Rookies Lead the Way in Crunch's Win Over Senators

By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch’s lineup was filled with rookies and call-ups.

Nine players are in their first year in the pros, and six have spent time in the ECHL this season.

Syracuse still kept rolling.

The youth led the way with rookies combining for eight of the Crunch’s 13 points, as Syracuse beat the Belleville Senators, 5-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

“I think a lot of the rookies have the traits you need to be successful in pro hockey,” Crunch defenseman Mat Bodie said. “We transitioned to a speed game and we have a lot of guys that can really fly, so once they start playing with confidence — which they are now — it’s paying dividends for all of us here.”

Bodie finished with three assists, while Ben Thomas and Olivier Archambault each scored once.

Rookies Anthony Cirelli and Jonne Tammela each had a goal and an assist, Mathieu Joseph added a pair of helpers, Mitchell Stephens had an empty-netter and Alexander Volkov chipped in an assist.

“We’re gelling pretty well so far,” Cirelli said. “Everyone has stepped up a bit. We really just don’t care. We just go out there and play our game. We know the game plan that’s set, and we just go out there and try to follow it.”

Fellow rookie Connor Ingram wasn’t test early — the Senators had five shots on goal in the first period and six in the second — but finished with 22 saves for the victory.

“He wasn’t challenged much,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “I think we left him alone in the third period.”

Cirelli tipped a Joseph shot into the net to give Syracuse the lead 1:56 into the contest. Tammela scored from the slot to add to the Crunch lead with 4:32 left in the first.

Cirelli made a feed to Archambault, who scored 1:09 into the second, and Syracuse took a 3-0 lead into the second intermission.

“I thought we played strong for two periods. We’re skating, we’re working hard, taking pucks to the net,” Groulx said. “I thought we were great for two periods. We stopped skating a little bit in the third. They took advantage of it.”

Erik Burgdoerfer cut into the Crunch lead less than a minute into the third period. Thomas added to the Syracuse lead three minutes later, and after Burgdoerfer scored his second of the night, Stephens sealed the victory with an empty-netter.

Despite the major changes to the lineup because of injuries and call-ups, Groulx knows what to expect from his team.

“I think that’s the confidence that we have in our dressing room right now,” Groulx said. “We feel day in and day out that we can make things happen. … it’s a team effort. Like I said, I thought we were good for two and tomorrow, obviously, we’re going to have to be good for three.”

Syracuse (26-14-2-2) has one more game before the AHL All-Star break. The Crunch will look for their third straight win when they host the North Division-leading Toronto Marlies Saturday.

“It’d be great to get that third win going into the break,” Cirelli said. “We played well these past two games, so we just have to keep it rolling.”

Pictured: Crunch forward Mitchell Stephens looks to make a pass against the Senators at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

For more pictures from the game, visit the BoltProspects Facebook page.

To listen to postgame interviews, go to this SoundCloud page.