Cal Heeter turned them away from every possible direction one could think of. And the Adirondack Phantoms pulled out an intense 4-3 shootout victory at the Syracuse Crunch Friday night for their second win in a row.
Jason Akeson scored his first two goals of the season and Harry Zolinerczyk scored his eighth of the year as Adirondack opened a 3-0 lead in the first period. And four different Phantoms scored in a seven-round shootout. But stealing the show was rookie goalie Cal Heeter. The St. Louis native out of Ohio State turned aside 40 shots including some from right on top of him.
He denied reigning MVP Cory Conacher moving right across the crease with 2:30 left in regulation with a dazzling glove save to keep the game tied. And flashed his glove or pads in just the right place on close-range shots throughout the night.
It was the third straight weekend for the Phantoms and the Crunch to play each other and Adirondack won two out of those three this month as they improved to 3-3-0 against the team that won the Calder Cup last year operating as the Norfolk Admirals. All three of Adirondack's wins over the Crunch have been in overtime or shootout. The Phantoms have only one other overtime game that has NOT come against the Crunch (December 9 at Providence).
In the shootout, four out of seven Phantoms would score as Adirondack would improve to 2-0 in shootouts this year, both against Syracuse. Garrett Roe (first round), Brayden Schenn (third round), Jason Akeson (fourth round) and Danny Syvret (game-winner in seventh round) all scored on Tokarski with various moves. Akeson's was perhaps the most impressive as he wound up with his stick held up high to get Tokarski to think the slapper was coming before just slipping it in low after he got the goalie to flinch.
As head coach Terry Murray has preached all season long, a good start can make all the difference. With all the late drama and back-and-forth in the third period and overtime of this game, it indeed did turn out to be the fast start at the beginning that would ultimately get the Phantoms the win.
Harry Zolnierczyk slammed home a cross-ice feed from Garrett Roe on a two-on-one just 1:11 into the game for the Phantoms quickest goal of the season.
And Jason Akeson would strike just over a minute later at 2:30 as he walked the goal-line on the power play, faked a give across, and then shot it himself top-shelf on the short-side flipping the puck over the glove of goalie Dustin Tokarski.
Later in the period, Oliver Lauridsen would fire the puck up to Brayden Schenn who adeptly poked it away from a near-intercept by Syracuse. Schenn that cruised in with Akeson on a two-on-one. The diving defenseman Evan Oberg sprawled out to cover all of the space across but Schenn just held onto the puck longer and then saw just a little opening between Oberg's skate and Tokarski's stick to fire it to an open Akeson in the slot for the easy one-timer.
Schenn's pretty assist was his second helper of the game and his team-leading 29th point of the season. And at 3-0, Adirondack had opened their widest first-period advantage of the 2012-13 season.
Then came the counter-attack. Syracuse wasn't going to lay down in this one and they peppered away on Heeter and the Phantoms in a 21-shot barrage in the second period while the Phantoms only mustered five drives on net.
Richard Panik scored a few minutes into the middle frame to get the Crunch on the board. And Alex Killorn was all alone in front while a gassed Phantoms defense was trying to hang on and he slammed in a Matt Taormina give from the right-wing corner right on top of Heeter to make it 3-2. Killorn is a rookie out of Harvard who now is on a five-game goal streak for the Crunch.
In between those goals came dazzling stop after stop by Heeter in a second period that certainly could have seen more than two goals converted by the Crunch.
Back-to-back penalties cost the Phantoms the lead in the third period. After a number of spectacular stops by Heeter, a couple of big clears by the penalty-kill while they were two-men down, and a couple of near misses by the Crunch, Tyler Johnson would finally capitalize. His 5-on-3 goal for his 17th tally of the season even the score at 3-3.
Syracuse had more chances with an opportunity to win. Including Heeter's tremendous glove save on Conacher with 2:30 remaining. But Adirondack was able to hang on and get the game to overtime.
In the extra-period...more close calls. P.C. Labrie dangled his way into the middle and shot one through the legs of Heeter. But somehow the goalie got enough of it to deflect it just barely wide past the post behind his right skate while he scrambled around trying to find the puck. Moments later, J.T. Brown out in front would beat Heeter as well but his shot rang off the post behind Heeter's glove and bounced across and stayed out.
Adirondack received a power-play of their own at the end of the overtime to get the heat off of Heeter (as it were). But Tokarski robbed a couple of big Phantoms chances including Brandon Manning stepping up with a blast and Sean Couturier walking in with just three seconds remaining. And the game would go onto the shootout.
Danny Syvret looked like he slipped the puck in five-hole in the seventh round. And then Cal Heeter denied a snake-bit Cory Conacher to clinch the victory and trigger the happy Phantoms celebration in the 'Cuse.
Syracuse outshot the Phantoms 43-23 in the game but visiting Adirondack walked out of there with the extra standings point. It was another extraordinarily exciting game between the Crunch and the Phantoms who have had a season-series packed with emotion and intensity in their rivalry so far this year.
Zac Rinaldo returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday's game with flu symptoms.
Scratches for Adirondack included Marc-Andre Bourdon, Mike Testwuide, Shane Harper, Ben Holmstrom and Erik Gustafsson.
The Phantoms conclude their quick weekend road trip Saturday night at the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. All the players depart following that to spend the holidays with family and friends as part of the AHL Holiday Break. The Phantoms return home upon their return from the break. Adirondack hosts the Providence Bruins next Friday night and will also have their traditional New Year's Eve home game on Monday, December 31 at 3:00pm against Bridgeport featuring Tuxedo Jerseys presented by Scoville Jewelers with part of the proceeds of the post-game jersey auction to benefit the WAIT House of Glens Falls (Welcoming Adolescents in Transition).
Adirondack Phantoms 4 (SO) at Syracuse Crunch 3
Friday, December 21, 2012 - Onondaga County War Memorial at Oncenter
Adirondack 3 0 0 0 - 4
Syracuse 0 2 1 0 - 3
1st Period-1, Adirondack, Zolnierczyk 8 (Roe, Rinaldo), 1:11. 2, Adirondack, Akeson 1 (Schenn, Couturier), 2:30 (PP). 3, Adirondack, Akeson 2 (Schenn, Lauridsen), 15:33. Penalties-Aulie Syr (delay of game), 1:38; Dimmen Adk (fighting), 8:13; Gudas Syr (fighting), 8:13; Gudas Syr (holding), 17:03.
2nd Period-4, Syracuse, Panik 13 (Palat, Johnson), 5:48 (PP). 5, Syracuse, Killorn 9 (Taormina, Connolly), 14:09. Penalties-Manning Adk (cross-checking), 5:01; Zolnierczyk Adk (hooking), 8:40; Panik Syr (interference), 19:33.
3rd Period-6, Syracuse, Johnson 17 (Barberio, Connolly), 8:24 (PP). Penalties-Rinaldo Adk (tripping), 1:16; Konan Adk (slashing), 6:38; Couturier Adk (delay of game), 6:52; Roe Adk (tripping), 17:48.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Cote Syr (slashing), 3:09.
Shootout - Adirondack 4 (Roe G, Couturier NG, Schenn G, Akeson G, Ford NG, Wellwood NG, Syvret G), Syracuse 3 (Taormina G, Johnson NG, Palat G, Barberio NG, Panik G, Connolly NG, Conacher NG).
Shots on Goal-Adirondack 10-5-4-4-1-24. Syracuse 8-21-11-3-0-43.
Power Play Opportunities-Adirondack 1 / 4; Syracuse 2 / 6.
Goalies-Adirondack, Heeter 4-8-0 (43 shots-40 saves). Syracuse, Tokarski 10-4-3 (23 shots-20 saves).
Referees-Chris Brown (86).
Linesmen-Peter Feola (33), Derek Sylvester (76).