Erne, Vermin Make Debuts in Crunch Win

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Two new faces were in the Syracuse Crunch's starting lineup Friday.

Centered by Cedric Paquette, wingers Adam Erne and Joel Vermin were able to get the first-game jitters out of the way during the opening puck drop. Once they got their feet underneath them, they showed how effective they could be.

"It's always good to get the butterflies out of the way early and get going with the game," Erne said.

Vermin created multiple scoring opportunities in his Crunch debut and Adam Erne registered an assist in his first professional game, as Syracuse topped the Albany Devils, 2-1, at the Onondaga County War Memorial.

"I really like the way (Cedric) Paquette is playing. I thought he would complement them well," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "It turned out to be true."

Harri Pesonen opened the scoring 11:30 into the second period, when he picked a carom off the boards and slid it around Syracuse goalie Kristers Gudlevskis.

The Crunch responded less than seven minutes later, when Erne drove down the right side and threw the puck at goalie Scott Wedgewood's far pad. Paquette picked up the rebound and scored his 20th of the season.

"I knew it wasn't going in," Erne said. "I knew it was pretty soft, but it was more trying to place it and put it on net."

The score remained knotted at one until Evan Rankin jammed in a rebound from the doorstep with less than 12 minutes remaining.

"I was going to pull it through, but then I saw a little hole so I just tried to push it through," Rankin said. "I was going to look for it on the other side, but it went right in."

Zettler was impressed with Erne's play beyond the assist. The 18-year-old forward recovered from a spleen injury and finished his season with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last week. The 2013 second-rounder will either join the Tampa Bay Lightning or go back to Quebec next year.

"Obviously a nice play on the goal -- the assist," Zettler said. "I thought down low he made a lot of nice plays and smart plays."

Vermin, a seventh-rounder who finished his season with Bern of the Swiss A-League last month, didn't register a point, but created a few scoring chances in tight.

"Joel took a period to kind of get into it -- a smaller rink for him," Zettler said. "He had an unbelievable chance with two minutes left to go up by two, but the goalie made a nice save. I thought he got a little bit more physical, a little bit more involved as the game went on."

Yanni Gourde and Artem Sergeev each registered one assist, and Gudlevskis made 16 saves for the win.

The Crunch have won four out of their last six, and have points in five out of their last six games. Syracuse (28-30-4-7) looks to keep rolling against Utica Saturday.

"Obviously, everybody is excited to be winning," Rankin said. "Hopefully we can get another two points tomorrow."

Pictured: Crunch forward Adam Erne rushes the puck up the ice against the Devils at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.