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Syracuse Crunch Wrap: Cal Foote returns to Syracuse

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And where have the goalies gone?

Columbus Blue Jackets v Tampa Bay Lightning
TAMPA, FL - MARCH 30: Cal Foote #52 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the third period at Amalie Arena on March 30, 2021 in Tampa, Florida.
Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

The Syracuse Crunch went 1-1-1 this week against the Utica Comets, Rochester Americans, and Utica Comets (for a second time). There was a pretty strong correlation between starting slow, getting scored on first, and losing during this week. The Crunch did all three in their first two games, losing 2-1 and 3-1 respectively, but were able to avoid those problems in the Sunday matinee, winning it 5-2.

Over the course of the week, the Crunch lost goalies Samuel Montembeault and Spencer Martin to the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning taxi squads. They also lost Brady Keeper and Ben Thomas on defense. In corresponding moves, goalie Ryan Bednard came up from Greenville of the ECHL courtesy of the Panthers, while Cal Foote was sent back to Syracuse.

In Short...

1-2 OTL @ Utica Comets (Wed)

The Crunch were on the back foot to start the game as the Comets came out strong. Unfortunately, ten minutes into the game, Comets defenseman Josh Teves shoved Jimmy Huntington right into goalie Jake Kielly, knocking him out of the game with a serious injury. The game was stopped and Joel Hofer replaced Kielly for the rest of the game. Another example not to just push players down in the blue paint. Goalies are often positioned at weird angles and dropping 200 lbs on them is never a good thing. The first period didn’t see a goal, the Crunch were getting lots of shots from the point, but nothing dangerous.

The second, like the first, was scoreless, though the Crunch came on more strongly. The Crunch got nine chances from the right wing, with Raddysh, Fortier, Koepke, and Lohin firing shots on net, with Borgman and Carlsson both pinching down for shots from the wing. There was another injury, this time Curtis McKenzie kneeing Antoine Morand in the offensive zone. McKenzie missed his check and spun him out as the speedier Morand circled up to the point. Morand wasn’t putting much weight on his right leg, but stayed in the game. In fact, Tyler Tucker fought him for getting too close to Hofer. It was an eventful period for Morand to say the least.

The Comets opened the scoring at the beginning of the third, at the tail end of a power play to Sean Day. It was a point shot from Jett Woo that was tipped in front by Jonah Gadjovich. It took until the final three minutes of the game until Chase Priskie finally tied the game on the third rebound of an odd-man rush. The game went into overtime where Gadjovich scored his second to win the game for Utica and sent the Crunch to their first loss in six games.

1-3 L vs. Rochester Americans (Sat)

Another slow start led to the Crunch falling behind early with CJ Smith and Brett Murray scoring in the first. I wouldn’t blame recently-promoted goalie Ryan Bednard for either goal, especially the first one. Abbandonato and Bowlby completely missed Smith coming into the slot for an uncontested chance. The second goal had Murray wide open in front of the net on the power play, neither Foote or Borgman bothered to cover him, but what else is new on the PP.

Huntington brought the Crunch back in the third period with a goal at the tail end of a power play. Huntington did a lap around the outside of the zone, passed it off to Stephens in front for a chance, but found the rebound himself and chucked it home. Foote, who made a bad giveaway earlier in his shift, took a kneeing penalty earlier in the period. He was lazy getting back into his own zone, and then tried to line up an Amerks forward with a hit behind the net. The player dodged and Foote kept his leg out to clip him.

Grinder Matej Pekar scored early in the third to essentially seal the game. The Crunch put up a fight at the end, but once the Amerks shut down the middle of the ice it was over. Priskie, who was all over the ice in this game, had the lone chance in front of the net, but everything else came from the perimeter.

5-2 W vs. Utica Comets (Sun)

After getting scored on first in the two previous games, the Crunch pushed out to an early lead thanks to Chase Priskie jumping into the play (again). He made a great play to cut into the middle, found his own rebound after a shot from the slot, and scored his second goal in three games. Huntington and Abbandonato each added a goal to end the first period with the Crunch ahead 3-0.

Andreas Borgman extended the lead to 4-0 with a massive shot from the point that got through traffic in front. Foote and Koepke both getting their first assists of the season on the goal. The Comets scored twice in the second and third to bring the game back to 4-2, but Koepke scored his second goal of the season on the empty net after being given the opportunity to defend the lead late.

After a pretty tough first two games, it was a great way to end the week.

The Lineup

The Crunch ran a pretty consistent lineup over the week. The first two games had identical lineups, but when the Tampa Bay Lightning swapped Thomas and Martin with Cal Foote, he went into the lineup next to Borgman and Priskie moved down. At forward, McDonnell played over the weekend, too.

Forwards

Boris Katchouk - Otto Somppi - Taylor Raddysh
Henry Bowlby - Ryan Lohin - Peter Abbandonato
Gabriel Fortier - Antoine Morand - Cole Koepke
Devante Stephens - Jimmy Huntington - Vlad Kolyachonok/Declan McDonnell

Defense

Lucas Carlsson - Alex Green
Andreas Borgman - Chase Priskie/Cal Foote
Sean Day - Ben Thomas/Chase Priskie

Goalies

Spencer Martin (Game 1)
Ryan Bedard (Games 2 and 3)
Tyler Johnson

This Week in Thoughts

Cal Foote

You may know by now that Foote was demoted to the Crunch after his performance for Tampa Bay last Tuesday — particularly letting his emotions get the better of him:

“Some of that momentum went by the wayside courtesy of Cal Foote. The rookie was back in the line-up due to David Savard’s lower-body injury. The rust of not playing in sixteen days was apparent as Foote was sent to the box twice in a span of two-and-a-half minutes. Which is kind of impressive since he was in the penalty box for the first two of those minutes.” - Raw Charge

Unfortunately his game on Saturday was no different as he was caught kneeing a player on the Amerks following a poor giveaway and something I wouldn’t call a back-check. Back on the Crunch, Foote needs to refocus on playing a productive game for the team; cut down on the mental mistakes, and cut down on the outbursts. With Tampa comfortably in the playoffs, and Foote not playing that great to begin with, they have no urgency to bring him back.

Defensive Logjam

The Crunch have been running a lot of defensemen at forward recently, especially Stephens for a few weeks now. I don’t think Stephens or Kolyachonok have played well at all at forward, but it gets them in the lineup on a defense that is stacked. Neither defender has played poorly to earn the spots so far down the depth chart, I’ve actually quite liked the tools of Koly, but the Lightning and Florida Panthers probably want their NHL depth defensemen playing meaningful minutes at their position.

When it comes to Sean Day, he’s found a role as an offensive puck-moving defenseman and he’s earned the chance to build on the momentum, it’s why the Crunch paying him so much on an AHL deal, he’s a reclamation project that’s borne fruit. I hope next year, when there is a 32nd NHL team, and there aren’t Taxi Squads and quarantines in the way, that Day and Stephens get a bigger roles on the team, heck maybe even as a pair. I think they both deserve a shot.

Highlights

1-2 OTL @ Utica Comets (Wed)

Chase Priskie (1) from Taylor Raddysh (15) and Peter Abbandonato (8)

1-3 L vs. Rochester Americans (Sat)

Jimmy Huntington (3) from Devante Stephens (6) and Sean Day (9)

5-2 W vs. Utica Comets (Sun)

Chase Priskie (2) from Sean Day (10) and Jimmy Huntington (9)

Jimmy Huntington (4) unassisted

Peter Abbandonato (4) from Ryan Lohin (5) and Henry Bowlby (4)

Andreas Borgman (3) from Cal Foote (1) and Cole Koepke (1)