Game 34 Preview: Crunch vs. Checkers

game-34-preview:-crunch-vs.-checkers

CRUNCH CLOSE OUT JANUARY VS. CHECKERS  

The Crunch put a bow on their 13-game January as they host the Charlotte Checkers for their third head-to-head meeting this season.

Syracuse (15-14-3-1) has gone 1-1-0-0 in two games this week with a home win over Cleveland and a last-second loss against Rochester last night.

The Checkers (20-15-2-0) began a two-week, five-game swing through New York with a 4-3 overtime win against Utica last night.

LAST TIME OUT

The Amerks scored with 6.7 seconds remaining in regulation to down the Crunch, 2-1, at Blue Cross Arena.

Alex Green netted the lone Crunch goal, opening the scoring by cashing in on a rebound at 12:07 of the second period for his second goal of the season. Remi Elie and Gabriel Dumont picked up assists.

Ryan MacInnis scored both Rochester goals. He tied the game in the final minute of the second period and then netted the game-winning goal with 6.7 seconds left in regulation to give the Amerks a 2-1 win.

Amir Miftakhov made 20 saves in the loss.

SCOUTING THE CRUNCH

Following their loss last night, the Crunch sit at fifth place in the North Division standings with a 15-14-3-1 record, amounting to a 0.515 points percentage.

Gabriel Dumont has tallied four points (1g, 3a) in his previous three games for Syracuse. The center leads the Crunch totaling 30 points (15g, 15a) in 33 appearances. The Quebec native has sustained seven different multi-game point streaks and has yet to go more than two games without finding the scoresheet this season.

Another strong scorer for the Crunch is Charles Hudon. The winger is on an electric scoring pace thanks to a strong presence on the power play. In Syracuse’s victory over Cleveland on Wednesday, Hudon netted his eighth power-play goal and added a power-play assist. That goal places the sharpshooter at fourth in the league in power-play goals. Hudon has eight points (6g, 2a) in his last eight games played.

SCOUTING THE CHECKERS

Like the Crunch last season, the Checkers are serving as a dual affiliate during the 2021-22 season. It’s their first season as the primary affiliate of the Florida Panthers; the Seattle Kraken reached an agreement to send players to the Checkers this season before their affiliation with the Coachella Valley Firebirds begins next year.

The Checkers own a 20-15-2-0 record this season, ranking them fifth in the Atlantic Division. The Checkers beat the Comets last night in Utica and they are currently 6-4-0-0 in their past ten games.

Three players sit atop the scoring leaderboard for the Checkers. Kole Lind (12g, 11a), Cole Schwindt (11g, 12a) and Lugan Hutsko (7g, 18a) each have 23 points this season. Schwindt is currently in a five-way tie for third in the AHL for rookie goal scoring this season. The Checkers winger is seven goals back of the two rookie goal scoring leaders, Jack Quinn (18) and Scott Reedy (18).

Seven goaltenders have seen the crease for the Checkers, led by Joey Daccord who is back with Seattle. Antoine Bibeau got the nod last night in Utica; he is 3-1-1 with a 2.57 goals-against average and a .885 save percentage. Florida assigned Spencer Knight to the team yesterday. The 13th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Knight has one appearance this season for Charlotte.

HEY, I KNOW YOU

Charlotte’s first trip to Syracuse this season marks the return of several players who spent last season playing for the Crunch while the club served as a dual affiliate with Tampa Bay and Florida. The Checkers are in their first season as the Panthers affiliate after they opted out of the 2020-21 season.

10 players on Charlotte’s current rosters spent time with the Crunch last season. The list includes goaltender Christopher Gibson, defensemen Max Gildon and John Ludvig and forwards Scott Wilson, Cole Schwindt, Henry Bowlby, Grigori Denisenko, Aleksi Heponiemi, Ryan Lohin and Serron Noel.

HEATING UP AT HOME

The Crunch have had a strong January overall, posting a 7-4-1-0, but they have been especially sharp on home ice in 2022. The Crunch have five wins in six home games this month, going 5-1-0-0 at Upstate Medical University Arena.

This recent surge has boosted the Crunch’s home record to 8-7-0-1 after an uncharacteristic 3-6-0-1 record in their first 10 home games.

MIFTAKHOV’S STRONG RETURN

Crunch goalie Amir Miftakhov has been sharp in net since getting called up from the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. In two starts, Miftakhov has turned aside a combined 44 of 47 shots for a .936 save percentage.

Miftakhov earned the win Wednesday against Cleveland, registering 24 saves and not allowing a goal until there was 3:28 left in the 3rd period. Last night, Miftakhov pieced together another strong outing, stopping 20 of 22 shots.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Crunch and Checkers have faced off twice this season. Syracuse split a weekend set in Charlotte back in mid-December. The Crunch took the first matchup at Bojangles Coliseum by a score of 5-3, but conceded the second contest the following night by the same exact score.

The most recent match between the squads saw Syracuse jump out to a 3-1 lead late in the second period, but the Checkers responded with four unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes, en route to a 5-3 victory.

Simon Ryfors led all players in scoring during the two-game set, posting four points over two games for his only two multi-point outings this season. Defenseman Ryan Jones netted his first career two-goal game in the Crunch’s win Dec. 10.

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