Crunch Struggle Out of Gate in Loss to Comets

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Captain Erik Condra believes the Syracuse Crunch's confidence was a little too high.

After a dominating 8-2 performance in Belleville Friday, Syracuse struggled out of the gate in a 2-1 loss to the Utica Comets at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday. The loss snaps Syracuse’s six game home win streak.

“I just think we thought it was going to be easy like last night and it just wasn’t,” Condra said. “They’re a hardworking team. They took our coach (Trent Cull) and they play our system. He’s got them working hard. We weren’t ready for that, and then it was too little, too late.”

Condra scored the lone Crunch goal. Matthew Peca and Carter Verhaeghe each had an assist, while Syracuse goalie Louis Domingue finished with 23 saves in the loss.

The Crunch were outshot 9-1 in the first period, but the Comets didn’t open the scoring until Michael Chaput’s marker 54 seconds into the middle frame.

Peca slid a nifty pass to Condra and the captain evened the score less than five minutes later, but Griffen Molino put Utica back ahead with a little more than three minutes left in the second.

The Comets hit the pipe on a pair of attempts on the Crunch’s empty net in the third, but the final score stayed 2-1.

“What I know is tonight was disappointing,” Syracuse head coach Benoit Groulx said. “Credit to Utica. They came here. The last time we went in their building and kicked their butt 6-1 and tonight they were ready. They were the best team on the ice and deserved the win.”

Syracuse heads into the holiday break with a 15-12-1-2 record, and returns to action Wednesday against Toronto. After the loss, Groulx preferred to look at the bigger picture of the last month, where the Crunch have won 11 of the last 14 games to move up in the standings.

“For us, like I mentioned, it’s disappointing but if we look at the big picture, a month ago we were the last place team. Now we’re back in the middle of the race,” Groulx said. “There’s way more positive things than negative things. Like I mentioned, it’s disappointing to lose tonight but it’s for us to take those two or three days off, regroup and play better hockey.”

Condra believes the short break will be good for the team.

“It will be huge for us I think,” Condra said. “It’s a grind, especially for the young kids — there are a lot of 20 year-olds playing a grind of a season — and we have a long second half left with a lot of games. It will be good mentally for them and good for guys like me and a few other guys who are nicked up to get a few extra days to heal up and come back.”

Pictured: Crunch captain Erik Condra looks to make a pass against the Comets 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.