Game 65 Preview: Crunch at Penguins

game-65-preview:-crunch-at-penguins

CRUNCH MAKE TRIP TO WILKES-BARRE  

 

The Crunch play the middle game of a three-in-three weekend tonight against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. 

 

It marks the end of the four-game season series between the clubs. The Crunch have won all three so far, with each game decided by one goal.

 

LAST TIME OUT

 

The Crunch prevailed in a back-and-forth thriller, 6-5, in a shootout last night against the Belleville Senators.

 

The Crunch roared out to a 2-0 lead in the first two minutes of the game. Gage Goncalves started it at 1:02 and Gabe Fortier followed up at 1:45 on a sequence that left Belleville starter Dylan Ferguson injured. The Senators regrouped and scored three consecutive goals to close out the first period with a 3-2 lead.

 

Alex Barré-Boulet scored the lone second period goal with a 5-on-3 rip to tie the game at three entering the third. Syracuse rattled off two early goals to open another two-goal lead. Jack Finley made it 4-3 23 seconds into the frame and Felix Robert made it 5-4 at 2:31.

 

Belleville responded again with a pair of goals three minutes apart to tie the game at five. It remained deadlocked into and throughout overtime before reaching a shootout. Goncalves netted the only tally to give the Crunch the win.

 

SCOUTING THE CRUNCH

 

The Crunch are locked into a three-way tie for second place in the North Division following their shootout win last night. Syracuse is 32-24-5-3 and has 72 points, the same as Rochester and Utica although the Crunch have played one fewer game than both teams. Five of the Crunch’s final eight regular season games are against the Comets or Americans.

 

Forward Gage Goncalves keyed the Crunch’s win over the Senators. The second-year pro tallied the game’s opening goal just over a minute into the first period. He then added an assist in the second period for his 12th multi-point game of the season. Goncalves capped the night by delivering the eventual shootout game-winning goal to improve to 4-for-6 in shootouts this season.

 

Goncalves has back-to-back two-point games and he ranks fourth on the Crunch with 44 points (11g, 33a) in 63 games this season.

 

THREE-IN-THREE

 

The Crunch continue the final of five three-in-three weekends tonight. It concludes tomorrow afternoon in Utica. They’ve ended with a winning record in two weekends and a losing record in the other two weekends.

 

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 the next two, before going 1-2-0-0 last weekend. They are 6-6-0-1 in games during three-in-three weekends.

 

BARRÉ-BOULET INCHES CLOSER TO RECORD

 

Alex Barré-Boulet blasted a power-play goal last night and now has goals in consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 19-24. The tally moves him into a tie with Simon Ryfors for the top spot on the Crunch with 21 markers. This is the third time he has reach 20 goals in a season (2018-19 and 2019-20). 

 

Barré-Boulet is now in sole possession of second place on the Crunch’s all-time goal scoring list (106). He needs one goal to tie and two to pass Mark Hartigan for the franchise record.

 

FINLEY COMES THROUGH

 

Rookie Jack Finley picked up his second multi-point game of the season last night with a goal and assist against Belleville. It was Finley’s first two-point outing since the second game of the season at Cleveland.

 

The 20-year-old, who has two goals and three points in the last five games, has picked up 18 points (9g, 9a) in 61 games this season.

 

SCOUTING THE PENGUINS

 

The Penguins, who become the “Old Forge Pizzas” for tonight’s game, are on the brink of being eliminated from playoff contention. They are winless in their last four games (0-2-1-1) following a 4-2 loss at Lehigh Valley last night. 

 

The Penguins are in last place in the Atlantic Division with 62 points (25-28-6-6), and they are nine points out of a playoff spot. They have not finished a season below 0.500 since 2001-02. They have an Eastern Conference worst 12-15-4-2 (0.455) home record and have just two wins in their last 10 home games.

 

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has a trio of 50-point scorers in Valtteri Puustinen (23-30—53), Alex Nylander (25-25—50) and Drake Caggiula (19-31—50). Nylander is on recall with Pittsburgh. Puustinen has picked up back-to-back multi-point games (2g, 2a) while Caggiula is riding a five-game scoring streak (4g, 4a).

 

HEAD-TO-HEAD

 

The Crunch have won the three previous meetings with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton by one goal. The Crunch have won six straight games against the Penguins dating to last season, with five of the six being decided by one goal.

 

Trevor Carrick leads the Crunch with five points (1g, 4a) in the series, while Alex Barré-Boulet and Lucas Edmonds lead the team with two goals. Edmonds had two points (1g, 1a) plus the shootout game-winning goal in the previous matchup two weeks ago in Syracuse.

 

Drake Caggiula leads the Penguins in scoring with four points (1g, 3a). Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has started three different goals in the three games against the Crunch. 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

 

The Crunch have scored power-play goals in consecutive games for the first time since cashing in over three straight games from Feb. 26 to March 3. They’re now clicking at 22.0% (22-for-100) in their 32 wins this season.

 

The Penguins scored a power-play goal last night in their loss to the Phantoms. They have converted on 20.2% of their power plays this season. Valtteri Puustinen leads active Penguins with 25 power-play points. 

 

Both the Crunch (1-for-11) and the Penguins (1-for-9) have just one power-play goal in the head-to-head series.

 

 

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