Crunch Beat Bruins, Advance to Calder Cup Finals


By Jeremy Houghtaling

The puck went right from the pad of Malcolm Subban to the tape of Cory Conacher.

Conacher quickly rifled the rebound into the net, the Crunch focused on keeping play out of their end for the final five minutes and Conacher sealed the win with an empty-netter, as Syracuse topped the Providence Bruins, 3-1, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday

The Crunch win the series 4-1, and advance to take on the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Calder Cup Finals.

“I kind of blacked out,” Conacher said of the game-winning goal. “All I remember is seeing the puck come right to me in the slot there — I was kind of on the right side — and I couldn’t even tell you who shot the puck, to be honest with you. It was just one of those moments where you see the puck, you see the net and you just try to get everything you can on it. Luckily it found the back of the net.”

AHL Playoff Game Night: 5-27-17 Bruins at Crunch

Syracuse punches their ticket for another trip to the Calder Cup Final.

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Syracuse Wins the Series 4-1

Mike McKenna allowed 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. Without the usual aid of gobs of goal support, McKenna came up big to finish off the B's.

First Period
0:41 SYR Thomas (4), (Bournival, Condra)

Second Period
13:27 PRO Porter (5), (Fitzgerald)

Third Period
14:54 SYR Conacher (8), (Thomas, Taormina)
19:01 SYR Conacher (9), (Gourde, Dumont)(EN)

Cory Conacher, McKenna, and Byron Froese were the game's three stars.

Providence put up the kind of effort you'd have expected to see in Game Four, but they eventually met the same fate at the hands of Cory Conacher and the veteran-heavy Crunch. Up next? It'll be a rematch in the Calder Cup Final with the Grand Rapid Griffins, who defeated Syracuse in the 2012-2013 Final. Four years later, only Matt Taormina is on Syracuse's roster from that original squad, but it's still an opportunity for the Crunch and the Lightning organization to settle up with Grand Rapids.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Memorial Cup Game Night: 5-26-17

Saint John Sea Dogs 3 vs Erie Otters 6

W Bokondji Imama, SJ: 0-0-0, E, 2 PIM, 2 SOG
Memorial Cup: 4 GP, 1-2-3, E, 2 PIM
Playoff Totals: 18 GP, 8-7-15, +17, 22 PIM
Season Totals: 65 GP, 40-14-54, +10, 103 PIM

W Mathieu Joseph, SJ: 0-1-1, -1, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Memorial Cup: 4 GP, 2-3-5, E, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 18 GP, 13-19-32, +20, 14 PIM
Season Totals: 54 GP, 36-44-80, +37, 57 PIM

D Erik Cernak, Erie: 0-0-0, E, 2 PIM, 4 SOG
Memorial Cup: 4 GP, 0-2-2, +1, 2 PIM
Playoff Totals: 22 GP, 1-8-9, +17, 10 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 41 GP, 4-11-15, +7, 35 PIM

C Anthony Cirelli, Erie: 0-2-2, +1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, 5/17 FO
Memorial Cup: 4 GP: 1-7-8, +3, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 22 GP, 15-16-31, +18, 4 PIM
Season Totals: 51 GP, 25-39-64, +36, 12 PIM

W Taylor Raddysh, Erie: 2-0-2, E, 0 PIM, 5 SOG, *First Star*
Memorial Cup: 4 GP, 5-6-11, +2, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 22 GP, 12-19-31, +16, 18 PIM
Season Totals: 58 GP, 42-66-108, +67, 37 PIM

Taylor Raddysh scored twice on the power play Friday to lead Erie to a 6-3 win over Saint John and earn a spot in the Memorial Cup Final Sunday. Taylor actually scored three times, but a delayed penalty call on Erik Cernak erased the goal. Anthony Cirelli assisted on both Taylor Raddysh goals. Erie will face Windsor in the Final.

For Saint John, Boko Imama had two minutes in penalties when he shoved a player into the boards away from the play. Taylor Raddysh scored on the ensuing power play to give the Otters a 2-1 lead. Mathieu Joseph was dangerous again all night and had the primary assist on Julien Gauthier’s goal that made it 2-2 late in the second period. Joseph had the puck at the side of the net and delivered a pass into the slot that was slammed home.

The loss marks the end of a terrific season for Saint John, the QMJHL champs. They come up short in their bid to win the Memorial Cup, but the season will be remembered for a dominant playoff run through the Q, finishing 16-2. The junior careers of Imama and Joseph end with the loss as both will turn pro next season. Joseph is already under contract with the Lightning and will likely start in AHL Syracuse. Imama has to be signed by June 1 or the Lightning lose his rights. If no other team signs him to an NHL deal, he could be signed to an AHL contract if the Lightning or another team chooses. He made tremendous strides this season.

Crunch Send Bruins to Brink of Elimination With Big Win


By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch had contributions all over the ice, and pushed the Providence Bruins to the brink.

Eleven different Crunch players recorded a point and goalie Mike McKenna finished with 33 saves, as Syracuse routed Providence, 7-2, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

The Crunch lead the series 3-1 with a chance to advance to the Calder Cup Finals in Game 5 Saturday in Syracuse.

“We gave a full 60 minutes tonight,” Crunch forward Cory Conacher said. “Obviously, we won the last game, but some of those minutes we didn’t play our best. Tonight we stayed on them. It was 6-2 going into the third period, and one of our best periods was probably the third period. It shows character. We knew how important it was in the third period to stick it to them because we have a game tomorrow night. Hopefully that carries into the game tomorrow night.”

AHL Playoff Game Night: 5-26-17 Bruins at Crunch

Crunchning Death Star decimates Bruins in a must-win game for Providence.

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Syracuse Leads the Series 3-1

Mike McKenna allowed 2 goals on 35 shots for the victory. I imagine McKenna doing snow angels on the floor of the locker room screaming "GOAL SUPPPPOOOORRRRT!" after all of these games.

First Period
3:57 SYR Thomas (3), (Gourde, Conacher)
7:07 PRO Szwarz (6), (Simpson, Cave)
19:49 SYR Taormina (4), (Gourde, McGinn)(PP)

Second Period
0:33 SYR Bournival (5), (Conacher, Thomas)
1:55 PRO Heinen (9), (Fitzgerald, Simpson)(PP)
4:31 SYR Gourde (5), (McGinn, Conacher)
16:00 SYR Bournival (6), (Condra, Dotchin)
19:13 SYR Dumont (5), (Taormina, Vermin)

Third Period
4:31 SYR Conacher (7), (Gourde, Froese)(PP)

Yanni Gourde, Michael Bournival, and Cory Conacher were the game's three stars.

Wow. As noted, this was a game the Bruins absolutely had to have. On paper, they should've been the hungrier team and should've been a considerable test for the Crunch tonight. Am I surprised Syracuse prevailed tonight? Not at all. But I'm a little shocked at how savagely they dismantled Providence under these circumstances. I'd say this proved Syracuse is developing a killer instinct, but that underplays what they accomplished tonight.

Coming into this season the Crunch had the potential to be this kind of team on paper. They had a veteran-laden group with an extreme amount of depth at the forward position. But, with struggles and injuries up top in Tampa Bay, they never really got to gel as a group. Those who stayed behind in Syracuse were plagued with inconsistency, leaving the regular season North Division crown to go all the way down to the final game of the year. And, it wasn't until the very end of the regular season that this group of players got together with the return of a large contingent of quality guys from Tampa Bay.Because of that, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised the longer this team survives and advances in the playoffs the stronger they seem to be getting. They've started to figure out their roles and responsibilities, get used to their lines and pairings, and now they're starting to mow opponents down like a well oiled machine. It's easy to get excited about this club's crescendo toward a possible berth in the Calder Cup Final.

Heading into Game Five on home ice, it's important to stress the importance of being expeditious when opportunities to close out arise. As impressive as Syracuse's depth is at many positions, the fact of the matter the pro hockey playoffs remain, partially, an extended exercise in the art of managing attrition. Syracuse needs to finish this off now. Don't waste energy on having to go back to Providence to try to close this out. Don't let this series extend one minute longer than it has to and risk the stray factor of injuries. Finish this, advance, and prepare to play for the big prize.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Crunch Hang On to Top Bruins, Take 2-1 Series Lead


By Jeremy Houghtaling

The first period showed how good the Syracuse Crunch can be when they play their game.

The final six minutes showed how relentless the Providence Bruins can be.

The Crunch built up a 4-1 lead by the four minute mark of the third period but had to survive a late Bruins flurry, as Syracuse hung on to top Providence, 5-4, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.

The Crunch lead the series 2-1 with Game 4 set for Friday in Syracuse.

“I thought we played a solid first period. Then we stopped playing in the second and they were all over us. Our goalie was phenomenal in the second period,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “Then we came back and played a solid 14 minutes in the third, and then we stopped playing again.

“I don’t think we can stop playing at this part of the year.”

Memorial Cup Game Night: 5-25-17

Windsor Spitfires 4 @ Erie Otters 2

D Erik Cernak, Erie: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Memorial Cup: 3 GP, 0-2-2, +1, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 22 GP, 1-8-9, +17, 10 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 41 GP, 4-11-15, +7, 35 PIM

C Anthony Cirelli, Erie: 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, 7/11 FO
Memorial Cup: 3 GP: 1-5-6, +2, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 22 GP, 15-16-31, +18, 4 PIM
Season Totals: 51 GP, 25-39-64, +36, 12 PIM

W Taylor Raddysh, Erie: 1-0-1, E, 0 PIM, 4 SOG
Memorial Cup: 3 GP, 3-6-9, +2, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 22 GP, 12-19-31, +16, 18 PIM
Season Totals: 58 GP, 42-66-108, +67, 37 PIM

Tournament-host Windsor advanced to the Memorial Cup final with a 4-2 win over OHL champ Erie Wednesday night on the strength of a Jeremiah Addison (Canadiens) hat trick. Taylor Raddysh had a goal for the Otters, scored on a wrist shot through the 5-hole off the left wing. Anthony Cirelli added an assist. Erie, who beat Saint John 12-5 last game, will face the Sea Dogs again in the semifinals for the right to meet Windsor in the Final. Saint John is coming off a 7-0 win over Seattle. Don’t expect another blowout.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 5-24-17 Bruins at Crunch

Wild finish to otherwise dominant performance by the Crunchning Death Star.

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Syracuse Leads the Series 2-1

Mike McKenna allowed 4 goals on 39 shots for the victory. Goal support: McKenna has it.

First Period
8:19 SYR Conacher (5), (Taormina, Gourde)(PP)
14:18 SYR Bournival (4), (Brodeur, Thomas)

Second Period
4:48 SYR Taormina (3), (Conacher)
17:35 PRO Heinen (7), (Simpson, Szwarz)

Third Period
3:59 SYR Gourde (4), (Dotchin, Conacher)
16:49 PRO Blidh (1), (Grant, Fitzgerald)
17:11 PRO Heinen (8), (Szwarz, Simpson)
17:52 SYR Conacher (6), (Dumont, Dotchin)(EN)
19:09 PRO Fitzgerald (1), (Porter)(SH)

McKenna, Cory Conacher, and Yanni Gourde were the game's three stars.

Syracuse's dominance on home ice in these playoffs remains in tact. 6-0 thus far on home ice is a serious edge with the next two games in Syracuse. Am I in love with the fact the Crunch allowed Providence to get the false hope goal in the Third Period twice? No, but it's called the false hope goal for a reason. When you stake yourself to a three goal lead in the final frame, it's a death sentence for the opposition seemingly 99.9% of the time, and those odds were reconfirmed again tonight.

At this hour, the directive for Game Four for the Crunch is clear: stomp on the Bruins' playoff throats. A win in Game Four puts them in a 3-1 hole and squarely up against the ropes. The Crunch allowed Toronto to stick around longer than they probably should've in the last round. This round? Finish them.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Memorial Cup Game Night: 5-22-17

Saint John Sea Dogs 7 vs Seattle Thunderbirds 0

W Bokondji Imama, SJ: 1-2-3, +3, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, *Third Star*
Memorial Cup: 3 GP, 1-2-3, E, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 18 GP, 8-7-15, +17, 22 PIM
Season Totals: 65 GP, 40-14-54, +10, 103 PIM

W Mathieu Joseph, SJ: 1-0-1, +2, 0 PIM, 5 SOG
Memorial Cup: 3 GP, 2-2-4, +1, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 18 GP, 13-19-32, +20, 14 PIM
Season Totals: 54 GP, 36-44-80, +37, 57 PIM

Boko Imama had a goal and two assists and Callum Booth (Hurricanes) stopped all 31 shots he faced as Saint John stayed alive in the Memorial Cup by eliminating WHL champ Seattle Tuesday night, 7-0. The Sea Dogs exploded for six goals in the second period – five in just over three minutes – to advance to the tournament semifinals. Mathieu Joseph was dangerous all night, drawing penalties and throwing hits. His goal came off the weak side when he snapped a rolling puck into the far top corner of the net. Boko’s goal came off a turnover in the high slot when he knocked the puck carrier off the puck, spun, and snapped his shot by the goalie in one motion. He had an assist on Joseph’s goal by starting the rush through the neutral zone. Saint John will play the loser of Wednesday’s Erie-Windsor match-up. The winner of Wednesday’s game gets a bye to the finals.

Memorial Cup Game Night: 5-22-17

Saint John Sea Dogs 5 @ Erie Otters 12

W Bokondji Imama, SJ: 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Memorial Cup: 2 GP, 0-0-0, -3, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 18 GP, 8-7-15, +17, 22 PIM
Season Totals: 65 GP, 40-14-54, +10, 103 PIM

W Mathieu Joseph, SJ: 1-1-2, -1, 0 PIM, 5 SOG
Memorial Cup: 2 GP, 1-2-3, -1, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 18 GP, 13-19-32, +20, 14 PIM
Season Totals: 54 GP, 36-44-80, +37, 57 PIM

D Erik Cernak, Erie: 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Memorial Cup: 2 GP, 0-2-2, +2, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 22 GP, 1-8-9, +17, 10 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 41 GP, 4-11-15, +7, 35 PIM

C Anthony Cirelli, Erie: 1-3-4, +1, 0 PIM, 3 SOG, 9/12 FO, *Third Star*
Memorial Cup: 2 GP: 1-4-5, +2, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 22 GP, 15-16-31, +18, 4 PIM
Season Totals: 51 GP, 25-39-64, +36, 12 PIM

W Taylor Raddysh, Erie: 2-4-6, +1, 0 PIM, 5 SOG, *Second Star*
Memorial Cup: 2 GP, 2-6-8, +2, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 22 GP, 12-19-31, +16, 18 PIM
Season Totals: 58 GP, 42-66-108, +67, 37 PIM

OHL champ Erie crushed the Sea Dogs Monday night in a game featuring five Lightning prospects. Mathieu Joseph had a strong first shift, hitting the post and knocking an Otter flying with a hard hit, but it was all downhill from there for Saint John. Taylor Raddysh scored his first of the game off a pass from Anthony Cirelli on the game’s second shift and Erie would never look back. Raddysh was temporarily tied for the Memorial Cup record for points in a game with six before his teammate Dylan Strome (Coyotes) scored his fourth goal and seventh point. Cirelli and Raddysh were strong on and off the puck all night and Erie was simply too fast and skilled for Saint John. Joseph showed good jump all night, earning a penalty shot, but he was unable to convert the opportunity. Imama wasn’t overly visible in the game. Stay-at-home defenseman Erik Cernak was solid on defense for Erie and contributed an assist. Erie will play Windsor Tuesday with the winner advancing to the championship game. The loser of that game will play the winner of Seattle-Saint John in the semifinals. Despite the Sea Dogs’ 0-2 start, they can still get to the finals.

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