The American Hockey League playoffs did not start out well for the Syracuse Crunch - but when it mattered, the Crunch turned it around and built a two-games-to-none lead in its opening-round series against the Portland Pirates.
Saturday evening at the Onondaga County War Memorial, Portland had control before the home team flourished, overcoming deficits of 2-0, 3-1, and 3-2 before it was over.
It was the Crunch's Dan Sexton who tied it at 3-3 at the 12:35 mark, and forward Richard Panick converted the game-winner in overtime after a 5 minute Boris Valabik boarding penalty, and the animated crowd of 5,123 celebrated the 4-3 outcome of a hard fought battle.
Even though Syracuse had won, it still paid a price. Panick received six stitches over his right eye during the second intermission. J.P. Brown and J.T. Wyman hobbled off the ice midway into the second period, but both players returned to action.
One day later at the War Memorial, there were 10 fights, 60 penalty minutes and players who were ejected and banged up in the process. Putting all of that hostility to the side, the Crunch won an 3 ½ hour intense battle, 4-2 over the Pirates, courtesy of a goal and an assist from Andrei Palat and J.T Brown.
While many players in this heated contest lost their composure, Crunch goaltender Cedrick Desjardin was sharp, stopping 18 out of 20 shots en-route to Syracuse's second straight playoff win. Portland counterpart Chad Johnson was not as fortunate, allowing four goals on 30 total shots.
In these two games, Palat contributed a goal and four assists, while linemate Tyler Johnson produced two scores and three assists.
Throughout Game 2, Syracuse was lured into a few penalties, but it was mostly able to overcome them, thwarting 12 out of 13 Portland power-play attempts, also finishing with 17 blocks, and six intercepted passes.