Crunch Regain League-Lead with 3-1 Win Over Devils

By Jeremy Houghtaling

One night after being shutout, the Syracuse Crunch were glad to be right back on the ice.

The Crunch jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first period, added another in the second, and held on for a 3-1 win over the Albany Devils at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday night.

With the win, Syracuse paces the league with 86 points, two ahead of Binghamton for the Eastern Conference lead and one ahead of Texas in the Western Conference.

"We weren't going to let what happened last night happen tonight," said Syracuse forward Dan Sexton. "That's what makes good teams good -- they respond and they don't lose two in a row."

Sexton registered a goal and an assist and JT Wyman added a pair of helpers, as six Crunch players found the scoresheet.

Vladislav Namestnikov opened the scoring 13:39 into the game. He accepted a pass from Danick Gauthier in the corner, and knocked Albany goalie Jeff Frazee's water bottle off the top of the net. Jean-Francois Jacques was also credited with an assist.

"I don't really know where the puck came from, I just ended up on my stick and I saw an opening top-shelf and scored," Namestnikov said.

Sexton gave Syracuse a two-goal cushion less than a minute later, putting home a rebound on his own breakaway attempt. Wyman registered the lone assist.

"It was a great play by them in the neutral zone to get it to me for a breakaway," Sexton said. "I was alone and I made a move and (Frazee) kind of fell down, so it didn't work…It took him a while to get back to his net, and luckily I picked it off the guys stick and saw he wasn't on his post and banked it off him."

Syracuse outshot Albany 13-5 in the first frame, despite the Devils getting a pair of power plays.

"We got them on their heels," Sexton said of the first-period goals. "After that they came out a little harder, but we were able to match them and do a little bit more."

The line of Sexton, Wyman and JT Brown channeled their Minnesota connection again 14 minutes into the second frame, with Brown finishing off a series of pretty passes for his 10th goal of the season.

"(Brown) made a lot of little, crafty passes, and that's what we needed, those smart little plays," Sexton said. "Wyman is so dependable up and down the ice, so it allows me to take chances."

The Devils spoiled Crunch goalie Riku Helenius' shutout bid with a goal by Matt Anderson in the final minute. Helenius finished with 27 saves, while Frazee had 33.

Syracuse (39-18-3-5) travels to Rochester Wednesday before a weekend trip to Norfolk. The Crunch play five of the next six on the road before finishing the regular season with a five-game homestand.

"Wins are always helpful, and we'll bring that to the next game," Namestnikov said.

Pictured: Crunch forward Dan Sexton looks for a rebound after the Devils' Jeff Frazee made a save on a breakaway at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday. Sexton scored a few seconds later.