AHL North Division Finals: Syracuse Crunch vs Toronto Marlies, game 4

We got all the clichés here: Do or die, backs against the wall, looking in the mirror, etc. etc.

The down and dirty

The Syracuse Crunch hasn’t done anything the easy way this season, so, really, the way their series with the Toronto Marlies has gone makes complete sense. However, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s AHL club is completely out of wiggle room and is left with two options for tonight’s game:

Win, and live to fight another day.

Lose, and get the golf clubs ready.

What you may have missed

Game 3 photo album? Game 3 photo album!

How to follow the Crunch tonight

  • The pre-game radio broadcast with Lukas Favale will start at 6:45 EST on ESPN Syracuse. You can listen to the game in its entirety for free.
  • AHL Live has special playoff pricing deals for every game of the AHL playoffs, as well as team-specific packages. There’s also a pay-per-view option.
  • Be sure to follow the team on Twitter and Instagram for updates if you’re away from other options.
  • Look for pre-and-post-game interviews, like the one below, on the Crunch’s YouTube./

Other game information

When this series started, two factors were tabbed as key to the Crunch’s success: a lack of need by the Lightning to recall players, and a roster that was healthy and firing on all cylinders. Fortunately, the Lightning has not needed anyone from the Crunch in weeks, allowing some of the roster pains Syracuse had during the regular season to settle. Unfortunately, the Crunch is clearly struggling on the health front. The number of players on the roster that are actually hurt could be playing a large part in the problems Syracuse has had executing their game plan.

Who is actually fully healthy on the Crunch’s roster is currently a complete mystery. Although guys are usually hiding all sorts of aliments this time of year, many fans are stating to suspect that more than just Gabriel Dumont and Olivier Archambault, two of the Crunch’s most obvious walking wounded, are hurting.

Matthew Peca seemed to struggle taking strides a few times last night. He missed game one of this series with an unknown injury, and is clearly still fighting through something. Archambault was probably dealing with his shoulder long before he went down last night with an apparent injury to his right side. Reid McNeil seemed to be in some visible pain Sunday night at different times, as well. Other players, like Mitchell Stephens, have been uncharacteristically quiet lately on the score sheet, leaving fans to wonder if he’s fighting through some kind of injury, too.

Regardless of whether Sunday night was a wake up call or not, the Crunch’s road doesn’t get easier from here. Down 0-3 in the series, Syracuse will now need to win the remaining four games of this series - two at home and two in Toronto - in order to advance to the Eastern Conference final. The road will be long, and it will be made longer if as many players on the roster are hurt as it seems.

However, it needs to be said that it is still extremely impressive that the Crunch clawed its way from the bottom of the AHL in November to one of the final eight teams in the league left standing in May. The Crunch was the youngest team in the AHL for the entirety of the season, with an average age that wasn’t even old enough to drink in the country it was based in. These guys were - and still are - passionate, talented, and dedicated to giving Crunch fans their all.

Their efforts did not go unnoticed. Whatever happens tonight, there absolutely should still be a sense of pride in that dressing room.