Tokarski Records First Shutout of the Season, Crunch Top Pens 4-0

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Plenty of numbers stuck out after the Syracuse Crunch topped the Wikes-Barre Scranton Penguins 4-0 at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

The night began with 1,286 teddy bears thrown on the ice after Brett Connolly opened the scoring, the Crunch's power play followed by converting for two goals, and Syracuse goalie Dustin Tokarski finished with 29 saves for his first shutout of the season.

But the number that stood out in Tokarski's mind was the American Hockey League-leaders' latest two points in the standings.

"The shutout is the bonus," he said. "Ultimately, the main thing is the win."

One night after fellow Crunch netminder Riku Helenius registered his second shutout of the season at Adirondack, Tokarski's no-no sealed Syracuse's third straight victory.

"As a goaltender on this team, you have to be mentally sharp," Tokarski said. "We're a really dynamic team offensively, but we can also be super stingy defensively, so there will be stretches when we don't give up a lot of shots and you have to be ready."

Tokarski stopped 14 shots over the first 40 minutes, and followed it up with 15 more in the third period. His mindset preparing for the final frame remained unchanged.

"You go out there, you have your routine, and you have to be ready for anything," he said. "Whether it's a 2-on-1, a 3-on-1, or a wrist shot from the blue line, you have to play your game and be ready."

While the defense kept the Penguins to the outside and cleared away many of the rebounds, the Crunch offense gave the team some unneeded room for error. Nine players showed up on the scoresheet, with Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson each finishing the night with a goal and an assist.

After Connolly scored 14:35 into the first - his fifth goal and third game-winner in six games - the Syracuse power play finally converted in the second when Killorn deflected a Philip-Michael Devos pass past Penguins goalie Brad Thiessen.

"It was something we had been working on in practice," Killorn said. "We know (Wilkes-Barre Scranton) was playing pretty high on our D man and our forward on the wall. We worked on a slice pass, and luckily enough, I got my stick on it. It hit the post and went in."

After going 0-for-24 with the man-advantage in the last week and coming up fruitless on 1:54 of 5-on-3 time in the first period, the Crunch power play went 2-for-6 Saturday.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie recorded his sixth goal of the season five minutes into the third, and Johnson rounded out the Syracuse scoring with a power play tally with less than four minutes remaining.

"It was a little frustrating, especially the week before we weren't getting the opportunities," said Killorn, who has a goal in each of his last four games. "We changed things around, and this weekend our (power play) percentage might not have been that great, but we were getting a lot of opportunities. Tonight it started to click."

Syracuse (17-6-1-1) has a few days to rest and continue to work on its special teams before hosting Adriondack and Wilkes-Barre Scranton next Friday and Saturday.

"I thought we did pretty solid in five straight three-in-threes on the weekends," Tokarski said. "The guys battled hard and now we're being rewarded."

Top: Goalie Dustin Tokarski guards the net as the Crunch and Penguins fight for the puck on the back of the net at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.
Above: A teddy bear flies by as the Crunch celebrate Brett Connolly's first period goal against the Penguins at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.