Sports Reporting Game Story #1: Syracuse Crunch vs. Albany River Rats, 1/19/07

Syracuse crunches Albany, 6-2
By Dante A. Ciampaglia

World Wrestling Entertainment superstar diva Torrie Wilson picked the right night to appear at the OnCenter. There was as much physical play on the ice as there would be in a WWE ring.

Eleven seconds into the first period of the Crunch's 6-2 victory last night, Syracuse center Ben Simon was hit in the face by Albany River Rats rightwinger Cody McCormick's stick. McCormick drew a five minute high-sticking major and a match penalty for attempting to injure Simon.

Thirty-nine seconds later, Crunch leftwinger Mark Hartigan scored the first of his three goals, all of which came on the power play. His second goal, at the eight-minute mark of the first, gave him career goal 105, breaking Lonny Bohonos's franchise goals record.

"It's always nice to help the team win," Hartigan said, downplaying the achievement. "Right now, you're just trying to hit a stride, worrying about helping the team win and getting this team out of the basement."

Those first 50 seconds set the tempo for the rest of the contest. Crushing checks were the norm, and penalties were abundant. The teams combined for 121 minutes of penalty time (81 minutes came in the third period), leading to six special teams goals. The Crunch scored four times on the power play, while Albany notched two short-handed tallies.

"As soon as one guy gives you one little cheap shot, things start breaking out," Hartigan said. "They were just getting frustrated. It just goes to show you that you've got to stay out of the box to win in this game."

In the third period, the physical play reached its apex. Around the 9:42 mark, Crunch defenseman Jekabs Redlihs threw his body into Albany defenseman Johnny Boychuk, crashing Boychuk into the boards. This led to three fights: Crunch leftwinger Alexandre Picard tangled with Albany defenseman Tim Conboy, Crunch leftwinger Joakim Lindstrom traded blows with Boychuk and Redlihs tussled with Albany leftwinger Cody McLeod. It was Redlihs's first fight.

"It's part of hockey, that'll happen and you have to be ready for it," Redlihs said.

When the dust settled, Picard, Boychuk, Conboy and McLeod were ejected. And as McLeod skated towards the locker room, he addressed Redlihs, who was sitting in the penalty box.

"I should not say" what he said, Redlihs laughed, before adding, "Beep beep beep beep beep," in reference to the stream of profanity directed at him. "And I just said, 'Good job, buddy. You're the one that's leaving, not me.'" He waved mockingly at McLeod for good measure.

While the Crunch remains at the bottom of the AHL's North Division, last night's physical win proved their tenacity. And they're looking at this game as a character builder that will create a late-season surge.

"[This win was] good for us," Redlihs said. "We need to play that kind of [physical] game. You know guys will get your back, he'll help you out. You can count on him, and he can count on you."