Welcome back to Crunch Corner, our weekly wrap-up of all things involving the Syracuse Crunch. Much like the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Crunch have a bit of a slow start to the season, which gives them a bit of time to integrate all of the new players on the roster.
The Crunch’s 25th season got started in Hershey with 11 players suiting up for Syracuse that weren’t on last year’s opening day roster. The defense was almost entirely retooled with two new veterans (Cameron Gaunce and Hubert Labrie) and a couple of rookies (Cal Foote and Oleg Sosunov). The forwards also featured a lot of new faces highlighted by Alex Barré-Boulet and Taylor Raddysh.
As for the game itself, it was a typical first game of the season. There were runs of good play, moments when the Crunch were stuck in their own zone, and the occasional breakdown of communication. Luckily for Syracuse, it looks like Eddie Pasquale is picking up where he left off in last year’s regular season as he stopped 30 of 32 shots.
Most importantly he made key stops when the Crunch needed him the most. With the Bears pushing for the equalizer late in the third, he was a veritable wall, stopping shots with and without his stick.
Overall impressions from the first game
Barré-Boulet is going to be a beast on the power play.
The Crunch went 2 for 3 with the man advantage and the rookie was a key factor in both. He set up Carter Verhaeghe for the Crunch’s first goal by threading a pass through a mass of Bears:
He then scored the game winner by himself as he deked a defenseman and then beat a pretty good goaltender with a subtle little wrister:
Oleg Sosunov is a big, big man.
He is perhaps the most intriguing player on the blueline. A hulking mass of a human that stands 6’9” and weighs in at 236 lbs., the Russian is beginning his first season in professional hockey. His debut was...alright.
Paired with veteran Hubert Labrie, Sosunov played a fairly safe game. There was some flashes of what he brings to the ice as he used his long reach to keep the puck away from an opponent long enough to clear the zone. He did chip a lot of pucks out of the zone and didn’t seem entirely comfortable with the puck on his stick for a long period of time. His biggest challenge will be defending players attacking him with speed.
Dennis Yan was the most noticeable player at even strength.
Last season was a rough one for the 21-year-old winger. Injuries limited him to 43 games and he seemed to slip a little in the prospect rankings (he dropped four spots in our Top 25 Under 25). This will be a big season for him and the organization to see where he fits in the future plans.
Against Hershey he displayed the skills that make him an intriguing prospect - most notably his speed. He tied Raddysh with a team high four shots and was pressing in the offensive zone most of the game.
Cernak and Gaunce had the bulk of the playing time at even strength and paired well together. Cernak had a few miscues (including fumbling a pass at the Hershey blue line that led to an odd man rush) but played better as the game went on.
Overall the defense was solid if not spectacular, and it may take a few games for them to jell together as a unit.
Eddie Pasquale keeps on ticking right along.
He had few spectacular saves, the exception being a sprawling split that robbed Jeremy Morin early in the third with the score still tied. For the rest of the night he was spot on with his positioning, easily deflecting aside the Bears’ shot attempts.
The first goal he allowed was a bit easy as Liam O’Brien’s shot trickled through him. Pasquale had a clean look at the shot, but just couldn’t squeeze the pads tight on the puck. The second goal would have required a great save. A stretch pass led to an odd man rush and Boris Katchouk lost inside position to Mike Sgarbossa who redirected a pass from Riley Barber past Pasquale.
The veteran goaltender was at his best at the end of the game as the Bears swarmed the net trying to tie the game. Of Hershey’s 14 third-period shots the bulk of them came in the final five minutes. He remained poised and turned aside everything that was thrown at him.
Players of the Week:
Alex Barré-Boulet - 1 Goal and 1 Assist
Eddie Pasquale - 1 Win, .938 Save Percentage, 2.00 Goals Against Average
Wednesday, October 10th at Rochester Americans
The Crunch continue their short season-opening roadtrip in Rochester where the Americans will look to exact some revenge after Syracuse knocked them out of the first round of the playoffs last year. The two teams will face each other a lot this season as division rivals, and these games can get tough.
Saturday, October 13th vs. Charlotte Checkers (Home Opener)
Syracuse opens their 25th home season at a newly-renovated Oncenter War Memorial Arena. The Checkers started their season with back-to-back wins over the Americans, scoring 10 goals in the two games.