Crunch Swept in North Division Finals by Marlies

By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch couldn’t dig out of the hole they were in.

The Toronto Marlies scored two power play goals in the first period, and despite the Crunch climbing back to within a goal in the third, held on for a 2-1 victory at in Game 4 of the North Division Finals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Tuesday. With the win, the Marlies sweep the series 4-0.

Syracuse’s veterans addressed the rest of the team after the game.

“I think the thing that we stressed a lot was that we left it all out there. There was no quit in anybody,” Crunch forward Matthew Peca said. “It’s easy to fold when you’re down 0-3. There was no sign of quit in the dressing room with a short lineup and guys were laying out blocking shots. You could just tell that everybody was doing everything for the guy next to them. That’s the biggest team-thing a guy can do, and we saw a lot of it all year and in the playoffs.”

Dmytro Timashov netted the Marlies’ first power play marker 4:52 into the contest, and after a major penalty for elbowing to Alex Gallant, Andreas Johnsson added to the Toronto lead before the first intermission.

The Marlies outshot the Crunch 9-4 in the second period, but neither team found the back of the net.

Syracuse defenseman Reid McNeill clanged a shot from the point off the post and in midway through the third period. The Crunch pressed for the equalizer, but couldn’t find it. Kevin Lynch and Carter Verhaeghe each had an assist on McNeill’s goal.

Crunch goalie Connor Ingram made 21 saves in the losing effort, while Garret Sparks had 21 stops for the Marlies. Sparks and Calvin Pickard held Syracuse to one goal in each of the last three games of the series.

“They have a very good goalie — both goalies actually are pretty good — but the way they play. They’re in the way, they have good sticks and they have a lot of experience,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “That group has many players that have been around. They’re in the way. It’s tough to get to the net and have a good scoring chance against them.”

Syracuse dealt with a series of injuries throughout the playoffs. Veteran Gabriel Dumont was in and out of the lineup and Olivier Archambault left Game 3 with an apparent upper body injury.

Still, the Crunch refused to use that as an excuse.

“We’re a resilient group who are in and out of the lineup that could get the job done, and we thought the team that we put out there was good enough to win,” Peca said. “Can’t really blame injuries or anything like that. We battled through. We had some good games with some guys who haven’t played a lot of hockey lately and I’m proud of the way we handled it.”

The Crunch, who boast a rookie-heavy lineup, started the season 4-9-1-2, but found their groove midseason. Syracuse had multiple long winning streaks to finish second in the North Division.

“It couldn’t have been a better transition for us,” rookie Mathieu Joseph said. “Like I said earlier, the veterans did such a great job and I think the reason why we’re tight because we’re not selfish and we’re pushing in the same direction.”

Although the season is over, Groulx liked his team’s fight right to the end.

“I’m very proud of this team. I love this team,” Groulx said. “The way we started and the season we had. The way we played against Rochester. The way we battled — even though I thought at one point we were kind of overmatched — but we never quit.”

Pictured: Crunch defenseman Reid McNeill makes a pass against the Marlies at the Onondaga County War Memorial Tuesday.

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