Friday, December 14, 2012

Syracuse 3, Adirondack 0 12/14

When the Adirondack Phantoms have had a bad loss this season, players usually have not had a lot of things to say. Good or bad. They've been pretty terse. That wasn't the case tonight, as the Phantoms turned in one of their worst performances of the season in a 3-0 loss to the Syracuse Crunch.

It was their first shutout loss since the second game of the season, when they lost 4-0 to Springfield. Riku Helenius made 21 saves and forced the team to call an audible regarding its annual Teddy Bear Toss promotion. Fans had to toss the animals on the ice during a promotional time out in the third.

Phantoms coach Terry Murray wasn't thrilled with the shutout, but he was even less thrilled about the number of turnovers his team had. I know it sounds like I'm beating a dead horse with this, but it's the same problems that keep coming back to haunt the Phantoms. They allow the game's first goal. They turn the puck over too many times. They deviate from the system. They don't score enough goals.

Here's Murray talking about the turnovers, specifically the one that led to Syracuse's second goal -- when the Phantoms turned it over as they tried to break into the offensive zone on a power play:

“It was a really bad play,” Murray said. “What are you trying to do? Little drop passes inside of the offensive blue line? We tried another one later on with a little fade-away, jump-shot saucer pass inside the offensive blue line and the period ended – thank goodness. Those are the plays we decide to make as individuals and we get burned on it every time that we’ve done it this year. That’s where we have to (start) breaking these habits. These plays that we’re trying, they didn’t work anywhere. I don’t care where you played. We’ve got to put it in our back pocket and leave it there.”

There were other issues tonight. They went 0-for-8 on the power play. They had four shots in the third period. They scored zero goals. But it all comes back to turning the puck over too many times.

"Turnovers were very noticeable -- and at the worst places," winger Harry Zolnierczyk said. "At our blue line, at their blue line. Everything to stop the flow of the game on our end. We turned it over and caused something to come back the other way. Those turnovers are coming from basically a lack of effort and it was pretty obvious that we had a huge lack of effort from the team."

Added Murray: “If we would only stay with the game plan and stop with the crazy turnovers. Both ends of the ice, both blue lines, we’re turning the puck over, giving them an opportunity to do too much with the puck. Too many problems for our team because of that."

They've lost six of their last seven. They have another go at it when they face Manchester tomorrow. What's it going to take for this team to get on a high and stay there?

"It's tough, especially when not much is going good for you," defenseman and alternate captain Brandon Manning said. "You know you have to dig down inside yourself and find something that's positive, whether it's something you used to do or something that's going to happen. That can come up to an individual and it's also up to the leadership group and some of the guys with more experience in here that just need to help guys through that who haven't been there before."

Frustration crept in for the Phantoms later in the game and they took a rush of penalties in the third period. They were down to four defensemen after Manning and Matt Konan got 10-minute misconducts in the final 10 minutes of the game. Radko Gudas scored with six minutes to go to ice it and then Erik Gustafsson limped off the ice with two minutes to go after blocking a shot.

"Our energy got lower after the second goal," Murray said. "It really dropped off big-time. And then the frustration set in after that and now it becomes a situation where you're starting to bring the referee in and blaming him for situations when he's just doing his job. That's something these young guys have to take away from this game. You have to have discipline. There's going to be a lot of adversity in your career and you're never going to get even with the officiating."

I think the last time the team had a loss like this was also at the hands of Syracuse -- and Binghamton, for that matter -- on back-to-back nights last month. But that really seemed to motivate them and they returned home for a three-game win streak. Maybe this is what they needed to turn it around.

A couple of other notes: Zac Rinaldo got into his first fight of the season, coming to the aid of defenseman Cullen Eddy. Rinaldo had a couple of big hits on that shift and the Crunch seemed to go after Eddy because of it, so Rinaldo doubled back and started trading blows with Keith Aulie, who has a good seven inches and 50 pounds on him. It was a pretty decisive win for Aulie, who got Rinaldo's jersey over his head early, but Rinaldo hung in there and kept throwing some bombs.

Flyers star center Claude Giroux was in the house, visiting his pal Jason Akeson. I saw him signing some autographs for fans who recognized him. Did not have a chance to catch up with him.

I asked Murray if he knew any of timetable associated with Ben Holmstrom's return to the line-up, since the team didn't release one when they announced he was going to undergo knee surgery. "I don't know. It's going to be a while. It's going to be several weeks, obviously." Take that for what it's worth.

Around the division: Albany stretched its win streak to five games with a 4-3 win in Connecticut. Jamie Tardif, last seen helping the Bruins beat the Phantoms, helps the Bruins double up Springfield. A hat trick places him in a tie for third in the AHL with 13 goals. Casey Cizikas scores in overtime as Bridgeport downs Norfolk 4-3. On the farm, Matt Mangene had an assist as Trenton topped Wheeling 4-2.

I'll be back before the Manchester game with lines and links.

Until next time,


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