Disgusted, Syracuse Crunch forward Tyson Nash stuffed his gear into an equipment bag after the Crunch's 5-1 loss to Hamilton Saturday at the Onondaga County War Memorial.
Nash and his teammates were packing for a long bus trip that would get them into Hamilton in the wee hours this morning before they face the Bulldogs at 2 p.m. today. But fatigue was the last thing on Nash's mind.
"We should have lots (of energy) left after tonight," he said. "I don't think we did a whole lot tonight. I think you can count on one hand the number of hits we had."
The Crunch's loss highlighted a season-long shortcoming - the inability to take what should be sure points from inferior opponents. Hamilton, which came into the game with the fewest points in the American Hockey League, is 3-2 against Syracuse. Conversely, Syracuse is 6-0-2 against league powers Hershey and Philadelphia.
"That's been our problem all year. We've talked about it a lot," Nash said. "One time the real Syracuse team shows up, another time it's impostors. We're losing a lot of points by not showing up every night."
Syracuse was most noticeably absent on the power play, where it went 0-for-6. Some of that futility was attributable to the brilliant play of Bulldogs goalie Peter Skudra, who made 33 saves.
"We weren't shooting the puck; we weren't getting the guys in front," Crunch coach Jack McIlhargey said of his power-play unit. "We didn't play very well tonight.
Hamilton pulled away by breaking a 1-all tie with two goals in a 58-second span during the second period and added two more scores in the third.
Syracuse neither made its own breaks nor got any from the officials. Two goals by the Crunch's Alexander Semak were waved off, one because it was ruled that Semak kicked in the puck and another because it came just after a slow whistle that stopped play in front of the Hamilton net.
"It's frustrating for us when we play them," Syracuse goalie Frederic Cassivi said. "We're confident when we play them. Then we go out on the ice and nothing happens."
Hamilton wouldn't let it. Bulldogs coach Lorne Molleken knew the Crunch was in the midst of a stretch of four games in five days and thought his team's best chance was to be relentless.
"Our guys stuck to the plan and worked very hard in a lot of one-on-one situations," Molleken said. "That's what we wanted to do, wear them down as the game went on. We wanted to try to get the puck deep and put as much pressure on them as possible."
Joe Hulbig started Hamilton's decisive spurt in the second period by showing the persistence that Molleken requested. Hulbig's power-play shot from the right side hit Cassivi's pads and bounced back to the shooter. Hulbig circled around to the slot patiently and was successful on his second bid.
Less than a minute later, Marko Tuomainen blasted a low shot from the high slot. Crunch defenseman Bert Robertsson dropped to his knees in an attempt to block it, but all Robertsson did was screen Cassivi. Cassivi couldn't react until the puck was nearly past him.
"Those two goals just killed us," Cassivi said.
Hamilton's Eric Landry and Jeff Daw set the final margin with third-period goals.
The Crunch's Lonny Bohonos continued his torrid pace with Syracuse's only goal, which tied the game at the 9:30 mark of the second. Teammate Brian Loney's pass was deflected high in the air, and Bohonos knocked it down with his hand just outside the Hamilton crease.
As soon as the puck hit the ice, Bohonos knocked it past Skudra. Bohonos has 18 points in eight games since his demotion from Vancouver.
Notes - Syracuse patched up its defense by recalling Doug Wood from South Carolina of the East Coast Hockey League. Wood scored one goal in three games with the Crunch earlier this season.
Crunch defenseman John Namestnikov returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sprained wrist. But defenseman Mark Krys will be out at least through today's game because of a concussion he suffered against Albany Friday.