Crunch Defeat League-Leading Penguins

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Even with multiple players making their Crunch season debut, Syracuse found a way to pull out the win.

The Crunch, whose lineup included four players on professional tryout agreements and a defenseman on one of the top forward lines, had four different players score in a 4-1 victory over the AHL-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pengiuns at the Onondaga County War Memorial Monday.

“Whoever is in the lineup, we just have to play very hard,” Syracuse alternate captain Yanni Gourde said. “We know these guys are coming to play. They’re on a PTO and trying out for our team, so we know they’re coming to play and they did a good job today.”

Daniel Walcott, who is listed as a defenseman but played forward, recorded one goal and one assist. David Pacan, one of the PTO players, added a pair of helpers. Matthew Peca, Slater Koekkoek and Gourde each scored once, while Matt Taormina, Mathieu Brodeur and Tanner Richard each had one assist.

Brodeur is on a PTO, along with Olivier Labelle and Brandon Alderson, who were signed Monday.

“We played very good,” Gourde said. “We played a smart game. We stuck to the gameplan all game long. We did a couple different things tonight and it worked.”

Syracuse goalie Adam Wilcox made 31 saves in the win.

“Solid. Square to the puck. Made difficult saves easy with his positioning, quickness and compete level,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said of Wilcox. “Great performance from him.”

Gourde opened the scoring 10:57 into the contest. Walcott jammed in his own rebound on the tail end of a four-minute power play four minutes later.

Koekkoek added to the Crunch lead 6:42 into the second. The defenseman quickly shot a fluttering puck off a draw for his first goal of the season.

“You get thinking in your head if you’re ever going to score this year,” Koekkoek said. “It felt good and it was big for our team, and the win was even bigger.”

Carter Rowney cut the Crunch lead to two with 5:33 left in the second, but Peca sealed the win with an empty-netter with 2:55 remaining.

After falling to the Penguins on Saturday, the Crunch were happy to get back in the win column.

“It’s tough to win two games on the road on a back-to-back like that,” Groulx said. “We knew it would be a hard fought battle today, as well as Saturday. I’m very happy with the way we showed up tonight.”

Syracuse (20-10-2-5) travels to Albany Wednesday. The Crunch are in first place in the North Division, with the Devils just one point behind.

“It’s a busy stretch, but we just have to look ahead to the next game,” Gourde said. “Albany is going to be a big challenge again — a division rival — so we’ve got to be ready for that game.”

Pictured: Crunch forward Daniel Walcott looks to make a pass against the Penguins at the Onondaga County War Memorial Monday.

For more pictures from the game, visit the BoltProspects Facebook page.

To listen to postgame interviews, go to this SoundCloud page.