Just like that, it was all over.
After the most successful season in franchise history, the Syracuse Crunch fell just short of their first Calder Cup championship in their first appearance. The Tampa Bay Lightning also narrowly missed having their AHL affiliate crowned champion for the second consecutive season.
It was a valiant effort by the Crunch, in what was an impressive season, to try to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the Finals. However, in Game Six, at the War Memorial in Syracuse, the Grand Rapids Griffins (a Detroit Red Wings affiliate) walked away with a 5-2 victory and their first Calder Cup Championship.
Richard Panik opened the game’s scoring, giving the Crunch a 1-0 lead after a rebound of a Matt Taormina shot 2:45 into the game.
The Griffins quickly tied the game and took the lead with two goals early in the second period. Syracuse defenseman Andrej Sustr tied the game 5:14 into the third, beating Griffins goaltender Petr Mrazek from the blue line.
Brennan Evans scored the game-winner halfway through the third. He shot the puck from the left point, weaving it through traffic for a 3-2 lead. A pair of empty-netters finished off the Crunch late.
The game just went to show how difficult it is to overcome a deficit as steep as 3-0. Despite taking Games Four and Five on the road and seeming to regain all the momentum going home for the final two games, the Crunch just didn’t have enough to force a Game Seven.
Nonetheless, it was an impressive season by the Baby Lightning, with several making an impact at the NHL level (Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik, to name a few) and showing that the Lightning have a bright future down below.
They also may have made some assets expendable, because the Lightning need defense, and what they have right now is a lot of offensive prospects. Don’t be surprised to see a Brett Connolly or someone like him to be dealt for an improvement on the defensive side of the puck.
But, for now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of the Stanley Cup Finals. We’ll worry about the offseason later.