Crunch Fall Behind Early, Lose to Americans 4-1

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Syracuse Crunch coach Rob Zettler will look at the tape, but he already knows what it will show.

The Crunch allowed three first period goals and struggled to get sustained pressure, as they fell to the Americans, 4-1, at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester Friday.

"All of our chances came from getting it deep and then going from there," Zettler said. "We have some good size and we have some guys that can grind it out down low, but we weren't committed to doing that."

Rochester's Johan Larsson opened the scoring at the 11:29 mark of the first period, and Jamie Tardif added a power play goal a little more than three minutes later. Tim Schaller gave the Americans a three-goal lead with 2:09 remaining in the opening frame.

Joel Armia further padded the Rochester lead with less than six minutes left in the second.

"I don't think we were committed enough to getting the puck deep," Zettler said. "I thought we had a lot of turnovers throughout the game in the neutral zone. That hurt us."

Mike Angelidis scored the lone Syracuse goal midway through the third. The Crunch captain tipped a Vlad Namestnikov feed from the side of the net for his 10th goal of the season. Nikita Nesterov was also credited with an assist.

Syracuse's Kristers Gudlevskis, making his first start since returning from the Olympics, registered 22 saves in the loss. Nathan Lieuwen made 28 saves at the other end.

"I didn't like a couple of the goals," Zettler said. "I'm sure Kristers would like to have a couple of those back."

With Matt Taormina traded earlier in the week and Andrej Sustr, Jean-Philippe Cote and Joey Mormina injured, the Crunch defense lacked many of its experienced veterans.

"If you don't have your normal D in there and you're shorthanded, you need to get it deep and work it, work it and work it," Zettler said. "You don't put pressure on the D by having turnovers in the neutral zone."

"It wasn't their fault," Angelidis said of the remaining six healthy defensemen. "Our forwards have to be back for them. They did their job, they played simple hockey. We didn't help by turning the puck over for them. We got to get pucks in deep. That's what creates offense."

Jonathan Marchessault and Dalton Smith, both acquired in a trade Wednesday, made their Crunch debuts. Marchessault was paired with Namestnikov and Jon DiSalvatore, while Smith logged about 10 minutes on a line with Max Parent and Evan Rankin.

"I didn't think he had the puck enough tonight," Zettler said of Marchessault. "I want to see him with the puck more. I may move him over to left wing and see how that works."

Dan Milan, called up from Brampton last week, also made his American Hockey League debut.

"He had a couple tough shifts there and ended up a minus-three," Zettler said. "Those guys just have to get used to moving the puck quickly, getting the puck up and out of our zone."

Syracuse (22-25-4-5) hosts Rochester in a rematch Saturday. With time running out to make a late-season rally for a playoff berth, the Crunch know every point is important.

"Guys have got to realize we still have a chance here and we've got to play like that every night," Angelidis said. "We can't take a night off, not in this league."

Pictured: Crunch forward Jonathan Marchessault looks to make a pass against the Americans at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester Friday. He was one of three players to make their Crunch debut in a 4-1 loss.