Weekly Syracuse Crunch Roundup
Need to Know
- After a 7-0 start to the playoffs, Syracuse has split two home games vs. W-B/Scranton in the Conference Final.
- Ondrej Palat leads the Crunch in postseason scoring and is second in the AHL with 16 points (4g, 12a).
- The Conference Final shifts to Wilkes-Barre for games three and four; Game 5 is Saturday in Syracuse.
Eastern Conference final
(3) Syracuse Crunch vs. (5) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins - Series tied, 1-1
Game 1 - Sat., May 25 - W-B/S at Syracuse - L, 4-2
Game 2 - Sun., May 26 - W-B/S at Syracuse - W, 3-2
Game 3 - Wed., May 29 - Syracuse at W-B/S - 7:05 p.m.
Game 4 - Fri., May 31 - Syracuse at W-B/S - 7:05 p.m.
Game 5 - Sat., June 1 - W-B/S at Syracuse - 7:00 p.m.
*Game 6 - Mon., June 3 - Syracuse at W-B/S - 7:05 p.m.
*Game 7 - Wed, June 5 - W-B/S at Syracuse - 7:00 p.m.
Eastern Conference Final becomes best of five as series shifts to Wilkes-Barre
Syracuse (8-1) suffered its first postseason loss in Game 1 of the Conference Final Saturday, 4-2, against Wilkes-Barre Scranton (8-4), but answered the following night with a 3-2 victory to tie the best-of-seven series. The Crunch and Pens play Game 3 Wednesday and Game 4 Friday, both at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre at 7:05 p.m. The Crunch are 3-0 on the road during the Calder Cup Playoffs, while the Penguins are 3-1 at home. Game 5 is back in Syracuse Saturday at 7 p.m.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defenseman Alex Grant leads all scorers in the Eastern Conference Final with three points, including two goals in Game 1 and an assist in Game 2; the 24 year old had 20 points in 46 regular season games and 37 points in 61 games last season.
Several players have two in the series points: Riley Holzapfel (1g, 1a), Trevor Smith (1g, 1a), Chad Kolarik (2a) and Derek Nesbitt (2a) for the Penguins; Matt Taormina (1g, 1a), Mark Barberio (2a), Brett Connolly (2a) for the Crunch. Ondrej Palat's 16 postseason points lead the Crunch while Smith paces the Pens with 13.
Goalies Cedrick Desjardins has a 2.24 goals-against average in the postseason, allowing more than three goals in a contest only in the ECF Game 1 loss. Brad Thiessen, 6-2 with a 1.27 goals-against average, has started the last seven games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, having replaced Jeff Zatkoff in Game 2 of the Conference Semifinals.
The Crunch, playing in their first Conference Final since losing to Rochester in 1996, have never reached a Calder Cup Final, while the Penguins have won three previous Conference Final series but failed to capture a Calder Cup championship each time.
WEEK IN REVIEW
ECF Game 1: Penguins halt Crunch postseason win streak at seven
Alex Grant scored twice and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton power play connected for two goals as the Penguins topped the Crunch 4-2 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final Saturday night at the War Memorial. The Penguins take a one game to zero lead in the best-of-seven series.
Grant started the scoring just 1:55 into the first period, as he unloaded a one-timer from the right-wing circle off a feed from Derek Nesbitt. The Crunch would even up the game at one later in the first, as Brendan Mikkelson sent a wrist shot from the right point that snuck past Penguins goaltender Brad Thiessen. The tie was short lived, however, as the Penguins struck on a power play just 31 seconds later. Trevor Smith cashed in on a feed in front by Chad Kolarik to make the score 2-1 W-B/Scranton.
The Crunch evened the score again early in the second period. On a power play, Tyler Johnson fired a laser past Thiessen from the left wing circle to knot the game, 2-2, 5:38 into the middle stanza. Again the tie wouldn’t last long. Christiaan Minella intercepted an outlet pass by Matt Taormina and beat Cedrick Desjardins with a wrister to give the Penguins another one-goal lead. But this time the Pens extended their lead as Grant scored his second, this time on a power play, with a shot from the left wing to make the final 4-2.
ECF Game 2: Syracuse bounces back to tie series with dominating start
Dmitry Korobov scored the Crunch’s league-leading fifth shorthanded goal as Syracuse got by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 3-2, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final Sunday night at the War Memorial. The Crunch tied the series at a game apiece as it shifts to Wilkes-Barre for games three and four.
Outshooting the Pens 15-1 in the first period, the Crunch cashed in late in the frame. On the power play, Philip-Michael Devos dug the puck free and Mark Barberio helped it to Brett Connolly fired on Brad Thiessen. He made the save, but Dan Sexton picked up the rebound and fired it home for a 1-0 lead with 1:04 remaining in the first. Matt Taormina doubled the Crunch's lead 7:07 into the second. Mike Angelidis carried the puck along the right boards and passed across the slot to Taormina whose shot ricocheted off Thiessen and rolled across the goal line.
The Penguins answered right back on a power play goal by Joey Mormina, a slap shot past Cedrick Desjardins at 8:13 of the second period to make it 2-1 Crunch. The Penguins had another power-play opportunity later in the period, but the shorthanded Crunch set up in the offensive zone and Dmitry Korobov blasted a left-point shot past Thiessen for his first pro postseason tally and a 3-1 Crunch lead. The Penguins cut the deficit back to one with under six minutes left in the third period, as Riley Holzapfel scooped up a loose puck in front on the crease and scored into a gaping net during a delayed penalty, but the Crunch held on for a 3-2 final.
- With a goal in Game 1 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Tyler Johnson now has more points (15) through nine games this postseason than he did last year’s playoffs in 14 games (14 points) with Norfolk.
- With an assist in Game 2 against W-B/Scranton, Ondrej Palat (16) is now just one point behind Oklahoma City’s Mark Arcobello (17) for the playoff-scoring lead despite having played in three fewer games. Tyler Johnson is tied for third with 15 points.
- The Crunch’s top line, Johnson-Palat-Panik, registered at least two points in each of the first six games of the playoffs, but haven't combined for two points in any of the last three games.
- In Game 1 against W-B/Scranton, defenseman Brendan Mikkelson scored his first goal as a member of the Crunch. He recorded two assists in 13 games for the Crunch during the regular season. Mikkelson potted two goals during his only previous Calder Cup Playoff run, two goals and six assists in 14 games for Portland in 2008.
- Dmitry Korobov became the third Crunch player to score a short-handed goal this postseason with a goal against W-B/Scranton in Game 2. Syracuse now has five shorthanded goals in the playoffs, more than any other team. Tyler Johnson's three leads the AHL.
- With first tallies from defensemen Korobov and Mikkelson, the Crunch have now gotten goals from 12 different players in the postseason. The only skaters who've appeared in this postseason and not registered a point are Brian Lee and Phil Paradis.
- The Crunch scored three goals against W-B/Scranton in Game 3, becoming the first team to score more than two goals against goalie Brad Thiessen this postseason. Thiessen held previous opponents to two goals or fewer in each of his eight previous playoff appearances, a 1.27 goals-against average.
- Syracuse held W-B/Scranton to one shot in the first period of Game 2, the fewest shots the team has allowed in a period all season. The Penguins had not been held to fewer than two shots in a frame all year, and their 18 total shots equal their smallest shot total in a game all season.
- Syracuse defenseman Radko Gudas has picked up eight minor penalties for 16 penalty minutes over the last five games, the most minor penalties of any Crunch player over that span. Mike Agelidis leads the Crunch with 35 penalty minutes and three fighting majors, second in the AHL postseason in both categories.
- Sunday’s Game 2 against W-B/Scranton marked the latest date that the Crunch have played a hockey game in a season (May 26). The previous latest date was May 25, 1996 when the Crunch were eliminated from the Southern Conference Finals by the Rochester Americans.
- Former Syracuse Crunch forward Larry Courville (1995-99), who played for the Crunch during their last run to a Conference Final, celebrated a Kelly Cup Championship Saturday, coaching the ECHL's Reading Royals to their first title.