Crunch Rally For Win Over IceCaps, 3-2

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Feeling fresh with an exhausted backchecker ahead of him, Artem Sergeev decided to join the rush.

The Syracuse Crunch defenseman watched as teammate Vlad Namestnikov broke into the zone shorthanded, drew multiple St. John's IceCaps defenders to the left and slid the puck backdoor.

Sergeev easily tapped the eventual game-winner home with 2:32 remaining, as the Crunch rallied from a two-goal deficit to top the IceCaps, 3-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.

"Vladdy has great vision," Sergeev said. "The goalie was looking at him, and he passed it to me. It was an empty net goal, pretty much."

"That's an unreal play by Vladdy … Draw everybody to him and slip it over on the backdoor," said Syracuse coach Rob Zettler. "It was a really great play."

The IceCaps jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first period. John Albert jammed a puck past Crunch goalie Kristers Gudlevskis 4:14 into the game, and Ben Chiarot's scored 12 minutes later.

"It was one of those times when you're down 2-0, but I feel like we were the better team after one," Zettler said. "I thought we did a lot of really good things."

Brett Connolly put the Crunch on the board 32 seconds into the second, and Mike Angelidis tied the game with a goal off a rebound 2:43 into the third.

Syracuse defenseman Dmity Korobov took a double-minor for high sticking with less than six minutes to play, but Zettler wanted his penalty killers to keep playing how they have been.

"I thought our penalty kill was doing a decent job all night, so I didn't say anything differently," Zettler said.

With less than three minutes remaining, Namestnikov chipped the puck out of the zone, chased it down and passed it to Sergeev for the game-winner.

"They probably thought I was coming in all alone, but I saw a trailer coming, took my time and fed Sergeev," Namestnikov said.

Namestnikov finished with two assists, while Angelidis, Cedric Paquette and Dalton Smith each had one.

Gudlevskis recorded 26 saves, including a key stop on a breakaway in the third period, while IceCaps goalie Tyler Beskorowany had 31.

"I didn't like the first goal, but after that, he was great," Zettler said of Gudlevskis. "Huge stop on the breakaway in the third period. That got our bench going a little bit too."

Syracuse forward Geoff Walker returned from injury and played in his first game since Feb. 15. He didn't skate before the game and was inserted into the lineup after Philippe Paradis was hurt in warmups.

"Sometimes it's not a bad thing," Zettler said of Walker getting late notice of being in the lineup. "You don't even have time to think. You just go get dressed and play."

Syracuse (26-29-4-6) looks to keep rolling when it hosts the Adirondack Phantoms Friday.

"We're starting from the first minute and playing all 60 minutes," Namestnikov said. "We're good when we do that."

Pictured: Crunch defenseman Artem Sergeev makes a pass against the IceCaps at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.