Game 26 Preview: Crunch at Comets



The Crunch begin a home-and-home series with the Utica Comets tonight at the Adirondack Bank Center. It’s the fourth match in the Empire Recycling Galaxy Cup Series; the teams are slated for four meetings over nine days starting tonight.

Syracuse (11-11-2-1) had its four-game winning streak halted in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss at Laval. The team is in the midst of a stretch of seven games in 11 days, which began with that matchup against the Rocket.

The Comets (19-4-3-0) lost a high-scoring affair to the Rochester Americans last night, giving Utica consecutive regulation losses for the first time this season.


The Crunch fell to the Laval Rocket in front of zero fans, 3-2, at Place Bell Wednesday night.

The Crunch never led in the game and fell behind 1-0 5:12 into the first period when Alexandre Fortin deflected home a long point shot. The Crunch tied the game in the second period when Max Cajkovic wired in a shot from the right circle for his second goal of the season.

Three minutes later, Brandon Gignac netted a shorthanded goal on a give-and-go with Gabriel Bourque to give the Rocket a 2-1 lead. Later in the period, Charles Hudon tied the score at two with a slick backhand goal at 11:13.

Laval broke the 2-2 tie in the third period. J-S Dea collected a lively rebound off the end boards and scored into an open net at 13:31 to give the Rocket the lead for good.


The Crunch have won five of their last seven games (5-2-0-0) dating back to Dec. 10. Three of those five wins (3-2-0-0) have been on the road, and the Crunch feature a 6-5-2-0 road record this season. Overall they are 11-11-2-1 and sit in sixth place in the North Division with a 0.500 points percentage.

Charles Hudon made it goals in back-to-back games with a tally Wednesday at Laval. The veteran forward ranks second on the Crunch in both goals (8) and points (19) in 23 games played. He has logged a point in three straight games, tied for his longest point streak of the season.

Rookie Max Cajkovic also found the back of the net in Wednesday’s loss. It was his second goal of the campaign, and his first since the season opener Oct. 15. He had gone 14 games without a goal prior to his tying marker against the Rocket. He now has points in back-to-back games and is up to four (2g, 2a) in 16 games this season.

Hugo Alnefelt enters following his strongest AHL performance. The rookie made a career-high 30 saves last Saturday in a 3-1 win over Rochester. He is 3-3-1 with a 3.17 goals-against average and a .882 save percentage this season.


The Comets have lost back-to-back games in regulation for the first time this season and they have lost four of their last five (1-3-1-0) since Dec. 31. Following its 16-1-0-0 start, Utica is 3-3-3-0 in the last nine games to fall to second overall in the AHL with a 0.788 points percentage.

Chase De Leo enters tonight on a six-game point streak dating to Dec. 17. With 11 points (3g, 8a) De Leo ranks second in the AHL in scoring in that span. He leads Utica with 26 points (6g, 20a) and his 20 assists are tied for fourth in the AHL. He has four points (1g, 3a) in two games this season against the Crunch.

Fabian Zetterlund and Reilly Walsh are tied for second on the team with 19 points. Zetterlund also has four points in the season series..

Goaltender Mareks Mitens has started seven straight games for the Comets. He was on the hook for all seven goals in their 7-6 loss Wednesday against Rochester and he is 3-3-1 with a 3.96 goals-against average and a .859 save percentage.


The Empire Recycling Galaxy Cup series resumes after a two-month layoff; the teams last met Nov. 11 at Utica, a 3-1 win for the Comets. Utica has won the first three meetings of the 14-game series. Tonight kicks off a stretch of four games in nine days between the clubs, who have another home-and-home series next weekend.

The Comets have outscored the Crunch, 11-5, over three games this season. The difference has been goaltending; Utica goalies have stopped 102-of-107 for a .953 save percentage while Crunch goalies have stopped 71-of-82 for a .866 save percentage.

While Chase De Leo and Fabian Zetterlund lead the Comets with four points each, five Crunch players are tied at two points with Gage Goncalves leading the group with a pair of goals.


The Crunch power play was held in check Wednesday, going 0-for-3 and surrendering a shorthanded goal in their 3-2 loss to the Rocket. In their last nine games, the Crunch are 10-for-31 (32.3%) on the man advantage, raising their success rate from 16.9% to 21.9% on the season.

Utica went 1-for-3 on the power play in its loss to Rochester to begin the week. The Comets have scored at least one power-play goal in the last four games; they are 5-for-18 (27.8%) in the last five games and rank sixth in the league at 21.8%.

The Syracuse penalty kill was successful in both situations Wednesday to improve to 78.0% this season. The Crunch have the fourth-best road penalty kill in the AHL at 86.0%.

The Comets penalty kill allowed three goals against the Amerks to sink them to an eighth place tie at 83.3% overall this season.


The Tampa Bay Lightning recalled forward Daniel Walcott to the team’s taxi squad yesterday. Walcott, who made his NHL debut and played game for the Bolts last season, has five points (2g, 3a) in 19 games this season for the Crunch.

The Crunch have signed defenseman Frank Hora to an AHL contract for the remainder of the season. Hora, who signed a PTO with the Crunch Dec. 6, has dressed in five games for the Crunch. He collected his first assist on Wednesday.

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