The Syracuse Crunch experienced a successful opening weekend during their first year as the Tampa Bay Lightning AHL affiliate, earning points in both games.
There was not a lack of excitement over the weekend as both games went down to the wire. Friday night’s season opener in Rochester left the Crunch on the wrong side of the fence after a 6-5 shootout loss to the Rochester Americans. Saturday’s home opener left the Crunch with a better result after a 4-3 victory against the Hershey Bears.
The Crunch got off to a sluggish start Friday night that ultimately doomed them.
Facing a 4-1 deficit early in the second period the Crunch finally came to life, scoring the next four goals. Tyler Johnson scored the final two goals of the four-goal onslaught, giving the Crunch a 5-4 lead midway through the third period.
The Syracuse lead was short-lived.
Exactly 2:33 later, Mark Mancari tied the game at five for the Americans, killing the momentum for the Crunch.
After a scoreless overtime frame, Mancari scored the only shootout goal to seal the victory for the Americans.
Despite the slow start on Friday, the Crunch came out ready to play in front of a sold-out War Memorial Arena for Saturday night’s home opener against the Bears.
Crunch captain Mike Angelidis got his team on the board first with a shorthanded goal midway through the first period.
Lightning prospect Cory Conacher controls the puck against the Bears' defense.
The Crunch built a two-goal lead after a second period tally from Tyler Johnson. Back-to-back goals from the Bears knotted the game up at two before Cory Conacher, last year’s AHL most valuable player and outstanding rookie, found the back of the net late in the second period to give the Crunch a 3-2 lead heading into the final frame.
Early in the third period, Brett Connolly gave the Crunch some breathing room with a goal, putting his team up, 4-2.
The Bears did manage a third period goal to make things interesting down the stretch, but the Crunch defense and netminder Riku Helenius were able to hold off the Bears and come away with a 4-3 victory.
The big contributors for the Crunch over the weekend were Conacher and Johnson. Johnson checked-in with three goals over the two-game stretch, while Conacher continued his success from last season with two goals and three assists. Conacher leads all AHL skaters in goals and points through the first week of the regular season. Conacher was also named AHL Player of the Week for the first week of the season.
The Crunch look to build on their good start next weekend with three games. Two of those games are on the road. Friday night and Saturday night they travel to Albany and Binghamton, respectively. Sunday afternoon the Crunch will return home to take on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.