Game 63 Preview: Crunch vs. Comets

game-63-preview:-crunch-vs.-comets

CRUNCH CLASH WITH COMETS  

 

The Crunch look to salvage their three-in-three weekend tonight against the Utica Comets at Upstate Medical University Arena. 

 

It’s the second match up in three days between the teams, and the 11th in the 14-game season series. Utica has won the last two meetings, but Syracuse still holds a 6-3-1-0 record in the series.

 

LAST TIME OUT

 

The Crunch were upended by the Hershey Bears, 4-1, last night at Upstate Medical University Arena.

 

The Bears capitalized on a turnover and took a 1-0 lead on Shane Gersich’s one-timer in tight at 10:16 of the first period. A Mike Sgarbossa breakaway at 5:17 of the second period made it 2-0 Hershey.

 

The Crunch pulled within one with under a minute to play in the second period. They prevailed with the puck following a lengthy board battle, and Gabe Fortier made a pass to Daniel Walcott, who scored to make it 2-1. 

 

The Bears pulled away in the third period. Julian Napravnik netted a goal off a rebound and then Mike Vecchione sealed the win with an empty-net goal, to give the Bears their first two-game season series sweep of the Crunch since 2017-18.

 

SCOUTING THE CRUNCH

 

The Crunch have dropped back-to-back games and six of their last nine overall since March 5. Two of their three wins in that time have required overtime or a shootout.

 

Syracuse (30-24-5-3) is 4-5-1-0 in its last ten games but 3-1-1-0 in its last five at home and enters tonight’s matchup in third place in the North Division with 68 points. The Crunch are three points behind today’s opponent Utica for second place-with a game in hand-but they are just one point ahead of Rochester.

 

With an assist last night, Crunch defenseman Jack Thompson has points in three straight games for the first time in his career (4a). Thompson has 19 points (6g, 13a) in 61 games this season.

 

Crunch forward Daniel Walcott buried a goal last night for the first time since March 10 versus Laval (seven games). The eight-year veteran has a career high 11 goals, 15 assists, 26 points, and 95 penalty minutes this season. 

 

THREE-IN-THREE

 

The Crunch wrap up their fourth of five three-in-three weekends tonight. They will play their final one next weekend.

 

Syracuse is trying to avoid going winless in a three-in-three for the second time this season. The Crunch went 0-2-0-1 in their first one of the season (Jan. 6-8), but won two of three (2-1-0-0) in their last two three-in-threes.

 

BRINGING THEIR SUNDAY BEST

 

Tonight is the Crunch’s sixth of seven Sunday games this season, and it is their one and only to be played at home. The Crunch have had moderate success on Sundays this season, posting a 3-2-0-0 record. Three of the previous five have been the final game of a three-in-three weekend, and the Crunch are 2-1-0-0 in those games, including shutout performances at Providence and at Toronto.

 

The Crunch lost their most recent Sunday game, 6-4, at Utica three weeks ago. These two teams will play again next Sunday in Utica.

 

SCOUTING THE COMETS

 

Utica enters this contest in second place of the North Division, just one spot ahead of Syracuse. The Comets come in with a 31-23-6-3 record and 71 points, giving them a three point cushion over the Crunch in the standings.

 

The Comets are even on the weekend thus far. They defeated the Crunch, 4-3, on Friday and lost in a 1-0 shootout to the Americans last night; both matchups took place on home ice. 

 

Despite the loss, Comets goaltender Nico Daws recorded his first shutout of the season. The Munich, Germany native stopped all 35 shots in his return following a nine-game absence due to injury. Daws posted one shutout last season which came on Jan. 25, 2022 in Utica’s 4-0 win over Providence. The netminder has allowed just two goals on 82 shots against over his last three starts since Feb. 24.

 

Forward Brian Halonen (17g, 13a) has been a problem for the Crunch this season. The Minnesota native has scored five times in 10 games against Syracuse. Halonen has found the net in each of his last three contests against the Crunch. He scored the first goal for the Comets in Friday’s win versus the Crunch.

 

HEAD-TO-HEAD

 

The Comets defeated the Crunch two nights ago in Utica to earn their second straight win against the Crunch. After Syracuse started with four straight regulation wins against Utica, the Comets have captured five of the last seven games in the series. The Crunch are now 6-3-1-0 in the series. The Comets have won the last two meetings in Syracuse (Jan. 21 and Jan. 27).

 

Alex Barré-Boulet leads all players with 15 points (4g, 11a) in 10 games this season. He has logged a point in seven of the 10 games. Lucas Edmonds has been red-hot against the Comets; he leads all players with seven goals, with six coming in the last three matches.

 

Graeme Clarke (3g, 6a) leads the Comets in scoring with nine points, including an assist on Tyler Wotherspoon’s game-winner Friday night. 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

 

The Crunch have scored just twice in their last 33 chances (6.1%) on the power play. They are 22nd in the AHL this season with an 18.0% power play, and their 36 power-play goals are second-fewest in the league, only ahead of Utica’s 33.

 

The Comets, who did score once in three chances against the Crunch two days ago, rank 31st in the league with a 15.9% man advantage. 

 

The Crunch are 6-for-30 (20.0%) against the Comets, while Utica is 4-for-41 (9.8%) against Syracuse.

 

 

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