Ikonen Makes Syracuse Debut, Crunch Fall to Penguins in Shootout


By Jeremy Houghtaling

During regulation, it was all about the dueling power plays.

Both Syracuse and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton scored a pair of power play goals in the first two periods, but the Penguins pushed past the Crunch in a shootout, 3-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

Although it's late for a playoff push, Syracuse has points in seven of its last eight games.

"I've been pretty happy with our game overall," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "We're finding a little more offense lately. We're getting some more pucks to the net, and we've got some more finishers on our team now too, which is a good thing."

One of the new faces on the Crunch is Henri Ikonen.

The Finnish forward made his American Hockey League debut on a line with Vlad Namestnikov and Yanni Gourde. Ikonen saw lots of ice time, and was used on the power play, the penalty kill and the shootout.

"Of course it's a little faster at the AHL level compared to the OHL," Ikonen said. "But it's not that big of a difference. The guys are bigger and stronger, but I think I did well still."

Zettler saw the 2013 sixth-round pick, who played for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League this season, during training camp and knew he could play in all situations.

"I was confident he could do all those things," Zettler said. "I feel good about getting him out there, and he did fine out there. He had a good game."

Less than four minutes after Chuck Kobasew opened the scoring in the first period, Namestnikov tied the score with a power play goal against Tomas Vokoun, an NHL veteran who was sent to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for conditioning.

Jon DiSalvatore's tip on a Jonathan Marchessault feed gave Syracuse a 2-1 lead with less than four minutes left in the first frame. Brett Connolly, Dmitry Korobov and Joey Mormina finished with assists.

"We were moving the puck well, getting shots and putting traffic in front of Vokoun," Namestnikov said of the team's power play, which went 2-for-2 on the night.

Kobasew scored his second goal with the man-advantage to tie the game 7:28 into the second. The Penguins finished the game 2-for-7 on the power play.

"I thought we were in the box too much," Zettler said. "We took some bad penalties, just kind of slashing, cross checking, just some cheap penalties that aren't smart penalties."

All four Syracuse players were stopped in the shootout, while Anton Zlobin and Spencer Machacek each netted goals for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Cedrick Desjardins made 29 saves in the loss, while Vokoun finished with 23.

"We tried something different tonight," Zettler said of the shootout. "We tried going second, we tried some different shooters, we tried some of the young guys. I just don't think we're making anybody move enough, we're just throwing it into them every time."

Syracuse (29-30-4-8) hosts the Toronto Marlies Saturday in the the second of three games this weekend.

"Play the way we've been playing," Namestnikov said of the team's mindset. "Be physical, get pucks deep and crash the net."

Pictured: Crunch forward Henri Ikonen rushes the puck up the ice against the Penguins at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.