CRUNCH RETURN FROM BREAK IN LAVAL
The Crunch are back in action tonight following what turned into a week-long holiday break. They face off against the Laval Rocket at Place Bell in the first of two games in Laval this week.
It’s the second game of an eight game season series between the clubs. Due to postponements for both teams last week, this is now the middle game of three straight head-to-head matches. At one point last year, the teams squared off four straight times in the regular season and then played a five-game series in the North Division Semifinals.
LAST TIME OUT
The Crunch earned their fourth straight win and entered the holiday break with a 2-1 victory against the Laval Rocket at Upstate Medical University Arena last Wednesday.
The Crunch’s offense came early in the game. Gemel Smith opened the scoring with his 11th goal of the season to extend his scoring streak to 13 games. He banged home a pass from Gage Goncalves for a 1-0 lead at 4:39 of the first period. Just over a minute later, a similar looking sequence ended with Felix Robert passing to Lucas Edmonds for the goal and a 2-0 lead at 5:50 of the first.
Syracuse couldn’t extend the lead any further in the second period and Laval surged in the third. The Rocket outshot the Crunch, 14-2, in the final stanza, and they finally broke the shutout bid in the final minute of the game. Jack LaFontaine made 31 saves in his Crunch debut for the win.
SCOUTING THE CRUNCH
The Crunch have won four straight games and have collected wins in six of their last seven games. Syracuse is 13-9-2-2 and is in third place in the North Division with 30 points. They are 11-3-1-0 in the last 15 games.
The Crunch, who are one win shy of matching their season-high for most consecutive wins (5), have outscored their opponents 15-7 during their four-game win streak. Fifteen different players have recorded a point for the Crunch over the last four games, while 10 players have scored a goal. Gage Goncalves (1g, 5a) and Gemel Smith (3g, 3a) have led the way with six points apiece.
SCOUTING THE ROCKET
The Rocket had a near identical start to the season as the Crunch, going 2-6-3-0 in the first 11 games. Unlike the Crunch, who have risen above 0.500 with an 11-3-1-0 spurt, the Rocket are 8-9-0-1 in that same timeframe to remain in last place in the North Division with a 10-15-3-1 record.
The Rocket present a much stiffer challenge at Place Bell than on the road. Laval is 5-5-3-1 in 14 home games, but is just 5-10-0-0 on the road. Tonight marks the Rocket’s first home game since Dec. 10, when they beat Belleville, 7-4.
Laval’s leading scorer, Anthony Richard, remains on recall with Montreal. He has produced 31 points (18g, 13a) in 27 games for the Rocket this season. That leaves Jesse Ylonen as the active leading scorer for Laval with 23 points (7g, 16a) in 29 games.
Rafael Harvey-Pinard scored their only goal last week against the Crunch. He ranks fourth on the team this season with 18 points (10g, 8a) in 29 games.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
Lucas Edmonds became the 11th different Crunch player to notch a game-winning goal this season when he picked up the deciding goal Wednesday against Laval. Only Daniel Walcott (2) has scored more than one game-winning goal for the Crunch this season while Gemel Smith has one in regulation, plus one shootout winning goal.
The Crunch are tied for second in the league with 11 unique game-winning goal scorers (Colorado, 12).
SMITH’S STREAK CONTINUES
Gemel Smith extended his scoring streak to an AHL-high 13 games by scoring the game’s opening goal in the Crunch’s 2-1 win versus the Rocket. Smith has picked up 18 points (8g, 10a) during his 13-game scoring streak, which is the longest streak of his career. He is one game shy of the longest streak by a Crunch player during the Lightning affiliation (Boris Katchouk, 14 games).
The Toronto native is third on the Crunch in goals (11), assists (17) and points (28). He has registered at least one point in 20 of his 22 games played.
ROUNDING OUT THE YEAR
This week marks the final two games of the calendar year for the Crunch. So far in 2022, the Crunch have posted a 46-25-7-3 record in 81 games. They have collected 102 out of a possible 162 points, good for a 0.630 points percentage.
Syracuse was 29-9-3-1 at home versus 17-16-4-2 on the road in 2022.
Goaltender Jack LaFontaine made his Crunch debut and picked up the win in Wednesday’s 2-1 decision against the Rocket. The rookie stopped 31 shots in his first AHL appearance since last April with the Chicago Wolves; he’s won his last three AHL decisions.
LaFontaine, 24, signed an AHL contract with the Crunch this summer after playing in the NCAA (Minnesota), NHL (Carolina), AHL (Chicago) and ECHL (Norfolk) last season. He started this season with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears, posting a 4-5-1 record, before being recalled following an injury to Max Lagace.
The Crunch have won despite a lagging power play, which has produced just one goal in the last six games (1-for-18). Syracuse is operating at 18.4% this season.
Their penalty kill has improved over that same timeframe, going 20-for-23 in the last six games. That brings their penalty kill to 77.9% this season.
Although the Rocket were held off the board last week, their power play has converted on 23.3% of chances. Their penalty kill, however, is last in the AHL at 70.2%.
Players Mentioned Players Mentioned