CRUNCH OPEN THREE-GAME HOMESTAND
The Crunch return to Upstate Medical University Arena for the first of three home games in four nights tonight against the Belleville Senators. Syracuse plays six of its next seven games on home ice in a 15-day span.
Syracuse (5-6-2-1) is winless in five straight games (0-3-1-1), which is the team’s first winless spell of five games since Feb. 10-27, 2021 (0-4-1-0).
The Senators (6-8-0-0) are also opening a stretch of three games in four nights; Belleville ends the weekend with a home-and-home series against the Laval Rocket starting Friday.
LAST TIME OUT
The Crunch dropped their last game, 5-1, to the Cleveland Monsters. The loss was part of a pair of road games against the Monsters at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Gabe Fortier scored the lone goal in Friday’s road loss, redirecting a pass from Remi Elie. Max Lagace made 27 stops on 32 shots in his first game since returning from injury. Friday’s game was Lagace’s second start of the season; he was injured during the Crunch’s season-opening win at Cleveland Oct. 15.
SCOUTING THE CRUNCH
The Crunch currently sit sixth in the North Division, just one point up on the Senators, with a 5-6-2-1 record. The Crunch will be looking to bounce back during this week’s homestand after going 0-3-1-1 in their past five games.
Gabe Fortier was the only skater to record points in both games last week. He picked up an assist in the first game against Cleveland and then netted a goal last Friday. The second-year pro has eight points (3g, 5a) in 14 games this season after logging 10 (6g, 4a) in 30 games as a rookie last year.
DEFENDING HOME ICE
The Crunch have been one of the best defensive teams at home in the Eastern Conference this year. The Crunch sit fourth in the East in goals against at home, allowing just 18 goals in six games at Upstate Medical University Arena, ranking just behind the Charlotte Checkers (16), the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (14) and the Utica Comets (14).
The Crunch currently own a 2-3-0-1 record at home. Syracuse was 10-6-0-0 at home last season and has finished at least 0.500 on home ice since the 2003-04 season. Six of the next seven Crunch games are at home.
SCOUTING THE SENATORS
The Senators come into play seventh in the North Division with a 6-8-0-0 record. The Senators won their last game, 5-2, over the Laval Rocket and are 5-5-0-0 in their last 10 games. Despite their record, the Senators sit third in the North Division in power play percentage (19.2%), just behind the Americans (20.0%) and Comets (22.2%).
Jake Lucchini leads the Senators with 12 points (6g, 6a) in 14 games. Lucchini has also yet to commit a penalty this year, despite playing in every game for the Senators.
In net, Mads Sogaard and Kevin Mandolese have split starts evenly this season for the Senators. Sogaard has been slightly better than Mandolese, posting a 4-3-0 record, with a 2.91 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage. Mandolese is 2-4-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and a .894 save percentage.
CLAESSON RETURNS TO THE CRUNCH
Defenseman Fredrik Claesson was reassigned to the Crunch today from the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Stockholm native has played three games for the Lightning and three for the Crunch this season. Claesson registered an assist in the Crunch’s second game of the season against the Monsters.
Claesson has played parts of eight seasons with five NHL teams in his career. In 164 career NHL games, the defenseman has posted 28 points (7g, 21a). He has 90 points (16g, 74a) in 335 career AHL games.
The Crunch also released defenseman Evan Wardley from his PTO yesterday.
PENALTY KILL ON A ROLL
The Crunch own the top penalty killing percentage in the league this season. At 89.8%, the Crunch have allowed just five power-play goals against in 49 total shorthanded opportunities. Syracuse has also scored two shorthanded goals.
The Crunch last gave up a power-play goal over a week ago, during the team’s last home game-a 5-4 overtime loss to the Hershey Bears. Last week, the penalty kill turned aside all eight shorthanded opportunities, finishing a perfect 4-for-4 in both games against the Monsters.
The Crunch and Senators last played on Feb. 17, 2020, at CAA Arena. The Crunch lost that game, 5-2, with Ross Colton and Alex Barré-Boulet scoring the only goals for Syracuse. Scott Wedgewood stopped 21-of-26 shots for the Crunch and Joey Daccord made 28 saves on 30 shots for Belleville.
In the last five years, the Crunch are 8-1-0-0 against the Senators at Upstate Medical University Arena; Belleville’s only win in Syracuse came Dec. 20, 2019. Overall the Crunch own a 11-4-1-2 record against the Senators since they arrived in Belleville, but they lost the season series in 2019-20 with a 1-3-0-0 record.
Rookie forward Shawn Element scored his first professional goal Wednesday night at Cleveland. The tally gave the Crunch a 1-0 lead 1:09 into the first period. It came in his 11th game this season and made Element the sixth Crunch player to record a first (North American) pro goal, joining Simon Ryfors, Tristin Langan, Gage Goncalves, Max Cajkovic and Jaydon Dureau.
SEARCHING FOR OFFENSE
The Crunch have gone through a dry spell offensively during their five-game winless streak. In that span, Syracuse has totaled eight goals in five games (1.6 goals per game). In four of the five games, the Crunch have been limited to just one goal, including both games in Cleveland last week.
Since scoring 10 goals over two games opening weekend, the Crunch have only eclipsed three goals twice in 12 games. The Crunch are tied with Milwaukee for 25th in the AHL in scoring, averaging 2.71 goals per game.