SYRACUSE Friday evening at the Onondaga County War Memorial, it was right wing Jason King who played the role spoiler in the Syracuse Crunch's long-awaited return to the American Hockey League's Calder Cup playoffs.
King converted two clutch goals midway through the third period, including the game-winner, goal as the St. John's IceCaps defeated the Crunch 3-2 in game one of a best-of-five series in front of 4,956 mostly heartbroken fans.
Crunch goalie Iro Tarki registered a solid performance, before surrendering two goals to King in a 4:25 span that capped off a terrific comeback for the visiting squad. Tarki finished with 35 saves, while his counterpart, Edward Pasquale, stopped 37 out 40 shots on goal.
So two questions needed to be addressed before Saturday night's second game.How would Syracuse respond in a short series with their backs against the wall? Or would St. John’s take control and go up 2-0?
That second game featured a battle of survival, as the outcome was once again determined late in the third period.
Later, a few of the Syracuse players stoically admitted that they were outplayed in the last period, but the Crunch still willed its way to a hard-fought 4-3 victory.
Syracuse's winning goal occurred with 12:25 left in the third period. Kyle Palmieri was trapped in the offensive zone, but managed to skate around the IceCaps' defenders.
Palmieri then delivered a pass that bounced off the skate of teammate Brandon McMillan, and the puck flew into the net.
Mitchell’s lucky shot allowed him to notch in his first playoff goal, which could not have come in a more timely fashion.
“It happened so quickly,” said McMillan. “I was calling for it (the puck). It was a lucky goal, but we will take it at this time in the game.”
Tarki was not especially sharp in either contest, but in the closing minutes of game two he atoned, registering a few terrific saves that allowed Syracuse to achieve their first playoff victory since 2008.