Game 57 Preview: Crunch at Bruins




The Crunch play the first of three straight games against Atlantic Division competition tonight as they visit the Providence Bruins at the Amica Mutual Pavilion.


It’s the final game of their four-game season series. The Bruins won a pair of games on back-to-back nights in Syracuse in November, but the Crunch earned a win in Providence on Jan. 29.




Max Lagace made 33 saves and the Crunch knocked off the Rochester Americans, 4-2, at Upstate Medical University Arena Saturday night.


The Amerks scored first for a 1-0 lead on Brett Murray’s power-play goal 7:52 into the second period. From there, the Crunch rattled off four consecutive goals between the second and third period. Two minutes after Rochester’s goal, Jack Thompson scored on his own rebound to tie the game for the Crunch. Thirty-five seconds later, Rudy Balcers did the same to put the Crunch ahead, 2-1.


The Crunch pulled away in the third period, starting with Trevor Carrick’s point shot that grazed off an Amerk and into the goal for a 3-1 lead at 3:08. Gabriel Dumont capitalized on a Rochester turnover later in the period to give the Crunch a 4-1 lead. 


A late Amerks power-play goal made it a 4-2 final, as the Crunch picked up their second straight head-to-head win.




The Crunch snatched three of four points over the weekend to improve to 7-2-1-0 in the last 10 games. They are 28-20-5-3 this season, which puts them in third place in the North Division with 64 points. The Crunch are two points behind the Comets for second place, and they have played two fewer games than Utica.


Simon Ryfors recorded three assists over the two games last weekend. He ranks third on the team with 46 points (20g, 26a) this season. He now has a new AHL career high in assists, passing last year’s 24. Ryfors also leads the Crunch with 20 goals.


Phil Myers had a helper in both games to extend his scoring streak to three games. He has notched 23 points (6g, 17a) in 36 games, ranking third among Crunch defensemen.




The Bruins rebounded from four losses in five games with a weekend sweep over the Hershey Bears with first place in the Atlantic Division at stake. The two home wins pushed Providence into the top spot in the division with 78 points (34-14-8-2). They are 14-7-5-2 on home ice, including a 5-2-0-0 mark following their loss to the Crunch at the end of January.


Vinni Lettieri netted a first period hat trick Saturday against Hershey to take over the team lead with 19 goals this season. He ranks second on the team in overall scoring with 42 points in 43 games. Only Georgii Merkulov has more, with 43 points (18g, 25a) in 53 games. Those two are tied for the team lead with four game-winning goals; Merkulov scored his four over a five-game stretch Feb. 1-11.


In net, the tandem of Brandon Bussi and Kyle Keyser is as good as it gets in the AHL. Bussi, a rookie, is 17-4-4 with a 2.42 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. Keyser is 9-3-2 with a 2.49 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.




Goaltender Max Lagace started both games for the Crunch in Week 22. His strong outing Friday against Laval earned the Crunch a standings point in a 2-1 overtime loss. He made 34 saves, including 18 total over the first two periods to keep the Crunch in the game. He got the start again the following night against Rochester, and made 33 more saves to earn a 4-2 win.


In the two starts, Lagace played to a 1.98 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage, stopping 67 of 71 shots against. Lagace is 5-0-1 in his last six starts, with a 2.31 goals-against average and .924 save percentage since Feb. 18.


This is around the same time of the year that Lagace hit is stride last season. From Feb. 26, 2022 through the end of last regular season, Lagace posted an 18-3-2 record with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.




Defenseman Trevor Carrick kept up his scoring pace with his ninth multi-point performance of the season Saturday against the Amerks. Carrick scored a goal-his first game-winning tally of the season-and added an assist in the 4-2 win. 


Carrick, 28, ranks sixth on the team, and second among defensemen, with 32 points. His goal on Saturday was his 10th of the season, marking the fourth time in his career he’s reached double figures; Carrick’s career high is 11 goals in 2017-18.




The Crunch and Bruins wrap up their four-game series tonight. The road team has won all three matches so far, including the Crunch’s 4-0 win in Providence on Jan. 29. In that game, Hugo Alnefelt made 51 saves, setting a new franchise record for most saves in a shutout. That’s his only start this season against the Bruins, with Max Lagace earning the other two in November.


The Crunch have scored 12 goals in the first three games, solving a Providence squad that has allowed only 2.76 goals-per game this season. Simon Ryfors leads the way with five points (1g, 4a); he has nabbed at least one point in all three games. Ten different Crunch players have scored a goal, and Felix Robert is the only active player on the team with more than one.


Luke Toporowski—who netted a hat trick against the Crunch in November—paces the Bruins with five points, although he missed the previous match with an injury and he has played at all since Jan. 28. Justin Brazeau is the only other Bruin with more than one goal against the Crunch; he has three in three games.



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