Oct 29, 2009 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Flashes of brilliance
It was a frustrating weekend for the Syracuse Crunch, which beat the Binghamton Senators 4-3 Friday, Oct. 23, at the War Memorial, then pushed the Rochester Amerks into overtime here Saturday, Oct. 24, only to lose 3-2.
On Sunday, the 25th, the hometown American Hockey Leaguers rolled west on the Thruway to face off against the Amerks at Blue Cross Arena. Perhaps fatigued by the hard-hitting home games Friday and Saturday, the Crunch couldn’t even muster a single goal Sunday, losing 3-0.
So far this season, the Crunch has won three and lost five games.
Player transactions are already affecting the team. Last week scoring prospect Stephan Legein was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers organization for defenseman Mike Ratchuk, a 21-year-old firecracker from Buffalo.
Earlier, the Crunch signed center Dan Fritsche, an Ohio native who impressed fans with his rugged play in two previous seasons here, and acquired left wing Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman from the Atlanta Thrashers. The same day Smotherman was sent here, the Crunch signed former Colgate defenseman Nick St. Pierre. On Saturday defenseman Nick Holden returned to the ice after being sidelined with mononucleosis.
So this is a team that hasn’t had time to gel. Heck, some of the guys are still learning the name of the new dude at the next locker. Unfamiliarity may explain the team’s early inconsistency, but still there are flashes of brilliance.
For instance the Crunch’s penalty kill looks practically impregnable.
Friday, the team quashed all eight of the Senators’ man-up advantages and captain Derek MacKenzie managed to score a short-handed goal. On Saturday, the Crunch earned a well-deserved roar of approval from the War Memorial faithful after stifling a Rochester 5-on-3 advantage.
When it’s 5-on-5, however, the defense remains porous.
They allowed 45 shots on goal Friday (although winger Alexandre Picard bravely blocked one with his face!), and 33 on Saturday. All the flying rubber kept goalie Dan LaCosta busier than he should be. Backup netminder Kevin LaLande took over and took the loss Sunday, turning away 37 of 39 shots.
The Crunch also must improve in their offensive zone, especially when they’ve got the man-advantage. They went 0 for 7 on power plays Saturday night, and 0 for 5 Sunday.
One thing Syracuse doesn’t lack is toughness. Friday against Binghamton Kevin Harvey went at with Tim Spencer, Tom Sestito took on Zack Smith and Brock McBride traded punches with Geoff Kinrade.
On Saturday, Sestito mixed it up with Kenndal McArdle, and Crunch enforcer Jon Mirasty duked it out twice with Amerks’ big boy Jimmy Bonneau whose face dripped blood the second time around. Sunday in the first period Mirasty and Bonneau dropped gloves for the third time in 24 hours.
Then, with 10 seconds left in the game, the two went at it again for the fourth time in two nights. This bellicose pair will likely grab shirts and trade jabs in every one of the next seven games these two teams play this season.
The Crunch travel to Norfolk and Glens Falls before returning to the War Memorial, at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7, to face the Norfolk Admirals. Ticket prices range between $13 and $22; 473-4444; syracusecrunch.com.