Crunch Win Wild Game 2, Push Americans to Brink

By Jeremy Houghtaling

It was a wild 60 minutes, but the Syracuse pushed Rochester to the brink.

The Crunch had three multiple-goal leads trimmed to just one but managed to pull out a 6-5 victory over the Americans in Game 2 of the North Division Semifinals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday. Syracuse holds a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series, which shifts to Rochester for Game 3 Wednesday.

For Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx, the game was a good test and showed his team reacted the right way to the momentum swings.

“I think it’s a great win. The more you go into the playoffs, the more intense games become,” Groulx said. “Today, a lot of momentum swings on both sides … but I thought we held our composure. I’m very happy for our team. We battled hard and it’s a good win.”

For a second straight night, 12 of the Crunch’s 18 skaters recorded a point.
Matthew Peca led the team offensively with a goal and three assists. Alexander Volkov scored twice, while Mat Bodie and Erik Condra each recorded a pair of assists.

Reid McNeill, Mathieu Joseph and Olivier Archambault each struck once, while Jamie McBain, Kevin Lynch, Cal Foote, Dominik Masin and Mitchell Stephens each had an assist.

Eddie Pasquale finished with 20 saves in net for the win, while Linus Ullmark made 16 stops for the Americans.

“It’s a game like that with bounces everywhere, momentum swings,” Groulx said. “Both goalies, they didn’t have much help but strange bounces and for some reason today the puck wanted to go in.”

Peca opened the scoring 3:48 into the contest on the power play, and although Colin Blackwell brought the Americans back to even with 4:17 left in the first frame, Joseph gave the Crunch a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.

Archambault and McNeill both scored in the first 2:15 of the second period, but Rochester’s Justin Bailey netted a shorthanded Marker and Stuart Percy cut the Syracuse lead back to one within four minutes.

“What I like more is what we did after that,” Condra said. “We couldn’t just shut down when they made it 4-3. We kept going. They’re a good team over there, and they have a lot of skill and there’s a reason they’re in the playoffs.”

Volkov added insurance goals twice in the first six minutes of the third, but the Americans answered both within a minute.

The big test for the Crunch came midway through the frame when Condra and Gabriel Dumont were in the box and Syracuse had to kill off a 47 second 5-on-3.

“Both of our top two penalty killers (were in the box) and we found a way to kill those two penalties,” Groulx said. “That’s what I mean by I think we showed a lot of good things tonight.”

While the game had many hectic moments, Peca said the Crunch remained calm and composed.

“We weren’t fazed on the bench,” Peca said. “We always had the lead and had a feeling we were going to close it out. It’s about putting teams away, and I thought we settled down after they scored their fifth goal and started to play more structured.”

For McNeill, the game can be used as a learning experience.

“Especially an experience like this early on in the first round — battling some adversity, giving up some shorthanded goals,” McNeill said. “We’ve got to learn how to manage the momentum. It’s good not just for our young guys, but for all the guys.”

Now the Crunch look to complete the sweep at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester Wednesday.

“I don’t think we have to change anything,” Condra said. “They’re going to be at home, so I’m sure they’re going to be a little bit better and come out flying. We need to bump our game up.

“Every game as you get closer to trying to close a team out gets tougher.”

Pictured: Crunch forward Matthew Peca makes a pass against the Americans at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

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