The Springfield Falcons hosted game 2 of the second round against the Syracuse Crunch Saturday night. They were hoping for a different outcome from Friday, but did not have that luck. An early deficit and a number of penalties proved impossible obstacles to overcome for the Falcons.
The Crunch got started early once again. Just 36 seconds into the game, Boone Jenner took a penalty that sent Syracuse to the power play. At the 1:02 mark in the first, Richard Panik capitalized on the opportunity with a goal assisted by Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson. The early burst would not stop there, though, as the Crunch also put the second shot on goal into the net. Mike Angelidis earned credit for the goal that appeared to bounce off him after JT Brown took the initial shot. The goals were just 13 seconds apart.
“They’re too skilled for us to take that many penalties,” Head Coach Brad Larsen said. “The execution was better tonight, but it’s special teams that’s been a problem. They had 3 power play goals.”
After two goals on the first two shots, the Falcons seemed to get the game calmed down a little bit and started generating some chances of their own. Finally, with about 5 minutes to go in the period, the Falcons were able to close the gap to 2-1. Dalton Prout took a hard shot from the blue line and Ryan Russell was able to put it in the net, despite attempts from the Crunch defense.
The second period started with a continuation of a 5 on 3 situation for Springfield. But, they continued to struggle on the power play and could not even up the score. After that, the Falcons showed an unusual lack of discipline and took 3 minor penalties in just a minute and 28 seconds. The resulting 5 on 3 for Syracuse would not go to waste. Johnson took a shot that easily beat McElhinney high on the glove side. As if to prove how dangerous they can be offensively, the Crunch added a short handed goal to make the score 4-1. After a mishandled pass, Johnson ended up with a breakaway and hand no trouble putting the puck in the net for his second of the night.
But the Falcons were not ready to give up and just 24 seconds after Johnson’s second of the night, Springfield made it a 4-2 game. Cody Goloubef took a slapshot from the blue line that found itself on Andrew Joudrey’s stick before Trent Vogelhuber finally put it past Cedrick Desjardins. It seemed like the momentum might have shifted for the Falcons. With time running out in the second, Dalton Prout had a big hit along the boards that ended up with him getting into a fight with JT Wyman. Prout landed the majority of the punches and easily won the fight. The Falcons have appeared to do well so far this series when it comes to fighting.
“I think you need to bring that aggression to be competitive in games. Any time you don’t have that, your season is ending pretty quickly,” Prout said. “That’s something we don’t have trouble bringing to the table. We’re going to continue to be aggressive.”
Sadly for Springfield, that momentum at the end of the second did not seem to carry over to the third period. Once again they found themselves in trouble on the penalty kill as Johnson got the hat trick and put the Crunch up 5-2. Although the Falcons managed to make it 5-3 shortly after, they were not able to overcome the early deficit. Jenner tipped a slapshot from Nick Holden for the Falcons final goal of the game and that score would hold. Once again, it was a scrappy game, with a lot of pushing after the whistles. The very end of the game was no different with a Falcon and two players from the Crunch earning roughing penalties after the final whistle.
“There are a couple areas we need to tweak, but right off the bat we need to work on discipline,” Larsen said. “We can’t start off down 2-0. That puts you in a difficult position for the rest of the game.”
Syracuse now takes the series back home with the 2-0 lead. The next three games of the best-of-7 series are in Syracuse. This is a tough situation for Springfield to find themselves in, but there are definitely some small changes that the coaching staff will look to make after the first two games. The winner of this series goes on to the Eastern Conference Finals.