Syracuse Crunch muscle past Providence Bruins, advance to 2017 Calder Cup Finals

Members of the Syracuse Crunch celebrate on the ice in the immediate aftermath of their 3-1 win over Providence in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Here come the Syracuse Crunch -- straight to the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs.

In Saturday night's Game 5 of the AHL Eastern Conference Finals, the Crunch found a way to overpower the Providence Bruins late in the game, leading to a pair of Cory Conacher goals with under five minutes remaining to put it away.

Before that, the Crunch were on the board first, courtesy of a goal from rookie Ben Thomas only 41 seconds into the contest.

However, Providence responded with a goal in the second period to tie it up.

Syracuse veteran goalie Mike McKenna was once again terrific, stopping 27 of 28 shots on goal to guide the Crunch on Saturday night.

In front of a sold out crowd from inside the War Memorial, the Crunch tallied their ninth home victory of the 2017 postseason, riding its red hot offense into next week's Calder Cup Finals.

"I'm so excited," McKenna replied with a genuine smile. "I'm absolutely thrilled right now. This is the best. I'm not nervous -- I'm just excited. This is the best. You play a long time and some guys are lucky to do this early in their career, while others are lucky to get it done several times and some guys never get a chance. I've never had a chance, and to be a part of this team has been great."

"I think this team is better," Crunch defenseman Matt Taormina said when asked the difference between the 2013 Calder Cup team and this year's. "I think we're faster. I think we've got a lot more skill. Defensively, we've been playing really well. I think it's going to be a fast series, just knowing Detroit's solid play."

"I'm going to say this -- I like this hockey game and I like this game of hockey, and I like to coach," Syracuse head coach Ben Groulx proclaimed. "I have a lot of confidence on our team. I've enjoyed every moment of this season so far. I'm going out there, I want to enjoy it, and I really believe we have a good team and we'll find a way."

The Crunch will meet the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Calder Cup Finals -- a rematch of the 2013 Calder Cup Finals where the Griffins took down the Crunch, 4-games-to-2.

Grand Rapids, the AHL affiliate of the NHL's Detroit Red Wings, handled San Jose in the AHL Western Conference Finals on Saturday night, 4-2.

The Griffins are also unbeaten at home, running their win streak to 7-0.

Game 1 of the 2017 Calder Cup Finals will get underway on Friday, June 2, in Grand Rapids, Mich., at 7 p.m. ET.

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