Crunch Score Five Times in First, Hang on Against Wolf Pack

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Vladislav Namestnikov made an impact on his first shift.

The Crunch forward, sent to Syracuse to get more ice time earlier this week, chipped in a rebound 59 seconds into the game and was a catalyst in the Crunch getting out to a five-goal lead in the first period. But Syracuse saw its lead dwindle to one early in the third and barely hung on to top the Hartford Wolf Pack, 6-5, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

"We actually came out great, kind of against what we've done all year," said Crunch head coach Rob Zettler. "We came out great and finished flat."

Eleven Syracuse players registered a point. Namestnikov, who earned a spot with the Tampa Bay Lightning out of training camp, finished with one goal and two assists.

"I was just trying to go out there and help the team," Namestnikov said. "It's nice to get that goal, and it obviously it boosts the confidence a lot. Hopefully it can continue."

Crunch captain Mike Angelidis recorded a pair of goals, including the eventual game-winner. Yanni Gourde chipped in a goal and an assist, while Jonathan Marchessault, Tanner Richard and Nikita Nesterov each had a pair of helpers.

Jake Dotchin netted his first professional goal. Joel Vermin rounded out the scoring, and Dylan Blujus, Dalton Smith, and Philippe Paradis had one assist.

"Everyone battled and at the end of the day we got the two points," Namestnikov said. "That's positive."

Namestnikov opened the scoring with a power play tally in the opening minute, Angelidis scored his first of the night less than three minutes later and Vermin put the Crunch up by three by the four minute mark to chase Hartford goalie Mackensie Skapski. Dotchin and Gourde also scored before the first intermission.

"We've got to come out hard like that and get a 5-0 lead, but you don't change your gameplan," Angelidis said. "We changed our gameplan. The coaches told us to keep going hard, and for some reason we stayed back and they took it to us."

Then the tide turned. Hartford's Ryan Haggerty, Chad Nehring, and former Lightning forward Ryan Malone scored in the second, and Danny Kristo cut the Syracuse lead to one four minutes into the third.

Angelidis chopped in the eventual game-winner on a scramble in front of the Wolf Pack net while sitting down with less than 14 minutes remaining.

"I was just trying to go hard to the net," Angelidis said. "I was on the ground, and I think I might have toe-picked for the third time in the night -- I was a toe-picking machine out there. I was on the ice, the puck was there, I just whacked it and it went over Ceddy's shoulder."

For Zettler, Angelidis' ability to come through in the clutch is no surprise.

"(Angelidis) finds a way. His timing is impeccable," Zettler said. "He finds a way to put us on his back because he can feel it. He was one of the guys up talking on the bench when things weren't going our way, and he finds a way to go out and score a goal, the game-winner."

Chris Bourque cut Hartford's deficit to one with a little more than 12 minutes remaining with a power play goal, and despite a few close calls, the Wolf Pack never found the equalizer.

Both teams' power plays finished 3-for-6.

"Our penalty kill was a carryover from our five on five play in the last 40 minutes of the game," Zettler said. "Very casual and very loose."

Former Crunch goalie Cedrick Desjardins made 24 saves for the Wolf Pack, while Syracuse's Kristers Gudlevskis had 30 saves on 35 shots for the win.

"I think he would probably want a do-over on a few of them," Zettler said.

Looking to continue their first period success and learn from the last two periods, Syracuse (12-7-3-0) hosts Rochester Saturday.

"We're lucky to come out with two points the way they were coming at us," Angelidis said. "We've got to learn from this."

Pictured: Crunch forward Vladislav Namestnikov celebrates after scoring against the Wolf Pack at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.