Panik's Goal Lifts Crunch Over Phantoms, 4-2

By Jeremy Houghtaling

With a subtle pump of the fist, Richard Panik's celebration showed his goal was more alleviating than exhilarating.

After his team squandered a two-goal lead against the Adirondack Phantoms, the Syracuse Crunch forward picked up a loose puck that ricocheted off a defenseman, and fired it low blocker-side. It wasn't his prettiest, but it counted all the same.

"I was so relieved that I scored and I put the team in the lead," Panik said.

The Slovakian winger's team-leading 21st goal of the season stood up as the game-winner, and Philip-Michael Devos added an insurance marker, as the Crunch snapped their two-game losing streak with a 4-2 win at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday night.

"For us to get two points here, it's huge for your confidence," said Syracuse forward Brett Connolly. "It doesn't matter how you get them, you just have to get them."

Despite a penalty-filled first, Syracuse controlled play and outshot Adirondack 16-7. Mike Angelidis broke through on the 16th shot, giving the Crunch a 1-0 lead before the first intermission.

"We knew that they were traveling today, and we wanted to get on them right away," Connolly said.

Less than five minutes into the second stanza, Connolly buried a rebound from an Alex Killorn shot. But with a two-goal lead, Syracuse began to ease the pressure on Adirondack.

"For us to be successful, we need to be pushing the pace," Connolly said. "I think we did that for the most part. We kind of let off the gas a little bit in the second."

Two minutes after Connolly's marker, the Phantoms' Zack FitzGerald capitalized on a Crunch giveaway, scoring his first goal of the season. Former Syracuse forward David Laliberte then tied the score midway through the frame.

"We kind of stopped playing after it was 2-0," Panik said. "But we came back in the third period and we had so many chances."

Panik put the Crunch ahead midway through the third, and the Crunch received some breathing room from Devos with less than three minutes remaining. Connolly was credited with an assist on Devos' third of the season, despite appearing to tip the puck past Brian Boucher.

"It was nice to see our team respond," Connolly said. "As of late we haven't been responding the way we should have."

Boucher finished with 31 saves, while the Crunch's Dustin Tokarski turned away 24 shots.

Syracuse (26-12-2-4) hosts Albany Saturday. In the midst of a stretch of 11 games in the next 19 days, the Crunch hope the recent slide of losing six out of their last seven becomes a faded memory.

"When we were rolling earlier in the season, we were banging out four or five wins in a row," Connolly said. "In order to do that, you have to get the first one out of the way."

Pictured: Crunch forward Mike Angelidis jams the puck past Phantoms goalie Brian Boucher to score the first goal at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.