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IceCaps vs Crunch Game Recap: Heartbreak in Syracuse

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An familiar face played hero for the Crunch, as the IceCaps’ playoff hopes and franchise comes to an end

St. John’s IceCaps/Jeff Parsons

Following a tightly contested physical affair on Wednesday night that resulted in a 3-2 loss, the IceCaps looked to stave off elimination in Game Four. It was another hard-fought battle between the two rivals, but the in the end the IceCaps bowed out of the Calder Cup playoffs in five games.

Montreal’s AHL affiliate switched back to the more standard formation of 12 forwards and six defenders, with Noah Juulsen drawing in, while Keegan Lowe was a healthy scratch. Mark MacMillan was swapped out for Niki Petti and Anthony Camara drew back in on the wing. Once again, Charlie Lindgren got the start, and opposite of him was Mike McKenna.

The first period was almost a carbon copy of Wednesday night’s contest, with St. John’s owning the early run of play and outshooting Syracuse. The IceCaps managed to hold the Crunch to just three shots for a majority of the period, which included several power play chances for the away team. However, the IceCaps’ inability to convert on those early power plays came back to bite them later in the period.

It would be Erik Condra to open the scoring, after he converted a great passing play involving Matthew Peca and Tye McGinn during the man advantage. A diving save late in the frame by Lindgren kept the IceCaps in the game, but they would need more offence if they hoped to stay alive in the playoffs.

The second period was marked by the penalty killers being tested early and often. A Charles Hudon boarding minor came not long after McKenna turned away a pair of breakaways by Max Friberg and Bobby Farnham. Following that, it was Stefan Matteau who lost his cool (and his helmet) during a hit on Adam Erne, though the penalty killing units would come up big once more.

Two IceCaps power plays in the middle frame generated little to no offence, and McKenna continued to turn away breakaway chances, including a chance by Chris Terry, to keep Syracuse leading after 40 minutes.

Entering the third the IceCaps struggled to get their offensive motor turning, something that they’ve had trouble with in the past.

An early power play failed to produce any tangible threat. In fact, the Crunch ended up with the best scoring chance on a Yanni Gourde rush on net. The IceCaps’ best chance came with a little more than half the period gone when a shot trickled behind McKenna, but Matt Taormina played hero, scooping the puck off the goal line and clearing it from danger.

With Gourde sitting for high sticking, the man advantage found its legs at long last. Off a neutral zone face-off, Daniel Audette fed a perfect pass to Matteau, who used some slick moves in tight to finally beat McKenna and tie the game with 5:33 left to play in the period.

The two sides played out the remainder of the period in an extremely tentative manner given the importance of the result. Both Lindgren and McKenna held their own.

With not only their season, but their franchise on the line, the IceCaps battled the Crunch in an overtime that can only be described as nerve wracking. A storybook ending was not in the cards for St. John’s though, as Byron Froese found former captain Gabriel Dumont left wide open.

With that goal, Dumont ended not only the series, but a long standing history of 20 years of AHL hockey in St. John’s.

Three Stars:

1. Mike McKenna (26 Saves)

2. Gabriel Dumont (1 Goal)

3. Erik Condra (1 Goal)

The Crunch will move on to face the winner of the Albany/Toronto series, while the IceCaps will begin the move to Laval in the off season.

We would like to thank St.John’s for their top notch support throughout Montreal’s AHL affiliation with the city and team. The people in Newfounland are not only great fans, but great people that deserve another hockey franchise as soon as possible.

Stay tuned for IceCaps player reviews throughout the summer.