Erne, Vermin Score First Goals, But Crunch Fall in Shootout

By Jeremy Houghtaling

There were a few firsts in the last Syracuse Crunch home game of the season.

Adam Erne registered his first professional goal and Joel Vermin recorded his first goal in North America, but the Crunch ultimately fell in a shootout to the Adirondack Phantoms, 5-4, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.

"That was the positive from tonight, those guys scoring a goal and getting their first professional goals," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "Joel, I thought it was a great shot -- on and off the stick real quick. And for Adam, it was the same thing. That was the positive tonight."

Vermin, who is looking to transition to the North American game after playing the bulk of the season with Bern of the Swiss A-League, opened the scoring at the 6:27 mark of the first period with a shot that beat Carson Chubak five-hole.

"I just saw that there was a bad pass D-to-D," Vermin said. "I just kind of sniffed it, and I went for a shot. I was happy I scored."

Rob Bordson tied the game a little more than two minutes later, and Ben Holmstron put the Phantoms ahead with a goal in the final 14 seconds of the first.

Sprung on a mini-breakaway on a pass from Evan Rankin, Erne's backhander tied the game 3:25 into the second period. The 18-year-old signed a tryout contract to get a head start on next season, and will go back to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League if he doesn't make the Tampa Bay Lightning out of training camp.

"It's kind of a last second thing," Erne said of his goal. "You have to read what you've got."

Tom Serratore's goal put Adirondack back ahead before the second intermission, but Syracuse responded with goals less than a minute apart midway through the third period.

Brett Connolly jammed home a rebound from the blue paint, and Rankin picked up his own rebound and squeezed it through the Phantoms netminder 56 seconds later. Erne, Jonathan Marchessault, Jean-Philippe Cote and Mike Angelidis each had one assist.

Robert Hagg's power play tally tied the game with less than seven minutes left in regulation, and the game wasn't settled through five minutes of overtime.

Syracuse, which has struggled to score in a shootout, had four players convert, but fell in the ninth round. Rankin, Connolly, Tanner Richard and Yanni Gourde each had one shootout goal.

"We finally scored a few, this time we gave up a few," Zettler said. "It hasn't been good to us."

Cedrick Desjardins finished with 22 saves in net for the Crunch.

"He had some breakaways, some 2-on-1s, a lot of outnumbered situations that shouldn't happen," Zettler said. "He held us in there."

Overall, Zettler was disappointed with his team's play.

"I wasn't happy with tonight's game at all," Zettler said. "I thought we actually came out OK. The first 10 minutes were good. Then I thought we got really, really casual for the bulk of the game until about 10 minutes of the third period. I thought we started to pump it up a little bit. You just can't win hockey games like that, and hopefully that's a lesson learned for our guys."

The Crunch has points in nine out of its last 11 games. Syracuse (30-31-4-9) finishes out the season with games in Rochester Friday and Hamilton Saturday.

"Obviously, we're pretty disappointed to lose tonight. It was a tough one," Erne said. "I think if we would have played a full 60, we could have pulled that one out. We know these last two games are important for us. We know we want to finish over .500. We're taking it seriously."

Pictured: Crunch forward Adam Erne scores his first professional goal against the Phantoms at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.