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UPDATE: tonight’s Crunch game vs Comets postponed to April

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An outbreak has hit the North Division

Tampa Bay Lightning v Carolina Hurricanes
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 22: Alex Barre-Boulet #60 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks to pass during the first period of their game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on February 22, 2021 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Breaking News, the Syracuse Crunch have postponed tonight’s game against the Utica Comets to Monday, April 5th. This has been done out of an abundance of caution due to COVID protocols. Five of the seven teams in the North Division have played each other this week as the outbreak began.

You’ll see later in the article that was written last night that the Rochester Americans are in COVID protocol right now after receiving positive tests among their players, that has been confirmed. The Utica Comets played the Amerks earlier this week so the safest way for the Crunch to avoid this outbreak completely is to move the game back.

The Crunch will now play their 10th game of the season on Saturday at home against the WBS Penguins — the only other team in the division that hasn’t been caught up in this outbreak (at least as far as we know). This means only one game this week as April gets a little more busy.

The AHL on the whole has moved three games, including the Saturday, March 13th game between Utica and Rochester to April 11th and the cancelled Binghamton vs. Lehigh Valley game moved to April as well.

The whole original article below has been updated to reflect the current situation.

TL;DR: one game this weekend, Saturday against the Penguins. Syracuse is still expected to be in Rochester this coming Wednesday.


After a week-long losing streak, augmented by injuries and call-ups, the Syracuse Crunch seem to be coming out of their nadir with some confidence, returning personnel, and wins. Winners of two of their last three, the Crunch have had the better part of a week off before heading to Utica for a day trip to play the Comets, they’ll then come home to play the WBS Penguins on Saturday.

Two of the team’s three wins have come against Utica and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, with the Crunch beating the Comets early in the season when everyone was still getting their sea legs, and against the Penguins as recently as last week in the shootout. The team feels like it’s beginning to come into its own, and on top of that, help is on the way.

Game this Week (Updated)

Saturday: Game #10: WBS Penguins at Syracuse Crunch (Sat, Mar 13, 7pm)

This will be the third meeting between the Penguins and the Crunch this season. The Penguins are fifth in the North, but six points up on the Crunch in sixth. Again, there is a very big gap between the good and bad teams in the North.

The Penguins aren’t a great team, which means the Crunch can play a low-scoring/low-event game that gives them a better chance to win. At least they stand a better chance than against the lethal Comets. However, the Crunch will be on the second half of a back-to-back while the Penguins will be fresh. The Crunch will definitely be on the back foot here and two points tougher to come by with a better schedule.

The Friday game against Utica was meant to be a free Facebook game, but now that it’s been moved it’s unclear when that free game gets rescheduled to.

COVID Around the League

This week, we got a couple scares regarding COVID affecting teams and games. [“you don’t say” — Future Hardev]

First, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms vs. Binghamton Devils game was suspended after the first period because of COVID protocols affecting the Devils. The game has yet to be rescheduled now been rescheduled to April, and the Devils game on March 12th against the Hershey Bears has also been moved to April.

Also, Rochester has had their game against the Cleveland Monsters moved from March 12th to April 10th due to COVID protocols affecting them. Syracuse is still expected to be in Rochester next Wednesday (March 17th).

Within the course of a few days, five of the seven teams in the division have had scares, showing just how tenuous the season is.

Transactions

The forward+goalie swap

It’s amazing how quickly things can turn around. Taylor Raddysh got the call to The Show this week for the first time in his career and will likely get in his first NHL game very soon. Last season, Raddysh was worryingly poor at 5v5, with power play results keeping him afloat, but this season I’ve seen a big change in his commitment on every shift. While the Crunch don’t exactly have the tools to mount a formidable offense this season, Raddysh still found ways to be productive. He’s taken on big minutes at 5v5 and on the penalty kill and helped keep the team in games for longer. That shift in focus has been a lot more useful than being a power play hunter — though the power play could do with some help.

In a corresponding move, Gemel Smith has been sent to the Crunch. The 26-year-old center was a top producer for the Crunch last year, Providence the year before, and in the NHL with Tampa, Boston, and Dallas.

The Lightning also swapped their third goalie, Christopher Gibson with Spencer Martin. Gibson hasn’t played a game this season and now was as good a time as any while the Lightning were in Michigan for a week to get him over to Syracuse for some reps. Martin joins Tampa to be their extra guy.

Alex Barre-Boulet is back!

It was announced late last night that the Lightning have sent center Alex Barre-Boulet back to the Syracuse Crunch from the team’s taxi squad. ABB was a +1 in his first two NHL games, with no points. He returns to the Crunch as another success story for the franchise; an undrafted, undersized winger out of Quebec, developed into the team’s best player of the era, and a cup of NHL coffee. Hopefully there’s more of that caffeine in the future, but for now, we really missed you, ABB.

Schmiemann back to the WHL

We were expecting this, but last week Quinn Schmiemann was sent back to his WHL club. The defenseman didn’t play a game for the Crunch this season.

COVID Protocols

Now, I don’t have any information on whether ABB, Smith, and Gibson will be available to play tonight or Saturday for the Crunch. How they travelled to Syracuse, what their testing was like, how long they need to quarantine/wait for negative tests is all information not privy to us. They fall under the AHL and NHL’s protocols.

Considering the Lightning were in Michigan yesterday, perhaps the players sent to the Crunch were dropped off in Syracuse and will be getting tests that will allow them to play tonight. If not, the Crunch will be on a very short roster, By my count, if no one is back from injury 11F/6D/2G levels short.

I can’t imagine the Crunch would be thrown to the wolves like that, so I’m convinced we’ll see some of these players on the ice this weekend. It might not include ABB, but Smith and Gibson at the very least. Either that, or we have some guys on injury coming back.

Injury Update

For much of the past few weeks, the Crunch have been without basically an entire top-six and top-four at forward and defense. While we have no news on injured players returning, the Lightning have been getting healthier and are bringing back fresh legs to boost the team. But how about the Crunch, is there hope to see some players return?

Below, I’ve come up with a rough list of injury dates and what we know about them.

  • F - Boo Nieves (since Feb 3rd), head
  • F - Henry Bowlby (since Feb 10th), undisclosed
  • F - Daniel Walcott (since Feb 13th), LBI
  • F - Aleksi Heponiemi (since Feb 17th), LBI
  • D - Chase Priskie (since Feb 26th), undisclosed
  • D - Luke Witkowski (since Feb 28th), undisclosed
  • F - Ryan Lohin (since Mar 6th), undisclosed
  • D - Brady Keeper (since Mar 6th), undisclosed

For most of these guys, they’ve been out for a while so I’m wondering if/when we start to see players returning. Lohin and Keeper were scratches on March 6th (Keeper on short notice) so they could just be dealing with minor injuries. I’m not sure. Walcott is expected to be out a while, but maybe Heponiemi is on his way back soon? And maybe Witkowski is feeling better after a couple weeks off? All we can do is hope, for both the players and the team’s sake.

Update: we’ll have to wait one more day before we know if any of these recalled and injured players will be getting into the lineup.