Reworked Power Play Leads Crunch Past IceCaps

By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch’s power play adjustments paid off.

The Crunch scored three times with the man-advantage against the IceCaps, as Syracuse topped St. John’s, 4-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.

For Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx, the key was putting Matt Taormina and Cory Conacher together to form a clear cut top power play unit.

“Tonight was a five-player effort, but we decided to put Taormina and Conacher together on the power play,” Groulx said. “They hadn’t played together in quite a bit, because we were trying many different things. I thought the two of them were very good on the power play — like (Matthew) Peca, like (Tye) McGinn, like (Erik) Condra.”

The Crunch, who were 0-for-16 on the power play in the previous three games, finished 3-for-7 with the man-advantage Wednesday and kept the IceCaps 0-for-4 on the power play.

Conacher registered a pair of goals and assists, while Taormina had one assist.

“I don’t know exactly. I think we just found chemistry pretty early, we made the easy plays — the plays that were open — and luckily we got a couple good bounces, made a couple good plays and the puck found the net,” Conacher said of what was working with Taormina.

Condra and Peca each recorded a pair of assists, McGinn and Adam Comrie each scored once, and Joel Vermin had one assist.

Syracuse goalie Kristers Gudlevskis made 25 saves for the win, including 15 in the first period.

“I also thought (Gudlevskis) kept us in the game,” Groulx said. “We had a shakey start and (Gudlevskis) made some great stops in the first. He was ready, and gave us the time and confidence to get our legs going.”

The IceCaps stormed out of the gate and hemmed the Crunch in their own zone for stretches of the first period, but couldn’t find the back of the net.

After a hooking call, Comrie opened the scoring with a power play marker from the top of the left wing circle with 46 seconds left in the first period.

“That was a slow start and they were kind of taking it to us a little bit,” Taormina said. “Even though the shots were 15-5 at one time or 10-2, we had our chances, but we weren’t really getting pucks to the net and grinding down low. It took a little bit of time to do that. That power play really helped us and gave us some momentum going forward the rest of the game.”

Syracuse’s McGinn chipped in a rebound 1:44 into the second period for another goal with the man-advantage. Max Friberg’s tip cut the Crunch lead to one, but Conacher’s shot from the circle gave Syracuse a two-goal advantage heading into the final period.

Stefan Matteau brought the IceCaps to within one goal 7:36 into the third, but Conacher sealed the win with an empty-netter in the final second.

Syracuse (30-19-5-5) hosts Springfield Friday before a rematch against St. John’s on Saturday.

“This is a great start. It was a good team win,” Taormina said. “Every team we play from here on out is going to be battling for a playoff spot besides Springfield, and we can’t take them lightly. These games are going to be tough. They’re going to be like playoff games.”

Pictured: Crunch forward Cory Conacher shoots the puck against the IceCaps at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.

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

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