The Syracuse Crunch haven’t had the best start to their season. Offensively, they’ve been great, but the defensive side of the puck has been an issue. This week will be a test as the Crunch have seen their two best forwards graduate to the NHL as the Tampa Bay Lightning have encountered injury troubles, with three more on the shelf with injuries.
The offense won’t have the same firepower that helped them against the WBS Penguins on Saturday, so it’s going to fall on the defense to keep the team from digging a hole in the first place. Head coach Benoit Groulx is focused on training the defense to execute better, let’s hope we see some results over the next two games.
Games this Week
Game #4: Syracuse Crunch at Utica Comets (Wed, Feb 17, 7pm)
This is the first road game for the Crunch against the Comets. Their second of 14 games this season. I’m not groaning yet! This game will be on AHL.tv. The Comets have played only once since their last meeting with the Crunch. It was a 6-5 shootout win over the Binghamton Devils.
Tonight’s game will be the first of a back-to-back for Utica as they will travel to Rochester for a game on Thursday. Expect them to be well-rested and well-practiced.
Game #5: Rochester Americans at Syracuse Crunch (Sat, Feb 20, 7pm)
The Crunch will be looking to get even on Saturday in their first rematch against the Rochester Americans. The Americans played on Friday after their win over Syracuse (a 7-3 win over Cleveland), and will play Utica on Thursday as I mentioned above before they come to Syracuse on the weekend.
A lot has happened around Rochester since the two teams last met. The Buffalo Sabres recalled five players to their taxi squad on Monday: Rasmus Asplund, Andrew Oglevie, Jacob Bryson, Steven Fogarty, and C.J. Smith. The Sabres just played a back-to-back against the Islanders and are heading on a four-game road trip so there’s a chance these players won’t be back on Saturday. The Americans only have 14 forwards on their roster so I expect junior prospect Jack Quinn to play his first games this week.
Off to the Show (Transactions)
After a blazing start to the AHL season, Alex Barre-Boulet and Ross Colton have been called up to the Tampa Bay Lightning and head coach Jon Cooper has made it clear that they will get in games. The Lightning had to run 11 forwards in their last game with Stamkos and Cirelli out so there’s definitely space in the lineup. Both of Alex Volkov, Gemel Smith, and one of ABB and Colton will play the next game.
Cooper said he'd like to get Alex Barre-Boulet and Ross Colton into a game at some point. Doesn't want to bring guys up to the taxi squad just to sit. "We'll take this slowly here and see how things play out with the team, but the preference would be to get them in games." #Bolts— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) February 15, 2021
Spencer Martin has completed his quarantine and has joined the Crunch after leaving the Lightning’s taxi squad. In a corresponding move, Clint Windsor was sent back to the Orlando Solar Bears. Martin is expected to split time with Samuel Montembeault, who had started all three games this season. Tyler Johnson is still in Syracuse as the third goalie, not a winger.
Lastly, the Crunch have called up 6’7” center Nikita Pavlychev from the Solar Bears to provide some depth as the team has lost five forwards to recalls and injuries since last week. Pavlychev has four points in 10 ECHL games this season on an AHL deal.
Speaking of injuries...
So the injury list was longer than originally thought. We saw Daniel Walcott leave Sunday’s game with what looked like a rough injury — he’s presumably out long term. Henry Bowlby also suffered an undisclosed injury last Wednesday. And Boo Nieves, who has yet to get into a game this season after starting the year with the Tampa Bay Lightning, is also dealing with an injury that has kept him out.
With Barre-Boulet and Colton both up to the Lightning, the center depth on the Crunch falls on the shoulders of Aleksi Heponiemi, Otto Somppi, Gabriel Fortier, Jimmy Huntington, Ryan Lohin, and Peter Abbandonato.
Nikita Pavlychev was called up from the Orlando Solar Bears, but it sounds like the Crunch are aiming to activate some junior prospects from the Lightning and Panthers from the pressbox and into the lineup. That list includes Serron Noel, Gage Goncalves, Cole Schwindt, and Jack Finley.
Quotes from the Crunch
Coach Groulx touched on the callups and injuries causing the team to look at dressing their junior players, no decisions have been made as of Tuesday. My guess is we see Panthers prospect Serron Noel, he’s the oldest/highest pick of the group. Maybe someone else has stood out in practice, we’ll know by Wednesday night.
Groulx also talked about the defense and their struggled exiting the puck. He called his defense group young (they are) and is optimistic when it comes to internal development and growth fixing the problems we’ve seen. Groulx gave a vote of confidence to Montembeault, I expect Martin to get in a game anyway because he hasn’t played in a while. It won’t be because of a lack of faith in Montembeault.
The Crunch will be going 11F/7D on Wednesday and the top-six will be getting a lot of ice time (and my focus).
“We’re depleted up front for sure. We’re still debating on our line up tomorrow. We might end up playing some junior players.”— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) February 16, 2021
Ben Groulx following a series of injuries and call ups. pic.twitter.com/8oPYQwsaj1
Taylor Raddysh has been given an “A” on his jersey with Walcott and Colton unavailable. This is a very encouraging sign for Raddysh and I hope he keeps his effort in practice and consistency during games up to the level we know he can get to.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s my first time I guess here in the pro level with that honor.”— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) February 16, 2021
Taylor Raddysh after Head Coach Ben Groulx announced he will wear an “A” for the Crunch tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/7LkbY7tSEn