This was the most impressive stretch of hockey I’ve seen from the Syracuse Crunch thus far this season. They’ve been playing with a rotating cast of goaltenders all season, and this weekend was no different. Every game was started and played by a different goalie, and one even made his AHL debut. The Crunch are pulling off wins despite key injuries on the roster, disruptions at every major position, and a lack of discipline that’s resulting in them being the most penalized team in the Eastern Conference. There’s still plenty for this team to learn about its identity, but one thing’s for sure, do not ever count them out of a game. They didn’t get wins in every game this week, but they did get much needed points in all of them.
Wednesday Night’s Game
Syracuse decided to go with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen. Hugo Alnefelt got the start and Max Lagace was backing him up.
We're going with an 11-7 lineup tonight ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/YntDUGuhXb— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) January 18, 2023
The first period saw Wilkes-Barre and Syracuse testing the waters and figuring out how the other team wanted to play it. Each team took a minor penalty, but other than that, the shots were 7-5 in favor of Syracuse.
The second period took on a more loose nature from both teams. Both teams were eager to put their offensive prowess on display, and didn’t mind racing up and down the ice to exchange chances.
It was Alex Barré-Boulet who scored first just 2:27 into the first period. His goal tied the franchise lead in points and put Syracuse up 1-0.
BB continues to write his name in our history books pic.twitter.com/bwcCagmmXw— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) January 19, 2023
Wilkes-Barre found their way back into the game and they scored at 9:44 to tie the game at 1-1.
The teams kept racing back and forth up the ice, and eventually with 39 seconds left in the period Gabriel Dumont scored to put the Crunch ahead 2-1. It was Dumont’s 400th career AHL point.
Oh Captain, our Captain pic.twitter.com/gFQE4BvJjv— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) January 19, 2023
In the third period, Daniel Walcott scored his career high 8th goal of the season and provides an insurance goal for the Crunch to make it 3-1.
Luckily for the Crunch, Walcott was able to get that insurance goal because Wilkes-Barre was able to score one with the extra attacker to make it 3-2.
Friday Night’s Game
Jaydon Dureau was called up and in the lineup, and P.C. Labrie made his way into the line up. It was reported by Lukas Favale that Daniel Walcott was out with an illness. This game Max Lagace got the start, and Hugo Alnefelt was backing him up. The Crunch reported at the last second, Sean Day was scratched for Ryan Jones.
Our projected lines in Utica. Max gets the start tonight. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/Y4FcTaopA0— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) January 20, 2023
This was the first game of the series to take place in Utica. Syracuse had won the previous 3 contests, and it felt like this was going to be Utica at their best. It was a tight game from the very beginning. Both teams did not give much room on the ice, but Utica especially made it difficult for Crunch forwards to skate the puck past the neutral zone. The first period ended with Syracuse having a lead in shots 10-6.
In the second period, the Crunch forwards found some daylight, and it was Alex Barré-Boulet finding Gabriel Dumont for the game’s first goal. It was an historic moment for Barré-Boulet because it was a point that made him the leader in points in Crunch franchise history. Dumont, the tremendous captain that he is, made sure to grab the puck for Barré-Boulet.
The period continued to be tightly checked and tightly played. When the third period started it was no different, but one check stood out above all others.
We GIFed it so you can enjoy this on repeat pic.twitter.com/uOCJrQgJza— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) January 21, 2023
This hit from Declan Carlile deserved a second look.
A minute or so after that hit, Barré-Boulet made a pass to Jaydon Dureau that sent him on a breakaway and he scored a birthday goal to give the Crunch a cushion. The Crunch were up 2-0, and they would not yield a single goal. It would be Lagace’s first shutout of the season.
We have a thing with scoring goals on our birthdays pic.twitter.com/59zyKnoL5U— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) January 21, 2023
Syracuse deserved to win this game. It was their most complete game of the season. This team can score goals, but it only takes one goal to win. It was how they played in front of Lagace that was most impressive. It was the discipline they showed throughout the game. They are the number penalized team in the Eastern Conference with 649 penalty minutes, but they only took a few minor penalties in this game. One was an unfortunate delay of game puck over the glass, ad the other was a questionable cross-checking call. Lastly, it was good to see Lagace finally get rewarded with a shutout for his gritty play throughout the previous few weeks, and he made 25 saves to boot.
Saturday Night’s Game
Prior to this game Tyson Feist was recalled from Orlando, and Kaden Fulcher was signed to a professional tryout contract. The Crunch went back to 11 forwards and 7 defenseman, Fulcher made his Syracuse debut in net, and Daniel Walcott was back in the lineup.
We're going 11-7 against the Comets ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/vqOliTffRu— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) January 21, 2023
Simon Ryfors got the Crunch on the board first and scored his team leading 15th goal of the season.
His team-leading 15th of the season! pic.twitter.com/oeBbWTBwSw— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) January 22, 2023
After Utica forward Graeme Clarke went to the box for tripping, the Syracuse power play came in to add some insurance. Unfortunately, after a brief stint in the offensive zone they looked disorganized and allowed Utica to skate the puck down and go on the attack. Fulcher made the first save, but Utica forward Ryan Schmelzer was there to bury the rebound into an open net.
The first period ended with Utica edging Syracuse in shots 13-12.
In the second period at the 12 minute mark, Utica took a 2-1 lead on a power play goal. Honestly, it seemed like that would do it. The Crunch weren’t playing with precision like they were the previous night, and with all of the setbacks it just seemed like it wasn’t going to be their night. They lacked the discipline of the night before, and they got outshot 12-6 in the period.
Then in the third period Jack Thompson gave life to his team, skated in and fired a shot on net that tied the game 2-2. It was his 4th goal of the season.
A perfect screen and a perfect shot pic.twitter.com/juIo663FT6— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) January 22, 2023
The third period ended in a tie, and the Crunch received a much needed point. Unfortunately, it would be the only point they would get.
Just 12 seconds into overtime, old friend Nolan Foote rushed up the ice, and scored. Adding insult to injury, he skated into Fulcher and knocked him over in the crease. The game was over, the red light came on, and hopefully, Kaden Fulcher was OK.
This game was a little less reserved from the Utica side of things, and had a bit more chippiness and less disciplined play. Which benefited the Comets, and helped to get the Crunch off their game. It was a valiant effort from Fulcher who came in and had to make 29 saves, and there were some high quality saves in there too. It was a gutsy effort, and one that I’m sure his teammates wished they could’ve helped him get the W. That said, he definitely had a huge hand in getting them a much needed point.
The Crunch will continue their quest for the Galaxy Cup and their bizarre midseason series versus Utica on Friday at home. Utica is still in second place in the North Division with 46 points, but Syracuse is now within striking distance with 42 points. The Crunch have a 4-1 series lead, and both teams still have 9 more contests against one another.
The Crunch won’t get to rest much after Friday’s game because they’ll head south three hours to take on the Hartford Wolf Pack the very next night. The Wolf Pack are falling behind the rest of the Atlantic pack in a contentious division that has 3rd and 8th place separated by 5 points. This will be the first game between Syracuse and Hartford this season. They’ll play again once more in February.
The game against Hartford will be followed Sunday in Providence against the Bruins. This is the third time the two teams have faced each other. Providence won both back to back games back in November, and both contests were very chippy from my recollection.