The down and dirty
The Syracuse Crunch is set to take the stage in the AHL’s North Division semifinals tonight. The five game series pits the Crunch against in-state rival Rochester, a playoff series that has been “14 years in the making” according to Syracuse.com:
Syracuse and Rochester have met just three times in the playoffs. In 1996, the Amerks took the South Conference finals four games to one. In 1997, Rochester grabbed the Empire State Division semifinals three games to none...Rochester won a dramatic Game 7 in overtime to take the 2004 North Division semis. Norm Milley won it by beating Crunch goalie Karl Goehring -- now Syracuse’s goalie coach -- with 2 minutes, 7 seconds left in the extra period.
The Crunch had a dramatic, unexpected 2017-18 season. Young from the start, and once dressing 10 rookies in one game, Syracuse fans will remember this season as the one that defied usual AHL trends. Young teams generally struggle all season to find an identity and a groove. Syracuse, as Raw Charge writer Justin said this past week, gained their footing in late November and never looked back:
Following the Sunday loss to the Marlies late in November, the Crunch won their next 10 games and started to climb up the standings. After a couple of losses, they then went on a 9 game winning streak. The season would continue that way: A couple of losses would be followed closely by a winning streak.
As is optimal in a developmental role, the Crunch plays a mirror-image style of the Lightning: Hold-on-to-your-seat defense backed by stellar goaltending and an explosive offense. Their goals come off of quick transitions and a relentless forecheck that pins teams back in their own zone. They use their speed at forward to harass opponents all the way up and down the ice.
A team can shut down (Gabriel) Dumont, (Mathieu) Joseph, and (Mitchell) Stephens, and still get burned by (Carter) Verhaeghe and (Olivier) Archambault. Keep all four of those players off the board and you still have to deal with Alex Volkov, Erik Condra, and Kevin Lynch.
The 2017-18 Syracuse Crunch never did things the easy way, but their resiliency allowed them to overcome all of the obstacles that cropped up along the way.
What you may have missed
- Did you catch Geo’s analysis of the Crunch’s success at balancing winning and development? If not, read it for some insight into the team and how it got to this point.
- Justin’s series preview, including a Q and A with Let’s Go Amerks, is just incredible and you need to read it. (Linked twice because it’s just that good)
- Defenseman Reid McNeil went On the Block with Brent Axe this past week.
- Crunch owner Howard Dolgon also went On the Block.
- Brent Axe also chatted with head coach Ben Groulx on the Syracuse Sports podcast.
- Speaking of Groulx, the history between him and Amerks’ head coach Chris Taylor is pretty interesting.
How to follow the Crunch tonight
- The pre-game radio broadcast with Lukas Favale will start at 6:45 EST on ESPN Syracuse. You can listen to the game in its entirety for free.
- AHL Live has special playoff pricing deals for every game of the AHL playoffs, as well as team-specific packages. There’s also a pay-per-view option.
- Be sure to follow the team on Twitter and Instagram for updates if you’re away from other options.
- Look for pre-and-post-game interviews on the Crunch’s YouTube.
Potential roster information
Given that the Crunch scratched ten regular roster players this past Saturday in their season finale, it’s rather hard to guess what the lines and pairings will look like. A slew of roster additions to Syracuse yesterday has the potential to make things interesting:
- Forward Matthew Peca has been returned to the Crunch from the Lightning just in time for tonight’s contest.
Peca on the playoff run atmosphere: “Everybody's hungry. Guys that got a taste of it last year want it again and we also know what it takes, know how hard it was to get there and to compete at that level.” #SYRvsRCH#CalderCup | #GoGetIt pic.twitter.com/usemxz7Fws— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) April 19, 2018
- The Lightning officially signed forward Otto Somppi to entry level contract yesterday, with Somppi expected to report to the Crunch. Geo was skeptical of him working his way into Syracuse’s playoff roster, but, hey, one never knows...
- Syracuse.com also reported that defenseman Oleg Sosunov has arrived in Syracuse, as well. He is expected to begin practicing with the team soon, although whether he’ll see any playoff time is still very much up in the air.
As far as known injuries on the team go, Crunch fans are hoping to see some regulars return that have been out for a bit. Forward Gabriel Dumont has been day-to-day for nearly two weeks, and is a solid “maybe” for this weekend according to head coach Groulx. Dumont fully participated in practice Thursday, a hopeful sign that he’ll be ready to go this weekend.
Winger Olivier Archambault, who was hurt in the final five minutes of the Crunch’s last regular season game, is also a “maybe.” Additionally, it’s hoped that defenseman Jamie McBain, who has been in and out of the roster for a few weeks now, will also be ready to go. Forward Dennis Yan, who is also officially day-to-day, is out for tonight.
We do know one thing for certain: the coaching staff announced Thursday that goalie Eddie Pasquale will be starting in net on Friday.