Salutations Syracuse Crunch fans, my name is Lee Wright (see also: DangleDoppler), and I will be your Raw Charge writer for this year of Crunch hockey. I look forward to giving you weekly recaps, roster updates, and any news fit to print during all 72 games this season.
I am a high school English teacher based out of Orlando, FL, and I am a rookie like many of the players for the Crunch this year. As an overager, I look forward to sharing my life experiences, musings, and observations about the Crunch as the season progresses.
Let’s take a look at how the team is shaping up to start the season.
How do the Crunch come back from a second place finish in the AHL North division and a hard fought five-game series against the Laval Rocket in the Calder Cup Playoffs?
So far, in the preseason, the team is finding the right formula by winning its only two games. Still, the Crunch looks to translate those exhibition wins into regular season success by seeing which blend of new players and old, of veterans and prospects create the right mix.
The expectations are high as the Crunch look to build on last year’s success, and continue looking for the right ingredients that are going to lead the franchise back to the Calder Cup Finals. As Coach Benoit Groulx puts it, “When you look at the group, I think they get along well, I think our older guys did a phenomenal job at welcoming the younger guys, helping them on the ice, helping them going through a tough week of practice.”
"My takeaway – the chemistry."— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) October 9, 2022
Head Coach Ben Groulx comments on the first week of practice and how the team is meshing after a weekend of preseason games. pic.twitter.com/cCV73VQOLm
Coach Groulx went on to add, “I don’t want to say we gel and we’re ready to go and all that, but I think the chemistry is pretty good this time of the year.” If you’re familiar with the Crunch under Coach Groulx, you’ll know that there is usually an adjustment period as the newcomers get used to his style.
Let’s take a look at the roster, and see what elements make this year’s Crunch charged and ready to go.
Forwards: Gabriel Dumont, Alex Barre-Boulet, Simon Ryfors,
Daniel Walcott, P.C. Labrie, Gemel Smith, Gage Goncalves, Jaydon Dureau, Shawn Element
Defense: Sean Day, Darren Raddysh, Nick Perbix, Ryan Jones, Declan Carlile
Goaltenders: Max Lagace, Hugo Alnefelt
Two-thirds of their line-up is returning, the Crunch are looking to build on last year’s success.
On offense, Captain Gabriel Dumont had a career year for goals and points. Alex Barré-Boulet led the team in points, and is still looking to showcase his talents to earn a regular spot in the NHL. Veterans Walcott and Labrie look to be strong contenders for supporting leadership in a dressing room that consists of a good mix of veterans and prospects.
As for the blue line, veterans Jones, Day, and Raddysh will get plenty of minutes, and will also shelter the youngsters Perbix and Carlile into a more comfortable role within the Crunch system.
Max Lagace has been a consistent netminder, and if the veteran AHL goalie can stay healthy that consistency combined with the blue line experience should be enough to steal or keep the Crunch in plenty of games. Huge Alnefelt looks to build on his rookie season that saw him play at all three levels of the Lightning organization.
Forwards: Grant Mismash, Felix Robert, Jack Finley, Ilya Usua, Bennett MacArthur, Lucas Edmonds
Defense: Trevor Carrick, Jack Thompson, Tyson Feist
Carrick is an AHL veteran with a Calder Cup on his resume. One has to assume the loss of Fredrik Claesson, who left to go play in the KHL, factored in for the need of Carrick’s veteran presence. Jack Thompson and Tyson Feist look to start off their professional careers, and they will more than likely be competing against each other for a spot in the lineup.
Not exactly a veteran, Grant Mismash has some AHL experience as he played with Milwaukee last season. Many Crunch fans may already be familiar with Jack Finley the big bodied center after he played a few games in the 2020-2021 season, but this year he’ll look to take the next step in his development. Ilya Usua is a player that came over from the KHL, but has some North American experience playing in the US in high school and the WHL.
Felix Robert is an intriguing acquisition because, like Mismash, he doesn’t have a ton of professional hockey experience, but in his first full AHL season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton he put up some offense. Even with such a small sample size, the Lightning saw enough in his play to award him an NHL entry-level deal as reported in July.
He’s an undersized forward that’s coming from the QMJHL, and he went undrafted. Does that sound familiar? During the last preseason game he really gelled with Dumont and Barre-Boulet. With Coach Groulx’s comments about chemistry, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start the season on that top line.
Speaking of undrafted QMJHL players, Bennett MacArthur put up 129 points (78 goals, 51 assists) in 120 games with Acadie-Bathurst over three seasons. The 6’1” left winger signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Lightning last season, a sign that the organization has high hopes for him.
The same goes for Lucas Edmonds, the third-round pick who has played in Europe and junior hockey. With his professional experience in the Swiss hockey leagues there is a chance his time in Syracuse could be short as he could be an early injury replacement should the Lightning need him.
For the rest of 2022, the Crunch have mostly Wednesday, Friday, Saturday games. Weekday games have a start of 7pm ET, with the exception of an odd 10:35 AM start against Springfield, November 16. Saturday games vary between afternoon, matinee, and night games.
The Crunch will be starting the season on the road as they take on the Cleveland Monsters Friday at 7pm ET and Saturday at 3pm ET. All games will be streamed on AHLtv this season, if you don’t have a subscription I would highly recommend getting one, the opening weekend of the AHL season is being streamed on that platform for free if you want to check it out first.
⏰ Time change!— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) October 12, 2022
Saturday's game in Cleveland will now be a 3 p.m. puck drop. pic.twitter.com/Wy5GsYWhse
I’ll have a recap of the first game ready for Monday morning on this platform. Recaps will go out every Monday morning except the one time the team plays on that day, that recap will go out on Tuesday.