Oct 12, 2010 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Slow start for Syracuse’s Anaheim-era AHL team
By Russ Tarby
In its first two games as the top farm club of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, the Syracuse Crunch lost twice by the narrowest of margins to the Lake Erie Monsters.
For the past decade the Crunch were affiliated with the Columbus Bluejackets whose AHL players now skate for the Springfield Falcons in Massachusetts. The Monsters are Colorado Avalanche farmhands.
After losing 3-2 on Friday, Oct. 8, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, the new Crunch players were welcomed to the Onondaga County War Memorial by a raucous Saturday-night sell-out crowd of 6,342.
The team seemed to feed off the fans’ excitement, throwing bruising body checks and skating hard, but defensive lapses allowed the Monsters 40 shots on goal while the offense mustered just 18 shots at the other end of the ice.
Thanks to goalie J.P. Levasseur’s 39-save performance, however, Lake Erie was held to a single goal, as the Crunch earned a point in a 2-1 shootout loss.
That’s right, the home team lost each of its first two games by one goal each.
On Saturday here, Monsters’ center Julian Talbot hit the net late in the second period before Crunch center Maxime Macenauer tied the game early in the third. On a man-advantage power play, Macenaur re-directed a Stu Bickel pass from the left point past Lake Erie goaltender John Grahame to knot the score at 1-1.
Still deadlocked after regulation and overtime, the teams each sent four stick-handlers out to decide the game with a shootout. All four Crunch shooters – Kyle Palmieri, Rob Bordson, Nicolas Deschamps and Trevor Smith – were denied, while Monsters Ben Walter and Kevin Shattenkirk beat Levasseur to nail it.
Friday’s game in Cleveland had set the pattern for Saturday. Despite a stellar outing by Crunch goaltender Timo Pielmeier who stopped 35 of 38 shots Friday, Syracuse squandered an early 2-0 lead to finally fall to the Monsters 3-2.
Left wing Trevor Smith had backhanded Macenaur’s pinpoint centering pass for the first Crunch goal of the season and first of the Anaheim era, then Brandon McMillan knocked in a rebound care of teammate MacGregor Sharp. Newly-named Crunch captain Joe DiPenta, a 31-year-old defenseman, also notched an assist on that play.
In the season’s first two games, the Crunch have been outshot 79-33. That ratio can’t continue. At practices this week Coach Mike Holick and assistant coach Mike Stapleton will surely drill the defense to stress positioning behind the blue line and protecting the goalie.
The good news is that both Crunch netminders – veteran Levasseur and rookie Pielmeier – have proven they can hold off a bitter barrage of pucks. So once the Crunch offense begins to use its size to take command in front of opponent’s goals, and once the blueliners start stripping pucks away from pesky interlopers, the 2010-11 Crunch will win some games.
This season’s Crunch is both boyish and big. Twelve players are age 22 or younger, and nine players stand 6-foot-3 or taller. If the team properly harnesses its youthful enthusiasm and sheer physicality, playoff games could well return to the War Memorial next spring.
Crunch face Phantoms Friday
The Crunch face off against the Adirondack Phantoms at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15, at downtown’s War Memorial. The Phantoms are affiliated with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Two more honme games are slated this month: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23 versus the Hartford Wolf Pack, and 7 p.m. Oct. 27 against the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Ticket prices range between $13 and $22; 473-4444; syracusecrunch.com.