syracuse forward JT Wyman of moving on to the conference finals. "I think it's every team's expectation to be here, it's just following through and being able to capitalize on the opportunity. We're happy we're here, but we're not satisfied."

Wyman opened the scoring six minutes into the game, jamming home his own rebound after a pass from Philip-Michael Devos. Mark Barberio gave the Crunch a two-goal lead less than two minutes later, when he picked up a loose puck from Vladislav Namestnikov driving to the front of the net.

After the Falcons' Ryan Craig scored a power play goal less than three minutes into the third, Wyman scored on a two-on-one to give the Crunch another two-goal lead.

"The D-man took (Mike Angelidis) out of the play, and he was telling me to shoot," Wyman said. "It's great communication from him."

Andrew Joudrey brought Springfield back to within one with less than 12 minutes to play, but Taormina broke up any momentum a little more than a minute later. Dan Sexton then added an empty-netter.

"It was really nice to see Wyman get that huge goal, and on top of that, see Taormina score that fourth goal was huge," Zettler said. "I thought he was maybe the best player on the ice tonight."

While Falcons netminder Curtis McElhinney made 35 saves, Crunch goalie Cedrick Desjardins finished with 28.

"I don't think he as tested a ton," Zettler said of Desjardins. "Even when they had a lot of pressure on us, I don't think the puck went to the net a whole lot. We blocked a lot of shots and got in the way of a lot. (Desjardins) is good for us because he's calm."

The streak has boosted the Crunch's confidence, and the team has some time to rest before the next series. Although they still have their eyes on the ultimate goal, they have already seen their work from the regular season pay off.

"We built it up at the end of the season, we kept talking about preparing for playoffs and preparing for the little things that are going to get us through each round," Wyman said. "It's all coming together."

TOP: Crunch forward JT Wyman scores against the Falcons at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday. ABOVE: Crunch defenseman Matt Taormina celebrates his goal against the Falcons at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.