Crunch come alive

Can a hockey team have a split personality?

The Syracuse Crunch played two games at the War Memorial last weekend. On Friday, they looked like a milquetoast Dr. Jekyll. On Saturday, they morphed into a mighty Mr. Hyde.

The lethargic Crunch managed only one goal for the third straight game Friday losing 2-1 to the cellar-dwelling Rochester Americans in front of 5,812 frustrated fans. Syracuse's sole goal didn't even come until 6:06 mark of the third when Stefan Chaput found Patrick Maroon crashing the net and fed the 225-pound winger who powered the disk past Amerks goalie Jacob Markstrom. That goal was all the Crunch could muster on Markstrom, who made 35 saves to out-duel Crunch netminder J.P. Levasseur for the win.

As though they'd sipped a magic elixir, the Crunch came on like gangbusters Saturday peppering Norfolk Admirals goalie Mike Smith with the game's first five shots on goal. Maybe Syracuse consciously cranked up its game against Smith, the Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender who was down on a conditioning assignment in net for Norfolk.

Not only did the Crunch shoot plenty, they also showed plenty of pluck, setting a physical tone early as Maroon and Norfolk's Mark Barberio both took roughing minors and Crunch winger Leigh Salters and Admiral tough guy Vladimir Mihalik both served five minutes for fighting, all at 6:01 in the first.

The physical play continued with less than five minutes left in the first when Crunch forward John Kurtz and Admirals winger Mike Angelidis both earned five-minute majors for fighting and 10-minute misconducts after a scrum in front of the Norfolk net.

Crunch goalie Levasseur sparkled Saturday, stopping 41 of 43 shots en route to a 3-2 win over the second-place Admirals in front of 5,542 suddenly satisfied fans. Norfolk came out flying in the third period, but Levasseur showed he was up to the task, stifling all 19 shots the Admirals threw his way.

Saturday's victory was particularly pleasing because the Crunch offense - which had scored just eight goals over its previous seven games - finally came alive.

The Crunch host the Houston Aeros at the War Memorial at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, before facing off here against the Toronto Marlies and the Adirondack Phantoms at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 28-29. Ticket prices range between $13 and $22; 473-4444; syracusecrunch.com.

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