Froese Haunts Former Team, Crunch Take Game 1 Against Marlies

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Dealt at the deadline, Byron Froese had a chance to show what he could do against his former team.

Froese finished with a goal and an assist to lift the Syracuse Crunch over the Toronto Marlies, 3-1, in Game 1 of the North Division Finals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday. Game 2 is set for Saturday in Syracuse.

“It’s not personal, but you always want to play well against a team that traded you away, right?” Froese said. “I don’t think I left on bad trms at all, but it’s an exciting series and it’s a big series for us.”

Crunch captain Erik Condra also had a goal and an assist. Yanni Gourde rounded out the scoring for Syracuse, while Matt Taormina, Daniel Walcott and Cory Conacher each had one assist.

Mike McKenna picked up the win in net. The Syracuse netmnder finished with 24 saves, as the Crunch held the Marlies power play to 0-for-4 on the night.

“I think it’s a committment of our four guys on the ice at the same time,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said of the penalty kill. “They’re blocking shots, and obviously, we all know that when you have a good PK it’s because your best PKer is your goalie.”

McKenna echoed Groulx’s comments about the players in front of him blocking shots.

“We did a great job. You look at how many shots we blocked, especially on the penalty kill. That’s something we emphasize,” McKenna said. “As a goalie, when you know everyone has your back in front of you, it makes your job easier.”

The Marlies struck quickly. Toronto opened the scoring 1:39 into the contest, when Andrew Nielsen threw a shot on goal and Andreas Johnsson swept in the rebound.

“I thought we had a good start, but they ended up scoring on that rebound,” Groulx said. “Then all of a sudden we started moving our feet better. I thought we moved the puck better and we made some good plays, so we were able to get momentum out of our play.”

The Crunch continued to get better scoring opportunities throughout the first — they outshot the Marlies 16-6 in the first 20 minutes — but Kasimir Kaskisuo had an answer for every chance early. The Finnish netminder recorded 26 saves in the loss.

“We were happy with our first period, and we just stuck by it and kept playing the same way,” Condra said. “If you get enough chances, one of them is bound to go in. He made some good saves, but they also had five guys low and their defense was making great saves too. They’re hard to play against and they’re tough in front of their net. We just kept going and we got a couple that went in.”

Condra put the Crunch on the board when he redirected a Froese slap pass with 5:20 left in the first period.

Froese netted the eventual game-winner 16:15 into the second period. The Crunch forward took a pass from Erne and quickly threw it on net.

“That’s one of those things where when it’s in your feet you try to get it right to your stick and get it off as quick as you can,” Froese said. “The goalie had to move and adjust his angle a little bit, so if you can it off really quick, he might not be set yet.”

The Crunch defense continued to limit odd man rushes and breakaways throughout the third, and Gourde sealed the win with an empty-netter with 1:17 remaining.

“I think that’s good that it happened to Yanni Gourde,” Groulx said. “It’s his first goal of the playoffs. His first point of the playoffs. Hopefully it’s going to help him out.”

Groulx and the Crunch expect more of the same in Game 2 Saturday.

“I expect games like that all series long,” Groulx said. “It’s tight. There’s not a lot of room. They’re a good team and we know we’ve got to be solid defensively. … We’re very happy with tonight. Let’s focus on tomorrow.”

Pictured: Crunch forwards Adam Erne, Byron Froese and Daniel Walcott celebrate a goal against the Marlies at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

For more pictures from the game, visit the BoltProspects Facebook page.

To listen to postgame interviews, go to this SoundCloud page.