In front of an animated and anxious crowd of more than 6,000 rabid hockey fans, the Syracuse Crunch prevailed over Thruway Rivals the Rochester Amerks by a score of 2-1 on Saturday night at the War Memorial.
It had been an exciting and well-played game, and Patrick Maroon’s last-minute goal off a seeing-eye pass from Josh Green justifiably lifted the spirits of Crunch fans and players alike.
When broadening their view to examine all of last weekend’s three games, however, things don’t look quite so rosy for the hometown hockey squad.
The Hamilton Bulldogs blanked the Crunch 1-0 in Ontario on Friday, and the Adirondack Phantoms rallied to bury Syracuse 5-2 Sunday afternoon at the War Memorial.
In three games, the Crunch had managed just four goals. That’s an average of only 1.3 scores per game, a figure far below what’s needed for a possible playoff run late in this American Hockey League season.
Crunch coach Mark Holick knows it all too well.
“Against Rochester Saturday, that was a great game,” Holick said. “But the way we counted it, we had 18 real scoring chances [out of 38 shots on goal]. We’ve got to capitalize on more of those. Our effort on the ice has been good, but we’ve got to score more goals.”
Holick’s right. The Crunch need more punch.
As of Jan. 17, with the season exactly half over, the Crunch have scored 99 goals while allowing 134. Just two other AHL teams have scored less, the Providence Bruins and the Abbotsford Heat.
Hope, however, springs eternal.
Since rookie phenom Kyle Palmieri has retuned to Syracuse from the bronze medal-winning U.S. National Juniors Team, Holick has put him on a line with center Nick Bonino and left wing Nicolas Deschamps, two of the team’s most talented puck-handlers. If that trio stays healthy and stay together, they’re capable of carrying the club the rest of the way.
On Saturday Palmieri and Deschamps assisted on the game’s first goal by defenseman Mark Mitera, and Bonino passed to Green who passed to Maroon for the game-winner.
On Sunday, Bonino scored the game’s first goal well-assisted by each of his linemates, and Palmieri popped one in during the final period.
A couple other lines will have to do the same if the Crunch expect to win the uphill battle for a playoff berth.
“Right now, we’re chasing,” Holick said Sunday about the possibility of post-season play. “We’re on the outside looking in. We’ve got to make every game count.”
The Crunch play weeknight games in Norfolk and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before returning to the War Memorial at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 21-22, to face off against the Rochester Amerks and the Norfolk Admirals, respectively.
Ticket prices range between $13 and $22; 473-4444; syracusecrunch.com.