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Crunch Corner: Week one is in the books

There’s not much to report after only one game.

Scott Thomas Photography

Welcome back to Crunch Corner. As we’ve been doing for the better part of the last two years, we will be reviewing the Syracuse Crunch’s previous week. We’ll hit the highs and the lows and every shot or save in between as we track their progress throughout the season.

Since it was a bit of an abbreviated week this will be a short post [shouts of joys from the editorial room]. The Crunch played in one game and they lost in overtime to the Rochester Americans. The Amerks controlled large portions of the game (something Coach Ben Groulx was not too pleased about) but a sterling effort by Goalie-in-Limbo Louis Domingue kept the Crunch close, and their power play earned them a point.

Watching the first game of the season is always a little disconcerting as you see jersey numbers that you’re familiar with worn by different players. After a season or two of identifying a player on the ice by their number, you expect them to do certain things, move in certain ways, or take shots from certain positions. When a new player is wearing that number and acts differently, it can take awhile to get used to. Also, it can be hard to remember who is who, so here is a quick guide to the numbers that have changed:

15: No longer Andy Andreoff, it’s now worn by Jimmy Huntington, a much smaller and faster player than Andreoff. You also probably won’t see it in many scrums on the ice.

17: Used to be Jonne Tammela, now it’s Peter Abbadonato. Again, a little faster player, but hopefully one who will be on the ice a little more than Tammela, who suffered a string of injuries while in Syracuse.

19: Last year Brady Brassart, this year Chris Mueller. While Brassart filled in nicely as a utility forward last season, we should hopefully be seeing the number 19 in a lot more goal celebrations this year.

62: Nobody wore this last year, but Danick Martel will be sporting it this year. Chances are Coach Groulx is going to have Martel play with Mitchell Stephens (number 67) just to keep everyone confused as to who has the puck.

That’s your new jersey primer. Hope it helps. Now, on with the regular stuff!

The Standings:

It’s been one game. They got a point. Other teams have more than a point. Some teams have no points. We’ll start looking at the official standings next week.

Injuries:

Nothing new to report. Alexander Volkov is still out for a few more weeks after suffering an injury during an exhibition game against the Florida Panthers. Daniel Walcott is still rehabbing from his shoulder surgery, but might be available for the games this weekend. It was reported that he was practicing in a non-contact jersey on Monday.

Coming and Going:

There were no real surprises when the rosters were announced other than perhaps Luke Witkowski staying with the Lightning rather than Luke Schenn. Witkowski does give the Lightning a little more flexibility as he began the season playing on offense, but can slip back as a defender should they need it.

Luc Snuggerud is still in Syracuse playing on a tryout contract. He looked ok in his season debut and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Crunch end up signing him to an AHL deal.

The Game:

Friday, October 4th at Rochester: 3-2 (OT) Loss (Recap) (Boxscore) (Highlights)

Thoughts:

Defensive pairings

Going into the season it was assumed that Coach Groulx would line up his pairing similar to how he had them last year, with Cal Foote opposite Cameron Gaunce and Dominik Masin paired up with Ben Thomas or Nolan Valleau. Instead of going top heavy with one strong pairing, one almost-as-strong pairing, and a third pairing out of what was left over, the coach spread out his talent.

Gaunce was paired with Thomas, Valleau with Foote, and Masin with Snuggerud. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad of a look. It gave the Crunch a solid defenseman on the ice at all times while also sticking the steadiest defender with the new guy.

The defense counted for six of the team’s twenty-nine shots (all at even strength) with all but one of them coming from the perimeter. The Valleau/ Foote pairing had four of the shots while Masin and Snuggerud pairing failed to register a shot.

What does this all mean? Who knows! It’s only one game, and chances are that on Friday they will roll out completely different combinations. Also, it’s likely that Luke Schenn makes his debut with the Crunch, which will most likely force Snuggerud out of the line-up.

One game, especially the first game of the season, is hard to draw conclusions from. After all, it’s the first time some of the players have competed for an entire sixty minutes this season, so there are still some wrinkles to be worked out.

There were a lot of shots from the Amerks in close, especially from the right side of the ice. That could be a cause of concern if it continues, because the left side of the defense for the Crunch should be a little more experienced. On the other hand, it could just be that Rochester likes shooting from that side of the ice.

Again, one game samples should never be taken too seriously.

Penalties:

The Crunch took another five penalties in the game and while they managed to kill them all off, it is still a worrisome trend.

We’re going to be keeping an eye on which zone the penalties occur in throughout the season. For instance, of the five the Crunch took against the Amerks, one was in the offensive zone (Dennis Yan off of a face-off), two were in the neutral zone, and two were in the defensive zone (one by Valleau may have saved a goal). We’ll figure out if the trend we thought we saw last year - the one where the Crunch take a lot of offensive zone penalties - is actually the case.

Also, we should be able to figure out if there is one or two players that stand out, or if it’s a time-wide trend. Will the information actually mean anything? Who knows! But it feels like something we should know.

Players of the Week:

It was one game and they didn’t win. Honestly, no one really stood out. Martel had a nice goal, and Cory Conacher was Cory Conacher, but for the most part it was a decent effort against a tough team. Coach Groulx was a little harsher after the game then he has been in past seasons, which would be in line with the belief that he expects a little more out of this club early in the season.

So, instead of a player of the week how about the play of the week? Right before Tage Thompson scored the game winner he was denied by Louis Domingue with a great sprawling save.

Upcoming Schedule:

The Crunch double up their workload as they have two games this weekend, both on the road, both in Cleveland. They’ll try to extract a minimum amount of revenge against the team that booted them in the first round of the playoffs last season by winning a game or two. The Monsters are currently undefeated as they took both games against the Laval Rocket last weekend.

Friday, October 11th at Cleveland Monsters 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, October 12th at Cleveland Monsters 7:00 p.m.