Come-From-Behind Overtime Win on Saturday

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After ending 2008 with two games in Texas, the Lake Erie Monsters ushered in the first home game of 2009 with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Syracuse Crunch in front of a crowd of 6,288 at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night.

Syracuse opened the scoring on right wing Petr Pohl's first goal of his AHL career. After killing off an early Lake Erie power play, Syracuse quickly established control of the puck in Lake Erie's offensive zone. Catching the Monsters off guard at the end of a long shift, Crunch defenseman Grant Clitsome received a pass from defensive partner Clay Wilson, slid left along the blueline and fired a shot into the glove of Monsters goaltender Jason Bacashihua. However, Bacashihua was unable to maintain control of the puck and Pohl was waiting on the right post to knock in the rebound. Despite spending eight minutes of the first stanza on the power play as a result of four Syracuse penalties, the Monsters were unable to capitalize and found themselves down 1-0 at the end of the period.

The Monsters emerged from the dressing room in the second determined to send the puck deep into the Syracuse zone and pressure the Crunch defense with speed. The ploy worked as Syracuse left wing Kevin Harvey took a penalty early in the period, thus providing Lake Erie with another power play opportunity. The Monsters would finally jump on the board at the 4:35 mark of the second. Following a save on a blistering Mark McCutcheon shot from the left hash mark, Syracuse goaltender Dan LaCosta could not recover in time to prevent the puck from trickling through his five hole, where Monsters left wing Tom Fritsche was waiting to knock it home for his sixth goal of the season. Center Codey Burki was also credited with an assist on the goal.

"When you get into a slump on the power play it does start to wear on guys, but I had our third power play unit out there and it was nice to get one in the back of the net, especially when it was a hard working goal with the puck bouncing around the net," head coach Joe Sacco said of the power play goal.

Just when the Monsters seemed to gain control of the play, Syracuse carried the puck to the Lake Erie zone and retook the lead at 6:16 on a goal by center Ryan Garlock. Intending to spread the Monsters defense, the right wing Pohl floated to the point, received a pass from defenseman Aaron Rome and fired a shot that was subsequently redirected by Garlock past Bacashihua. For the remainder of the second period, play fluctuated back and forth until Syracuse right wing Adam Pineault was whistled for a high sticking penalty in the final minute of the period.

Lake Erie opened the third on the power play, but was unable to solve LaCosta. However, shortly after the penalty expired defenseman Darcy Campbell won a race to a puck in the neutral zone, beat a Crunch defenseman down the right-hand side of the Syracuse zone and fired a shot on LaCosta, who batted the puck to the right corner. Monsters center T.J. Galiardi immediately grabbed the puck, sped behind the net and fired a turnaround shot on the Crunch netminder. LaCosta was unable to corral the puck and Burki was there to put away the rebound for his fifth goal of the season and tie the contest at two goals apiece. Burki’s goal was his fifth point in the last three games (2G,3A).

The Monsters dictated play for the remainder of the third, outshooting Syracuse, 15-6. However LaCosta kept his team in the game long enough to force overtime.

As time winded down in the five minute overtime period, the Monsters would finally send the raucous crowd home in dramatic fashion on a goal by defenseman Mike Vernace with 13 seconds remaining. After receiving a pass from teammate Bryan Marshall, center Phil Dupuis blazed down the right side of the ice into the Syracuse zone, eluding a diving Crunch defenseman, and connected on a picturesque one-timer with Vernace inside the left post to end the game and seal a hard-fought Monsters victory.

After the game, Vernace was more excited about what his team accomplished than his own personal accolade.

“To come back in the third period and tie it up and then trade chances in overtime, it was great to get the win and try to get closer to Syracuse in the standings," Vernace said following the game. With the overtime win, Lake Erie is now only two points behind fifth-place Syracuse in the North Division.

The win ended a four-game losing streak for Bacashihua, who was ecstatic about his team's unrelenting effort.

"I can't tell you how loud I screamed in my helmet when we scored with 13 seconds left to finally be on the other side and get the victory," Bacashihua said.

The two teams will reunite on Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena. Faceoff is set for 7:00 p.m.

Sights and Sounds
Jason Bacashihua Interview
Coach Joe Sacco Interview
Quote, Unquote

"It’s always tough to play Syracuse. They’re a gritty team and they won’t back down, so we had to match the physical intensity. I think we came out in the second and third periods and really stepped it up and that helped our chances.” - Defenseman Mike Vernace


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