Game 38 Preview: Crunch vs. Comets




The Crunch embark on a three-city, three-in-three weekend tonight as they host the Utica Comets at Upstate Medical University Arena.


It’s the third straight game for the Crunch against the Comets, and it is the fourth meeting between the clubs in 12 days. Syracuse has won four of the first five matches (4-0-1-0) against Utica in the Galaxy Cup series.




Nolan Foote scored 12 seconds into overtime as the Comets slipped past the Crunch, 3-2, last Saturday at Upstate Medical University Arena.


The Crunch opened the scoring just 4:01 into the first period. Less than a minute after killing off an early Utica power play, Simon Ryfors whacked home a shot in the slot over the shoulder of Akira Schmid to put the Crunch ahead 1-0. The Comets responded just over two and a half minutes later on a shorthanded goal from Ryan Schmelzer


Utica grabbed the lead on a power-play goal by Graeme Clarke 7:59 into the second period to take a 2-1 advantage. Jack Thompson tied the game 4:39 into the final period with his fourth goal of the season.


Neither team broke the tie for the remainder of regulation, but Foote scored moments after the overtime faceoff to give the Comets the 3-2 win. 




The Crunch’s five-game winning streak was snapped with their overtime loss to the Comets, but Syracuse has earned a standings point in a season-high six straight games (5-0-1-0). The Crunch have outscored their opponents 24-11 during the points streak. They are 18-13-3-3 this season and remain in fourth place in the North Division with 42 points.


Simon Ryfors netted the opening goal to give him a team-leading 15 goals this season. The Swede, who has already eclipsed his goal total (11) from last season is tied for third on the team in scoring with 32 points (15g, 17a). He is just three points away from matching the 35 he produced in his first North American season last year. It was also the third time he has scored the first goal of a game this season, which is tied with Alex Barré-Boulet for the most on the team. 




The Crunch have lost their last three games that have required overtime, dunking them to 1-6 overall this season in games past regulation. They are one of four teams without a win during the five-minute overtime (0-3); they have played more overtime games than the other three teams (Chicago, San Diego, Tucson) without an overtime win.


The Crunch’s 0.143 win percentage in overtime games is only ahead of Chicago’s 0.000 (0-4).




After prevailing over the Crunch in overtime last Saturday, the Comets played twice to begin this week. They locked down a win-which officially backdates to Oct. 17-over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a game that was suspended late in the second period due to a power outage in Utica. The Comets followed that with a shutout loss-their second in three games-against the Charlotte Checkers Wednesday night.


The Comets remain in second place in the North Division with 48 points and a 21-13-5-1 record. They are one of just two teams in the division (Toronto) with at least 10 wins both at home and on the road.


Graeme Clarke, who scored a power-play goal against the Crunch last week, paces the Comets in scoring with 33 points (15g, 18a) in 39 games. He also leads the team with 15 goals. Ryan Schmelzer also scored against the Crunch and he is one of six Comets with at least 20 points this season.


Akira Schmid started both legs of the home-and-home against the Crunch last weekend. After earning the split, the Swiss-born goalie is 8-2-3 with a 2.24 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. 




During their six-game points streak, the Crunch have played 18 regulation periods and they have allowed more than one goal in a period just once. That came in the first period of the first game of this streak (Jan. 13 vs. Laval) when they allowed two tallies.


They have played 17 straight periods without allowing more than one goal, by far their longest run of the season. Their previous stretch was six consecutive periods over two games Dec. 3-7.




The Galaxy Cup series continues tonight as the teams go head-to-head for the fourth time in 12 days. Overall, it’s the sixth match of the 14 game season series.


The Crunch have earned a standings point in all five contests (4-0-1-0) after winning just three all season against the Comets (3-10-1-0) last year. 


Alex Barré-Boulet (2g, 6a) and Darren Raddysh (1g, 7a) lead a crop of 21 Crunch players who have earned a point against Utica. Gage Goncalves leads all players with four goals, including his first career two-goal game Jan. 16. 


Graeme Clarke leads the Comets with four points (1g, 3a) in five games. Three players-Nolan Stevens, Nolan Foote and Brian Halonen-have two goals apiece.  


Hugo Alnefelt (1.00/.968) and Max Lagace (1.50/.953) have both grabbed two wins in their two starts. Akira Schmid has started the last two games against the Crunch and is 1-1-0/2.07/.923.




The Crunch begin their second three-in-three weekend of the season tonight. Their first one saw the team fail to win a game for the first time over a three-in-three weekend since April 2016.


After tonight, the Crunch hit the road to New England to face Hartford and Providence on back-to-back days. Tomorrow will be the Crunch’s lone trip to Hartford, while Sunday afternoon’s match in Providence will be one of two visits (March 15) to face the Bruins. The Crunch have five three-in-threes this season.



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