Crunch Come Back to Stun Comets in OT

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Down by three midway through the third period, Syracuse Crunch head coach Rob Zettler believed his team deserved better.

Syracuse was outshooting Utica and had more quality scoring opportunities, but the Comets still had the advantage on the scoreboard.

"I just thought we had control of the game, but they were winning," Zettler said.

The Crunch's fortunes turned around quickly.

Syracuse tied the score with three goals in the final 1:39 of regulation -- each time with the goalie pulled -- and Brett Connolly scored 2:36 into overtime, as the Crunch stunned the Comets, 6-5, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

"For the fans that stuck with us through the year, they got what they deserved and we're happy we could put on a good show for them," Connolly said.

Utica battled back from a pair of one-goal deficits in the first two periods.

Philippe Paradis opened the scoring 7:16 into the game, but Cal O'Reilly tied the score a little more than five minutes later. Yanni Gourde again put Syracuse ahead with a power play goal, but Alex Freisen netted a pair of goals in the second to put Utica ahead.

The Comets padded their lead with goals by Patrick Kennedy and Jeremy Welsh midway through the third, only to watch it disappear.

During a four-on-four, the Syracuse pulled its goalie and Vlad Namestnikov cut the Crunch deficit to two with 1:39 remaining.

"At that point, you're like 'What the (heck), we're going for it,'" Zettler said of pulling the goalie with nearly two minutes left in regulation.

After the Comets went back on the power play due to a Joey Mormina fighting major, the Crunch again pulled the goalie. Jonathan Marchessault scored his first with 1:08 remaining, then tied it with a shot from the point with 53 seconds left in regulation.

"It pops right to me and I see the lane," Marchessault said of the game-tying goal. "I just shot it and that puck had eyes. The goalie didn't even see it. A lot of traffic and a little bit of luck."

Even Dmitry Korobov's delay of game penalty in the final 35 seconds of regulation couldn't stifle the Crunch's comeback.

"Our PK kept that momentum," Connolly said. "In hockey, if you have that momentum, it's tough to stop."

Once Korobov's penalty expired in OT, Zettler decided to make a risky move: putting three forwards out instead of the normal two.

"We were in a no-lose situation," Zettler said. "We came back and tied it. I just thought we'd put the heat on and go with three forwards."

Connolly came out and manned the point, then swooped in to score the game-winner.

"I took a chance actually," Connolly said. "I went in on offense and it went right to me. I just tried to shoot it as quick as I could and it went through his legs."

Seven Syracuse players finished with multiple points. Namestnikov registered a goal and two assists, Marchessault had two goals, Cedric Paquette and Korobov each recorded a pair of assists, and Connolly, Gourde and Paradis each finished with a goal and an assist.

Gudlevskis registered 20 saves for the win.

"There are probably one or two he'd like back, but it was nice for our guys to score a bunch of goals for him tonight, instead of him having to make a bunch of saves," Zettler said.

The Crunch have won five out of the last seven, and have points in six out of the last seven games. Syracuse (29-30-4-7) looks to keep rolling against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Friday.

"We've competed for the past eight games," Connolly said. "We took a little night off in Rochester, but we've been playing good and competing every night. When you do the right things it pays off."

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