Crunch Rout Pens 7-0, Clinch Berth Into Calder Cup Finals

By Jeremy Houghtaling

After four tight games, Rob Zettler could finally breathe easy.

The Syracuse Crunch head coach, his team leading 5-0 through the first 40 minutes, still kept his team focused on finishing the series off the right way.

Syracuse's Philippe Paradis added a pair of third period goals to finish off a hat trick, as the Crunch routed the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 7-0 to win the Eastern Conference Finals series 4-1 at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

"It felt good to be able to relax back there for a change," Zettler said.

The Crunch, in the Calder Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history, host the winner of Grand Rapids and Oklahoma City next weekend. That series is tied 2-2.

"I don't think we were expecting a 7-0 finish," said Syracuse defenseman Mark Barberio. "We just wanted to stick to our game plan. It's been successful all season and we were opportunistic with our chances."

Eleven Syracuse players showed up on the scoresheet, with Paradis recording his first three playoff goals and the second postseason hat trick in Crunch franchise history.

"I was just playing a simple game…when I had a chance I tried to put it on net," Paradis said.

"I just thought he and Cedric Paquette were really playing well," Zettler said of Paradis. "They were hitting everything, they were in their face, and he got rewarded by scoring some goals."

Barberio and Andrej Sustr each registered three assists, and Dan Sexton had a goal and two assists. Radko Gudas, Ondrej Palat and Vladislav Namestnikov rounded out the Crunch scoring, while Tyler Johnson, JT Wyman, JT Brown and Philip-Michael Devos had assists.

Cedrick Desjardins finished with 22 saves for his second shutout of the series, including a pair of opportunities in the first that could have swayed the momentum in the Penguins' favor.

"That's the thing, we didn't want to give them any hope," Desjardins said.

"Like he has been through three rounds, he's made the saves when he has to," Zettler said of Desjardins.

With the series ending early, the Crunch have a chance to rest and recoup before the finals.

"That was, far and away, our toughest series so far, both physically and mentally," Zettler said. "They play hard, and we're feeling it right now."

"It's great to get the series done pretty early, and get some rest in before the final series," Sustr said.

With about half of the team having won the cup last year with the Norfolk Admirals, many players are looking for their second-straight championship.

"The opportunity to repeat doesn't happen too often in any league," Barberio said. "It's an exciting time, but at the same time we have to make sure we stay even keel."

Syracuse will have a chance to celebrate, but after a day or two to rest, it's back to business.

"The job's not over," Zettler said. "We've worked hard for three rounds, but we've got one more to go."

Pictured: Philippe Paradis, right, and Dan Sexton celebrate a goal against the Penguins at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.