Yan Scores First Pro Goals, Crunch Beat Senators

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Dennis Yan hit a career milestone, but was more concerned with the final result.

The Crunch rookie netted his first professional goal in the second period and added the eventual game-winner early in the third, as Syracuse beat the Belleville Senators, 4-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

“Of course it feels good, but I’m really happy we got the first win of the season because we started with two losses,” Yan said. “So I’m happy for the guys. The first win is important and we still have two games this weekend, so it’s pretty good to have the first win this weekend.”

Yan’s two-goal performance earned him the first star of the game. Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx noted he liked the 20-year-old forward’s compete level in the first three games of the season.

“He’s competing and shooting the puck. He plays with a lot of confidence,” Groulx said of Yan. “I like that.”

Yan, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s third round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, said the transition to the pro level has gone well early in the season.

“I adjust to this league every game,” Yan said. “I try to be better and consistent. I think I’m really good now with the speed and physicality. I think I’m a strong guy and I can skate, so I’m really feeling good now. I just have to be better every game and continue to play my game.”

Syracuse’s Jason Akeson and Cory Conacher each recorded a pair of assists, while Anthony Cirelli had his first pro goal and added an assist. Tye McGinn scored once, and Jamie McBain, Mitchell Stephens and Michael Bournival each had one assist.

Crunch goalie Michael Leighton finished with 24 saves for the win, while Senators netminder Andrew Hammonf had 39 stops — including 20 in the first period alone — in the loss.

“Their goalie was exceptional. He kept them in the game, but our goalie was good too,” Groulx said. “I thought when we needed him at 2-2, he was there. He was strong and this is the type of game you’ll see once in a while. Not many shots, but when the game’s on the line, it’s important that he’s strong and that’s what he did tonight.”

For Leighton, Hammond’s performance was impressive because not only the quantity of saves, but the quality.

“Tonight was kind of a frustrating game,” Leighton said. “We had a lot of shots and their goalie played amazing. I think it could have very easily been seven or eight to two game. Hats off to their goalie.”

McGinn put the Crunch on the board at the 2:04 mark of the first period by pouncing on a rebound during a power play. Yan added to the Crunch lead 9:17 into the second, but Chris DiDomenico cut the Syracuse lead to one less than two minutes later and Max McCormick netted the equalizer before the second intermission.

Akeson threw a puck to Yan, who was crashing the net, to put the Crunch back in front with 16:07 remaining, and Cirelli sealed the win with an empty-netter in the final minute.

Although it was a penalty-filled affair, both teams struggled on the power play and couldn’t convert with minute-plus 5-on-3 chances in the third period. The Senators were 0-for-4, while the Crunch were 1-for-11.

“We had our chances on the power play, but we didn’t bury our chances and then they hung in there,” Groulx said. “We did a lot of good things 5-on-5. I thought we were all over them and forced them to take penalties, and then we have to put them away. We couldn’t do it, and that’s something we have to learn to do.”

Syracuse (1-1-1-0) continues its three-in-three weekend by hosting Utica Saturday and traveling to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday.

“Overall, a good team effort. It’s good to have that first win,” Groulx said. “Let’s prepare for tomorrow.”

Pictured: Crunch forward Dennis Yan drives to the net 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.