The Adirondack Phantoms have played the fewest number of home games of any team in the American Hockey League. And the long stretch of games on the road appeared to catch up to the Phantoms this weekend as they played their 10th away game out of 14 total.
Adirondack completed their five-game road trip Saturday evening at Syracuse dropping a 5-2 decision to the Crunch to finish 2-3-0 on their second longest away-swing of the season. It was the second night in a row in which the Phantoms fell by a 5-2 score but this game had some differences from the previous night at Binghamton.
Syracuse used a three-goal spurt in under three minutes to take a narrow 2-0 advantage and turn it into a comfortable 5-0 lead as they sent Phantoms goalie Cal Heeter out of the game early. Scott Munroe came on to relieve Heeter and turned aside all 13 drives he faced as the Phantoms pulled the margin closer but were unable to get over the hump.
East Division leading Syracuse improved to 9-2-2 with the victory while Adirondack fell to 6-8-0. This year's Syracuse Crunch are the former Norfolk Admirals who won the Calder Cup last season and amazed the sporting world with their professional hockey record 28-game winning streak at the end of the regular season.
Brayden Schenn's team-leading eighth goal got the Phantoms on the board on the power play in the second period. And Erik Gustafsson ripped a shot off the left-post banking it in to make it 5-2 in the third period. Adirondack had a number of other close calls on Syracuse goalie Riku Helenius but were unable to get any closer.
Five different goal scorers for Syracuse included Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Cory Conacher, Ondrej Plat, Richard Panik, and Brett Connolly.
For his part, there was certainly nothing at all Heeter could have done on two or three of the Crunch goals when they pushed across three straight midway through the second period. One came on a two-on-one rush after he made the initial save. Another that made it 5-0 came as Panik caught the puck just out of the reach of Heeter and dropped it to his own stick on the left-wing side of the crease for a very creative and impressive goal.
The game had two referees and they were there to make sure nothing slid by. 17 different power plays were awarded to the two teams combined. The American Hockey League usually has one referee for games but a small percentage of games have two referees to allow the players and the officials the opportunity to get used to that format.
"I think this was just the third time this year we had the two officials out there and it does make a difference" head coach Terry Murray said. "I think we get used to the one and maybe get away with more little stuff. With two, they see everything and we took some careless penalties including times when we were on the power play or in a pretty good situation or in the offensive zone. That's composure that you have to have."
Conacher, the reigning league MVP, had a blast early in the second period on the power play that had made it 2-0 at the time following a cross-checking penalty on Danny Syvret. The Phantoms called their timeout after that one and head coach Terry Murray used the opportunity to express his displeasure with the referee who had made the call.
Coach Murray also focused on how the game started. "It's important to start the game the right way and show composure. Don't take bad penalties," Murray said. "We have to have composure and be ready (at the start) to match the game-speed and intensity that they play with."
The game had a number of skirmishes as the Adirondack vs. Syracuse rivalry continued to heat up. Cullen Eddy, Brandon Manning and Zack FitzGerald all dropped the gloves with various Crunch players and a number of other Phantoms came close to going toe-to-toe as well.
The game ended Adirondack's impressive streak of winning every game in which they score a power play goal. The Phantoms went 1-for-8 on the power play but by taking the loss are now 6-1 in games in which they collect a man-advantage tally.
Zack FitzGerald saw action for just the third time this year and played at left-wing for the first time this season which is where he played most of last year with Hamilton. FitzGerald had played defense in his previous two games.
The Crunch outshot Adirondack 35-26. The Phantoms were 1-for-8 on the power play while Syracuse finished 2-for-9. Syracuse took a 2 games to 1 lead in a season series that will see the Crunch and Phantoms square-off eight times. The Crunch visit Glens Falls over back-to-back weekends for games on December 8 and Decmeber 14.
Scratches for the game included Andrew Johnston, Tye McGinn, Matthew Ford, Jeff Dimmen and Matt Mangene.
Adirondack returns to the GFCC this Wednesday night for their first home game in two-and-a-half weeks when they host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders. It is the first of three home games in four days for the Phantoms over the big Thanksgiving Weekend and also opens a stretch of six consecutive games at the GFCC which is the longest homestand of the season for Adirondack.
The annual Black Friday game will follow against the Norfolk Admirals, affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks. And then Mens' Cancer Awareness Night on Saturday against the Hershey Bears, affiliated with the Washington Capitals.
That Saturday game will feature Mustache Jerseys presented by Parks Heritage Federal Credit Union with part of the proceeds to benefit the C.R. Wood Cancer Center at Glens Falls Hospital. Phantoms Youth Jerseys will be given away to the first 1,000 kids in attendance courtesy of Glens Falls Hospital Rehabilitation Team. BOXSCORE
Adirondack Phantoms 2 at Syracuse Crunch 5 Saturday, November 17, 2012 - Onondaga County War Memorial at Oncenter
Adirondack 0 1 1 - 2 Syracuse 1 4 0 - 5
1st Period-1, Syracuse, Labrie 3 (Conacher, Barberio), 13:09. Penalties-Conacher Syr (holding), 0:28; Brown Adk (tripping), 3:41; Holmstrom Adk (tripping), 6:39; Johnson Syr (interference), 7:33; Rinaldo Adk (slashing), 14:55.