Gudlevskis, Crunch Outlast Devils in Overtime
With the Albany Devils nipping at their heels in the standings, the Syracuse Crunch found a way to pull out a win.
For Syracuse head coach Benoit Groulx, the game showed his players could get two points even if they weren’t at their best.
“We were a vulnerable team tonight, playing our ninth game in 16 days with traveling in the middle of that and playing against a rested team,” Groulx said. “I thought our goalie was phenomenal. He allowed us to stay in that game, obviously. They were skating better than us. They were first on pucks. They were the best team on the ice tonight, but we found a way.”
“Matt Peca came big at the right time,” Groulx said. “He scored two goals, and that’s why he’s here. He’s got to be a difference-maker. He’s got an opportunity and tonight he made the best of it.”
The Crunch and Devils battled back and forth, but neither team found the back of the net in the first two periods. Gudlevskis turned aside 12 shots in the first period and 15 more in the second to keep Albany off the scoreboard.
Peca opened the scoring 2:10 into the third. The Crunch center couldn’t get off a pass, but quickly wired a shot past Ken Appleby on the high blocker side.
“I had (Dylan) Blujus wide open and their guy just got a stick on it,” Peca said. “He didn’t stop and I had all the time in the world, so I had to shoot it.”
The Devils spoiled the potential shutout with 2:51 remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime.
Syracuse’s John Kurtz drove to the net hard and drew an interference penalty 12 seconds into the extra session. A little more than a minute later Taormina made a pass from the point to Peca, who scored on a sharp angle one-timer from the right wing circle.
“There was a rebound in front, so they had three guys crammed around the net,” Peca said. “So I got as low as I could to get myself in a good position and he made a great pass. It was right in my wheelhouse. I didn’t have much to do but direct it to the net.”
With the win, Syracuse has 75 standings points and a .586 points percentage, three points and a .015 points percentage ahead of Albany. The Devils still have one game in hand.
“I felt it was a little bit like a playoff game,” Gudlevskis said. “Big battle and it’s great. We found a way how to win this game, and it’s important for the team.”
Syracuse (32-21-6-5) hosts Wilkes-Barre/Scranton next Friday. It’s the only time the Crunch don’t have a mid-week game scheduled in the final six weeks of the season.
“We need that rest,” Groulx said. “It’s going to be an opportunity for our guys that are banged up to get better and heal a little bit.”
Pictured: Crunch goalie Kristers Gudlevskis makes a save against the Devils at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.