CRUNCH MEET UP WITH MONSTERS
The Crunch host the Cleveland Monsters at Upstate Medical University Arena for the seventh of eight head-to-head matches.
Syracuse (14-13-3-1) dropped both legs of its home-and-home series against the Utica Comets over the weekend as the team went 3-3-1-0 over its seven games in 11 days.
The Monsters (13-13-4-3) began their two game road swing Monday with a 5-1 loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
LAST TIME OUT
The Crunch allowed a season-high four power-play goals in a 6-3 loss to the Utica Comets Saturday night.
Syracuse opened the game strong, grabbing a 1-0 lead on Gage Goncalves’ end-to-end rush which resulted in his fifth goal of the season at 1:59 of the first period. A flurry of Crunch penalties then resulted in three straight Utica power-play goals in a span of 2:40 to put the Comets up 3-1 just 5:53 into the game.
Syracuse picked up goals by Ryan Jones in the second period and Remi Elie in the third period, but could never cut the deficit to less than two. The Comets iced the game with an empty-net shorthanded goal late in the third period to set the final at 6-3.
SCOUTING THE CRUNCH
The Crunch currently sit fifth in the North Division with a 14-13-3-1 record. Despite dropping two straight to the Comets, the Crunch carry a 6-3-1-0 mark over their last 10 games.
Gage Goncalves scored the first goal of the game for the Crunch on Saturday night against the Comets. The goal was the rookie’s first since Nov. 5, also against the Comets, snapping a streak of 17 games without a goal. The first period marker also snapped a 13-game pointless streak for the forward. In 26 games for the Crunch, the Mission, B.C. native now has seven points (5g, 2a). Two of Goncalves’ five goals this season have come against the Monsters.
Several Crunch players have put up impressive offensive numbers against the Monsters this season, but Gabriel Fortier has been especially productive. The young center has five points (2g, 3a) in five games against the Monsters, as well as a +5 rating—by far the best on the team. Fortier missed the Crunch’s last game against Cleveland while on recall with Tampa Bay.
SCOUTING THE MONSTERS
The Monsters come into play just behind the Crunch at sixth in the North Division with a 0.500 points percentage and a 13-13-4-3 record. Cleveland dropped a 5-1 decision to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Monday as the team navigates a 3-5-2-0 slide in the last 10 games.
Brendan Gaunce has carried the load offensively for the Monsters this season. The center leads the team in goals (14) and points (25). He and Trey Fix-Wolansky both netted hat tricks in their win over the Rochester Americans Saturday. Meanwhile, Jake Christiansen has been a key contributor from the blueline, leading the team in assists (15), while sitting second in points (20). In six games against the Crunch, Christiansen has added six points (1g, 5a).
In net, Jet Greaves has appeared in five of Cleveland’s last seven games. Overall, he holds a 3-3-0 record with a 3.48 goals-against average and a .894 save percentage. Veteran J. F. Berube carries a 4-7-3 mark with a 3.18 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage.
FAMILIAR FACES RETURN TO THE CRUNCH
The Crunch announced the return of a number of key players ahead of action against the Monsters tonight. Forwards Daniel Walcott and Charles Hudon, as well as defenseman Andrej Sustr have been reassigned from the Tampa Bay Lightning taxi Squad back to the Crunch.
Sustr has yet to play for the Crunch in the new year; his last game with the Crunch was Dec. 15 at Toronto against the Marlies. The defenseman finished that game with two assists, a shot on goal, and a +3 rating. In 12 games for Syracuse, the Czech defenseman has seven points (2g, 5a). He appeared in five games for the Lightning during his recall.
Walcott and Hudon did not play in a game for the Lightning during their time on the taxi squad. Walcott missed six games during his recall and Hudon missed three. Hudon had scored five goals in his previous five games for the Crunch prior to joining the Bolts.
With the Crunch’s top two goaltenders—Hugo Alnefelt and Max Lagace—dealing with injuries, the Tampa Bay Lightning reassigned rookie Amir Miftakhov from the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears to the Crunch.
The 21-year-old is 3-4-2 in 12 appearances with the Crunch this season; his 2.65 goals-against average and .907 save percentage are best among Crunch goalies. Miftakhov has also appeared in two games for the Solar Bears, going 1-1-0 while stopping 62 of 66 shots for a .939 save percentage.
Syracuse also signed goalie Corbin Kaczperski to a PTO today. The 25-year-old rookie has seen time in the SPHL with Vermilion County and ECHL with Iowa this season. He is 4-4-1 with a 2.27 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage for the Heartlanders.
Alnefelt and Lagace have combined for 27 man-games lost due to injury or illness during the 2021-22 season.
The Monsters have scored five power-play goals in 28 opportunities in January. Converting at 17.8% this month, Cleveland’s power play is up to 16.9% overall this season. That ranks 25th in the league and is last among the seven North Division teams; Cleveland used two power-play goals en route to its 8-3 over the Crunch in December.
The Crunch’s penalty kill hopes to regroup after allowing four power-play goals—tied for the most in a single game in the AHL this season—in Saturday’s loss against the Comets. Syracuse ranks 29th in the AHL and last in the Eastern Conference at 75.7% this season.