For the first time this season, Crunch fans had absolutely nothing to complain about in regard to the product on the ice. Syracuse was tested three times this past week against two of the best teams the American Hockey League has to offer, and they passed with flying colors. Could this be the type of week Ben Groulx’s young squad needs to change their fortune going forward?
Wednesday November 22nd
Crunch - 6
Americans - 5
Friday November 24th
Crunch - 5
Penguins - 2
Saturday November 25th
Crunch - 4
Penguins - 3
- What worked?
For the very first time this season, we paid witness to the Syracuse Crunch stringing together three quality wins over two very good hockey teams. For the most part, everything went right for this ‘Cuse this week.
On Wednesday night, the North Division rival Rochester Americans came to town and engaged the Crunch in a back and forth scoring battle. Matthew Peca and Mat Bodie both netted their first goals of the season, Alexander Volkov tacked on a goal to extend his hot streak another day, and Jamie McBain had another multi-point outing to further solidify his role as the primary offensive threat from the blueline. Still, despite the onslaught of scoring and a solid home debut from new Crunch goaltender Louis Domingue, the contest would head to overtime where rookie forward Dennis Yan would play hero in one of the prettiest displays of speed and finesse the Crunch faithful have seen in a long time, Multiple players got the proverbial “monkeys” of their backs in a winning effort to start the week.
By the time Friday morning rolled around however, things were looking a little uncertain in the Salt City. The best team in the Eastern Conference, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, were coming to town to face a depleted Crunch roster that had lost leading scorer Cory Conacher to a call-up earlier in the day and Alex Gallant to a four-game suspension. Despite having multiple players under contract in ECHL Adirondack, Crunch GM Julien Brisebois opted not to send help the Crunch’s way with back-to-back games against the league’s best.
With their backs against the wall from the jump, the Crunch went on to dismantle the “baby Pens” on Friday night and win a hard fought game on Saturday night. The special teams units did their jobs with the powerplay going 2-for-5 on the weekend and the Penalty Kill only allowed one score on 12 attempts. One of the more impressive moments from the season and the weekend as a whole came late in Friday’s contest the Crunch were forced to kill a five minute penalty after Ben Thomas was sent off for a game misconduct. The kill was flawless. We saw character and we saw a complete effort for the first time all season long.
Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here, but, with the offense as hot as they are and a rejuvenation between the pipes, Syracuse could be a real good team going forward. Time will tell the whole story.
- What needs work going forward?
The one thing that has remained a constant through the first two months of the season is the Crunch’s inability to stay out of the penalty box. Time and time again, they have relied on their PK to come up big and bail the team out. No matter how good a team’s kill may be, occasionally they are going to get burned and you are going to lose games as a result. Currently, the Crunch sit at third in the conference with 344 penalty minutes. Luckily, Syracuse sits in the top ten best penalty kill units in the conference but at some point, it’s likely that their luck runs out. A young team that is lacking veteran leadership on the bench has to play smarter if they want to attempt a resurgence up the standings. Crunch center Matthew Peca briefly spoke about the penalty issue after Friday night’s contest:
- First star of the week:
Matthew Peca: 2G, 4A
We have all been patiently waiting for Matthew Peca to have that one game to open the offensive floodgates that we all know he is capable of producing. The product of Quinnipiac University had himself a week by netting his first two goals of the season and adding four helpers as well. With captain Erik Condra on the shelf with an injury and Cory Conacher being seemingly the first in line for call-up’s, Peca is one of the few returning players in the locker room and is expected to be one of the leaders on and off the ice. This past week is an encouraging sign for the third-year pro. If Peca can keep the offense going, the Crunch are one step closer to being the offensive juggernaut they appear to be on paper.
Carter Verhaeghe - 2G, 1A
Kevin Lynch - 1G, 1A
Wednesday November 29th @ Toronto
Friday December 1st vs Laval
Saturday December 2nd vs Belleville