Crunch unlace skates

Syracuse Crunch fans can't wait to forget this season.

The forgetting can begin April 10 after the Crunch ends its futile 2010-11 campaign in Pennsylvania against the Hershey Bears.

Although the season began with high hopes inspired by a new affiliation with the Anaheim Ducks, the team quickly proved itself an unreliable mix of underachievers. Rookie coach Mark Holick juggled lines incessantly and tried in vain to plug holes caused by constant call-ups.

The team allowed far too many shots by its opponents and took too few of their own.

Forwards failed to fore-check. Defensemen failed to move the puck out of their zone. Goalies suffered mental meltdowns.

Thankfully, things have gotten better recently.

Since being mathematically eliminated from AHL playoff contention on March 23, the Crunch managed to cobble together a couple convincing winning streaks.

Relying heavily on scoring spurts by veterans Brian McGrattan and Patrick Maroon and rookies Kyle Palmieri and Maxime Macenauer, the Crunch ended last month with a season-high five-game win streak. The skein was snapped April 2 when the Adirondack Phantoms beat Syracuse 3-0 in Glens Falls.

But first the Crunch uplifted the biggest War Memorial crowd of this sad season by winning its fifth game in a row on April Fool's Day against Route 81 rivals the Binghamton Senators.

Syracuse dominated from the start and seemed charmed when - on a second-period the power play - Palmieri was hauled down on a breakaway, resulting in a penalty shot. The slick stick-handler from Long island moved in on Sens goalie Robin Lehner and slipped a backhand through the legs of the Swedish netminder on the way to a persuasive 6-4 victory. Other goals were netted by Crunch forwards Patty Maroon and Josh Green and blueliners Mat Clark and Mark Mitera

Since the five-game win streak ended Friday, Syracuse has lost two in a row, getting shut out by Adirondack Saturday and bowing 5-3 to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins Sunday afternoon at the War Memorial despite two goals by Nick Bonino and one by Nicolas Deschamps.

Syracuse hosts the Norfolk Admirals at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9, at the War Memorial, for the final two home games of the season. Ticket prices range between $13 and $20; 473-4444; syracusecrunch.com.

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