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Syracuse Crunch prepare for busy weekend with recall of Martin Ouellette

Bringing up a third goalie allows them the opportunity to keep everyone rested during a busy stretch of hockey

Scott Thomas Photography

In order to prepare to play three games in three days this weekend, the Syracuse Crunch have made two changes to their roster in order to bolster their chances. With two of the games coming against the Rochester Americans, the team they’re chasing in the standings, Coach Ben Groulx and General Manager Julien BriseBois are trying to give the team the best opportunity to pick up as many of the six points as possible.

Their biggest move may make things a bit crowded in net.

The first move was a sign that their forward corps are healthier than they have been in weeks. With Dennis Yan ready for action, Troy Bourke was returned on loan to the Orlando Solar Bears. Bourke had been with the Crunch since December and had filled a role on one of the lower lines while occasionally getting some playing time on Andy Andreoff’s line. He had one goal and five assists in twenty-five games. Yan gives the Crunch a little more offensive potential.

The more interesting move was the recall of Martin Ouellette. As far as anyone knows, both Eddie Pasquale and Connor Ingram are healthy. Pasquale did leave the game early on Tuesday, but that was due to an illness that isn’t supposed to linger too long. In fact, he is the scheduled starter on Friday, with Ouellette set to back him up. Ingram, who made 17 stops in relief against the Devils, is fine, as well.

So, why the call up? Well. it’s most likely because the Crunch are in the middle of a brutal stretch of hockey. They just got done playing seven games in eleven days, and are set to play seven games in twelve. It’s also March, the point of the season where every game is a grind and can seem meaningless with the thrill of the playoffs just over the horizon.

Additionally, there is also the three games-in-three-days factor. It makes sense to have a third goaltender available. With the stated intent of having Ouellette back up Pasquale on Friday, it allows Ingram to have a true day off. There is no possibility of him having to play in relief on Friday and then possibly start on Saturday. If Pasquale is still feeling the effects of whatever bothered him last game or if he struggles, Ouellette can fulfill the role of backup without a problem.

Coach Groulx also mentioned that the organization wants to get a look at the young netminder, so he’s anticipating starting him at least one of the games against Rochester. It’s an odd move considering how close the standings are, but if they think that the 27-year-old former seventh round pick has potential to be their back-up next season, it’s worth seeing how he does against some of the top competition in the AHL.

Ouellette has fared well in the limited opportunities his call-ups have allowed him so far this season. He appeared in relief against Utica on January 16th and stopped both shots he saw in 18 minutes of play. He followed that up with a 19-save performance in a 2-1 win over Binghamton on the 21st. With Pasquale a pending free agent at the end of the season, the Crunch may want to take a longer look at Ouellette with possibility of bringing him back to serve as Ingram’s back-up next season if Pasquale moves on.

There are going to be rumblings of a possible deal in the works any time a goalie is called up prior to a trade deadline, no matter how unfounded or unwise those rumblings may be. While it’s never out of the realm of possibility that the Crunch may move Pasquale prior to Monday’s AHL trade deadline, it would have to take a deal of tremendous value to make it happen. The Crunch don’t have many needs, and any return for a veteran goaltender who has 28 wins in 47 games over the past two seasons would be a little more than a face-off specialist or a depth defenseman.

With the way Coach Groulx relies on the two-goaltender system, it just doesn’t make sense to move Pasquale now. Fans would also riot if Ingram was traded. Any talk of a deal is purely unfounded speculation (note - feel free to call me out on Monday if he’s traded). Adding Ouellette to the roster is just a wise use of resources (although Orlando fans may feel differently).

Game Notes:

Friday marks the second match-up of the season between the Crunch and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. In the first contest between the teams, the Crunch won 3-2 in a shootout that was most memorable as being the game that Connor Ingram suffered that leg injury that kept him out for about a month. Ross Colton and Cameron Gaunce had the goals in regulation for the Crunch. The Phantoms are currently struggling a bit. They’ve lost their last four games and are 3-6-0-1 in their last ten.

Winger Greg Carey leads them with 23 goals and 49 points while veterans Alex Lyon and Mike McKenna are splitting time in the net. Friday will mark McKenna’s first return to the Onondaga County War Memorial since he helped get the Crunch to the Calder Cup final in 2017.

With Dennis Yan back on the ice, the Crunch are the closest they’ve been to actualizing their off-season line-up as they have been all year. They’ve also gotten back into their scoring grove a bit with 11 goals in their last 4 games after having scored only 5 times in the five games before that. Hopefully the offense continues with a little consistency in the line-up moving forward.

Possible Lines:

Forwards:

Carter Verhaeghe - Gabriel Dumont - Alex Barre-Boulet

Andre Andreoff - Mitchell Stephens - Cory Conacher

Boris Katchouk - Ross Colton - Taylor Raddysh

Alex Volkov - Dennis Yan

Defense:

Cameron Gaunce - Jan Rutta

Dominik Masin - Cal Foote

Nolan Valleau - Ben Thomas

Hubert Labrie

Goaltender:

Eddie Pasquale