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Crunch preview: Expect to see a lot of Eddie Pasquale this month

With Connor Ingram in Orlando, the Crunch will rely heavily on their veteran goaltender.

Scott Thomas

The Syracuse Crunch host the Utica Comets on Friday night, and in all likeliehood Eddie Pasquale will be in net for the home team. There is a good chance that he will also start the following night when the Crunch travel to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to take on the Penguins (who will be wearing special jerseys for their Marvel Super Hero night). With Connor Ingram in Orlando for the near future, expect to see a lot of Pasquale in net.

The Crunch have 18 games left in the regular season including Friday night’s game. Of those 18 games, 13 are against teams that are in or tied for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference as of today. Two of those games are against Rochester and three are against Utica, the two teams closest to the Crunch in the standings in the North Division. Syracuse also has back-to-back games against the Charlotte Checkers, the team currently leading the AHL in wins and points.

Four of the five of the games against current non-playoff teams (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Laval, Hartford and Binghamton) come in the next ten days or so. The schedule following those games is going to be packed with teams fighting for a spot in the playoffs. With the races for the third and fourth spot in both Eastern Conference divisions fairly close, there won’t be many easy nights for the Crunch over the final few weeks of the season.

If Ingram hasn’t returned to the team by then, expect to see Pasquale start most of those games. During head coach Ben Groulx’s two-and-three-quarter seasons in Syracuse, he has shown a reluctance to start goalies who have been called up from the ECHL. Despite long stretches of being with the team this year, Martin Ouellette only has a total of 137:45 of ice time. When Pasquale was called up to Tampa due to Andrei Vasilevski’s injury, Ingram started all of the games for Syracuse. When Ingram was injured, it was Pasquale starting almost all of the games.

Don’t expect that to change too much despite Ouellette’s recent AHL success (2 wins, 0.86 GAA, .966 SV%). Coach Groulx likes his AHL goaltenders. Ouellette’s playing time this year is actually pretty high compared to previous seasons. Last year, with similar circumstances, Nic Riopel only saw 18:42 of playing time despite multiple call-ups, and Olivier Mantha had a token start at the end of the season. In 2016-17, no goalies who had spent a bulk of the time in the ECHL received any playing time for the Crunch.

Perhaps there is something the organization sees in Ouellette that will lead to him sharing some of the netminding duties over the final month of the regular season. Maybe that’s what the start against Rochester last week was all about. The team wanted to see how he handled himself against one of the top teams in the league.

Unless Coach Groulx wants to play Pasquale to the point where he passes out, Ouellette will have to see some action down the stretch. The Crunch have a busy schedule over the next month with back-to-back games every week. They also face a brutal four-games-in-six-nights stretch during the week of the 17th that features back-to-back games on the road in Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday followed by back-to-back games Friday and Saturday against Utica and Bridgeport. That’s not going to be a fun week for anyone.

Pasquale has started games on back-to-back nights four times this season. The results have been a bit of a mixed bag. He has a .925 save percentage in those games, which is above his overall career average. However, his record is 0-3-1 and his goals against is 3.79.

The good news? That high GAA might not be all his fault.

Overall, the Crunch are 9-7-1-1 in games where they’ve played the night before. In those games they’ve allowed 3.16 goals per game. This is good, but it isn’t as good as their overall season average, which is a phenomenal 2.51 per game. It isn’t out of line for a team to give up more goals in the second part of a back-to-back series considering the travel involved in the AHL.

Ingram started back-to-back nights three times this season, with two of those happening while Pasquale was in Tampa. Coach Groulx likes having the option of starting different goalies on back-to-back nights. It was a strength of the Crunch when they has the luxury of rolling out two of the league’s best goaltenders. It made them harder to play against and it kept both netminders fresh.

While he’s had some success, Ouellette is still something of an unknown quantity for the Crunch. Will Coach Groulx have enough trust in him to start him on a consistent basis down the stretch, or will he ride Pasquale the rest of the way? This is going to be a big factor over the rest of the season, or until Ingram returns to the Crunch roster.

Possible Lines


Andy Andreoff - Gabriel Dumont - Cory Conacher

Carter Verhaeghe - Mitchell Stephens - Alex Barre-Boulet

Boris Katchouk - Ross Colton - Taylor Raddysh

Alex Volkov - Brady Brassart - Dennis Yan


Nolan Valleau - Cal Foote

Dominik Masin - Jan Rutta

Hubert Labrie - Ben Thomas


Eddie Pasquale

Notes - This of course depends on the status of a few of the players on the Crunch roster. Cameron Gaunce missed Wednesday’s game against Utica due to an upper body injury. His status is unknown, as is Alex Barre-Boulet’s. The rookie also missed the game against Utica as he was dealing with a personal issue according to the radio broadcast from the game.

If Barre-Boulet and Gaunce are still out, expect Jonne Tammela to enter into the line-up as he did on Wednesday. In that game, Coach Groulx had the line-blender working overtime due to the penalties early on in the game.