After being shut out 2-0 by the lowly Adirondack Phantoms, the Syracuse Crunch heard a cacophony of boos and hisses from a crowd of 5,200 displeased hockey fans Dec. 28, at the Onondaga County War Memorial.
Crunch Coach Mark Holick took exception to the booing, but ever since it happened his players have sharpened their skates and added slap to their shots.
The resurgence didn’t occur overnight because the Crunch was shut out again, losing 5-0 on Dec. 29 to AHL East Division leaders Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Pennsylvania. But starting on New Year’s Eve, Syracuse won three straight on the road.
They dispatched the Hershey Bears 4-2 on Dec. 31, soundly trounced the Rochester Americans 4-1 on New Year’s Day, and sent the Albany Devils across the River Styx by a score of 5-3 on Sunday, Jan. 2. Sunday’s game was particularly satisfying for center Trevor Smith who scored four goals.
Smith, 25, became the fifth player in Crunch history to net four goals in a game, joining Steve Kariya, Mark Hartigan, Andy Delmore and Alexandre Picard. Smith tied a season-high with two power play goals, one goal at even strength and also scored a last-minute shorthanded goal – into an empty net. He now has 12 goals on the season.
On Sunday, the only Crunch score that didn’t involve Smith came after Dan Sexton and MacGregor Sharp went 2-on-1 into Rochester’s zone during a power play. Sexton fed a pinpoint pass to Sharp who re-directed the disk past Amerks goalie Mike McKenna to knot the score at 1-1.
Smith’s last AHL hat-trick was on Dec. 13, 2008 when he helped the Bridgeport Sound Tigers beat the Norfolk Admirals 6-4. That was a breakout year for Smith who scored 30 goals and notched 32 assists in 76 games for Bridgeport.
Besides Smith, several other Crunch players contributed to the three-game win streak including defenseman Nathan Paetsch who had his best game of the season Jan. 1, slapping in two goals plus passing for an assist in Rochester. Maxime Macenaur and MacGregor Sharp also netted goals on New Year’s Day, and John Mitchell, Dan Sexton Josh Green and Smith each nailed one on New Year’s Eve.
On Dec. 30, the Crunch assigned their longtime enforcer, left wing Jon Mirasty, to the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL. Mirasty, a 28-year-old fan-favorite, appeared in 16 games for the Crunch this season and leads the team with 74 penalty minutes. He has skated in 182 games over four seasons with the Crunch, tallying seven points (1g, 6a), and 751 penalty minutes.
The Crunch enjoyed a four-day span at home before jumping on the bus again for games Friday Jan. 7 against the Binghamton Senators and Saturday Jan. 8 against Albany. Syracuse concludes its seven-game road trip Jan. 14 against the Hamilton Bulldogs in Ontario.
The Crunch return 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.