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Crunch Corner: Syracuse Crunch top one of the league's best

The Crunch still have a lot of work to do if they plan on moving out of the basement of the Eastern Conference, but they could be well on their way to doing so.

Jamie McBain had a career night on Saturday tallying one goal and two assists in a 5-to-3 victory over the Charlotte Checkers.
Photo by Scott Thomas

The Syracuse Crunch returned to the War Memorial looking to carry over some of their scoring touch from the Canadian road trip a week prior. In their way stood an intimidating Charlotte Checkers team that entered Saturday night’s contest on a four-game winning streak. A sold out crowd on Veterans Appreciation Night witnessed the Crunch offense find paydirt five times against one of the best teams the American Hockey League has to offer. The effort in recent games begs the question, are brighter times ahead for the boys in blue?

Weekend scores

Day Home Away Boxscore Highlights
Day Home Away Boxscore Highlights
Saturday, November 11th Crunch 5 Checkers 3

Weekly Assessments:

  • What worked?

Last week, I spoke highly of the effort put forth by the Crunch on the man-advantage. But, I must admit I was still a bit skeptical of how the team would perform going forward. While the units didn’t necessarily “light it up” on Saturday night, their two power play markers on seven opportunities is a telling tale. There is no doubt that adjustments have been made in the past few weeks to turn the tables on what was once the league’s worst special teams unit.

Netting one of the power play goals was the Crunch’s returning captain Erik Condra, while red-hot rookie forward Mathieu Joseph found twine on the other. The ‘Cuse now sit at 26th in the league with a conversion rate of 12.3 percent. Are those the kind of numbers that will put a team over the top in a playoff race? Probably not, but it’s a step in the right direction for a young team that is trying to find their way.

  • What needs work going forward?

Honestly, in the wake of a stellar outing like the Crunch had on Saturday night, it’s tough to sit here and nitpick the little things they did wrong or failed to capitalize on. For the first time this season, we saw a near flawless performance out of the reigning Eastern Conference Champions. The power play was solid, the defense allowed just 24 shots get to Crunch goalie Michael Leighton, 11 different players registered at least a point, and despite the Checkers rallying back twice, the Crunch were able to hold on and secure two points.

What is there to complain about? Let’s enjoy this one.

First star of the week:

Jamie McBain: 1G, 3A

I’ll be the first one to admit it, I’ve been a harsh critic of veteran blue-liner Jamie McBain to this point of the season, and perhaps some of it was unfair. As a former NHL defenseman with a knack for scoring, the 2006 second round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes was pinged as an early candidate to fill the void left by the departure of 2016-2017 AHL Defenseman of the Year Matt Taormina. Attempting to fill the skates of Taormina after the season he had last year is almost impossible. My sincere apologies for trying to hold a completely different player to that same standard.

Now that we have that out of the way, McBain had a stellar evening against the organization that drafted him 11 years ago. Perhaps this is the jolt that he needs to start finding the scoresheet on a consistent basis again. Coming off of a solid year with the Tucson Roadrunners last season where he compiled 43 points (8G, 35A), we know that he can be an intricate part of any offense. Syracuse fans are hoping that this past weekend was just the beginning of a successful campaign for the anchor of the Crunch blueline.

Honorable mentions:

Erik Condra - 2G

Michael Bournival - 1G

Looking ahead:

Wednesday November 15th @ Hershey (6-7-0-2)

Satuday/Sunday November 18th/19th @ Toronto (11-4-0-0)