Game 23 Preview: Crunch vs. Bears

CRUNCH HOME FOR A TUSSLE WITH THE BEARS

The Crunch play their first home game in nearly a month as they host the Hershey Bears for the final time this season.

The Crunch (9-10-2-1) aim for their second three-game winning streak of the season tonight; they last won three straight games Oct. 27-30. Syracuse has wins over Toronto and Rochester in its last two games dating to Dec. 15.

The Bears (16-9-2-1) enter on a season-high four-game winning streak after earning their second straight overtime win, 4-3, Wednesday against Lehigh Valley. Tonight marks the first game of a three-in-three weekend for the Bears.

LAST TIME OUT

The Crunch played their first game in three weeks and defeated the Rochester Americans, 2-1, at Blue Cross Arena Wednesday night.

After a scoreless first period, Cole Koepke put the Crunch ahead, 1-0, with his fifth goal of the season on a tap in off a cross-ice pass from Otto Somppi. Gabriel Dumont doubled the lead later in the second period by poking home a rebound for a power-play goal at 17:24. His team-leading 11th goal was assisted by Alex Barre-Boulet and Simon Ryfors.

Ryan MacInnis cut the Crunch lead to one with a marker with under five seconds to play in the second period, but the Crunch fended off three Rochester power-play chances in the third period to preserve their second straight win.

SCOUTING THE CRUNCH

The Crunch sit seventh in the North Division with a 9-10-2-1 record. Tonight’s game against the Bears will mark the first game at home in 2022 for the Crunch, and their first home game in nearly a month, last playing at Upstate Medical University Arena Dec. 8 against the Monsters.

Goaltender Max Lagace is coming off a strong performance last time out against the Amerks on Wedensday. Lagace allowed one goal on 18 shots and notched his third straight win after a brief stint in the NHL with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

KOEPKE, SOMPPI ON A ROLL

Forwards Cole Koepke and Otto Somppi currently own four and three-game point streaks, respectively. Koepke is also on a three-game goal scoring streak and has five points (3g, 2a) in four games. Somppi has recorded three assists in three games.

Koepke and Somppi both extended their streaks on Wednesday night in Rochester on the game’s opening goal. Somppi sent a cross-ice pass for Koepke, who redirected the puck in on the back-door, giving the Crunch the first goal of the game.

SCOUTING THE BEARS

The Bears currently sit second in the Atlantic Division with a 16-9-2-1 record through 28 games. The Bears have won four straight, and are 7-3-0-0 in their last ten games, coming into play tonight against the Crunch.

Winger Joe Snively has led the way for the Bears this season, racking up 27 points (10g, 17a) in 26 games. Snively has matched his offensive firepower with his defensive game this season, as well. Currently, the winger leads the entire AHL with a +18 rating.

In net, the Bears have been led primarily by Phoenix Copley, as Zach Fucale has been sent up and down to the Capitals throughout the season. Copley owns a 2.75 goals-against average and a .897 save percentage in 14 games.

BACK TO EVEN

After over a month of sitting below .500, a win tonight can get the Crunch to even in regulation wins and losses. Currently, Syracuse is 9-10-1-2 due in large part to a month of November that saw the Crunch win just two games (2-6-1-1).

The Crunch dipped below the .500 mark in a 5-1 loss to the Cleveland Monsters on Nov. 19. However, Syracuse has won three of its last four games, all on the road, leading into this two-game homestand.

LABRIE RETURNS

Crunch General Manager Stacy Roest announced today that the team signed forward P.C. Labrie to a two-year AHL contract. Labrie started this season with the Hartford Wolf Pack, posting eight points (2g, 6a) in 21 games.

In total, Labrie has played 650 games in the AHL, racking up 206 points (91g, 115a) and 1128 penalty minutes. The Baie-Comeau, Quebec native last played for the Crunch during the 2013-14 season, adding six points (2g, 4a) in 38 games.

Labrie has also played 46 games in the NHL, all for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The forward has five career points in the NHL (2g, 3a) and 65 career penalty minutes.

HOMECOMING

The Crunch return to Upstate Medical University Arena today for the first time since Dec. 8. The 30-day hiatus is the longest Syracuse has embarked on in the last 10 seasons. The Crunch went 3-1-0-0 on the trip, splitting a two-game set with the Charlotte Checkers and defeating the Toronto Marlies and Rochester Americans.

The Crunch have fared better outside of Upstate Medical University Arena than in it this season. Six of Syracuse’s nine wins this year have come on foreign ice. When the Crunch were most recently home, they lost, 8-3, to the Cleveland Monsters Dec. 8. The last home win for Syracuse was over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, 4-1,  Nov. 26.

ELIE HEADING BACK UP

Yesterday, Crunch winger Remi Elie was recalled to the taxi squad for the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is the second instance this season of Elie being called up to the Lightning taxi squad. The former second round pick has appeared in one game for Tampa Bay this season: Dec. 30 versus Florida. In 13 games with the Crunch this year, Elie has five goals and 11 points.

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