Crunch End First Half with Shutout Win Over Americans

By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch put an exclamation point on the first half of the season.

The Crunch scored three times in the second period and Louis Domingue made 27 saves for the shutout, as Syracuse beat the Rochester Americans, 4-0, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

The Crunch, who have won eight straight games, started the season 4-9-1-3, but are now 23-12-1-2 at the exact midway point of the season.

“I think we turned our season around. No doubt about it. That was two months ago,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “Now I think we’re 18 wins in our last 21 or 19 in the last 22. Something like that.

“We played well. Credit to our players. I thought we had a strong game here tonight.”

Domingue, who is down in Syracuse while Tampa Bay has a week-long break, wasn’t tested much early but made 13 saves in the second period and eight more in the third.

“He was great,” Groulx said. “He played the same way as when he came in. Good for us.”

A pair of rookies paced the Crunch offense. Mitchell Stephens and Mathieu Joseph each finished with a goal and two assists.

For Joseph, the key for Syracuse is using its speed.

“That’s a fast team,” Joseph said. “We’re a fast team too, and we try to use that as much as we can. We try to play with some speed and play fast.”

Adam Erne and Alexander Volkov each scored once for the Crunch, while Carter Verhaeghe and Matthew Peca each chipped in one assist.

Syracuse opened the scoring 7:20 into the game. With the Crunch on the power play, Stephens won the draw back to Joseph near the top of the left wing circle and Joseph wired it past Rochester goalie Linus Ullmark.

Syracuse added to its lead with three goals in the second period. Erne added an insurance marker 2:11 into the frame, and then Stephens and Volkov finished off 2-on-1s 38 seconds apart.

“I think it was our best period,” Joseph said. “We put a lot of pressure on them and they turned pucks over and we were able to be opportunistic on the 2-on-1s and be able to bury them.”

With the Americans just ahead of them in second place in the North Division standings, the Crunch knew the importance of getting the win.

“I think for us, every game is important. It’s a do or die situation,” Stephens said. “Now coming into the second half, points are crucial, especially against division rivals in Rochester. For us, these were a big two points for us.”

The Crunch’s eight game winning streak is the second longest this season.

“I think we’re all on the same page now system-wise,” Erne said. “We know what to expect from each other. It’s not one guy or one line, it’s up and down the lineup.”

Syracuse, which normally has Mondays off, hosts Binghamton Monday afternoon.

“They’re going to be in the same boat as us (with) a 1 p.m. game,” Erne said. “It’s a little different, but they have to deal with it too. We’ll be ready.”

Pictured: Crunch forward Mathieu Joseph looks to make a pass against the Americans at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

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

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