Late Flurry Not Enough For Crunch in Game 4 Loss to Griffins

By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch’s late flurry wasn’t enough.

The Crunch cut their three goal deficit to one in the third period and created chaos in front of the Griffins’ net on a 6-on-4 near the end of regulation, but Jared Coreau finished with 31 saves to lift Grand Rapids over Syracuse, 3-2, in Game 4 of the Calder Cup Finals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday. It’s the first time the Crunch have lost on home ice this postseason.

Grand Rapids leads the series 3-1, with Syracuse set to host Game 5 Saturday.

“We had a good start, then for some reason it seems they took the momentum of the game for 25, 30 minutes, and then we got it back in the third period,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “We had chances. Never quit. Showed a lot of character, but their goalie was good at the end. They blocked many, many shots.

“I thought we did many good things, but they’re a good team and that’s playoff hockey.”

Yanni Gourde and Michael Bournival each scored once for Syracuse, while Tye McGinn, Gabriel Dumont, Slater Koekkoek and Cory Conacher each had one assist. Mike McKenna made 35 saves in net for the Crunch.

Syracuse took the game to Grand Rapids in the first five minutes, but the momentum soon swayed in favor of the Griffins. Ben Street scored at the midway point of the first period, and Dan Renouf netted his first of the night to give Grand Rapids a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

Renouf extended the Griffins’ lead to three 10:33 into the second, but Conacher connected with Gourde for a goal a little more than a minute later.

The momentum shifted back in the Crunch’s favor in the third, with Bournival streaking down the left side to cut the Syracuse deficit to one with 12:31 remaining.

The Griffins buckled down and continued to clog the middle of the ice. Any shot that got through the crowd was quickly gobbled up by Coreau.

“I think that’s why they’re here with us in the finals. They have guys that will lay out and do what it takes to win,” Conacher said. “They blocked about four, five, six shots of mine and (Byron) Froese’s. It’s tough, and then Coreau makes some big saves down the stretch as well.”

The Griffins were called for slashing with 2:21 remaining, and the Crunch pulled McKenna for an extra attacker. Syracuse buzzed and the puck was all around the crease, but Coreau made sure it never crossed the goal line.

“I thought we had good puck control. We had chances. We battled in front,” Groulx said. “The puck wouldn’t go in. I thought we did many good things, but you’ve got to give credit to Grand Rapids. They were committed. They blocked shots. Their goalie was big. They found a way to win.”

Each of the Crunch’s losses have come by one goal in the series.

“They’re all tight games,” Groulx said. “We have to find a way.”

For Crunch alternate captain Matt Taormina — the only player who was in the 2013 Calder Cup Finals where the Griffins lifted the Cup at the Onondaga County War Memorial — the team needs to put the loss behind them and focus on Saturday.

“You’ve got to forget about today’s game,” Taormina said. “We know that to win the Calder, we have to win the next three games. It’s basically all we have to think about is the next game. It could be our last, but we’re going to go out and give it everything that we have.”

Pictured: Crunch goalie Mike McKenna makes a save against the Griffins during Game 4 of the Calder Cup Finals 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.