Defensive Lapses Doom Crunch in Loss to Bears

By Jeremy Houghtaling

After a 4-1 loss to the Hershey Bears, Syracuse Crunch coach Rob Zettler was searching for answers.

The Crunch defense had lapses that hung goalie Kristers Gudlevskis out to dry and the offense -- despite having a 30-25 advantage in shots -- struggled to find traction against the Bears at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

"Maybe it was four or five days between games, I don't know what it was," Zettler said. "We seemed flat. Maybe it was practices. I don't know, I have to look at it and I need to do a better job of getting these guys prepared."

The Bears jumped out to a three goal lead in the first two periods. Casey Wellman opened the scoring less than seven minutes into the game, and tipped home another 7:44 into the second frame.

"I thought we actually started well, then after the first goal we got deflated a little bit," Zettler said. "We were just kind of flat, to be honest with you."

Matt Watkins pushed the Hershey lead to three with a rebound goal 13:26 into the second.

"We left three or four guys alone in front of the net a few times," Zettler said. "(Gudlevskis) was by himself a few times out there on a few of those goals."

"Just a total lack of commitment to playing defense, no communication in our own zone," said Syracuse defenseman Joey Mormina. "We led by the shot advantage, but we just (had) glaring defensive breakdowns."

For the Crunch's Jon DiSalvatore, the forwards were equally as responsible for the play in Syracuse's own end.

"We weren't taking care of business in our own end, basically," DiSalvatore said. "In this league, you can't afford to leave guys uncontested in front of the net."

DiSalvatore put the Crunch on the board with a chip shot from right in front of Bears goalie Philipp Grubauer with less than 11 minutes remaining. Brett Connolly and Dmitry Korobov were credited with the assists.

"We've got to find a way to get in front of him and get pucks to the net," DiSalvatore said. "Bottom line you have to find a way to get it done."

The Crunch pulled Gudlevskis for an extra attacker with less than three minutes remaining, and Watkins put his second of the night into the empty net. Gudlevskis finished with 21 saves.

Syracuse (17-16-2-4) travels to Hershey for a rematch Saturday, and plays its third game in as many nights at Bridgeport Sunday.

"That should be the message going into tomorrow -- it's not easy to win, it's not easy to beat a good team, a well-coached team," Mormina said. "Emotionally, we can't just rely on (Eric Neilson) and (PC Labrie), everyone has to bring that emotional edge."

"I hope there will be some fire in some of these guys, hopefully there will be some passion," Zettler said.

Pictured: Crunch forward Dana Tyrell looks to make a pass against the Bears at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.