Grand Rapids Griffins 1 – Syracuse Crunch 5
Up until game five this had been an evenly fought contest with both teams throwing heavyweight punches.
However, with Grand Rapids in sight of the championship, they put in an abject first period performance which meant this bout was over before it really began in earnest.
The writing was on the wall as early as 17 seconds in – Grand Rapids sloppy in pursuit of a dump in behind their own net. Michael Bournival and Gabriel Dumont hunted the puck down, providing the easiest of chances for Kevin Lynch to give his team an early lead.
Matt Lorita forced Mike McKenna into his first save at the two minute mark and Grand Rapids earned a power play in the process. That opportunity would not be taken and the visitors promptly found themselves down by two.
Anthony Cirelli was allowed to win a battle for the puck behind the net that he had no right too.
Daniel Walcott and Adam Erne then combined to tee up Mathieu Brodeur waiting in the left circle.
With time to measure his effort, the rookie sent a bullet shot past Jared Coreau.
Griffins Head Coach Todd Nelson called a timeout without even five minutes on the clock in an attempt to regroup his troops.
It had the desired effect for a period of time, though Grand Rapids would fail to get themselves on the board – in part thanks to McKenna.
A third strike for the home team came at the fourteen minute mark, sparking a three goal blast before the first period was over.
Another dump-in and another Syracuse player winning a battle he had no right too.
Tye McGinn was the hero on this occasion, before dishing off to Yanni Gourde, who drove the net. Coreau came up with the save but he would fail to stop Byron Froese finishing up on the doorstep.
A Cory Conacher slapshot from the right face-off dot made it 4-0, the Crunch power play finally delivering.
A shell-shocked Griffins team would then give up the worst goal of the five allowed.
Syracuse were outnumbered four to three inside the Grand Rapids zone but were allowed to make a tic-tac-toe play without physical contact being made or a trailing stick to stop them.
Ben Thomas was the grateful recipient on a play orchestrated by Gourde and Conacher.
The shot-clock may have favoured the visitors 18-12 but the home fans were in rapture with their team leading 5-0.
A chance to gain some kind of foothold of the game was a power play for Grand Rapids to begin the second period.
A lone effort from Martin Frk hit the post and that’s as close as the visitors would come to scoring.
The middle frame was littered with penalties and the better scoring chances fell to Syracuse.
Eddie Pasquale had taken over in net for Jared Coreau after the fifth goal and the man in relief had to be on his game to deny the Crunch from extending their huge lead.
A pair of stops to deny Froese and Cirelli were his best of the period and ensured there was no further damage.
Almost inevitably emotions got the better of Grand Rapids with thirty seconds of the second period remaining. Tyler Bertuzzi had kept his cool for the most part in this series until now, as he received ten and two for his misdemeanours.
Other penalties given out would gift Syracuse a ninety second, two-man advantage to begin the final frame of regulation.
The home team created little of note on the power play and the only question was whether they could keep a clean sheet.
Despite the lopsided nature of the score line, Mike McKenna was having himself quite the performance but his shutout bid would be ended inside six minutes of the third period.
Ben Street was allowed to stroll down the middle of the ice and he fired home from the high slot to put Grand Rapids on the board.
Four further minor penalties would be handed out but neither team could add to their respective totals as Syracuse coasted to a comfortable victory and in turn stayed alive in the series.
The finals now switch to Grand Rapids for Game Six on Tuesday and a possible game seven the following evening.
The Griffins will certainly need to hit the reset switch and find their A-game if they are to hoist the Calder Cup in front of their fans next week.
Post Game Notes:
First star was Yanni Gourde, who assisted on three goals.
Mike McKenna made 36 saves, while Eddie Pasquale stopped all 19 shots he faced in relief.
A pair of points for Cory Conacher ensures he stays atop the post-season scoring charts, with twelve goals and 27 points.
A single marker for Ben Thomas means he now lead’s defensemen in post-season goals with five to his name.
Grand Rapids lead the series 3-2.