Rusty Crunch Fall for Second Straight Night

By Jeff Parzych
Binghamton Downs Syracuse 4-3

Oil! Oil! Reminiscent of the tin man in the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz”, the 2002-03 Syracuse Crunch is experiencing the dangers of inactivity. Forced to wait an extra week to begin the season and the defense of their Western Division crown, Syracuse has stumbled out of the blocks so far this season.

A 3-1 loss to Hamilton on Friday, followed up by a 4-3 loss in their home opener last evening and the Crunch will be searching for that oil can as they embark on another week of practice to try and shake what is turning out to be a less than auspicious start for Gary Agnew’s bunch.

Bolstered by the raising of their championship banner from last season, Syracuse came out of the gates smoking. They were finishing their checks as they displayed some very good energy to start the contest.

“We wanted to come out and set the tempo and keep the fans in the game and I thought we did that for a while” stated Head Coach Gary Agnew. That while lasted about sixteen minutes of game time, as the Senators would open the scoring late in the first period.

After a near miss by Crunch rookie Tim Jackman on the doorstep, Binghamton would capitalize on Radim Bicanek’s failure to keep the puck in the zone at the blue line by converting on a three on two break. Brad Smyth would convert a Chris Bala pass to give the Sens an early one-goal lead.

That lead would be short lived, as the Crunch would answer just ten seconds later. Off the face-off, Duvie Westcott would send David Ling breaking into the Binghamton zone. Ling would find Mathieu Darche with a nice cross-ice pass in the slot and the Quebec native would beat Binghamton netminder Ray Emery to even the score at one heading into the second.

In the second, the Crunch seemed to come out a little listless while the Senators looked in mid-season form. “We didn’t really have much going on in the second,” said Agnew. “I’m not sure if that was more of us playing poorly or them playing really well and shutting us down.”

Either way, Binghamton’s advantage in play, they out shot the Crunch 14-6 in the period, translated into a 3-1 lead heading into the game’s final twenty minutes.

In the third, Syracuse received what seemed to be the break they needed to get back in the contest thanks to defenseman Wade Brookbank’s elbow of Duvie Westcott just 1:06 into the period. That optimism lasted a whole 23 seconds.

Chris Bala would corral a Westcott pass that bounced off the skate of Crunch forward Kent McDonell in the neutral zone. With the two Crunch players stumbling at center ice, the Harvard grad would break in alone and beat Pascal Leclaire shorthanded for a 4-1 Senator lead.

“I thought Duvie was attacking with some really good speed and just happened to bank it off McDonell’s skate,” stated Coach Agnew. “Both guys tried to recover and knocked each other down and they go in on the breakaway and score.”

Syracuse would manage to make it interesting with goals in the third from Brad Moran and Radim Bicanek, but that was as close as they would come on this night. The Crunch now find themselves still searching for their first win after their first weekend of play.

It is obviously not the start that this group envisioned, but like they say, every cloud has its silver lining.

“At least we are showing that we can put it together at times,” said Captain David Ling. “Now we just have to put it together for sixty minutes.”

Editors Note: The boxscore we normally supply with this report, complete with plus/minus statistics courtesy of the www.theahl.com, was unfortunately not posted by that site. They seem to be having problems with the boxscores so far this season and we apologize for any inconvenience and hope to have our usual full report available for next week’s homestand.

***Three Stars of the Game***

1. Brad Smyth: The long time AHL veteran opened the scoring and added another assist to lead the Senators.

2. Chris Bala: Bala also had a two-point night and scored the eventual game-winner.

3. David Ling: The captain played well as he assisted on all three Crunch tallies.

Crunch One-Timers:

Scratches for last night were Ben Knopp (ribs) and Jonathon Schill (healthy). Both Jeremy Reich and Tim Jackman made their 2002-03 debuts after sitting out the opener in Hamilton.

Prior to the contest, the Crunch announced that the Blue Jackets had recalled defenseman Derrick Walser and center Andrej Nedorost. Both players played in the Jackets 4-1 over Florida Saturday evening. They each saw a little over 8:00 minutes of ice time with Walser getting an assist on Grant Marshall tally to open the contest.

Walser’s recall was in response to Columbus sending down blue liner Radim Bicanek on Friday. Bicanek did not appear in any of the first four contests for the Blue Jackets this season and was in danger of not making the club out of training camp after a very mediocre 2001-02. The one thing that was on Bicanek’s side was his one-way contract with Columbus, which didn’t appear to help him this time. That is another prime example of why Columbus is right at the top of the list as far as parent clubs go. Most teams would not pay a player like Bicanek big bucks to play in the minors. The Jackets have proven that while contracts are always a consideration, they are not the only determinant.

Prior to Saturday’s home opener, the Crunch raised their Western Division championship banner with a ceremony at center ice. It is the first banner, outside of the retired number of former enforcer John Badduke, that the Crunch has ever been able to display. Overall, it was a very successful opening night for the Crunch staff as they put on a very entertaining home opener complete with a light show, player introductions and the unveiling of their new, less threatening version of their mascot, Al the ice gorilla.