SYRACUSE The Syracuse Crunch has yet to be challenged in the American Hockey League playoffs. After trailing 1-0 to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals, the Crunch responded like a champion winning three straight, including a grinding two-game sweep in Games 3 and 4 on the road in Pennsylvania to take a 3-1 series lead.
Among other things, the Crunch overcame multiple injuries in its quest to eliminate the Penguins. The combination of Tyler Johnson's calf muscle, Richard Panic's leg, Andrei Palat's upper back and Radko Gudas’ stitched face were big issues that could have sent Syracuse into a downward spiral.
Instead, it has played amazingly well, going a franchise best 10-1 during the playoffs.
Last Friday evening, in front of a high-decibel crowd of 5,134 in Wilkes-Barre, Syracuse overcame 1-0 and 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 Penguins efeat.
The Crunch, loaded with talented players, admitted that they do not have to play desperate hockey in order to achieve victory. In the last series against Portland in Game 4, they calmly rallied on three different occasions to eliminate the Pirates 4-3.
However, in game 4 of the semifinal series it was Johnson's third-period delivery that turned out to be the game-winner. Cedric Desjardins posted 26 saves, and the defense was stellar.
One night later, amid a festive atmosphere back at the War Memorial Syracuse executed a masterpiece in all facets pummeling WB/S 7-0 to advance to the finals.
The Crunch attacked with relentless pressure, and the defense blocked many shots. If Syracuse had on a pair of boxing gloves the contest would have been over in the first round.
The Crunch received most of its scoring contributions from unfamiliar sources. Fourth-liner Philippe Paradis potted a hat trick for his first three goals of the post-season. The tandem of Paradis and Vladdy Namestinkov combined to score five of their team's seven goals.