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Crunch Focus On Setting Tempo in Finals

By Jeremy Houghtaling

For the Syracuse Crunch, it’s all about setting the tempo.

With the Grand Rapids Griffins visiting the Onondaga County War Memorial for Games 1 and 2 of the Calder Cup Finals Saturday and Sunday, the Crunch are focused on their own play more than the Griffins’ talented forwards.

"What we really have to focus on isn't what they're going to bring at us," said Syracuse defensemen Jean-Philippe Cote. "We've got to set the tone, and play as high-tempo as we can."

"We don't want them to dictate the pace of play…We don't want them to play their game; we want them to play our game," said Crunch forward JT Wyman.

That game plan has worked for Syracuse.

After sweeping the Portland Pirates in the first round and the Springfield Falcons in the second, the Crunch topped the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in five games. Ondrej Palat is tied for the league lead in postseason points (20), and Tyler Johnson, the league’s most valuable player, is just three points behind.

Add Richard Panik, who is expected to return from an undisclosed injury, and one of the league’s most dangerous lines is back intact.

The Griffins’ answer -- the top line of Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson, and Gustav Nyquist -- will be the Crunch’s toughest challenge to date.

"They've got a lot of high-end skill on their top lines, and we have to be aware of that and be ready to defend it," said Syracuse head coach Rob Zettler. "They've got some speed, and they've got some guys who can make plays."

But Grand Rapids’ attack doesn’t just come from their forwards. Like the Crunch, the Griffins have defensemen that look to jump into the play.

"They like to have their fourth man or their defenseman join the rush and be a part of it as a second wave attacker," Zettler said. "We've got to make sure that we've got everybody coming back and being aware of that."

Crunch forward Philippe Paradis started the season in Rockford, and saw Grand Rapids in person before being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. He echoed the sentiments of his teammates.

"We've just got to play our game," Paradis said. "We're not going to change anything because we're playing the Griffins; they're going to have to adjust to us."