Game 2 Preview: Crunch at Monsters

game-2-preview:-crunch-at-monsters

CRUNCH AIM FOR WEEKEND SWEEP 

The Crunch finish opening weekend with the second game of a back-to-back against the Cleveland Monsters at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Coming off of last night’s 6-4 win, the Crunch have an opportunity to begin a season with two straight wins for the first time since 2016-17.

LAST TIME OUT

The Crunch rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Monsters, 6-4, last night in Cleveland.

After the Monsters grabbed an early 2-0 lead, the Crunch started their comeback with two late first-period goals by Jimmy Huntington and Charles Hudon.

The Crunch took its first lead of the season on Max Cajkovic’s first AHL goal early in the second period. After Cleveland tied the game a few minutes later, Sean Day put the Crunch back ahead with his first career shorthanded goal at 16:09.

Syracuse sealed the win in the third period. Gage Goncalves netted his first pro goal and Gabriel Dumont added an empty-netter in the 6-4 win.

SCOUTING THE CRUNCH

The Crunch offense picked up where it left off last season by putting up six goals, one of three teams to pot six on AHL Opening Night. Last season, the Crunch ranked second in the AHL by averaging a franchise-record 3.75 goals per game during their abbreviated 32-game schedule. They scored at least six goals six times last season, going 6-0-0-0 in those games.

Four players posted multi-point performances for the Crunch last night to pace the team to victory. Max Cajkovic (1g, 1a) and Shawn Element (2a) both recorded their first multi-point games in the AHL. Sean Day (1g, 1a) notched his eight career two-point game in 92 AHL games; it was his third in 30 games with the Crunch. Gabriel Dumont rounded out the group with a goal, assist and fight for a Gordie Howe Hat Trick in his return to the Crunch.

Syracuse looks to continue its recent success against Cleveland; the Crunch are 7-0-1-1 in nine head-to-head regular season matches against the Monsters since the teams were placed into the North Division ahead of the 2018-19 season.

SCOUTING THE MONSTERS

The Monsters hope to avoid being swept in a home-opening weekend series against the Crunch for the second time in the last three years. Cleveland dropped a pair of games, 2-1 and 6-3, to the Crunch in their first two home games of 2019-20.

Jacob Christiansen and Adam Helewka paced the Monsters offense last night with a goal and an assist apiece. Christiansen was one of two Cleveland defensemen to score a goal; Tim Berni opened the scoring in the game with his first AHL goal.

In net, youngster Daniil Tarasov was lit up for five goals on 21 shots in only his seventh career AHL appearance. The 22-year-old will team up with veteran J-F Berube to form the Cleveland goaltending tandem this season.

The Columbus Blue Jackets made a roster move prior to tonight’s game, recalling Justin Danforth from Cleveland while assigning rookie Yegor Chinakhov to the Monsters. Chinakhov was the 21st overall pick by Columbus at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and will likely make his North American pro debut tonight.

STARTING FAST

The Crunch’s win last night improved their record to 12-10-2-1 (three ties) in season-opening games in franchise history. They also improved to 5-6-2-1 in season openers that take place on the road.

Syracuse looks to improve to 2-0-0-0 with a win tonight; the Crunch haven’t opened a season with consecutive wins since the 2016-17 season. They began that campaign with two wins against the Rochester Americans in head coach Ben Groulx‘s first year at the helm. The team ended up advancing to the Calder Cup Finals for the second time in franchise history.

A NIGHT OF FIRSTS

Several Crunch players logged personal milestones in last night’s season opener.

Hugo Alnefelt earned a victory in his AHL debut, making 14 saves on 15 shots.

Gage Goncalves and Max Cajkovic both scored their first AHL goals; it was Goncalves’ first pro goal as well. Shawn Element record his first two pro points with a pair of assists.

Four players in total made their AHL debuts for the Crunch, including Alnefelt, Cajkovic, Element and forward Simon Ryfors.

ALNEFELT ACES THE FIRST TEST

Rookie goaltender Hugo Alnefelt made his unexpected AHL debut last night. After beginning the game as the backup, Alnefelt was pressed into duty following an injury to starter Max Lagace on Cleveland’s game-tying goal in the second period.

The 20-year-old Alnefelt turned aside 14 of the 15 shots he faced to earn his first AHL win. Ten of the 11 saves came during the third period, including a flurry on a Cleveland 5-on-3 power play with the Crunch protecting a two-goal lead.

The Swede is expected to make his first AHL start tonight.

MIFTAKHOV JOINS THE CRUNCH

The Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned goaltender Amir Miftakhov from the Orlando Solar Bears to the Crunch. The move comes after the injury suffered by veteran goaltender Max Lagace and it leaves the Crunch with a rookie tandem of Miftakhov and Hugo Alnefelt.

Miftakhov, 21, is in his first year in North America and he was slated to start the season with ECHL-Orlando. He earned a win in one preseason start for the Solar Bears. The Kazan, Russia native was drafted by the Lightning in the sixth round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and he has nine games of experience in the KHL.

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