Salt City Success

Salt City Success
Max Lagace gathers up a puck in a game against Laval (Courtesy of Scott Thomas Photography)

The Syracuse Crunch have been amping up their play as of late, and they’ve been playing more divisional opponents with playoff implications. This weekend saw them get off to a good start, and then fall back into the lap of uncertainty in net and defense. It looks like Max Lagace is going to be the goaltender that calms the storm for the Crunch in the postseason. Speaking of uncertainty, the Crunch captain was missing the last two games, and they will definitely need Gabriel Dumont’s services if they look to be competitive heading into late April. The good news is that the Syracuse Crunch are in the playoffs, and when you get into the playoffs anything can happen.

Wednesday Night’s Game

Rookie Max Crozier continues to get some games under his belt before the playoffs. Tyson Feist, who was recalled on Tuesday, and Sean Day were scratches on the blueline. Aside from Shawn Element, this is a pretty regular lineup for the Crunch. Max Lagace gets the start in the net.

In the first period Jack Finley had a give and go goal with Gabe Fortier. Just calling it a give and go goal really diminishes the play though. Finley had a drop pass between his legs and a slick pass back from Fortier to find Finley all alone. That goal made it 1-0 Crunch.

Three minutes later Ilya Usau scored to make it 2-0 off of an amazing feed from rookie Lucas Edmonds. It was Usau’s third goal of the season.

Later on in the first Max Lagace was putting in work and keeping the team in the game.

Before the end of the first period the Amerks got one back to make it 2-1.

In the second period the Crunch were primarily playing prevent defense and holding the lead. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to hold off the Amerks for too long, and they were able to get one back to tie the game.

The third period was evenly matched and neither team could pot a goal to get a win in regulation. The Crunch looked to their clutch defense for offense. It was Phillipe Myers 8th goal of the season.

Friday Night’s Game

The lineup on Friday was very similar to Wednesdays with the exception of the Captain Gabriel Dumont being out. Shawn Element, who was scratched the past weeks, was in the line-up in his place. Lagace was once again in net. The Crunch were in their Syracuse Orange jerseys.

In the first period the only offense came from Rochester. Just 2:40 into the game Kohen Olischefski scored from behind the goal line on a really awkward angle. Despite giving up that goal, Lagace turned it on for the rest of the period making 19 shots in the first.

However, in the second period Rochester continued to add to their offense to make it 2-0 off of a rush. On the other end of the ice, the Crunch had 22 shots on Rochester goaltender Malcolm Subban, but they couldn’t figure out how to get one past him.

Declan Carlile scored first for the Crunch in the third period to get Syracuse on the board. Carlile made it 2-1 when he sent a pass up to Alex Barré-Boulet who curled back around and found Carlile again for a one timer from the point. Traffic in the net definitely helped, but the shot from Carlile was a rocket from the blueline. It was his 7th of the year.

A few minutes later Ilya Usau continued his hot hand by scoring the game tying goal. Félix Robert sent a one timer off Subban and Usau was there to back hand the rebound into an empty net. It was Usau’s 4th goal of the season and the second straight goal against Rochester.

As if these teams couldn’t be more even, once again this game would need an overtime, but this time Rochester would come out on top. This time it was Phillipe Myers taking a penalty after shoving a Rochester forward into goalie Lagace. The penalty led to a power play goal, and the Crunch took the loss.

Still, the point the Crunch got from the game allowed them to clinch a playoff spot. Now it’s a fight for 2nd and 3rd place between the state rivals.

Saturday Night’s Game

The lineup was much the same as Fridays, but Hugo Alnefelt came in to start in net. This night the Crunch were wearing their Salt City blue alternates.

Just 1:14 into the game, Simon Ryfors had a takeaway behind the net, and flipped the puck back to Jack Thompson who got on the board first. He patiently waited as he glided across the blueline to fire home a slap shot. It was his 7th goal of the year.

The Rocket launched their first goal, and then boosted it with a second goal to lead after one. On the first goal, Laval was the beneficiary of a slipped Crunch defenseman who lost his footing. It gave the Rocket a 3-on-1 odd man rush, and there wasn’t much Alnefelt could do to save that. The second goal was a bad turnover that led to an even worse defensive play that gave the Rocket a wide open view of the net.

It’s hard to blame Hugo for either of those goals. He could definitely use something to boost his confidence going into the playoffs.

In the second period the Rocket continued to build on their lead by scoring two more goals to make it 4-1. The first was scored less than a minute into the period, and Alnefelt had a diving poke check that left him out of position to make the save on the rebound. The fourth goal was a power play goal that just squeaked past Alnefelt.

That led to a rare goalie pull from Coach Groulx who took Alnefelt out in favor of Max Lagace. To the team’s credit, they responded. They immediately looked like a team on a mission, and the majority of play took place in the offensive zone after that. To Lagace’s credit he shut things down in net and made 19 saves for the rest of the game.

The second goal of the game for the Crunch was scored by Simon Ryfors. It was a well deserved power play, and with the extra skater the shot the puck in from the point and Ryfors was there to deflect it.

It was Ryfors 22nd goal of the season. He’s second on the team in goals behind Alex Barré-Boulet. Barré-Boulet contributed to the goal to get his 58th assist on the season. That assist tied the franchise record for assists in a season

The next goal was scored by Jack Finley. It was Finley’s 12th goal of the season, and he’s scored 4 goals in his last 6 games. This was yet another example of the 6’6 forward just skating to the net and firing from in close. He’s had plenty of success recently with that formula. Skate to the net, shoot the puck on goal, and good things will happen.

Sadly, while the team did respond in the second to get within one goal. It was too little too late. The Rocket gobbled up two points, and continued their dominance over the Crunch this season.

Coming Up

Wednesday the Crunch play the Comets in Utica. The Crunch have already won this series, but the Comets are fighting for a playoff spot. Also, Utica, Rochester, and Syracuse are all fighting to be the second and third seed. Neither team wants to end up in the 4th seed to have a best of 3 playoff with the 5th seed.

Speaking of the 5th seed, Friday Syracuse heads up to Laval to take on the Rocket. The Rocket, who are also fighting for a playoff spot, are currently in the 5th seed. The Crunch have not had luck against Laval this year as they’ve posted a 2-5 record against them.

Saturday is the last game of the season, and they play Utica at home. So far these games the past few weeks against division rivals have had a playoff feel. This one could get interesting.