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Crunch Come Out Flying, Down Bears 6-1

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Seeing that there were only four men on the ice after the first Syracuse Crunch line change, Philip-Michael Devos quickly jumped on the ice to join the play.

The center accepted a pass from Richard Panik and fed it to an open Tyler Johnson, who fired the puck past Hershey Bears goalie Braden Holtby to give the Crunch a one-goal lead less than a minute into the game.

"I looked and there were only four guys on the ice, so I'm going to go," Devos said. "I jumped on, and four seconds later, the puck was in the net."

With the tone set early, Syracuse continued to roll, outshooting Hershey 40-21 - including 18-2 in the first period - in a 6-1 victory at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

"It's always good to bring the crowd in it and start early," Devos said.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie scored his first two goals of the season, once on a rebound off an attempted Cory Conacher wraparound in the first period and again on a loose puck in the Bears' crease in the second.

"Thats my kind of goal," Labrie said. "I'm going to go to the blue paint. (Conacher) made a good try to the front of the net and I'm going to follow him."

In the face-off after Labrie's first tally, the winger dropped the gloves with the Bears' Garrett Mitchell - the first of two Labrie tilts on the night.

"He just came and slashed me, so I gave him another shot," Labrie said.

With an opponent much smaller than his 6-3 frame, Labrie wasn't sure if Mitchell was serious about fighting.

Labrie proceeded to land several uppercuts, drawing blood.

"He was a man of honor, and he will go for his team," he said. "They were losing by two, and I respect that. He was way smaller than me and I wasn't sure if he really wanted to go."

After Panik and Hershey's Alex Berry got tied up in the Bears' bench, Labrie found another willing dance partner.

"I was just telling him that he can't do that," Labrie said. "At first he didn't want to really, and was telling me to watch the video, but I can't let that happen."

The big win, along with some of the extracurriculars, had the Crunch lockerroom buzzing after the game.

"I don't even feel exhausted right now," Labrie said. "Sure, I had a 10 minute break."

The game was a complete turnaround for the Crunch, who had lost three straight at home coming into the contest.

"This week, all we did was practice on a system," Labrie said. "That's what happens. That's the real team you saw tonight."

Danick Gauthier posted his first professional goal after JT Wyman stole a Hershey pass, Brett Connolly scored on a rebound after JT Brown drove the net on a rebound, and Mark Barberio's wrister from the point rounded out the Crunch scoring. Thirteen Syracuse players finished with at least one point.

The Crunch got to Bears goalie Braden Holtby early and often, chasing him from the game with four minutes left in the second period. Holtby stopped 24 of 28 shots, and Dany Sabourin turned away 10 of 12 shots in relief. Syracuse netminder Dustin Tokarski was nearly perfect with 20 saves, only letting a Mike Carman shot by him in the second.

"We have confidence, that's for sure," Devos said. "But tomorrow is a new game against a new team. We have to be ready."

First place in the East Division, Syracuse (8-2-1-1) looks to keep the momentum going when they host the Adirondack Phantoms Saturday. The Crunch will then visit the Bears Sunday.

"If we do the same thing as tonight," Labrie said. "We're fresh…If we keep doing that, three-in-three will be no problem for us."