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AHL North Division Finals: Syracuse Crunch at Toronto Marlies, game 2

The Crunch look to even the series to 1-1 with a win tonight in Toronto.

Scott Thomas Photography

The down and dirty

Five game series, like the first round of the AHL playoffs, offer little room for error. Teams that go down in the first or second game have much less of a chance to come back during a best-of-five series than a best-of-seven. Thankfully, the AHL’s second round is seven games, which gives the 0-1 Syracuse Crunch a little bit of a cushion against the Toronto Marlies.

Toronto, of course, will not make it easy on the Crunch. The Marlies, who claimed the best record in the league for most of the regular season, would be absolutely thrilled to head into Syracuse tomorrow with a 2-0 series lead and their home ice advantage intact.

Home ice advantage has loomed large in the league so far - all of the teams that have moved onto the second round claimed that edge. For the Crunch to advance they need to steal at least one game in Toronto. With the series shifting to their barn after today’s contest, evening the series at 1-1 today would certainly be desirable.

What you may have missed

How to follow the Crunch tonight

  • The pre-game radio broadcast with Lukas Favale will start at 3:45 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.

Other game information

As Justin said yesterday, the key to the Crunch’s playoff run is being able to play their game. Right now, their ability to execute enough pressure on Toronto is hindered by two injuries to two players that were clutch for Syracuse last round: forwards Gabriel Dumont and Matthew Peca.

Syracuse Crunch Matthew Peca (22) celebrates his goal against the Rochester Americans with less than a minute to go in the first period to tie the game in American Hockey League (AHL) Calder Cup Playoff action at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. Syracuse won 6-3.
Scott Thomas Photography

Peca totaled eight points for Syracuse during the first round of the playoffs (2 goals, 6 assists). His speed and hockey intelligence was sorely missed Thursday night, and it would certainly be a boon for Syracuse if he was back tonight.

Dumont netted five points for the Crunch during round one, scoring 3 goals and earning 2 assists. His energy and tenacity is an example for everyone on the team, and the high bar his play sets is especially advantageous in playoff situations. Dumont has struggled for a while with an unspecified injury, and although it is unknown if it is still that same issue that kept him out Thursday, it is certainly concerning that he is missing games again. The Crunch is a better team with him in the line up.

However, dealing with injuries is old news to this AHL club. Even if Peca and Dumont miss game two, it wouldn’t be surprising if the team’s forwards continue to score as long as the Crunch can keep the momentum on their side. Cutting down even more on penalties would go a long way towards managing those momentum swings that have seemed to plague Syracuse since the post season started.

It will be interesting to see which goalie Crunch head coach Ben Groulx goes with tonight. Vetern Eddie Pasquale has had two iffy outings in his last two appearances, but as Justin pointed out yesterday, the final score in both of those games wasn’t really indicative of his performance:

Eddie Pasquale was tabbed as the starter for Game One despite a shaky outing in his previous game. The five goals he gave up in Game Two to the Amerks were more a fault of the whole team failing to manage the momentum. The Crunch had jumped out to a big, early lead and Pasquale’s job was to just keep enough pucks out of the net for the win. He stopped the pucks when he needed to (a 5-on-3 penalty kill in the third period) and played a lot better than the box score indicated.

He also played better than his stats showed against Toronto. Of the five goals that he gave up (on only 20 shots) it was hard to fault him on any of them.

However, rookie netminder Connor Ingram is in the wings, and he looked solid during the Crunch’s series-ending victory in Rochester last round. Groulx might just decide to go all in on the Youth Movement tonight and start Ingram.