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Crunch Wrap: Welcome to March

The most important month of the season for the Syracuse Crunch begins tonight.

Scott Thomas Photography

It was a mixed bag week for the Syracuse Crunch last week. They went 2-1-2 in the five games and the six points helped them keep pace in the playoff race. Overall, it was a solid set of games for the offense as they hit the six-goal mark twice. Gabriel Dumont led the way with 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists) over the week. The captain now has a career-high 24 goals and his 45 points is knocking on his best mark of 49 set back in 2015-16.

Perhaps the best news of the weekend was the return of Max Legace between the pipes. For the first time in a long, long time the Crunch have the two netminders that they had hoped to begin the season with. Amir Miftakhov performed admirably in the absence of Legace and Hugo Alnefelt as the 21-year-old posted a 2.92 GAA, and .895 SV% in 21 games.

The Crunch are going to need their goaltenders to take it up a notch to make it into the playoffs. While there will be plenty of games left in April, March is going to be the month where they need to make their move. There are 14 games for them this month and outside of three games in the middle of the month all of them are against North-Division opponents.

Since they only play Cleveland once this month that means ten of those games are against teams they are currently chasing in the standings. If they get through March with a winning record, Syracuse can definitely make up some ground in the standings. It would also help to get as many of those wins in regulation as possible.

In order to do so, not only will they need a little better play from their goaltenders, they will also need to figure out their special teams play. Over the past few seasons the Crunch have usually finished in the top of the rankings when it comes to both the power play and penalty kill. This year, not so much. After a fairly hot start, their power play has slowly slid down the rankings to the middle of the pack. At 20.1% they are currently 12th. A 3-for-13 performance over the last week helped bump it up a bit, but they need to find a way to generate more chances. Six of the thirteen man-advantages they had came in just one game.

On the other side of the coin they allowed four power play goals to their opponents in just nine opportunities. The fact that they were only shorthanded nine times in five games is pretty good, but a 55% success rate is pretty bad. So is their 75% success rate overall on the season. Part of the problem could be the roster churn they’ve gone through, especially on defense, but they have to figure that part of the game out if they are going to be successful throughout the rest of the season.

The Games:

Game 43

Crunch 6, Senators 2

A Gabriel Dumont hat trick highlighted another strong performance from the offense. The Crunch captain capped off his special day with a goal early in the third, but it was second period where Syracuse went on a roll, scoring four times, including twice on the power play.

Game 44

Senators 4, Crunch 1

The Crunch had another night with 35+ shots, but struggled to beat Kevin Mandolese who made 36 saves on 37 shots. It was a Belleville forward with a hat trick on this night as Jake Lucchini potted three goals. The good news for Syracuse was that Max Lagace made his first start in a month.

Game 45

Americans 2, Crunch 1 (OT)

Gemel Smith scored his first AHL goal since March 24th of 2021. Unfortunately for the Crunch that was their only goal of the night. Ethan Prow scored the deciding goal three minutes into overtime to give the Americans the hard fought win. Hugo Alnefelt had a good game with 24 saves on 26 games, but Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen had a GREAT game with 54 saves. Alex Barre-Boulet led the charge with 7 shots on net, but his goalless streak continued for another night.

Game 46

Crunch 6, Comets 3

The offense bounced back the next night as the Crunch doubled up the North-leading Comets. It was another multi-point night for Dumont as he posted a goal and three assists. Five other Crunch players (Anthony Richard, Gabriel Fortier, Sean Day, Remi Elie, and Gage Goncalves) recorded goals while Lagace picked up the win with 22 saves.

Game 47

Penguins 4, Crunch 3 (OT)

After going into the third period down 2-0, the Crunch rallied for three straight goals (Gage Goncalves, Gabriel Fortier, Remi Elie) in the first 12 minutes to take lead, but Valtteri Puustinen scored at the 18:48 mark to tie it up. Taylor Fedun scored the game-winner in overtime to earn the extra point for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Hugo Alnefelt set a career-high with 36 saves.

Coming and Going

Subtractions

Andrej Sustr (D) - The big defenseman joined the Tampa Bay Lightning as insurance as they continue to have issues with health on the blueline. Until Zach Bogosian is back and they have seven defenseman to rotate through, expect a constant shuffle between Syracuse and Tampa for Sustr and Darren Raddysh.

Additions

Dmitry Semykin (D) - Instead of signing their 674th PTO of the season, the Crunch recalled Semykin from Orlando to help with the blueline depth. Russian Thor played 28 games with the Solar Bears, recording 2 goals and 5 assists during that time. He made it into the game against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday.

Upcoming Games

Wednesday March 2nd at Rochester Americans, 7:05 PM

Friday March 4th vs. Utica Comets, 7:00 PM

Saturday March 5th vs. Utica Comets, 7:00 PM