Game 20 Preview: Crunch at Checkers

game-20-preview:-crunch-at-checkers

CRUNCH GO FOR SWEEP IN CHARLOTTE

The Crunch wrap up their two-game weekend series at Bojangles Coliseum as they aim for back-to-back wins over the Checkers.

The Crunch (7-9-2-1) claimed the first head-to-head match with the Checkers (10-10-2-0), 5-3, last night to snap a two-game losing streak. The result also ended Charlotte’s two-game winning streak as the Checkers began a six-game homestand ahead of the holiday break.

LAST TIME OUT

The Crunch held off a late Charlotte rally to defeat the Checkers, 5-3, at Bojangles Coliseum last night.

Syracuse came out of the gates strong and grabbed a 1-0 lead in the opening minute. Andrej Sustr fired in his second goal of the season to put the Crunch ahead. Later in the period, Cole Koepke set up Simon Ryfors for a redirection near the crease to make it 2-0.

The Checkers began to claw back in the second period and Kole Lind buried a power-play goal to cut the Crunch lead in half. Syracuse then collected two goals in 27 seconds. Alex Barré-Boulet sniped a power-play goal at 11:02 to make it 3-1 and then Ryan Jones scored his first goal of the season at 11:29 to open a 4-1 advantage.

The Checkers scored two goals in the third period with Lind netting his second of the game and Grigori Denisenko blasting in his fifth of the year to make it 4-3. Jones connected with an empty-net goal to preserve the win.

SCOUTING THE CRUNCH

The Crunch opened their three-game road trip last night. After tonight, the Crunch head to Toronto for next Wednesday’s road trip finale. Tonight, the Crunch look to string together at least two consecutive wins for just the second time this season; their season high is a three-game winning streak Oct. 27-30.

Their offense came to life, reaching five goals for just the second time this season. They scored six in the season opener at Cleveland Oct. 15. After a span of scoring two or fewer goals five times in six games, the Crunch offense has warmed up with at least three goals in three of their last four contests. They are 7-3-1-1 when scoring at least three goals.

Forward Simon Ryfors was one of three Crunch players—along with Ryan Jones and Cole Koepke—to notch a multi-point game last night. The one goal, one assist performance was Ryfors’s first multi-point game in North America.

SCOUTING THE CHECKERS

Charlotte’s loss last night dropped the Checkers back to 0.500 for the eighth time this season. The Checkers remain in fifth place in the Atlantic Division, but have now fallen below 0.500 (3-4-2-0) at Bojangles Coliseum. The Checkers are also winless against North Division teams, dropping to 0-4-0-0 this season.

Kole Lind led the Checkers offense last night with a pair of power-play goals. An Expansion Draft selection by the Seattle Kraken from Vancouver, Lind played the first three years of his career with the Utica Comets and logged two points in three games against the Crunch last season. He has seen action with Seattle and Charlotte this season, recording nine points (4g, 5a) in 18 games for the Checkers.

Grigori Denisenko netted the third Checkers goal, with assists going to Cole Schwindt and Henry Bowlby. All three players spent last season with the Crunch as Syracuse served as a temporary affiliate for the Florida Panthers.

BLUE LINE BOOST

The Crunch entered last night with three total goals from their group of defensemen. Last night, three of the Crunch’s five goals were scored by defensemen.

Andrej Sustr opened the scoring with his second goal of the season, which already matches his AHL career high set in 2012-13. The veteran has set a new AHL career-high with five points; he has 15 points (5g, 10a) in 69 career AHL games.

Ryan Jones was responsible for the final two Crunch goals, including the game-winner. It marked his first career multi-goal game and moves him into a tie with Sustr and Sean Day for the team lead among defensemen with two goals.

Those three players have combined for the six goals from the blueline this season. In the shortened 2020-21 season, the Crunch had 24 goals scored by defensemen.

CLIMBING THE RANKS

Alex Barré-Boulet netted his first Crunch goal of the season last night. It was his 70th career goal for the Crunch in 146 career games; he moved into a tie for ninth in franchise history in goals with Mathieu Darche (205 games). It was also his 30th career power-play goal, which is two shy of fifth place in franchise history.

Daniel Walcott appeared in his 261st career Crunch game, which moved him into a tie for eighth place on the team’s all-time list with two of his former teammates Luke Witkowski and Tanner Richard.

SPECIAL TEAMS

For the third time this season, the Crunch have scored power-play goals in three straight games. They are 6-for-15 (40.0%) over the last three games to move into 10th place in the AHL with a 20.7% success rate.

However, the Crunch’s penalty kill gave up at least two goals for a third straight game. In that span, they have allowed seven goals in 13 chances, a 46.2% penalty kill rate. They have slipped to 19th overall at 80.3%. The two allowed last night were the first two on the road since the season opener; their penalty kill ranks first on the road (90.6%) and last at home (70.6%).

The Checkers success last night on the power play push them into fourth place in the AHL at 22.4%. It was the third time this season they scored at least two power-play goals in a game.

The Checkers are currently tied with Texas for 11th in the league at 82.6% on the penalty kill and they are tied with Lehigh Valley for first with five shorthanded goals. Former Crunch forward Cole Scwhindt paces Charlotte with two shorthanded tallies.

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