Crunch Lose Special Teams Battle to Devils

By Jeremy Houghtaling

With the parade to the penalty box lasting throughout most of the game, special teams play proved to be the difference.

The Crunch allowed a pair of Devils goals on the man-advantage and didn’t convert on their nine power play opportunities until late in the third period, as Syracuse fell to Binghamton, 4-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Sunday.

“They had six or seven power plays. We had six or maybe eight power plays,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “I think our power play was not good enough. I think our PK was OK. We can’t go into the playoffs taking five or six penalties a game, for sure.”

While the Crunch went 1-for-9 on the day with the man-advantage, the Devils were 2-for-6.

“You’ve got to be able to manage the momentum swings,” Syracuse defenseman Reid McNeill said. “You’ve got to gain momentum from the kills and the power play. Tonight they got the upper hand on that.”

With so few long stretches of 5-on-5 play, it was hard for the Crunch to find their rhythm.

“For some guys, I’m sure they’re sitting on the bench a while when it’s PK, power play, PK, power play,” Syracuse captain Erik Condra said. “Guys who are on the units don’t get a lot of 5-on-5 play, and guys who aren’t on the units don’t get a lot of playing time. It can be tough that way.”

Troy Bourke and Matthew Peca each scored once for the Syracuse, while Erik Condra, Carter Verhaeghe, Alexey Lipanov and Erik Cernak each had an assist.

Connor Ingram made 18 saves for the Crunch, but Ken Appleby picked up the win for his 36-save performance between the pipes for the Devils.

Binghamton’s Christph Bertshy opened the scoring with a 5-on-3 goal with 5:07 left in the first period. Troy Bourke finished off a behind-the-back feed from Alexey Lipanov on the rush to even the score, but Tim Kennedy put the Devils back ahead 12 seconds later.

Brett Seen added to the Binghamton lead with a goal on the man-advantage in the second period, and Jan Mandat put the Devils ahead by three midway through the third. Peca’s one-timer on the power play cut Binghamton’s lead to two with 1:03 to play, but the Syracuse comeback fell short.

“I thought Bingo was the best team on the ice,” Groulx said. “They were first on puck. We had chances, but their goalie played a good game.”

For McNeill, one takeaway from the game is the Crunch needing to keep their feet moving and try to take less penalties on stick infractions as they prepare for the postseason.

“I think it’s something we’ve got to clean up,” McNeill said. “This time of year, everybody is playing hard and there’s a fine line between what’s clean and what’s not. That’s on us as players … Going into playoffs, we don’t want to be shorthanded, so that’s something we have to figure out.”

The Crunch (44-21-3-5) has three games in four nights to wrap up the regular season. Syracuse travels to Rochester Wednesday and Utica Friday before welcoming the Americans on Saturday.

The Crunch will face either the Americans or Comets in the first round of the playoffs.

“Against good teams, we seem to step up. I’m glad that we’re playing Rochester and Utica the last three games, because it will be playoff style hockey and it’ll get us ready for the playoffs,” Condra said.

Pictured: Crunch forward Matthew Peca looks to make a pass against the Devils at the Onondaga County War Memorial Sunday.

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