Crunch See Positives Despite Shootout Loss to Senators

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Despite falling in a shootout, the Syracuse Crunch took plenty of positives out of the past week.

The 4-3 shootout loss to the Binghamton Senators at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday snapped the team's three-game win streak, but the Crunch still have points in four straight.

For Syracuse coach Rob Zettler, it was more about the way his team played.

"I thought our team learned how to play this week," he said. "I thought we were in peoples' faces all week, we played hard, we stuck up for each other. We did a lot of really good things -- offensively and defensively. Tonight we just came out on the wrong end of it."

Syracuse remains 12 points out of a playoff spot with nine games remaining, but realize there's more to play for.

"The last five games, we've taken a big step here," said Crunch forward Brett Connolly. "We've been playing better, and guys realize finishing hard here is going to lead to us being better at the start of next year."

Binghamton's Derek Grant opened the scoring at the 9:13 mark of the first period, when his shot squeezed by Syracuse goalie Kristers Gudlevskis. The Crunch's Jonathan Marchessault converted on a 3-on-1 to tie the score nine minutes later.

Nikita Nesterov's power play goal put Syracuse up with less than six minutes remaining in the second, but Binghamton's Jean-Gabriel Pageau tied the score before the second intermission.

The Crunch's power play converted for a second time midway through the third, as Geoff Walker registered his second goal in as many nights.

"We've been moving it around good, we're finding each other better and we're on the same page," Connolly said.

Alex Grant's slap shot found its way through traffic and into the back of the net to tie the game with a little more than five minutes remaining in the third.

"I thought we had things fairly under control, and then they scored," Zettler said.

Binghamton's Cole Schneider scored the only goal in the shootout, and Andrew Hammond finished with 24 saves in the Senators' net.

"We weren't making him move very much," Zettler said. "We were coming down and firing pucks right into him. It's something we have to get better at."

Gudlevskis registered 25 saves in the shootout loss.

"The first goal he would have liked to get back," Zettler said. "It squeaked through him somehow. Other than that, he stopped a couple breakaways, a couple point blankers. I was happy with him."

Connolly finished with a pair of assists and has a five-game point streak, while Andrej Sustr, Mike Angelidis, Yanni Gourde and Dmitry Korobov each had one helper.

Walker, who had a Cortizone shot a few weeks ago to deal with a nagging neck injury, said he is feeling good to go. The veteran has two goals in his last three games, and hopes to finish the season strong.

"There's some games left here," Walker said. "If I keep going the way I have, maybe I can show them that I can do what they brought me here to do. Most of the year isn't what I wanted, but if I can show them and other teams that I can still produce on the power play like I can, that's only a positive for me."

With points in four straight, Syracuse (27-29-4-7) hopes to keep the momentum going when it travels to Rochester Wednesday.

"We just want to keep rolling," Walker said. "Everyone is disappointed with the way this year has went, but there's a lot of pride in here and we want to show people we are a good team and finish up strong."

Pictured: Crunch forward Brett Connolly looks to make a pass against the Senators at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.