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Left winger Josh Brittain scores his first-ever goal in Crunch loss

— After the American Hockey League All-Star break, the Syracuse Crunch returned to the Onondaga County War Memorial last weekend primed to make a second-half run at the playoffs. The team has failed to qualify for post-season play since the 2007-08 season, four long years ago.

So the Syracuse skaters weren’t lacking motivation Friday Feb. 3, but they sure lacked fire in their bellies. The hometown hockey club played two tepid periods against the Toronto Marlies Friday and, after netting two goals in a desperate third, inevitably lost 5-2.

The Crunch got goals from J.F. Jacques and Patrick Maroon Friday but were scoreless on three power-play opportunities

On Saturday at least the Crunch picked up a single point by losing in overtime, 5-4, to the Rochester Americans. But Syracuse should have taken two points by winning. Instead, the Crunch blew a 4-2 lead going into the third by surrendering two Amerks goals in the final stanza to take the game into OT.

A porous Crunch defense allowed the Amerks to blast a whopping 41 shots at rookie goalie Marco Cousineau, five of which crossed the goal line.

Crunch goals were scored by Josh Brittain, Patrick Maroon, Luca Caputi and Peter Holland. Brittain’s marker was his first goal ever in the AHL.

But Rochester’s Paul Szcezechura recorded a hat-trick including the game-winning goal 3:53 into the extra session.

Crunch play Friday, Saturday

The Syracuse Crunch continues its long-shot playoff bid in the 2011-12 American Hockey League with two home games this weekend at downtown’s Onondaga County War Memorial, State and Harrison streets.

After facing off against the Hershey Bears here at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, the Crunch host Thruway rivals the Albany Devils at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11.

The Syracuse skaters are sinking fast in the AHL’s East Division, with a record of 19 wins, 18 losses, 4 overtime losses and 3 shootout losses.

The Crunch is affiliated with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, while Hershey is top farm club of the Washington Capitals, and the Albany squad is the AHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils. Ticket prices for home games range from $14 to $21; 473-4444.

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