Game 28 Preview: Crunch at Rocket




The Crunch and Rocket go head-to-head for the second time in three days tonight at Place Bell. It is the third game between the clubs in 10 days with both teams earning one win.


The Crunch grabbed a 2-1 win in Syracuse last Wednesday and the Rocket earned a 6-3 victory in Laval two days ago.


Syracuse has now lost seven straight regular season games at Place Bell (0-5-2-0). The Crunch’s last regular season win in Laval was March 13, 2019.




The Rocket scored three goals in the first period to blast past the Crunch, 6-3, Wednesday night.


Laval scored three times, each around five minutes apart, to open a 3-0 lead in the first period. Rem Pitlick, Joel Teasdale and Corey Schueneman each scored for the Rocket.


After an Olivier Galipeau tally made it 4-0 early in the second period, Alex Barré-Boulet netted one off a pass from Declan Carlile to pull the Crunch back within 4-1. A William Trudeau marker upped Laval’s lead to 5-1 heading to the third period.


Alex Belzile scored 1:07 into the third on Jack LaFontaine, who relieved starter Max Lagace to begin the period. Syracuse picked up goals from Barré-Boulet and Gabe Fortier 24 seconds apart to make it 6-3, but they couldn’t get any close as their four-game winning streak was snapped.




Despite the loss two days ago, the Crunch have won  six of their last eight games. The Crunch are on an 11-4-1-0 spurt following their 2-6-1-2 start to the season.  Syracuse is 13-10-2-2 and remains in third place in the North Division with 30 points.


Quebec native Alex Barré-Boulet paced the Crunch with a pair of goals in the loss Wednesday night. It was his third multi-goal game of the season and gives him eight tallies this season. He ranks second on the team in scoring with 33 points (8g, 25a) in 25 games. The two points moved the fifth-year-pro into sole possession of second place on the Crunch’s all-time scoring list with 232 points; he needs 10 more to set a new franchise record.




After starting the season 2-6-3-0, the Rocket have played 0.500 (9-9-0-1) hockey in the last 19 games. They remain in last place in the North Division with an 11-15-3-1 record and 26 points. Laval has earned points in five of its last seven games (4-2-0-1).


The Rocket have played an equal number of home and road games (15). They are 6-5-3-1 at Place Bell, outscoring opponents 56-55. That is significantly better than their 5-10-0-0 mark on the road, where they have been outscored 60-47.


Gabriel Bourque led the way for Laval Wednesday with three assists on the Rocket’s first four goals. The veteran, who scored the series-clinching overtime goal against the Crunch in last year’s North Division Semifinals, has 12 points (6g, 6a) in 27 games this season. 


Goaltender Kevin Poulin has stopped 55-of-60 Crunch shots in the two games since last Wednesday, good for a .917 save percentage. Last season he was 4-0-0 with a 1.23 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage against the Crunch. 




Tonight will mark 100 career AHL games for forwards Gage Goncalves and Simon Ryfors


Goncalves, 21, is in his second pro season and has produced 53 points (21g, 32a) in his first 99 games. He has 20 points (4g, 16a) in 27 games this season after a rookie campaign that ended with 32 points (17g, 15a) in 70 games.


Ryfors, 25, has 60 points (23g, 37a) in 99 games in the AHL. He has 25 (12g, 13a) this season after finishing with 35 (11g, 24a) over 72 games in his first North American season last year. Ryfors has also played 250 games in Sweden’s top league.




Gemel Smith extended his scoring streak to an AHL-high 14 games with an assist in the third period Wednesday night. Smith has picked up 19 points (8g, 11a) during his 14-game scoring streak, which is the longest streak of his career. He is tied with Boris Katchouk for the longest streak during the Lightning affiliation. It’s the third longest streak in franchise history behind Mark Hartigan (18 games) and Andy Delmore (15 games), who both set those marks in 2005-06.


The Toronto native is third on the Crunch in goals (11), assists (18) and points (29). He has registered at least one point in 21 of his 23 games played.




Tonight is the final game of the calendar year for the Crunch. So far in 2022, the Crunch have posted a 46-26-7-3 record in 81 games. They have collected 102 out of a possible 164 points, good for a 0.622 points percentage.


Syracuse was 29-9-3-1 at home versus 17-17-4-2 on the road in 2022. 




The Crunch’s games at Place Bell constitute a game in the home Province of eight players and three coaches. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been quite the homecoming they would like in recent memory. The Crunch have lost seven straight regular season games in Laval, going 0-5-2-0 since their last regular season win March 13, 2019.


Syracuse did earn a win in Place Bell when facing elimination in Game 4 of the 2022 North Division Semifinals.


The Crunch come back to Laval twice more with their next trip slated for Feb. 10, right after the AHL All-Star Classic, which will be hosted by the Rocket.



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