Crunch Rally, but Bested By Marlies in Shootout

By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch rallied in the second period, but their shootout struggles continued in a battle of the top teams in the North Division.

The Crunch got a pair of goals from unlikely sources to tie the score in the middle frame but couldn’t find the game-winner in the third period, overtime or shootout, as Syracuse fell to Toronto, 3-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday. The Crunch have 80 points, one point behind the Marlies.

“I think they came out strong again,” Crunch captain Erik Condra said. “We pushed back and came back on a pretty good team and got a point out of it.”

Ben Thomas and Jonathan Racine each scored once for Syracuse, while Condra and Dominik Masin each had one assist.

Crunch goalie Mike McKenna made 31 saves in the loss. Fifteen of those came in the first period alone.

“He was great,” Crunch assistant coach Trent Cull said. “Solid. Simple. He’s one of those guys who gives us some confidence on the back end.”

Syracuse struggled to keep pace with Toronto out of the gate. The Marlies registered 17 shots in the first period and got goals from Seth Griffith and Brenndan Leipsic.

The momentum started to shift the Crunch’s way midway through the second, with Thomas pinching in on a 4-on-4 and cutting the Marlies to one 12:16 into the frame — his third goal of the season — and Racine netting the game-tying goal 3:04 later. Racine now has two goals in more than 250 professional games.

“Overall, I thought we had a little bit of a slow start,” Cull said. “(We) had some moments in the second period where they weren’t our best, but the (penalty kill) got us rolling. We got some goals in the second period and started getting our game together.”

Syracuse got into penalty trouble late in the second. Dylan Blujus took a holding penalty, Cory Conacher was called for hooking less than two minutes later, and Kevin Lynch went to the box for a faceoff violation three seconds later.

The Crunch penalty kill went to work, and kept the score tied heading into the third.

“That PK was huge,” Cull said. “At that point, to hold ground for us — we battled back to that 2-2 game — and I thought that was good for us for momentum leading into the third.”

After a back-and-forth scoreless third and overtime, the teams picked their players for the shootout. Seth Griffith scored on Toronto’s first attempt, while Syracuse’s Tanner Richard, Conacher and Matthew Peca were each stopped by Garrett Sparks.

Sparks finished with 24 saves for the win. The Crunch are 2-6 in the shootout.

“I don’t find much solace in getting one point. I like getting two,” McKenna said. “We wanted to win and keep winning. Yeah, it’s great we got the point, but we’ve got to find a way to close those out.”

Syracuse (34-23-6-6) has a rematch with Toronto Saturday.

“It’s a battle for first place and it’s a playoff-style game,” Condra said. “We’re still battling for the playoffs and positioning. It was an intense game last weekend and it was a pretty intense game tonight, so I’m sure it’ll be the same tomorrow.”

Pictured: Crunch goalie Mike McKenna makes a save against the Marlies at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

For more pictures from the game, visit the BoltProspects Facebook page.

To listen to postgame interviews, go to this SoundCloud page.