This past Saturday, the Crunch hit the road for the first time to face the Muskegon Risers at Mercy Health Arena. The matchup was not just simply a regular-season game but was part of the Great Lakes Invitational (a series of matchups featuring the Crunch, Colorado Inferno, Chicago Mustangs and Muskegon Risers). The winner of the invitational will join three other teams in Wichita for a championship playoff on July 17 and 18. The Wichita Wings and Amarillo Bombers have claimed two of the four spots by winning the Heartlands Invitational and Rocky Mountain Invitational, respectively.
The game started promising for the hosts as Colin Okeef opened the scoring within the first three minutes of the first period. After that goal, both teams played stout defense. Forward Ryan Minick finally got the Crunch on the board to even the score, 1-1, with just under two minutes remaining in the first.
The second period also featured more defense than offense as Brandon Dinsmore, off an assist from Cody Loss, scored the period’s only goal to make it 2-1 in favor of the home team. The Crunch’s solo goal was by far its fewest total scored in any half this season, however, they were still very much in the game thanks to its defense.
Once again, the third period saw only one goal as the defenses continued to play at a high level. Miguel Flores’s strike gave the Risers a 3-1 lead heading into the fourth.
The final period was a different story as the two clubs combined to score eight goals. Midfielder Chris Cvecko opened the scoring in the fourth, pulling the Crunch to within a goal, 3-2. The Risers responded to bump up its lead back to two as Miguel Flores picked up his second goal of the night. Crunch captain David Jordan cut the deficit back to one as he scored off midfielder Admir Suljevic’s timely pass. Soon after, Minick picked up his second of the night, knotting the score at four.
Continuing Cleveland’s barrage, midfielder Sami Mutemwa struck the back of the net to give the Crunch its first lead of the game, 5-4. There was only 3:34 remaining in the game, but the fans in Muskegon and those watching online were treated to a thrilling finish. With just over a minute to go, Okeef scored for the hosts, tying the game at five. Overtime seemed likely, but the visitors had other ideas. Defender Kevin Blackwood scored the go-ahead goal with 54 seconds left while forward Mike Derezic scored 14 seconds later to seal the Crunch’s 7-5 victory.
With the win, the Crunch improved to 3-0. Ryan Minick (two goals and two assists) was named Man of the Match. Goalkeeper Marijo Musa was solid in goal again, making nine big saves for the club. The defense was excellent as the team combined for six blocks with Jordan’s three leading the way.
Talking to Muskegon’s localsportsjournal.com after the game, Risers coach Ben Ritsema said,
“They’re a good team, and I was nervous before the game. But I know I got good players and they work really hard. They play for each other and the fans. When they give good effort like that, you never know what can happen. We almost pulled it out, and we’ll have more nights where it goes our way.”
Cleveland is on the road again this Sunday to face the Chicago Mustangs. Stay tuned to find information for where to stream the upcoming matchup.