The Syracuse Crunch won two games before Christmas but lost the day after the holiday to the Rochester Americans by a 5-2 score at the Flower City’s Blue Cross Arena.
It wasn’t for lack of trying.
The Crunch has struggled to put shots on goal throughout the first half of their 2010-11 American Hockey League season, but Sunday Syracuse skaters peppered Amerks goalie Jacob Markstrom with a season-high 45 shots. Just two of those bids made it into the net, however, as Markstrom made 43 saves. Forwards Patrick Maroon and Josh Green each tallied power-play goals for the Crunch in the losing effort.
Maroon’s goal was a visually freaky affair as his shot popped up in the air before plopping down over the goal line to make it a 2-1 game 4:26 into the second period.
Down 4-1, the Crunch took advantage of a carry-over power play seven seconds into the third period and got back to within two when speedy Dan Sexton backhanded a pass over to Green, who rifled a shot past Markstrom.
Compared to Markstrom, Crunch goaltender J.P. Levasseur had it relatively easy Sunday as the Amerks managed just 18 shots, 14 of which he turned away.
Rochester iced the game with 1:51 left in regulation with an empty-netter by Michal Repik, his fifth point in three games against the Crunch this year. The Crunch fell to 0-3-0-0 against their Thruway rivals this season.
Three Crunch players – John Mitchell, Liegh Salters and MacGregor Sharp – were penalized for fighting during Sunday’s frustrating loss. Well, it was Boxing Day.
Further down the Thruway on Sunday at Buffalo’s HSBC Arena, the Crunch’s 19-year-old scoring phenom Kyle Palmieri played his first game in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships as Team USA squeezed past Finland, 3-2 in overtime.
Team USA hopes to repeat last year’s gold medal performance in the championships for players under age 20. The tournament runs through Jan. 5 in Buffalo and Niagara.
Palmieri, a Long Island native who played one season with Notre Dame, has appeared in 20 games with the Crunch this year and is tied for second on the club in scoring with 13 points (9 goals, 4 assists). His nine goals lead the team and are tied for sixth among all AHL rookies. He has also skated in 10 games with Anaheim this year and scored his first NHL goal during his first NHL game Nov. 3 vs. Tampa Bay.
While Crunch coach Mark Holick knows that player transactions and injuries are part and parcel of the AHL experience, he also knows that Palmieri’s month-long absence leaves the team without one of its most potent offensive weapons.
After their final home game of the year against the Adirondack Phantoms on Dec. 28, the Crunch board the bus for seven games on the road before returning to the War Memorial at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15 and 16 against Rochester and Adirondack, respectively. Ticket prices range between $13 and $22; 473-4444; syracusecrunch.com.