The Syracuse Crunch have two games this week, starting tonight in Rochester. The Crunch have a chance to pass the Amerks for fourth in the North Division, so that’s the goal this week. On Saturday, the Crunch hope to play against the Utica Comets for the first time since February 27th. The Comets have only played nine games this season (the Crunch have played 15) as they’ve been shut down in COVID-19 Protocol for the past few weeks. We’ll know on Friday if the game gets to go on.
In roster news for the Crunch, the team has acquired several NCAA prospects from their NHL affiliates. They are all in their quarantines and could be on the ice in Syracuse as early as this weekend. The Tampa Bay Lightning also recalled Daniel Walcott to the Taxi Squad, this feels like a real move, so we’ll see what happens.
Games this Week
Game #16: Syracuse Crunch at Rochester Americans (Wed, Apr 7, 7pm)
Game #17: Utica Comets at Syracuse Crunch (Sat, Apr 10, 7pm) - Maybe
The Crunch have two games this week. One that’s almost surely going to happen, and another that will hopefully happen. Syracuse split last weekend’s series with Rochester, winning the first game, and losing the second. The Crunch have vastly improved their puck possession game, but still struggle to stay out of the box.
For the Comets, everything depends on negative tests for the players and staff, and the team being able to get a full-team practice on Friday or Saturday morning. If the game goes ahead, this will start the beginning of a three-game series with the Comets.
Status in Utica
Most of the team was on the ice yesterday for a practice. There are still players in quarantine, but they were able to open their building for the first time. If they can get through the next couple days, get some more players back, they’ll be good to go against the Syracuse Crunch. Comets head coach Trent Cull also made a point to be aware of the players mental health. They haven’t been allowed to play or go anywhere for almost two months, it can’t be easy.
The Utica Comets have returned to practice today.— David Edelstein (@davidzedelstein) April 6, 2021
17 skaters (12 F and 5 D) and 2 goalies are on the ice.
Speaking with Head Coach Trent Cull after practice. pic.twitter.com/zN59sOdB8H
The overall feel from the Utica Comets players, staff and head coach seems to be a positive one as they look to get on the ice this Friday.— Faber (@ChrisFaber39) April 6, 2021
The Comets haven’t played a game since March 10th.
Utica Comets head coach Trent Cull talked about mental health awareness for the young players through this tough COVID situation.— Faber (@ChrisFaber39) April 6, 2021
He's consistently checking in with the young guys who are living on their own for the first time and said mental health needs to be a priority.
The Florida Panthers assigned defenseman Vladislav Kolyachonok to the Crunch, he is undergoing a quarantine from Russia before he is eligible to play. Kolyachonok (unofficial pronunciation: “Koe-Lee-Yah-Chuh-Knock”) is a 19-year-old top prospect for Florida, he was drafted in the second round in 2019 and a lot of video-based scouts were really high on him in his draft year. He played 46 games in the KHL as a teenager, which is not a small feat. He’s described as a fast, smart, two-way defenseman with a potentially concerning edge to him.
NCAA Prospect Updates
While Lightning prospect Odeen Tufto is on his way to the Crunch and is on their roster, it doesn’t appear as though Panthers prospect Logan Hutsko will be joining him. I guess he’s either finishing his studies at Boston College, or is taking the summer off ahead of his contract starting next Fall.
Lightning Roster Machinations
Among the main roster players, Mitchell Stephens might get called back at any moment (my guess is ahead of Thursday’s game in Columbus) that will trigger several roster moves for the Lightning. First and foremost, they’ll need to send a forward down to either the Taxi Squad or the AHL. Both of those moves require waivers, and the only waiver exempt player is Ross Colton. He will either go to the Taxi Squad with Gemel Smith and a couple other players, or he’ll come back to the AHL like Alex Barre-Boulet.
Here’s some funny Taxi Squad news: Daniel Walcott is on the Taxi Squad as of 5pm last night. I have no idea why he’s there — he doesn’t get paid an NHL salary on the Taxi Squad. He hasn’t been removed from the Crunch’s roster yet (but those changes come in the morning).
I can think of three scenarios here: first, the Lightning are on a road trip and need the extra bodies, Walcott is a placeholder for Colton to move to the Taxi Squad today, or there’s a trade coming soon and a forward is on their way out. The Crunch play on Wednesday, the Lightning play on Thursday. We’ll see later today, one way or another.
I will say, this press release makes gives the impression that this is a real move and at the very least he could be joining the lineup for an audition on the fourth line. Who knows.