The Syracuse Crunch and Manitoba Moose have defined playoff hockey in their first round series. Every game has been decided by one goal and all three games have gone into overtime. The good news for the Crunch is that they've won two out of those three.
Last night, the Crunch had to go on the road for the first time in this series. There was a lot of talk in the Winnipeg media about the Crunch playing on a bigger ice surface (the hometown War Memorial is a little short of regulation size) and how that would give the Moose a definite advantage. I never understand why that subject comes up. The last I checked, the Crunch plays 40 road games throughout the season. Four of those are in Binghamton, N.Y. (which also has a smaller rink) and that leaves 36 that are played on a regulation sheet of ice. My point is, the Crunch can handle whatever situation is thrown at them and last night they proved it.
Down 1-0 in the second, Zenon Konopka stole the puck in the Moose zone, came around behind the net and threw it in front. The puck glanced off forward Rick Rypien and went into the net. Game tied 1-1. In the overtime, Konopka again got the puck in the Moose zone, sent it to the blueline and a shot got tipped in by Tom Sestito. Game over.
What a night for Sestito! Not only did the former third round pick get the game winner, but he played so well that he began the night on the fourth line and ended up on the first line.
Crunch head coach Ross Yates said after the game, "It seemed every time he was on the ice, the puck was in the offensive zone and he was creating chances while drawing penalties."
Summing up his own performance, Sestito said "I was just trying to stir things up as much as I could and do something to get noticed out there. I earned my shift tonight, and I hope that gets me some ice time (in the remaining playoff games)."
Ironically, Sestito almost wasn't around for the overtime. In the second period, Sestito challenged defenseman Zack FitzGerald to a fight. The only problem was that Derek Dorsett was already fighting Greg Rallo. If FitzGerald had accepted the challenge, both he and Sestito would've been tossed for starting a secondary altercation.
Lineup – Ross Yates took tough guy Jon Mirasty out of the lineup last night and replaced him with defenseman Grant Clitsome, skating seven d-men in the game. Clitsome made his pro debut after putting up 16 goals and 57 assists in four years at Clarkson University. He was a ninth round pick of the Blue Jackets in 2004.
Days off – Because of a concert at the MTS Centre tomorrow night, the teams won't play again until Friday. The Crunch will practice off-site today and tomorrow. This afternoon, Duvie Westcott has planned a team function. Duvie is from Winnipeg, so the assignment was given to him by Zenon Konopka.
The schedule for the weekend is Game 4 on Friday and Game 5 on Saturday. You can listen to the games online, at sportsradio620.com or watch them on the B2 Network. The puck drops at 8:30 p.m. ET for both games.