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Crunch Wrap: Trust the Process

Syracuse win their first road game after dropping two

Scott Thomas Photography

This is a typical start for a typical Benoit Groulx-coached team. Nothing to worry about. Just trust the process. Last week’s weekly recap may have read like a tragedy, but this week was a reminder just how process oriented Coach Groulx can be.

The play by play announcer for ESPN Syracuse Lukas Favale had this statistical reminder:

Trust the process, play the right way, and don’t cheat the game. That said, if a little short term pain is needed then Syracuse needed to suffer a bit more before finding a game that got them in the win column.

Without Gemel Smith, the Crunch fielded the following roster for Wednesday night’s game versus Rochester:

It ended in a lopsided loss on the scoreboard. Though the Crunch lost 7-2 to Rochester, aside from goaltending, the game was incredibly competitive. The Crunch never wavered in their intensity and competitiveness. Even though they were down 4 goals midway through the third period, spectators might think the game was tied. They were still playing physical and blocking shots. Toward the end of the game, Félix Robert blocked a shot that kept him out of the rest of the game. It cannot go unmentioned, this team has no quit no matter what the circumstances of the game are.

The two offensive plays of note were when Daniel Walcott scored Syracuse’s first goal, his third of the season, and Jack Thompson scored the other. The goal marked Jack Thompson’s first professional goal.

After the game, Coach Groulx was realistic in the expectations of the young Crunch roster telling Favale, “I think to have everybody on the same page is a challenge for us especially when you’re missing the veterans we’re missing up front.”

Groulx went on to add positive things about Thompson’s play, “I think Jack’s having a decent start, up and down. He’s making good plays and he’s making plays that show his age. At the same time he’s got the potential. I like the progression. I have no doubt that Jack is gonna be a good player at this level.”

After Robert’s block in Wednesday’s game, one would think the Crunch recalled forward Shawn Element for some insurance. That said, Bennett MacArthur found himself the odd man out of the lineup, and Robert didn’t miss any playing time.

Friday’s game was in Charlotte, and the score was much closer. Syracuse played a much more defensive-oriented game. The conservative play means they were sitting back more, and more plays were broken up in the neutral zone and they pressed less on the forecheck. Yet even with all of the defensive minded team play, the Crunch went down 2 goals in the second period. The tenacity and drive carried this team in the third, and they scored two goals a mere 12 seconds apart.

About halfway through the second, Shawn Element hit a Checkers player into the boards. Charlotte’s Captain Zac Dalpe took exception to the hit and went after Element. Fresh off a recall from Orlando, and to Element’s credit, he immediately dropped the gloves. It wasn’t much of a scrap as Element was spun around and hit a few times without landing many punches.

The first goal was from Darren Raddysh who came down low into the slot and threw a perfect backhand shot past the goalie Alex Lyon.

The second goal was by Simon Ryfors who had a real patient dangle with pressure and he shot the puck into an open net.

Ultimately, it was a Charlotte goal a few minutes later that ended up being the game winner, and the Crunch couldn’t recover.

The gutsy play by Element in the second, against a player like Dalpe who has a few NHL bouts under his belt, must have been noticed by the coaching staff. For Saturday’s game Element was on a line with Walcott and Jack Finley.

It took an increased commitment on 5-on-5 play for the Crunch to get their first road victory of the year. Saturday’s game was a different story for Syracuse, and those baby steps of progress have finally looked to pay off on the scoreboard.

The first period started out slow. The second period the Crunch got two goals from Declan Carlile, and in the third period they tallied two empty net goals from Raddysh and Ryfors to put the game away.

The real star of the game was backup goalie Hugo Alnefelt. With the help of some crossbars, a review to determine whether a goal crossed a line, and some sprawling saves Alnefelt looked spectacular in his first AHL shutout and his first win of the season.

The Good

Darren Raddysh has been on fire as of late. He scored an assist in Wednesday’s game on Walcott’s goal, and a great goal in Friday night’s loss to Charlotte. Jack Thompson had a heckuva shot in Wednesday’s game to get his first goal. Declan Carlile scored his first two goals of the season which gave the Crunch their first road win of the season.

The Gabriel Foriter, Simon Ryfors, and Lucas Edmonds line has been showing some positive chemistry. If they can continue putting up offensive numbers, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to them when the entire team is healthy.

The Bad

The Crunch are still without the services of their captain Gabriel Dumont, and they are missing Gemel Smith who is day-to-day with an injury. Those are players that are crucial to helping the team get on the board. They need secondary scoring, and they’re getting it from the unlikeliest of places, the blueline.

While the Crunch are 6th in the league in scoring, they are 29th in the league in goals against. They need to do a better job of playing team defense, but they also need goaltending to step up and make some saves. Max Lagace had a .807 save percentage in his two games this week. He’s still the veteran and as long as he’s healthy still going to get the bulk of the starts. With the way Alnefelt played on Sunday, it will be interesting to see if Groulx sticks with the hot hand to start the week versus Rochester. Lagace will definitely be itching to prove that last Wednesday was a fluke, and it wouldn’t hurt to get the start at home either.

The Notable

Alex Barré-Boulet continues to grab points, as he got a primary assist on Carlile’s first goal on Saturday. It was Barré-Boulet’s 13th point of the season and it moved him into a tie for third place of all time in Crunch history. Aside from his offensive numbers, his defensive play has been noticeably more prevalent in his game.

Saturday’s game was not only Syracuse’s first road victory, it was Charlotte’s first loss at home. The Checkers were previously 5-0 at home.

Coming Up

The Crunch take on Rochester on Wednesday at the War Memorial. They will look to even up the series against them. The Crunch have currently won one and lost two against them. They will also see Belleville and Utica for the first time this Friday and Saturday. All three teams are division foes, and they’re all ahead of Syracuse in the standings. Rochester is ahead by five points, Belleville is ahead by two points, Utica is tied but statistically ahead because of games played.