The Syracuse Crunch jumped out to an early lead and rolled past the Utica Comets, 5-3, tonight at the Adirondack Bank Center.
Carter Verhaeghe scored twice as the Crunch move into sole possession of the North Division lead for the first time this season with 77 points. The team is now 36-17-3-2 on the season and 4-4-0-0 in the 12-game Galaxy Cup season series with the Comets.
Crunch goaltender Eddie Pasquale earned the win with 30 saves. Michael Leighton stopped 15-of-19 in net for the Comets. Syracuse was unable to convert on their one power play opportunity, but went a perfect 7-for-7 on the penalty kill.
The Crunch opened scoring with a shorthanded goal just 3:30 into the game. Andy Andreoff came in on an odd-man rush and threw a last-minute cross-slot feed for Gabriel Dumont to chip into an open net. Ben Thomas recorded the secondary helper.
Syracuse made it 3-0 less than 10 minutes into the game with two more goals just 14 seconds apart. At the 9:34 mark, Ross Colton picked off a pass at the blue line and beat Leighton from the slot. Seconds later, Verhaeghe cashed in on another giveaway in the bottom of the right circle. His first shot was stopped, but he jammed the rebound in at the post.
After a scoreless middle stanza, the Comets found the back of the net 3:39 into the third period. Tanner Kero dug the puck out from the end boards for Reid Boucher to score from between the circles. Jalen Chatfield tallied the secondary helper.
The Crunch regained their three-goal lead off Verhaeghe’s second of the game at the 11:36 mark. After Taylor Raddysh tipped Nolan Valleau’s left point shot, Verhaeghe netted the rebound for his 27th of the season.
Utica added two more late in the game to come back within one. With 7:36 remaining, Brendan Gaunce sauced a centering feed for Zack MacEwen to finish off. Kole Lind assisted on the play. Three minutes later, Brandon Anselmini picked the near corner from all alone in the left circle. Lind and Carter Bancks earned points on the tally.
Syracuse ended the late comeback effort with an empty-netter from Jan Rutta with the help of Cory Conacher and Dominik Masin with three seconds remaining in the game.
The Crunch return home to host the Comets on Friday at 7 p.m.