Game 31 Preview: Crunch at Bears




The Crunch finish off their first three-in-three weekend of the season this evening against the Hershey Bears.


Syracuse is winless in four games (0-3-0-1) after failing to win in the first two legs of this weekend.


Tonight is the first of two head-to-head matches between the Crunch and Bears. It’s the only one slated for Giant Center.




The Crunch fought back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game in the third period before losing, 4-3, to the Rochester Americans last night.


The Amerks opened their 3-0 lead with three consecutive goals in the first period. Defenseman Ethan Prow score twice; he opened the scoring at 8:42 and then made it 3-0 at 16:54. Sandwiched between those tallies was a power-play goal from Brett Murray.


The Crunch dug in their heels and clawed their way back starting in the second period. Shawn Element scored a power-play goal for the second straight game to make it 3-1. Jack Finley potted a marker 18 seconds into the third period to cut the deficit to one before Gemel Smith tied the game on a second-effort play in the crease at 11:05.


The Amerks quickly responded to break the tie when another defenseman, Jeremy Davies, snapped home a shot from the slot at 13:40. Rochester held off the Syracuse push to escape with the win.




The Crunch are winless in their last four games (0-3-0-1) following a four-game winning streak. That is one game shy of a their season-high five-game skid (0-4-1-0) they suffered Oct. 26-Nov. 4. 


Their regulation loss last night, which snapped a five-game home points streak, dropped the Crunch to 13-12-2-3. That have 31 points and slipped down to fifth place in the North Division.


Shawn Element scored a goal for the second straight game, giving him goals in consecutive games for the second time this season (also Dec. 10-16). Both tallies have home on the power play and are the first two man advantage goals of his career. He has 11 points (6g, 5a) in 24 games this season.


Jack Finley and Gemel Smith also scored to help erase their 3-0 deficit. For Finley, it snapped a 10-game goal drought and gives the rookies three goals this season. Smith now has points in 16 of the last 16 games and has a point in back-to-back games after his 14-game scoring streak was snapped last week.




With back-to-back regulation losses for the first time all season, the Bears have lost their grasp on the top spot in the AHL. Instead, Hershey (22-8-2-1) is now tied with Providence for the best record in the AHL with 47 points. The Bears had won their previous five besot their New Year’s Eve loss to the Bruins.


Both losses have been at Giant Center, where the Bears now have the second-best home record in the league behind Abbotsford. Hershey is 13-4-1-1 (0.737) on home ice this season, outscoring opponents 61-48. 


The Bears are the stingiest team in the league, which has fueled their success this season. They have been backstopped by Hunter Shepard (8-1-2/1.88/.928) and Zach Fucale (11-7-1/2.48/.900). Hershey allows just 2.36 goals per game.


Veteran Mike Vecchione paces the Hershey attack with 28 points (12g, 16a) in 32 games. Rookie Hendrix Lapierre scored the Bears’ lone goal in last night’s loss. It was his ninth goal and 18th point this year. 




The Crunch wrap up their first of five three-in-three weekends of 2022-23. Their next takes place at the end of January (Jan. 27-29).


Last season, the Crunch also played five three-in-three weekends. They won at least two games in four of the five, and they went 4-0-1-0 in the weekend finales.


Syracuse has not gone winless in a three-in-three weekend since the end of the 2015-16 season (April 15-17, 2016) when they went 0-2-1-0 against Utica twice and Lehigh Valley. This is their 19th such weekend since that sweep.




Last night’s 60 penalty minute night was the Crunch’s high for the season. They have had four games this season with at least 40 PIMs, including 50+ penalty minutes in two of the last three games.


The Crunch are averaging the third most penalty minutes per game at 18.77, behind only Tucson (20.63) and San Jose (18.91). Syracuse’s 19 major penalties are tied for third and the Crunch have also logged seven 10-minutes misconducts and seven game misconducts. 


Last season, the Crunch averaged 11.58 PIMs and had 880 total in 76 games; they are already at 563 in just 30 contests this season.




Shawn Element’s power-play goals in back-to-back games makes him one of five players on the team with at least two this season. Eleven different players have scored a power-play goal for the Crunch, who rank 21st at 18.6% this season. Their 102 chances are second-fewest in the league, only ahead of Utica’s 96.


Rookie Ethan Frank has been the Bears’ biggest weapon with five power-play goals of the team’s 19 total. They rank 28th at 15.6% this season.


Both teams allowed a power-play goal in their losses last night and the Crunch rank 20th in the AHL (78.4%) while the Bears are 11th (82.2%).




Last season, the Crunch and Bears met four times and the Crunch earned at least a point in all four (3-0-0-1). The Crunch collected two wins in two tries at Giant Center (Oct. 27 and April 24) and their only setback was a shootout loss in Syracuse Nov. 13.


Among returners, Gabriel Dumont (1g, 3a) and Cole Koepke (1g, 3a) led the Crunch with four points against the Bears last year. Garrett Pilon had five points (2g, 3a) to lead the Bears.


Pheonix Copley, who is now with the Los Angeles Kings, started all four games for Hershey. Three different goalies earned a win for the Crunch.


The Crunch have won three of their last four games at Giant Center.



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