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Yan Records Three Points in Return, Crunch Beat Marlies

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Syracuse Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx liked what he saw in the first game after the Christmas break.

Dennis Yan recorded three points in his return from injury, Syracuse rebounded from an early deficit and a power play goal in the third period lifted the Crunch over the Toronto Marlies, 5-4, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.

“I’m quite happy with this win, but the way we played overall?” Groulx said. “First of all, much better game than the last game here for our fans. Secondly, we had legs. That’s not easy when you have three days off. … I was happy with the legs and the energy we had tonight. (We were) executing pretty well and got better as the game went along. Overall, a good showing.”

Yan finished with two goals and one assist. The forward had been out of the lineup since Dec. 1.

“I’ve been out for almost a month, so I was more prepared mentally than physically because I knew I was in shape,” Yan said. “It was a good game for the team.”

Syracuse’s Mathieu Joseph recorded a goal and an assist. Matthew Peca had a pair of assists to extend his point streak to seven games, while Carter Verhaeghe had one assist to bring his point streak to 10 games.

Kevin Lynch and Adam Erne each scored once, and Matthew Spencer, Mitchell Stephens and Alexander Volkov each had one assist. Louis Domingue made 22 saves for the win.

Toronto’s Andreas Johnsson opened the scoring 3:10 into the contest, but Syracuse was quick to counter. Yan blew around a falling defenseman at the blue line, cut left across the crease, outwaited Marlies goalie Garrett Sparks and tied the score.

“I just ended up 1-on-1,” Yan said. “I expected to be 2-on-1, but the guy fell and I was alone in front of the goalie.”

Yan potted his second goal of the night midway through the first period, and after Toronto’s Chris Mueller evened the score again, Joseph put Syracuse back in front in the final minute of the frame.

Frederik Gauthier made the score 3-3 less than two minutes into the middle period. Lynch chipped in a loose puck in the crease to give the Crunch another lead, but Miro Aaltonen netted the equalizer 36 seconds later to make it 4-4 heading into the final frame.

Joseph connected with Erne, who scored on a sharp angle shot on the power play early in the third. The Crunch were able to hold the Marlies off the board for the final 16 minutes.

With Toronto blocking so many shots, Joseph knew more puck movement would be needed to get a power play goal.

“(Anthony) Cirelli did a great job of winning the face-off for the second time, and Verhaeghe tried to pass to the middle and it bounced over to me,” Joseph said. “I saw Erne popping out there. He called for the puck and it wound up in the net. It was a good bounce for us.”

Groulx believed it was fitting Erne scored the game-winner, because the forward had been playing well in previous games but wasn’t getting the points.

“Having him scoring the winner is good for his confidence,” Groulx said. “I’m very happy to see that.”

The Crunch hope the win jump-starts their play as they begin the next stretch of the season.

“Especially the first game after the Christmas break,” Yan said. “It’s a tough game because we didn’t skate for three days. It’s a good game to get going.”

Syracuse (16-12-1-2) hosts Utica Saturday and wraps up 2017 with a trip to Binghamton Sunday.

“After one (period), you start to believe it’s going to be a 7-6 game,” Groulx said. “But it tightened up and there’s two good goalies in net that made some good stops. We hit a few posts. They had a few posts as well. Overall, a big win for us.

“It’s good for our confidence, and hopefully we can build on this and have a good weekend.”

Pictured: Crunch forward Dennis Yan looks to make a pass against the Marlies at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.

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

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