News came down earlier this week that surprised a lot of AHL fans on Twitter. Crunch Captain Gabriel Dumont was suspended for 2 games for his knee to knee hit on Filip Cederqvist in April 29th’s game against the Amerks. Cederqvist was able to return to the game last Saturday, but he missed Friday night’s game this week. Whatever your thoughts are on the decision from player safety, there’s one thing for sure, Dumont’s absence was significant for the Crunch.
Earlier this season, I was speaking with Field Pass Hockey’s [and honorary Raw Charge Auntie] Alexandra Ackerman (@FPHCrunch), and she mentioned the Crunch are a different team without Gabriel Dumont. They’re a little easier to play against without the relentless forechecking of Dumont. They are missing a key component on faceoffs, penalty kills, and that front of the net presence on power plays. This weekend they really could have used Dumont’s skillset and leadership, but despite the results there were moments where the team continued to look like it was growing.
Friday Night’s Game – Rochester 8, Syracuse 5
With Dumont unavailable, Max Cajkovic, recently recalled from the Orlando Solar Bears, was inserted into the lineup. Simon Ryfors took over Dumont’s spot as the top line center duties. Aside from that one large subtraction from the lineup, the lineup remained the same.
From puck drop, this game had a starkly different feel than the Crunch’s domination over Rochester last Saturday. That game was a complete team defense clinic, and the Amerks played like they didn’t want that to happen on home ice.
The Crunch did get the first power play of the game, and after not much going on during it Gage Goncalves got a little too aggressive on the forecheck and took a penalty with 12 seconds left on the power play, wiping out the remainder and giving the Amerks an abbreviated power play. It didn’t take Rochester long to score either, as Isak Rosen opened the scoring 28 seconds after the penalty.
The Crunch dug deep into their bank of resiliency and deposited a game tying goal the very next shift. Simon Ryfors scored his first of the game to tie it 1-1.
Late in the period, after an icing went in their favor, Syracuse lost a puck battle in the offensive zone, and Rochester went the other way with numbers. The Amerks took advantage of this odd man rush by throwing the puck on net, and they got a fortuitous bounce that the trailing forward, Michael Mersch, was able to hammer home unimpeded. It would be 2-1 Rochester going into the first intermission.
The Crunch again rebounded like a pesky rubber band, and Gage Goncalves scored to tie the game off a nifty pass from Trevor Carrick.
Despite the confidence of the Crunch to get back in the game, the Amerks were singularly focused on getting the win in front of their fans, and right before the period ended they regained the lead as Sean Malone scored to make it 3-2.
In the third period, the Crunch were able to get a power play on a hooking call against Rochester, but a nonchalant pass from the blueline gave the Amerks a breakaway which Mason Jobst converted on to make it 4-2.
About a minute in the game later into the same power play, the Crunch were able to convert. Right as the power play was ending, Ryfors scored his second of the game to make it 4-3. This is just another example of Ryfors making things happen. He shot the put on net, which is never a bad thing, but when it didn’t go in he followed up the rebound to continue adding pressure and eventually it went in.
A few seconds after going on the power play from a high sticking call, Alex Barré-Boulet converted to tie the game, and the Crunch were channeling their suspended captain’s relentless energy to fight to stay in this game.
As relentless and resilient as the Crunch were though, Rochester was even more hungry to stay ahead, and they scored twice after that to make it 6-4.
Later a last ditch effort from the Crunch to pull Lagace made it closer, and Ryfors got a postseason hat trick to get the score within one. It was 6-5 with 2:33 left in the game.
Right after that Syracuse pulled Lagace to attempt to even up the game, but Rochester took advantage of the empty net and extended their lead to 7-5. The Crunch had another last second Hail Mary empty net shot, and Rochester potted another to make the final 8-5.
It’s hard to sit here and say 8-5 was a close game, but aside from special teams goals and empty net goals this was as close a game as you could see between these two teams. That’s saying something too because the season was dead even. Another thing is that Max Lagace made a handful of quality saves to really keep the Crunch in it. While the team defense took a step back on Friday night, the goaltending really took a step forward, and that’s not nothing.
Lagace finally looks like he could be turning a corner, and maybe that’s because he’s locked in for the playoffs, but it could also do something with the rest he was able to get toward the end of the season. Perhaps he was able to recuperate enough to get healthy? He wouldn’t get much rest after this loss because the Crunch were going to turn around and play again in a day and a half.
Sunday’s Game – Rochester 4, Syracuse 0
The Crunch got a lift from a couple of skaters coming into their lineup. It was not the AHL All-Stars Darren Raddysh and Gabriel Dumont, but newly signed rookie Tristan Allard and veteran P.C. Labrie. Max Cajkovic and Ilya Usau were the odd men out.
It didn’t take long for the Amerks to jump out to an early lead. Trevor Carrick took an unfortunate delay of game penalty with the puck over the glass, and the Americans scored on the power play to make it 1-0.
That seemed to settle the Crunch and Max Lagace down. Lagace absolutely got into zone and made a bunch of timely saves to keep the Crunch in the game. To his credit, on the other end of the ice, Malcolm Subban did the same. The Crunch applied plenty of pressure, and besides a hot goalie, they seemed to be fighting against the Hockey Gods too. Pucks were ricocheting off the post, sliding across the goal line, and wide open net chances were skipping off the sticks of Crunch players.
It was an evenly matched game, with the exception of the officiating. The officials were able to determine that the Crunch committed 6 infractions against the Amerks. The Amerks, on the other hand, playing flawless disciplined hockey where they weren’t committing any penalties with the lone exception of a delay of game call in the third period.
Speaking of the third period, the Amerks scored within the first few minutes to extend their lead, and the Crunch weren’t able to mount much of any kind of a push from there. Subban secured his shutout, and the Amerks tied the series.
Now the series shifts back to Syracuse next Saturday night at 7:00 P.M. It’s insane to think that this series might come down to home ice advantage when both of these teams ended the season tied in points, head to head, and so many other facets of their game. Both teams held serve at home, and it’s going to come down to one game to determine who moves on.
Captain Gabriel Dumont will be joining the team coming off his 2 game suspension, but is he going to be the only addition? With the Lightning exiting the Stanley Cup Playoffs early, could AHL All-Star Darren Raddysh be coming back to help the team as well?
That would definitely be a boost to the lineup. As good as rookie Max Crozier has looked coming in late in the season, Darren Raddysh has been an NHLer playing in the AHL for the Crunch this season. Raddysh went up to Tampa, and looked like a solid addition to the Bolts defense. If Raddysh were to get signed within the organization, it certainly looks like he would have earned a spot playing for the Lightning. It would be nice if the Crunch faithful got at least one more game to see #43 lace them up.