Connolly Nets Hat Trick, But Crunch Fall to Senators 6-3

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Brett Connolly scored three times, but the Syracuse Crunch fell to the Binghamton Senators, 6-3, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

Connolly is the third Crunch player to record a hat trick this season. Although he didn't record any points in his previous three games, Connolly had an eight-game point streak from Dec. 20 to Jan. 8.

"It's obviously a lot better when you have a good game and you win," Connolly said. "We need wins right now, and they're hard to come by in this league."

Syracuse outshot Binghamton 38-29, and despite numerous surges with quality scoring chances, struggled to put the puck behind Senators netminder Andrew Hammond.

"It didn't go our way today," said Crunch forward Vladislav Namestnikov.

"We had a lot of chances, but at the same time, when you give up six goals … it's tough to win," Connolly said. "We've got to limit the goals against."

Connolly put the Crunch on the board less than six minutes into the game when he rushed down the right side during a power play and fired the puck into the top left corner.

Binghamton answered with three goals in a four-minute stretch late in the period, but Connolly cut the Senators lead to 3-2 with 2:32 left in the first frame.

Shane Prince netted the eventual game-winner late in the second, and Connolly finished off his hat trick four minutes into the third. Cory Cowick sealed the Senators win with an empty-netter with 2:20 remaining.

Namestnikov finished with a pair of assists, while Matt Taormina and Cedric Paquette each had one.

Kristers Gudlevskis made eight saves on 11 shots, and was pulled after the first. Cedrick Desjardins finished with 15 saves, but was tagged with the loss.

"I thought we had a great start today, but they always bounce back," Desjardins said of the Senators. "They never quit, they have a lot of good forwards and their goalie has been playing pretty well too."

The Crunch has lost seven of the eight games against the Senators this season. Two of the Binghamton wins came in overtime.

"It's something about when we play Bingo, we just don't bring it for the full 60, and we've got to figure that out," Connolly said. "They're a good team, and they're a measuring stick for us, we've got to learn from this and get better."

The loss snaps a six-game point streak for the Crunch. Syracuse (17-15-2-4) looks to get back on track when it plays three games in three nights next week, beginning at home against division rival Hershey Friday.

"The first two games are real important, and we've got to be ready to go," Connolly said. "We've got to keep climbing here, we've been playing well as of late. A little slip-up tonight, but we need to correct things and move forward."

Pictured: Crunch forward Brett Connolly looks to make a pass against the Senators at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.