Game 1 Preview: Crunch at Monsters




The Crunch return to the ice for regular season action for the first time since May to begin their 28th season in franchise history. Syracuse looks to build upon last season’s 19-10-3-0 campaign, with veteran head coach Ben Groulx back for his sixth year at the helm.


While the Crunch have many familiar faces heading into the year, they’ll be missing their top two-point getters from last season in Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh; both players made the Lightning out of training camp. A wave of youth, led by Shawn Element, look to replace the offensive production that’s left the Salt City. 




The Crunch didn’t play the Monsters last season, and the two last faced off Feb. 21, 2020. That season Syracuse swept the season series four games to none, scoring 4.5 goals per game.


Since becoming division opponents ahead of the 2018-19 season, Syracuse has a commanding 6-0-1-1 record in the regular season, but the Monsters have had the last laugh in the playoffs. Cleveland took three of four from the Crunch in the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs.


Last time the Crunch traveled to Cleveland was Oct. 2019 when Syracuse beat the Monsters during their home-opening weekend, winning 2-1 and 6-3 respectively.




Coming off a 1-1 preseason, the Crunch look for their second straight opening night win. Ahead of their 28th regular-season opener, the Crunch hold an 11-10-2-1 (with three ties) record in season-opening games. They are 4-6-2-1 in 13 season openers that have taken place on the road. 


With last season’s top scorers Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh in Tampa Bay, the Crunch’s leading returner is Otto Somppi, who finished third on the team with a career-high 26 points in 32 games in 2020-21.


Also back with the Crunch is Gabriel Dumont. Dumont signed a two-way contract with the Lightning this offseason. He previously played with Syracuse from 2016 to 2019, serving as captain in 2018-19. Dumont spent the last two seasons with the Iowa Wild, piling up 46 points in 68 games.


On defense, Darren Raddysh joins the Crunch for his fifth AHL season. Darren-the older brother of three-year Syracuse forward Taylor Raddysh-started his career with the Rockford IceHogs. He played the last three years with the Hartford Wolf Pack and has appeared in 228 career AHL games.


Max Lagace is expected to start tonight for the Crunch. The 28-year-old saved 20 of the 21 shots he faced in Syracuse’s 2-1 preseason win over Utica. Lagace played 10 games last year, one with the Pittsburgh Penguins and nine for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He had a .907 save percentage in the AHL. Lagace has appeared in 18 NHL games in his career, split between Pittsburgh and the Vegas Golden Knights.




The Monsters are entering their seventh year as the top AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Last season, the Monsters finished with a 16-10-1-2 record, finishing second in the Central division with a .603 points percentage.


Despite playing in just 23 of the team’s 29 games, center Tyler Angle led the team in points (24) and tied with Tyler Sikura for the team lead in goals (11). Angle was drafted in the seventh round, 212th overall, in 2019 by Columbus. The Niagara Falls, Ontario native begins his second season in the AHL after playing four years in the OHL for the Windsor Spitfires.


Angle started last season with the Monsters on an amateur and scored a goal in his AHL debut against the Chicago Wolves. 




Last season, the Tampa Bay Lightning came to an agreement with their in-state rival Florida Panthers to share the Crunch as an AHL affiliate because Charlotte-Florida’s normal affiliate-opted out of the 2020-21 season.


With the AHL back on track for a normal season, the Crunch are back to a single NHL affiliate as they embark on their 10th season as the Lightning’s top farm club. The Crunch have posted winning records in eight of the first nine seasons with the Lightning; they have also advanced to two Calder Cup Finals in 2013 and 2017.




One of the free agent splashes for the organization was the Lightning’s signing of Gabriel Dumont. The veteran of 554 AHL games returns to the organization after spending the last two seasons with the Wild organization, where he saw time both with Minnesota and Iowa. Last season, Dumont tied for 15th overall in AHL scoring with 31 points (12g, 19a) in 34 games.


Dumont spent three seasons in the Lightning organization between 2016 and 2019. He served as the Crunch’s captain during the 2018-19 season and helped the team capture the North Division. He was also a member of the team during their run to the 2017 Calder Cup Finals. The Quebec native has appeared in 97 career regular season games for the Crunch.




In Tuesday’s NHL opener, Taylor Raddysh became the 67th player to graduate from Syracuse to Tampa Bay during this affiliation when he made his NHL debut for the Lightning.


Raddysh played three seasons in Syracuse starting in 2018-19. He logged 110 points (49g, 61a) in 159 games for the Crunch. As an assistant captain last season, Raddysh notched 29 points in 27 games and was named to the 2020-21 North Division All-Star Team at the end of the season.




Two members of the Crunch saw family members make NHL debuts this week. New Crunch defenseman Darren Raddysh is the older brother of Taylor, who debuted Tuesday in Tampa Bay.


Crunch head coach Ben Groulx watched his son, Bo, debut for the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday night. Bo, 21, spent last season with the San Diego Gulls and produced 29 points in 42 games as a rookie.




The American Hockey League announced a new division alignment and playoff format for the 2021-22 season. The Crunch remain in the North Division, which shrunk from eight to seven teams with Binghamton no longer in the league. The Crunch’s division rivals are Belleville, Cleveland, Laval, Rochester, Toronto and Utica.


The seven North Division teams will compete for five playoff spots. The top three teams in the division advance to the best-of-five North Division Semifinals while the teams in fourth and fifth place square off in a best-of-three first round series. The North Division Finals is also best-of-five while the Conference Finals and Calder Cup Finals are best-of-seven series.



Players Mentioned

Boris Katchouk

#13 Boris Katchouk

6′ 1″
204 lbs

Taylor Raddysh

#18 Taylor Raddysh

6′ 2″
209 lbs

Gabriel Dumont

#40 Gabriel Dumont

5′ 10″
180 lbs

Shawn Element

#23 Shawn Element

5′ 11″
195 lbs

Otto Somppi

#16 Otto Somppi

6′ 1″
190 lbs

Darren Raddysh

#24 Darren Raddysh

6′ 0″
201 lbs

Max Lagace

#33 Max Lagace

6′ 2″
190 lbs

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