Crunch Comeback Falls Short Against Admirals

By Jeremy Houghtaling

It came down to a couple bad breaks, but the Syracuse Crunch weren't making any excuses.

The Norfolk Admirals opened the scoring on a shorthanded tally 5:26 into the game, when a shot went off the face of Crunch defenseman Matt Taormina and sprung Admirals forward Emerson Etem on a breakaway. It was one of a many bounces that didn't go in Syracuse's favor.

The Crunch battled throughout the latter part of the game -- cutting the Admirals lead to one early in the third period -- but ultimately fell, 6-3, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday. Still, the Syracuse players acknowledged it wasn't luck, it was how they played.

"You can say unlucky break all you want, but at the end of the day, they shouldn't have had those two shorties at the beginning of the game," said Crunch forward Evan Rankin.

Less than a minute after Etem notched his first of the night, Max Friberg scored on the same power play.

The Admirals padded their lead in the second. Rickard Rakell notched his eighth of the season 42 seconds in, and Chris Wagner gave Norfolk a four-goal lead less than five minutes into the frame to chase Syracuse starter Kristers Gudlevskis.

The Crunch got on the board with a power play goal by Mike Angelidis midway through the second, and Rankin jammed home a loose puck in the crease with a little more than two minutes left in the stanza.

"I thought we had them in the third," Angelidis said. "We were pressing, we were pushing the pace."

Drew Olson scored his second goal of the season to cut the Norfolk lead to one at the 2:17 mark of the third, but Etem's second of the night took the wind out of the building.

"We had a play off the wall and it just happened to hit a guy's skate and went right to their guy who was driving wide," Rankin said. "(Goalie Cedrick Desjardins) got a good piece of it, and it just happened to trickle up over him."

"It hurt a bit, but at the end of the day, we had time," Angelidis said. "We had five, six minutes to push back."

Max Sauve capped the win for Norfolk with a goal in the final two minutes.

Gudlevskis finished with eight saves, while Cedrick Desjardins had 16 in relief. Rankin, Brett Connolly, Dana Tyrell and Joey Mormina each had one assist for the Crunch.

Syracuse (13-13-1-3) plays the next five games on the road, starting with a tilt against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Tuesday. With the Crunch falling in the standings, it's becoming more and more important to string together wins.

"This organization is a winning organization," Angelidis said. "We're all about winning, so we're going to have to make our push now."

"I expect all of us to put our nose to the grindstone here this week and start winning some hockey games," Rankin said. "We're a playoff team, and we need to play like it."

Pictured: Crunch forward Evan Rankin makes a pass around the Admirals' Devante Smith-Pelly at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.