Syracuse Crunch: Playoff Edition

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The Syracuse Crunch started their quest for the Calder Cup. The first game against the Portland (Maine) Pirates was a very physical and intense affair. The Crunch fell behind by two goals, twice. They settled down and chipped away until they tied the game in the third period. Neither team could win it in regulation.

All photos taken with a Nikon D7100 and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRI lens.

Calder Cup playoffs is identical to the NHL. You play until someone scores. No 4-on-4 hockey or shootouts. This is where I pick it up...

Tyler Johnson (9, in white) fires a shot at the Portland Pirates net which was ruled a goal by the referee...at first.
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After some discussion and a video replay, the puck was ruled it never crossed the goalline but had instead hit the outside of the netting. Referee was quick to make his call and not for the first time either.
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Everything gets multiplied in overtime. Every shot, hit and save becomes extremely important. Here, Syracuse Crunch goalie Cedrick Desjardins (30) makes a save on a Portland Pirate scoring attempt.
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Things got really interesting when big (as in 6' 7" and 255 pounds big) Portland Pirates defensemen Boris Valabik (7) boarded a Crunch player face first. Causing blood to be spilled and giving Valabik a 5 minute major and game misconduct. As you can see, he did not agree with the call as he was being escorted off the ice.
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While the blood was being cleaned off the ice, Syracuse Crunch players huddled up around Head Coach Rob Zettler to discuss their strategy. BTW, everyone one of the players on the ice here played for the Tampa Bay Lightning at one time during the season and had won the Calder Cup last year when this franchise was in Norflok.
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During the power play, there were several missed opportunities to score like this one as neither Richard Panik (14) or Ondrej Palat (12) could direct the puck in the net.
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Dan Sexton (16) was setup at the left circle and had a great shot lined up but, alas, his stick broke, the puck fluttered and the fans moaned.
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Then...a goal as Ondrej Palat (12) puts the puck in the net. But...see the referee? He had already blown the play dead when he lost sight of the puck. Another quick decision which got the fans chanting...Ref You Suck...very loudly.
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Finally, with the penalty time down to less than two minutes, Richard Panik (14) gathered up a loose and rolling puck in front of the net and lifted it over the sprawling Portland Pirate goaltender to win the game!
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Bedlam ensued as players and fans rose up in extreme jubilation!
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Richard Panik (14) shares a smile with Crunch Captain Mike Mike Angelidis (10) as the Crunch took a 1-0 series lead in the Best-of-5.
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Even Crunchman, the team's mascot, was excited as he waved his blue and silver rally towel (Free to the first 2,000 fans thanks to sponsors).
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Joined
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Thanks, Chris. First time I photographed a playoff game for the Crunch. The team notched it up a level. Especially the physical part. They were rocking the boards all game long.
 
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Messages
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It has been 17 days since the Portland series ended and the Crunch returned to the War Memorial ice last night already leading the Best-of-7 second round series, 2-0, after winning the first two games against the Springfield Falcons. This series is a 2-3-2 affair because of scheduling conflicts with Springfield's home arena. After last night, it is not looking like it will go past the next game.

Photos taken with a Nikon D7100 and 70-200mm VRI lens except were noted.

Springfield tried to set a tone early but Falcons Cody Goloubef (27) roughing up Syracuse Crunch forward Richard Panik (14) only lead to a penalty for him.
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The game was scoreless late in the first period when Richard Panik (14) got a sweet pass from linemate Ondrej Palat (not pictured) and cashed in on a breakway for a lead.
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As you can see, Ondrej Palat (12) was a bit happy about it.
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The Springfield Falcons tried to re-group after a quick strike by, who else, Palat at the beginning of the third period to put them down 2-0. Here I was using a 24-85mm G f/3.5-4.5 non-VR lens. Trying out the focal length on the cropped D7100 body when shooting at ice level. Not bad, need more practice.
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But, nothing worked. Here, Syracuse Crunch J. P. Cote (24) blocks a Springfield Falcons shot in front of Cedrick Desjardins (30)
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Tyler Johnson (9) put the game away half way in the third scoring on a short handed goal from a pass from, yep, Ondrej Palat.
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Meanwhile, Cedrick Desjardins (30) turned aside all 24 shots by the Falcons to record a playoff shutout.
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Can you guess who the First Star of the game was? Come one now..I bet you can. Ondrej Palat (12) waves to the crowd.
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The Crunch are now up 3-0 in the series and can close it out Friday night.
 
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There was a buzz in the air in the old War Memorial last Friday night. There were a few brooms among the 5,090 fans who came to Game 4 anticipating a Syracuse Crunch sweep of the Springfield Falcons in the AHL Calder Cup Eastern Conference Semi-Final.

1. A photo of the ice surface from the Press Box walkway. Taken with a Nikon D7100 and Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 UWA lens.
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2. Syracuse Crunch goalie Cedrick Desjardins (30) being introduced to the crowd before playing the Springfield Falcons.
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3. The home team came out hitting. Syracuse Crunch J. T. Brown (23) checks Springfield Falcons David Savard (6) into the boards.
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4. J. T. Wyman (15) scored the first goal and the Crunch never looked back.
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5. Speed wins in hockey and rookie Vladislav Namestnikov (18) used his to go around a Falcons defensemen before trying to stuff the puck under Falcons goalie Curtis McElhinney (30). Though he did not get the goal, the puck laid in the crease until Crunch Mark Barberio (not pictured) tipped it in.
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6. Syracuse Crunch goalie Cedrick Desjardins (30) was solid in net and only allowed 7 goals in the 4 game series.
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7. After the game, the Crunch celebrated the series victory. Here Syracuse Crunch Mark Barberio (8) and Dan Sexton (16) High Five each other with Vladislav Namestnikov (18) in between.
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8. The Traditional Handshake. Syracuse Crunch Tyler Johnson (9), who scored 5 goals in the series including a hat trick in Game 2, shakes Springfield Falcons goalie Curtis McElhinney's (30) hand after the series win.
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Crunch are now awaiting the result of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Providence Bruins series to see who they will play next.
 
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Location
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The Crunch have now entered into the AHL Calder Cup Eastern Conference Finals (ECF) against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins who are the affiliates of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Crunch played them eight times during the season coming away with a 5-3 advantage. The way the series has started, it could go the distance.

Game 1 had the Crunch coming off a week's rest since sweeping the Springfield Falcons. In contrast, the Penguins had just come back from a 3-0 hole to beat the Providence Bruins in 7 games. They are only the third team in AHL playoff history to achieve such a feat. You can see where this is going.

1. Syracuse Crunch Tyler Johnson's (9) shot attempt is blocked by Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins defensemen Peter Merth (4) in American Hockey League (AHL) Calder Cup Playoff action at the Onondaga County War Memorial on Saturday, May 25, 2013.
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2. Syracuse Crunch J. T. Wyman's (15) shot is blocked by Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins defensemen Joey Mormina (3). Are you sensing a theme here?
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The Crunch came out flat and made many miskates and were losing 2-0 after the first 10 minutes of period 1. The Crunch climbed back into it and tied the game with the next two goals.

3. Syracuse Crunch Mike Angelidis (10) and fans celebrate the goal by Brendan Mikkelson (26, not pictured) against the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins.
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4. Syracuse Crunch Tyler Johnson (9, not pictured) pops the water bottle into the air behind Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins goalie Brad Thiessen (39) when his shot hit the back of the net.
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But it wasn't enough. A couple of defensive miscues and other stuff (like broken sticks at the wrong time and hitting four goal posts) combined for a 4-2 loss and a 1-0 series deficit.

5. Syracuse Crunch Richard Panik's (14) stick breaks while taking a shot at the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins net.
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The crowd of over 5,200 went home disapponted. Well, except for the 250 or so WBS Penguins fans who made the trip north.
 
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Location
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One good thing about the AHL, you don't have to wait long for the next game. The Crunch and Penguins were back at it the next night. The Crunch played much better outshooting the Penguins, 22-1, in the first period alone. Still, they only had one goal to show for it as Brad Thieseen played like the second coming of Patrick Roy.

Both teams are using the same hashtag for the playoffs: #AllIn. While Syracuse first used it on Twitter, WBS claims they got it from the Pittsburgh GM who said it after the NHL trade deadline. Either way, everyone is All In in both cities.

6. Fans with Big Heads. The Big Heads from left to right are Syracuse players Jared Nightingale, Richard Panik and J. P. Coté.
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7. A mother and daughter pose with their game signs.
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8. I think one of the Vancouver Green Men decided to change his colors and come east. LOL
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9. Here's the first frame leading to the Crunch's second goal. Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins goalie Brad Thiessen (39) watches the puck shot by Syracuse Crunch Matt Taormina (6) bounce off his shoulder into the air above him.
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10. Here's the next frame with the puck just about ready to cross the goal line. The goal was first credited to Ondrej Palat (12) but was later changed to Matt Taormina. Ondrej did not touch it until after it had crossed the line.
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11. Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins players and Syracuse Crunch Ondrej Palat (12) react to the goal scored by Crunch defensemen Dmitry Korobov (44, not pictured) which turned out to be the winning goal as the Crunch held on for a 3-2 win.
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12. Syracuse Crunch fans taunt Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins Captain Joey Mormina (3) as he heads to the penalty box. No love lost between the Crunch fans and the WBS players.
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13. Syracuse Crunch Head Coach Rob Zettler talks to his players during a Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins time out late in the third period.
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14. Syracuse Crunch Ondrej Palat (12) salutes the fans after being named the First Star in the victory over the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins in an American Hockey League (AHL) Calder Cup Playoff game at the Onondaga County War Memorial on Sunday, May 26, 2013. Syracuse won 3-2 and evened up the series at 1 game apiece. The series resumes tonight in Wilkes-Barre.
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The crowd of nearly 5,200 went home happy. Well, except for the 250 or so WBS Penguins fans who made the trip north.
 

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