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Crunch Corner: Syracuse sweeps the weekend roadtrip with wins over Hartford and Providence

They had their backs against the wall in both games and found a way to get the job done.

Crunch rookie forward Mitchell Stephens is red-hot having scored four goals in his last three games played.
Photo by Scott Thomas

Don’t look now but the Syracuse Crunch are streaking... Again. Just a few weeks removed from an impressive ten-game winning streak, Benoit Groulx’s young squad has again put the Eastern Conference on notice. After two come-from-behind road victories over the likes of the Hartford Wolfpack and Providence Bruins, the Crunch find themselves creeping up the North Division standings amidst a five-game winning streak.

Weekend Scores:

Saturday January 6th

Crunch - 3

Wolf Pack - 2



Sunday January 7th

Crunch - 4

Bruins - 3



Weekly Assesments:

  • What worked?

While the Crunch swept the weekend competition, they had their backs against the wall in both games and found a way to get the job done. Resiliency and the ability to keep your composure is a task for any hockey team so it is even more impressive that the Crunch, who are the youngest team in the AHL, were able to do just that on back-to-back nights.

Whether it’s the few veterans keeping things calm and simple on the ice, the coaching staff keeping things calm on the bench, the youngsters maturing quicker than we expected, or it’s a combination of all three, it’s damn impressive and an obvious formula for success.

Another encouraging sign has been the emergence of rookie goaltender Connor Ingram in the absence of Crunch starter Louis Domingue. Since his counterpart’s promotion to the Lightning, Ingram has kept his poise in high-pressure situations and has yet to falter. The 20-year-old netminder has picked up the victory in each of his last four starts and has proved seemingly capable of carrying a heavy workload if he needs too.

Crunch goalie Connor Ingram makes the game-winning shootout save on Utica Comets forward Tony Cameranesi at the War Memorial Arena on December 30th.
Photo by Scott Thomas

The Crunch’s offense has shown no sign of slowing down and it was evident this past weekend with the goal support they provided their young netminder with. Better news? Syracuse continues to spread the wealth offensively. Six different players found the back of the net on their mini road trip with a nice balance of rookies and veterans chipping in.

I’ve said it numerous times in the past month or two, things continue to look up in the ‘Cuse.

  • What needs work going forward?

All and all, it was a near flawless outing this weekend for Syracuse. However, if I must nitpick, one thing that remains an issue for the Crunch is their play in their own zone. Once they break the puck out of their own end they are off to the races but it always seems like the simplest plays are an uphill battle. When it comes to winning loose-puck battles and making the simple play to get out of their defensive zone, forget about it.

The blind passes, cross-crease passes, and flat-out missed passes have to stop. It seemed as if most of the high-quality looks the oppositions had this weekend were created off giveaways in the Crunch’s own zone.

  • First star of the week:

Mitchell Stephens - 2G

Mitchell Stephens seemed to be a bit of a late bloomer to start of his first full season of pro-hockey. Granted, it’s only the beginning of January, to me, he was the last of the rookies to really show us what he had to give. The effort was always there but the former Saginaw Spirit captain just couldn’t consistently find the scoresheet.

That has changed and it has changed fast. Stephens has been on a tare as of late scoring four goals in his last three contests. The 20-year-old center has come out of left field to tie his teammates Alexander Volkov, Adam Erne, and Michael Bournival for the team lead in goals with ten.

Not only does the kid score goals, he scores timely goals. His marker on Saturday night ended up being the game-winner while his tally on Sunday afternoon tied the game at three early in the third period.

Mitchell Stephens seems to have found his groove and for that, he is our first star of the week!

Honorable mentions:

Matthew Peca - 1G, 1A

Connor Ingram - 2W, 2.50 GAA, 91.2 SV%

Looking ahead:

Wednesday January 10th @ Binghamton (11-18-4-2)

Friday January 12th @ Utica (15-13-4-3)

Saturday January 13th vs Binghamton