Game 4 Preview: Crunch vs. Comets

game-4-preview:-crunch-vs.-comets

CRUNCH WELCOME FANS BACK IN HOME OPENER

The Crunch return home to Upstate Medical University Arena for their first regular season home game with fans in 603 days.

They host the Utica Comets for the first of 14 regular season matches in the Galaxy Cup series. The Crunch went 1-1-1-0 through their first three games-all on the road. The Comets are 2-0-0-0 after winning their first two home games.

LAST TIME OUT

The Crunch lost their first game in regulation this season, 5-3, against the Rochester Americans at Blue Cross Arena last night.

Syracuse scored first for the first time in three games this season when Jaydon Dureau netted his first professional goal on a backdoor feed from Tristin Langan at 4:47 of the first period. Both players were appearing in their first game of the season.

The Amerks went on to score the next four goals, tying the game late in the first period, opening a 3-1 lead in the second and increasing the advantage to 4-1 midway through the third.

Antoine Morand scored a shorthanded goal to cut the deficit back to two a minute later. The teams traded goals with the Amerks awarded an empty-net goal before Simon Ryfors added one for the Crunch in the final minute to close the scoring.

SCOUTING THE CRUNCH

Syracuse has been plagued by injuries to start the season, prompting new contributors to step into the scoring fold. One such player is Antoine Morand, who is in his first full season in the organization. The Mercier, Quebec native enters tonight’s matchup on a three-game point streak; he’s the only player on the Crunch with a point in all three games this season. He is tied for the team lead with four points (1g, 3a). The forward is no stranger to being put under the spotlight. In the CHL, he helped Acadie-Bathurst win the 2018 Memorial Cup with an assist on the game-winning goal.

In his first AHL season in 2019-20, Morand led San Diego Gulls rookies in goals, assists, and games played. The Tampa Bay Lightning acquired the center from the Anaheim Ducks last season in exchange for Alexander Volkov and a seventh-round pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. He’s notched 16 points in 22 games for the Crunch since the trade last season.

Another key player in the forward unit for the Crunch is Simon Ryfors. The 24-year-old scored his first professional goal in North America last night. The center was recruited to join the organization by Lightning defenseman and fellow Swede Victor Hedman. Ryfors previously played 250 games in six seasons of SHL experience in Sweden, where he was touted as an intelligent, two-way forward, posting 41 goals and 52 assists during that span.

Between the pipes, Hugo Alnefelt is expected to get the nod in goal for his second straight start on the tail-end of a back-to-back series. The rookie has appeared in all three games for the Crunch-including two straight starts-with a 1-1-1 record.

SCOUTING THE COMETS

The Comets currently lead the North division with a 2-0-0-0 record and they are one of two teams (Springfield) without a regulation loss. Defenceman Reilly Walsh leads the team in points (4) while the team lead in goals (2) is a three-way tie between Brian Flynn, Alexander Holtz and Aarne Talvitie.

Goaltenders Akira Schmid and Nico Daws have combined to allow just three goals in two games. Daws has posted a 2.01 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage, while Shmid owns a 0.94 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage. Daws is currently on recall to New Jersey.

HOME OPENER HISTORY

Tonight marks the 28th home opener in Crunch history. The Crunch are 13-8-1-1 all-time in home openers, posting four ties along the way. That includes their first game in franchise history, a 7-7 tie against Albany on September 30, 1994.

Since affiliating with the Tampa Bay Lightning ahead of the 2012-13 season, the Crunch own a 5-3-1-0 record in home openers at Upstate Medical University Arena.

Tonight’s game will be a rematch of last season’s home opener against the Comets. The Crunch won, 6-1, as Gabriel Fortier scored twice and Sam Montembeault made 32 saves.

FOOTE VS. FOOTE

With Cal Foote in Syracuse for a conditioning assignment, tonight’s game will feature a battle of the brothers: Cal Foote versus Nolan Foote. Both Cal and Nolan were drafted in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft by the Lightning, but Nolan was traded to the Devils organization in the deal that brought Blake Coleman to the Lightning at the 2020 NHL trade deadline.

Cal spent the majority of last season in the NHL with the Lightning, scoring one goal and notching three points in 35 games. He has dressed in 151 games for the Crunch since debuting at the end of the 2017-18 season.

Nolan spent most of last season in the AHL with the Binghamton Devils, but was called up to the Devils’ taxi-squad in mid-April and played in six games the New Jersey.

In recent seasons, several Crunch players have gone up against their brothers. Taylor Raddysh and Mathieu Joseph both faced their brothers in Syracuse. Raddysh’s brother, Darren, was a member of the Hartford Wolf Pack when he faced off against the Crunch; he has since joined the Crunch. Joseph’s brother Pierre-Olivier was with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the time of their matchup.

ROSTER MOVES

The Tampa Bay Lightning have assigned defenseman Cal Foote to the Syracuse Crunch on a conditioning assignment. Foote, 22, has appeared in 150 games with the Crunch during his career, totaling 64 points. He has skated in 35 games for the Lightning with three points.

The Crunch have signed Jaydon Dureau to an ATO. A fifth round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Dureau played in two games with the Crunch last season. He also saw action in 24 games with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks with 31 points. In his season debut last night, the rookie scored his first pro goal.

They also signed Tyler Bird, Tristin Langan and Jesse Lees to  professional try-outs prior to last night’s game. Bird appeared in five games with the Crunch during the 2019-20 season; he spent last season with Orlando and he logged 29 points. Langan recorded 63 points in 72 games for the Solar Bears. He has nine games of AHL experience-all with San Jose-in his career. Both Bird and Langan dressed for the Crunch last night in Rochester and recorded assists on Dureau’s goal.

Lees joins the Crunch from ECHL-Wheeling and has yet to appear in an AHL game.

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