The Syracuse Crunch posted their first official news of the off season Friday, and, excitingly enough, it’s news that looks forward to next season. The 2018-19 schedule format came out, detailing the teams the Crunch will be facing throughout their 76 games next season. The actual AHL schedule will come out this summer.
Our 2018-19 schedule format is set.— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) May 11, 2018
We’ll face 15 teams next season in the North and Atlantic Divisions. The most frequent matchups will feature Rochester and Utica.
→ https://t.co/BRvxWgTYEs pic.twitter.com/09N28xKZUF
Although none of the match ups are unexpected, it is nice to see a tiny bit more variety in the teams Syracuse will face than the Crunch has had previously.
Charlotte, a team that was added to the Eastern Conference this past season, shows up again on the Crunch’s schedule four times. This is the same number of times the teams met in 2017-18. Syracuse was 1-3 against the Checkers during the regular season, which, in retrospect, wasn’t really surprising seeing as Charlotte is still playing while the Crunch...isn’t. Prior to this past season, the two teams took some time off from seeing each other: the last time they played was in 2011-12, when the Crunch was still affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks.
The Checkers are affiliated with the Carolina Hurricanes, who used to have their farm team in Albany, N.Y. The team was then known as the River Rats, and the Crunch had quite the rivalry with them. The games were always fun and on the physical side. Given the fond memories of those games, it’s nice to see Charlotte appear on the Crunch’s schedule once more.
The newcomer to the schedule is the Cleveland Monsters. Cleveland was added to the Crunch’s North Division earlier this week, so while it certainly isn’t surprising that they appear on the schedule, it is a bit vexing that they only appear four times. The last time Syracuse and Cleveland matched up against each other was in 2012-23, when the team was known as the Lake Erie Monsters and was affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche.
Cleveland is now affiliated with the Columbus Blue Jackets, which might add a little bit of punch to the games the two teams play against each other. Syracuse was affiliated with Columbus from 2000-2010. While those years contain some good memories, the affiliation did not end well, and many Crunch fans still hold a little bit of a grudge (*cough*).
Oddly enough, the number of games against the Springfield Thunderbirds, current AHL team of the Florida Panthers, has been increased from two to four for the upcoming season. This is odd because usually only teams that draw crowds are seen more than other teams (see playing rivals Rochester and Utica 12 times each). So, for instance, it might have seemed more logical to increase the amount of time Hartford comes to town instead. Hartford is affiliated with the New York Rangers, so those games tend to be fairly well attended by local Rangers fans.
Of course, continuing to play Charlotte, increasing the amount games against Springfield, and adding Cleveland has taken a bite out of the amount of time the Crunch plays other teams. Syracuse saw divisional rivals Belleville (affiliated with Ottawa), Laval (affiliated with Montreal), and Toronto (affiliated with, well, Toronto) eight times each this past season. That number has been reduced to six times each in 2018-19. They played Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (affiliated with Pittsburgh) four times in 2017-18, and will only see them twice in 2018-19.
One of the downsides of this league - at least for those fans that get bored seeing the same two teams 24 times (*cough*) - is that travel expenses and gate numbers will pretty much always reign supreme when it comes to setting the schedule. This is primarily why, as is the trend of late, Syracuse will not see any teams from the AHL’s Western Conference*. But the shift in the AHL’s divisions for the upcoming season has added a little bit more variety to the Crunch’s schedule, which is nice for those more-than-casual fans that attend as many games as they can.
*At least, not until June.