Tempers flare as Crunch defeat Marlies on 'Next Gen' night

Gordon Brown
BarnBurner Sports Writer


Saturday, March 7, 2020

Syracuse (2) - Toronto (1) Final

Taylor Raddysh recorded the game-winning goal for the Syracuse Crunch in a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Marlies in Saturday night’s ‘Next Gen Game’ at Coca-Cola Coliseum.

It happened to be the second half of a back-to-back for the familiar foes. The Crunch remained in Toronto overnight following Friday’s 5-2 loss at the Marlies’ hands and remained eager for a chance at redemption.

Syracuse (29-23-4-5) were led by forward Gemel Smith and his one goal, one assist offensive outburst. The 25-year-old Toronto native also contributed with his body and inflicted a wrath of physical dominance upon the Marlies.

Spencer Martin allowed just one goal on 32 shots against to record the win, however, his impact stretched beyond simply tending the net. In his conquest, the 24-year-old improved his record to 11-11-5 and made a friend in Marlies' forward Garrett Wilson along the way.

"He played well," said Wilson, outside the Marlies' locker room. "He was actually a little chippy, too.

"It would've been nice to get a couple more (goals) on him."

The Marlies (29-26-3-2) benefitted from Timothy Liljegren’s return to the lineup as he facilitated his team’s only goal of the game, among other schematic responsibilities. 

Joseph Woll stood tall in the home net but suffered the loss, dropping his record to 11-15-3 on the season. The 21-year-old turned away 27-of-29 shots before his night ended. 

Toronto struggled out of the gate but managed to strike first at 13:00 of the first period, courtesy of defenceman Kivihalme. The Finnish-American skated the puck down low and snuck a wrist shot through Spencer Martin’s five-hole to create a 1-0 lead for the home team.

The top pair of Kivihalme and Liljegren proved to be a positive takeaway despite the loss, according to head coach Greg Moore.

"They're both great skaters who can transition the game really well for us," said Moore. "A lot of times, teams don't even get into our end because they can take pucks away at the offensive blue line and red line."

Liljegren, who was reassigned from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Mar. 6, recorded the primary assist on his defensive partner’s fourth goal of the season. The 20-year-old’s latest NHL stint saw him play four games while averaging 9:29 time on ice, with one shot and a minus-four rating to show.

Physicality remained a paramount theme that carried over from Friday, as the opposing teams were constantly reminded of their disdain for one another. Players exchanged pleasantries and appeared visibly angered. Brawls continued to break out during the action as an outlet for mutual loathing.

Syracuse willed their strength in the second period and foreshadowed further confrontation, but was ultimately outshot 16-9 in the frame. 

During a stoppage in play, Martin, the Crunch goaltender, targeted Joseph Duszak and proceeded to contact the defenceman’s head before he tumbled into the end boards. Despite what was an egregious headshot, the backstop merely received a minor roughing infraction.

The Crunch prevailed to find an equalizer before the end of the second and took the momentum into the intermission. Woll managed to make several saves before a scrum ensued around the crease, where Smith located the loose puck and buried it on the vulnerable netminder.

When play resumed in the final regulation period, Syracuse continued to pressure the opposition and was awarded a 2-1 go-ahead goal against Woll. Raddysh potted his 19th goal of the season with assists drawn from Cameron Gaunce and Smith, respectively.

Toronto made a valiant effort to pursue the game-tying goal with little time remaining but proved unable to solve Martin for the second time in the game. 

With the victory, Syracuse increases its lead to three points over the Marlies for the fourth and final North Division playoff spot. Toronto will play three of its upcoming games on the road this week and will need to secure wins fast if they’re to make the playoffs for a ninth consecutive season. Sixteen regular-season games remain.

Moore is optimistic his Marlies will be able to bounce back following a night where the effort was there, except the results weren't.

"We stick with the process," said Moore. "Some nights it's just not going to happen for us, but in the long run, we bring that effort and it's going to happen for us."