Crunch's Offense Struggles in Loss to Bears

By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch had a sizable advantage in shots, but the Hershey Bears were more opportunistic.

The Crunch led 30-18 in shots on goal but the Bears’ Aaron Ness broke the tie with 6:38 remaining, as Syracuse was edged by Hershey, 2-1, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday. The loss snaps the Crunch’s seven game point streak.

“It was a tough game to lose tonight,” Syracuse forward Mathieu Joseph said. “We outshot them and had a lot of scoring chances. A couple missed scoring chances on my part and a couple guys on the team. We weren’t opportunistic enough. We’ve got to find a way to win like that. It’s a tough loss.”

Joseph scored the lone goal for Syracuse. Mat Bodie and Gabriel Dumont picked up assists.

Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx believes his team’s offense could have had better shot selection.

“I think offensively we’re not as sharp as we can be,” Groulx said. “It seems to me that when we’re shooting, we’re missing the net a lot, especially when we’re in tight areas. We had golden chances tonight from the slot and we missed by a lot. Sometimes when it’s time to shoot, we’re passing and when it’s time to pass, we’re shooting.

“I think offensively we can be better, but overall I thought we played a good game.”

Peter Budaj recorded16 saves in his first start on his conditioning stint with Syracuse. The netminder suffered a lower body injury in late December.

Groulx said after the game he liked how calm and composed Budaj was, but it wasn't decided on when he might start again. Budaj said he felt good.

“Obviously, you do something not often for two months and then you do it, you feel — timing-wise — a little bit off,” Budaj said. “I felt pretty good out there — pretty strong, my ankle was holding up pretty good and everything was going well.

“Obviously, you’d like to get a win, but I felt pretty good even though it’s going to take a couple games to get my timing correct.”

Tyler Graovac opened the scoring with a power play goal for the Bears 2:51 into the second period, but Joseph answered with another goal on the man-advantage a little more than five minutes later.

The teams remained deadlocked until Ness’ goal with less than seven minutes remaining in regulation.

“One mistake in our coverage and they scored,” Joseph said. “They were really opportunistic, but like I said, we’ve got to find a way to win. Even though we battled, it’s not enough.”

Syracuse (35-19-3-3) hosts the Americans on Saturday before wrapping up the three-in-three weekend with a trip to Rochester Sunday.

“Tomorrow is another day. We’ll have to turn the page on this game, even though it was a tough loss,” Joseph said. “We’ll analyze this game and try to find the positives out of it — and I think there’s a lot of positives in our game tonight. No one really had a bad game, so I think we’re going to bring that positive into the next two games this weekend.”

Pictured: Crunch goalie Peter Budaj makes a save against the Bears at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

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