After a COVID-19 outbreak shut down the Utica Comets for several weeks, there is a lot of catching up to do for the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues affiliate. This means, for the final two-and-a-half weeks in the AHL regular season, the Comets will be seeing their next door neighbor, the Syracuse Crunch, quite a bit. For the Comets, it’ll be six games out of their final eleven, while for the Crunch they only have eight games left in their schedule.
Playoffs are not going to be part of the equation in 2021 (see below) but there’s certainly bragging rights to be in a playoff spot by season’s end. Syracuse is currently third with a 15-8-1 record and a 0.646 win percentage, while the Comets are fourth with a record of 10-7-1 and a .583 win percentage. It’s a big gap right now, but that can quickly close after a majority of wins in the upcoming series.
Beyond bragging rights, the main purpose of this season was development for the Syracuse Crunch. We’re not quite at the finish line yet, but I am wildly impressed with the development we have seen out of a majority of the players this season.
Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk have both won AHL players of the week (and Katchouk is probably going to win Player of the Month on Monday).
The Crunch have graduated Cal Foote, Ross Colton, Alex Barre-Boulet, and Ben Thomas to the Tampa Bay Lightning, all of whom except Thomas having scored their first career NHL goals. Otto Somppi has shown himself as a proper top-six center at the right time in his development.
Devante Stephens has made a name for himself again on defense. John Ludvig and a trio of Florida Panthers defensemen (Brady Keeper, Chase Priskie, and the recently traded Riley Stillman) have all done really well, filling up a defense that was getting quite shallow in recent years. And I should give credit where it’s due, Sean Day has played well now that he’s in an offensive defenseman role.
The returning Crunch players who’ve had a whole year of nothing to do except work on their game (video, gym, upgrading skills, buying power-ups). Raddysh has definitely benefited from this and I think Katchouk too. They were told to be leaders this year and they’ve followed through with Alex Barre-Boulet and Ross Colton graduated to the Lightning.
Young players like Gabriel Fortier, Serron Noel, Declan McDonnell, and John Ludvig have had their moments of brilliance this season, and they’ll benefit greatly from the experience as they find a consistent pro game.
Games this Week
Game #25: Syracuse Crunch at Utica Comets (Wed, Apr 28, 7pm)
It’s a rematch between the Crunch and Comets after the 7-1 blowout on Sunday afternoon. The Comets have gotten a raft of reinforcements from their NHL affiliates ahead of this game. Premier forward Dakota Joshua has arrived from St. Louis, and junior star in net Michael DiPietro has joined from Vancouver. The Blues also sent over three of their 2020 draft prospects from the OHL: Tanner Dickinson (fourth round), Keean Washkurak (fifth round), Will Cranley (sixth round). Dickinson is from Ohio, while Washkurak and Cranley are from Southern Ontario in Canada.
Long story short, if the Comets get any of these players in the lineup, it’ll give them some sort of a boost. Nowhere to go but up from Sunday.
Game #26: Rochester Americans at Syracuse Crunch (Sat, May 1, 7pm)
The Crunch won two very close games last week against the Amerks. I expect Saturday night to be just as competitive. Neither roster has changed much and Rochester has had almost a full week off between games. They will play Utica on Friday before travelling to Syracuse on Saturday, but the back-to-back shouldn’t be much of a disadvantage.
Game #27: Utica Comets at Syracuse Crunch (Sun, May 2, 3pm)
This Sunday sparks the beginning of a five-game super series against the Utica Comets. Five games in nine days between the same team should get everyone nice and tired of each other. If you include this Wednesday’s game, it’ll be six of seven games against the Comets, and six of eight to end the season. Yes! The end of the season is on the horizon, it’ll just take one final climb over the Adirondack Mountains. (Canadian here, is that a good local reference?)
On-Ice Roster Adjustments
To the NHL
F Aleksi Heponiemi to the Florida Panthers
F Grigori Denisenko to the Florida Panthers
To the AHL
F Nikita Pavlychev from Orlando Solar Bears
F Brad Morrison from Indy Fuel
To the ECHL
D Dmitri Semykin to Orlando Solar Bears
D Alec Rauhauser to Greenville Swamp Rabbits
Off-Ice Roster Adjustments
To Vice President of Corporate Partnerships
Andrea Marino (promotion)
To Vice President of Communications & Digital Media
Megan Cahill (promotion)
Congratulations to Andrea and Megan!
We are proud to announce the promotions of Andrea Marino to Vice President of Corporate Partnerships and Megan Cahill to Vice President of Communications & Digital Media.— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) April 27, 2021
Stick taps to @anmarino46 and @meganmelinda.https://t.co/47sChGQ20w
Around the AHL
Crunch owner Howard Dolgon released a statement yesterday, sharing the news that the team expects to have a full 76-game season, with fans in the stands, and several fun new interactive promotions. Cautiously, business as usual.
Among those promotions is a virtual Meet the Team event on May 4th that will include fan questions with the team. More information in the link below.