Crunch Down Wolves in Familiar Fashion

By Jeff Parzych
Syracuse Shutouts Chicago to Take 1-0 Series Lead

At quick glance, after hearing that the Crunch were victorious in their Game One match-up of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Chicago Wolves, you probably came to the conclusion that superstar goaltender Jean-Francois Labbe was the story of the night. After all, the Crunch did win by the score of 3-0 and Labbe was credited with yet another shutout, so you think that would be a safe assumption. Not so fast.

Now don’t get me wrong, Labbe was his usual spectacular self, but against a club like the Wolves, it takes more than a hot goaltender to white wash them. They are a team that finished the regular season ranked fourth in the AHL in scoring and have continued with that same trend in the playoffs. They boast the likes of Rob Brown and Steve Maltais, two players who have proven that can consistently bury the rubber in any league, not just the one the currently compete in.

No one player is going to be able to beat a team of this nature. It takes a total team effort and that is exactly what the Crunch gave on Friday evening. The forwards did a super job of back checking, defensemen limited second chances and yes, when all else did fail, Jean-Francois was there, holding the Wolves at bay to give the Crunch the 3-0 victory.

“It was a good team defensive effort and he (Labbe) made some big saves,” stated Crunch defenseman Darrel Scoville. “He played well and we played well in front of him and we chipped in when we had to and got a few goals.”

The first of which opened the scoring at the 11:44 mark of the first period. With the Crunch on the power play, David Ling received a nice drop pass from Derrick Walser and circled around the Chicago zone. He patiently waited for a hole to open and fired a nice cross-ice pass to Sean Pronger. The Crunch Captain buried a one-timer past Wolves netminder Pasi Nurminen for a 1-0 Syracuse lead.

“I held it and held it and waited for their forwards to drive by Sean,” said David Ling. “He finally opened up and he made a good shot.”

The goal also displayed the Crunch’s ability to do the little things that have made them successful all season long. While Ling waited with the puck on the play, center Brad Moran did his part by driving to the net and taking a good portion of the Chicago defense with him.

“Brad Moran drives to the net bringing the two guys away from Sean” stated Ling. “That’s the thing with this team.”

Moran would also play a major role in the Crunch’s next goal, although you wouldn’t know from looking at the score sheet. With Syracuse clinging to a one-goal lead late in the third, his aggressive back check at the blue line pried the puck loose from a Chicago defender and it ended up on the blade of Crunch forward Matt Davidson. Davidson carried the puck into the Chicago zone and feathered a pass to the late arriving Jeremy Reich cutting down the slot. Reich controlled the pass and fired a shot on net seconds before being hauled down on the play. His shot would beat Nurminen to give the Crunch a two-goal lead with less than five minutes to play.

“I came off the bench late and I don’t think they seen me coming off,” said Reich. “He (Davidson) made the pass across and the guy was kind of hooking me a little bit. I just wanted to get it off before I got hooked and it went five-hole before he pulled me down.”

Davidson would seal the deal with an empty-net tally less than three minutes later for the final score of 3-0. The win gives the Crunch a 1-0 lead in their best of seven series heading into tomorrow night’s Game Two at the War Memorial.

If history repeats itself, this Chicago team should be more than ready for Game Two. They had lost both Game One’s in their previous two rounds only to come back and get win’s in the always-important second game.

“We know for this series for us to win we are going to have to win one game here,” said Chicago forward Rob Brown. “There is no thought in the dressing room that the series is over. We know it is going to be a long series and tomorrow night we are going to come out and try and win that one.”

Stay tuned.

Chicago at Syracuse - Boxscore

Chicago        0     0     0   --0
Syracuse       1     0     2   --3

FIRST PERIOD -- Scoring: 1, Syracuse, Sean Pronger 4 (power play)
(Derrick Walser, David Ling), 11:44.  Penalties: J Schill, Syr
(roughing), 2:09; G Larose, Chi (roughing), 7:09; B Nardella, Chi
(tripping), 11:22; A Sryubko, Syr (holding), 15:41; D Westcott, Syr
(elbowing), 19:16.

SECOND PERIOD -- Scoring: None.  Penalties: B Simon, Chi (high sticking), 3:13; G
Larose, Chi (holding), 6:37; S Pronger, Syr (holding), 18:57.

THIRD PERIOD -- Scoring: 2, Syracuse, Jeremy Reich 2 (Matt Davidson),
15:37. 3, Syracuse, Matt Davidson 1 (empty net) (Mathieu Darche, Sean
Pronger), 17:27.  Penalties: D Walser, Syr (cross checking), 13:14.

Shots on goal:
Chicago             8    9   13   --30
Syracuse            6    5    9   --20

Power-play Conversions: Chicago - 0 of 4, Syracuse - 1 of 3. Goalies :
Chicago, Pasi Nurminen (19 shots, 17 saves; record: 3-2-0). Syracuse,
Jean-Francois Labbe (30 shots, 30 saves; record: 4-0-0). A: 4,587.
Referees: Ian Walsh. Linesmen: Dan Murphy, Terry Henneberg.


CHICAGO                                SYRACUSE
                G   A   +/-  Shots                   G   A   +/-  Shots
D Eakins        0   0   -1      2    J Heward        0   0   +1      2
Y Butsayev      0   0   -1      3    S Pronger       1   1   +1      2
G Larose        0   0   -1      1    C Nielsen       0   0   even    0
B Tapper        0   0   -1      1    D Walser        0   1   even    1
K Piros         0   0   even    1    A Nedorost      0   0   even    1
D Mackenzie     0   0   even    2    D Scoville      0   0   even    2
A Karlsson      0   0   -1      1    D Westcott      0   0   even    0
D Snyder        0   0   -1      0    M Davidson      1   1   +2      3
R Brown         0   0   even    4    D Ling          0   1   even    0
J Vigier        0   0   -1      2    A Sryubko       0   0   +1      2
K Safronov      0   0   even    1    A Borzecki      0   0   +1      1
J Dipenta       0   0   -1      1    M Darche        0   1   +1      0
B Simon         0   0   -1      2    J Reich         1   0   +1      2
M Weaver        0   0   even    1    P Traynor       0   0   +1      0
K Foster        0   0   even    0    M Paroulek      0   0   even    0
B Nardella      0   0   -2      4    B Bellefeuille  0   0   even    1
G Exelby        0   0   even    0    B Moran         0   0   +1      1
S Maltais       0   0   even    4    J Schill        0   0   even    2

***Three Stars of the Game***

1. J.F. Labbe: Team effort or not, J.F. is still the man. He made the big saves when he had to en route to a 30 save performance.

2. Sean Pronger: The Captain had a goal and an assist and was +1 on the night.

3. Matt Davidson: He also chipped in with a two-point night and was a game high +2 on the evening.

Crunch One-Timers:

Scratches for last night were Dan Watson (healthy), Martin Spanhel (ribs), and Kent McDonell (leg). K-Mac was hurt in Game 3 of the Philadelphia series. His status for tonight is uncertain. Also center Blake Bellefeuille went down with an apparent head injury in the second period and never returned. His status is also unknown at this time.

Prior to the contest, former Crunch defenseman Jeff Ware presented the award for the “Player’s Player” to forward Jeremy Reich. Ware started the season with Syracuse but was forced to retire due to knee problems.

Boxscore courtesy of