Crunch Set Tone With First Shift, Beat Griffins in Game 5


By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch’s offense set the tone on the first shift.

Kevin Lynch’s goal 17 seconds in got the Crunch rolling and the team netted five goals before the first intermission, as Syracuse routed the Grand Rapids Griffins, 5-1,in Game 5 of the Calder Cup Finals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

The Crunch cut the Griffins’ series lead to 3-2, with Game 6 set for Tuesday in Grand Rapids.

“That first 17 seconds was unbelievable,” Crunch goalie Mike McKenna said. “We got the puck deep. We got four or five hits — they looked like the Hanson Brothers — and then it’s in the net. What that does for your bench and seeing Kevin’s raw emotion after scoring that goal? It’s huge, for sure. It really sets the tone.”

Eleven Crunch players finished with a point. Yanni Gourde had three assists, while Cory Conacher had one goal and one assist to set a franchise record for points in a postseason (27).

Ben Thomas also recorded one goal and one assist. The rookie defenseman had his third multi-point game of the postseason.

“His progression has been steady all year long,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said of Thomas. “I think he’s playing with confidence and he knows his role. He’s got the opportunity to be on the power play, and he’s good at supporting the rush.”

Lynch, Byron Froese and Mathieu Brodeur each registered a goal, while Tye McGinn, Gabriel Dumont, Adam Erne, Michael Bournival and Daniel Walcott each had one assist.

McKenna made 36 saves in net for the win.

“What feels good is we won the game,” McKenna said. “Obviously, I have to do my part to do that, but when you put five up in the first period, as a goalie you better make that work.”

Lynch opened the scoring at 17 seconds into the game after the Crunch got the puck deep and created chaos in the Griffins zone.

“I just try to play hard and physical every shift, and on that first play, I guess (Dumont) was talking to (Bounival) in french, so I didn’t even get the clue that he was whacking the puck forward,” Lynch said. “Once I saw him hit it forward, I just tried to get on the forecheck as hard as I can and laid the body, and then (Bournival) and (Dumont) were right there in there after. (Dumont) threw it out front, and I just happened to bury it.”

A little more than four minutes later, Brodeur scored his first goal of the playoffs. Froese jammed in a loose puck with 5:55 left in the frame, Conacher had a power play marker three minutes later and Thomas scored on the rush to cap the first period scoring.

Syracuse held Grand Rapids off the board until 5:58 into the third period, when Ben Street ruined McKenna’s shutout bid.

McKenna is confident that if the team plays Game 6 like they did on Saturday, they’ll have a chance to further extend the series.

“If we play we did tonight, I think we’re in good shape,” McKenna said. “It’s always going to be a tough game. It’s never easy. Even tonight, it’s 5-1 but this is the finals and that’s a really good team over there. We know they’re going to bring their A game and we have to replicate what we did this evening.”

In the postgame press conference, Groulx revealed multiple players were battling the flu when the Crunch dropped the first two games in Grand Rapids.

“Now it’s behind us,” Groulx said. “We’re healthy. We’re confident. We have energy. I think we’re ready for Tuesday.”

The Crunch have won one game since falling behind 3-1 in the series, and still have confidence they can pull out a win in the series.

“That’s why they’re seven game series,” Lynch said. “It’s never over. The fourth game is the hardest to win, so we know they’re going to be back on their heels in Grand Rapids. If we can get that sixth game, anything can happen in Game 7.”

Pictured: Crunch players celebrate a goal against the Griffins during Game 5 of the Calder Cup Finals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

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

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