SYRACUSE — After a scoreless first period, things started to click for the Syracuse Crunch offense.
The Crunch scored three times in the middle frame — including a pair from players not necessarily known for their scoring prowess — as the Crunch beat the Rochester Americans, 4-2, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.
“We started connecting,” Crunch forward Daniel Walcott said. “We got a good bounce off (Mathieu Joseph’s) leg and the floodgates opened. We just kept shooting on him. We knew he left a lot of rebounds, we just had to capitalize. We put pucks on net and we got some goals.”
Joseph recorded a pair of goals to lead the Syracuse offense. Defenseman Ben Thomas scored his fourth goal of the season, while Walcott netted his third this season.
The goals came against Adam Wilcox, a former Crunch teammate.
“It was fun because I told him before the game I would score,” Walcott said. “He was kind of mad that I didn’t beat him clean. I beat him off a whiffed shot, but I’ll take them. On the scoresheet they all look the same.”
Crunch captain Erik Condra and Gabriel Dumont each registered a pair of assists, while Dennis Yan, Alexander Volkov and Olivier Archambault each had one helper. Eddie Pasquale finished with 21 saves for the win.
The victory provides the Crunch with some breathing room in the standings. Syracuse came into the game second place in the North Division, just two points ahead of Rochester.
“It’s always important, especially this part of the year knowing they were two points behind us,” Groulx said. “It’s always important.”
The Crunch recorded the first seven shots on goal, and didn’t allow an Americans scoring opportunity for nearly 13 minutes to start the contest. Despite outshooting Rochester 10-5, Syracuse went into the first intermission in a scoreless tie.
“I think we had a bit of a slow start in the first, and then we kind of regrouped inbetween periods and said ‘Let’s go here,’” Thomas said. “In the second it kind of came together for us. Pucks were going in.”
A rebound bounced off Joseph’s leg and into the net to open the scoring 5:24 into the second period. Taylor Fedun’s power play marker evened the score less than three minutes later, but the Crunch took the momentum right back.
Thomas’ shot from the point went through a crowd in front and beat Wilcox with eight minute left in the frame, and Walcott added to the Crunch lead less than four minutes later.
“It was a low to high play. It was a good play by (Archambault),” Thomas said of his goal. “It was a slap shot and I think (Wilcox) was screened and it went in.”
Kevin Porter’s power play goal cut Rochester’s deficit to one with 16 minutes remaining, but Joseph sealed the Syracuse victory with an empty-netter in the final minute.
“Overall, I thought we had a strong effort,” Groulx said. “Rochester had a push at one moment and got two power play goals. They’re a good team, so it was a hard-fought battle. I expect the same game tomorrow.”
Syracuse (36-19-3-3) wraps up the three-in-three weekend with a rematch in Rochester Sunday afternoon.
“It’s playoff hockey from here on out,” Walcott said. “We’re going to play all division rivals. It’s a close race right now for the playoffs and we’ve got to come out and play hard because it’s going to be a playoff-style game. We’ve got to take it to the teams we played.”