Connolly Scores Twice, Crunch Hang On To Beat Senators 4-3

By Jeremy Houghtaling

It has been stressed to Brett Connolly that he needs to drive to the net.

The 20-year-old Syracuse Crunch forward followed through against the Binghamton Senators Wednesday at the Onondaga County War Memorial, potting a pair of goals in the Crunch's 4-3 win.

"Coach has been all over me to do that," Connolly said. "That's where I've been scoring all my goals."

Connolly, who has 11 goals on the season and four in his last four games, gave the credit to a few good bounces, as well as the character in the Crunch lockerroom.

"It's just sticking to the game plan for 60 minutes, and we did that tonight," he said.

Syracuse opened the scoring halfway through the first period, when Alex Killorn scored his sixth of the season. The Harvard product easily finished on a feed from Mike Angelidis, who twisted to make the pass to the space between the circles.

"They had the puck along the wall, and (JT) Wyman was backchecking real hard," Killorn said. "He made a great play to grab the puck and dish it down to (Mike) Angelidis. Everyone seemed to focus on Angelidis and he made an unbelievable spin play and left me the whole open net."

After the Senators' Mike Hoffman tied the game on a 5-on-3 power play less than three minutes later, Killorn recorded his second point of the night on a Matt Taormina goal with 35 seconds left in the first frame. Cory Conacher was also credited with an assist.

Connolly's first goal of the night, a quick shot after picking up a puck that slid away from teammate Pierre-Cedric Labrie, provided some breathing room midway through the second.

"(Labrie) did all the work," Connolly said. "I didn't really have to do anything…He set it all up and I was lucky to be in a good position to put it in."

Despite controlling the play most of the night, the Crunch allowed the Senators to hang around.

Hoffman brought Binghamton back to within one before the end of the second. His second of the night looked eerily similar to the first, as he easily capitalized on a backdoor pass on the power play.

Binghamton went 2-for-5 with the man-advantage, while Syracuse came up empty on three opportunities. The Crunch, despite struggling on special teams, excelled at even strength.

With less than 13 minutes remaining, Connolly drove to the net to pick up his second goal, this time flicking in a rebound from just outside the crease.

With their second two-goal lead of the night, the Crunch still felt somewhat uneasy.

"It felt better than usual, but I don't think you ever feel safe, especially not with a two-goal lead," Killorn said. "I liked the way we were playing…It's nice to have the lead. In the past couple games we've been playing from behind."

After Binghamton's Mark Stone chipped in his third goal of the season, Connolly's second goal stood up as the game-winner, his fourth of the season. Dmitry Korobov registered a pair of assists, and Philip-Michael Devos had one.

Crunch netminder Dustin Tokarski finished with 15 saves, while Lehner turned away 34 Syracuse shots.

After dropping back-to-back games on the road last weekend, the Crunch were happy to be back in the win column.

"Every team's going to lose games," Connolly said. "We're not going to win every single night…There's going to be ups, there's going to be downs. We needed to come out here and play a solid game. You're only as good as your last game. It was a complete team effort tonight."

Syracuse (15-6-1-2) has two more games on tap this week. The Eastern Conference leaders travel to Adirondack Friday before returning home against Wilkes-Barre Scranton Saturday.

"You try to have a short memory," Killorn said. "We've already forgotten about (last) weekend. We know we didn't play up to our standard and play 60 minutes. Tonight, we played well, but we're going to forget about it and focus on this weekend."

Top: Crunch forward JT Wyman tries to jam a puck past the Senators defense and goalie Robin Lehner at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.
Above: Crunch defenseman Matt Taormina stands up Senators forward Jakob Silfverberg at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.