PIVOTAL GAME 3 PITS CRUNCH VERSUS ROCKET
The North Division Semifinals between the Crunch and Rocket shifts to Place Bell for Game 3 of the best-of-five series tonight.
The teams split two games in Syracuse to open the series. The Crunch won Game 1, 5-3, but the Rocket responded with a 3-2 win in Game 2 for the franchise’s first Calder Cup Playoffs win.
HOW IT SHAPES UP
The North Division Semifinals between the Crunch and Rocket follows a 2-2-1 series format. The winner of the best-of-five series advances to face off against either Utica or Rochester in the North Division Finals.
The series moves to Place Bell in Laval for Game 3 tonight and Game 4 on Saturday afternoon. A winner-take-all Game 5, if necessary, is lined up for Upstate Medical University Arena Tuesday, May 17.
ROCKET EVEN THE SERIES IN GAME 2
Brandon Gignac scored late in regulation to snag Game 2 for the Laval Rocket, 3-2, Saturday at Upstate Medical University Arena.
Unlike Game 1, the Crunch opened the scoring in Game 2 when Simon Ryfors scored on a deflection at 5:37 of the first period. Ryan Jones took the shot and earned an assist, giving him a point in both games to begin the series.
Laval equalized with a power-play goal off the stick off Jesse Ylonen, who ripped a one-timer from the left circle at 17:33 of the opening period. Alex Belzile game the Rocket their first lead, capitalizing on a Crunch turnover right in front of the goal 6:27 into the second period.
The Crunch tied the game 2-2 in the third period; Gabe Fortier’s effort produced a shot on goal while he was falling to the ice, and Daniel Walcott was there to score on the rebound with 7:20 left in regulation. Despite the Crunch pressing hard for a go-ahead goal, it was Laval that was opportunistic, and Gignac took advantage of another Crunch turnover to give the Rocket a 3-2 lead with under two minutes to play. The Crunch could pull even again and the Rocket earned a split in Syracuse.
THE SERIES IS TIED
This marks the Crunch’s sixth best-of-five series that is deadlocked 1-1 after two games in franchise history. The Crunch are 2-3 all-time in best-of-five series that begin with a split of the first two games. They are 3-2 in Game 3 following a 1-1 start to the series; they’ve lost both series following a Game 3 loss and they are 2-1 when winning that Game 3 with their only series loss in that circumstance coming in 1998 versus the Hamilton Bulldogs.
The last time the Crunch were in this situation was in the 2017 North Division Semifinals. They split two games in St. John’s before winning the next two games in Syracuse to eliminate the IceCaps en route to a Calder Cup Finals berth.
SCOUTING THE CRUNCH
After splitting their two home games to begin the series, the Crunch face a stiff challenge on the road in Laval, where they need to win at least one of the two games to extend their season. The Crunch finished the regular season going 4-1-1-0 in their final six road games, scoring 25 goals in those six games.
Syracuse has yet to win at Place Bell this season, going 0-3-1-0 in four games, but playing in front of a total of 1,500 fans due to Covid-19 restrictions in Quebec; tonight is expected to be a sell out. The Crunch have only three wins in 13 tries (3-7-2-1) all-time in Laval since the Rocket joined the AHL in 2017-18.
SCOUTING THE ROCKET
The Rocket earned a split on the road at Upstate Medical University Arena and now prepare for their first two home playoff games in franchise history, beginning tonight. The Rocket finished the season with the best home record in the Eastern Conference at 24-8-3-1. Their 0.722 home points percentage tied with Manitoba for fourth overall in the league, trailing only Stockton, Ontario and Chicago.
The Rocket averaged 3.86 goals per game on home ice versus 2.97 goals per game on the road during the regular season. They also allowed just 2.89 goals per game at home and 3.53 per game on the road.
No player has been more polarized at home versus on the road that J-S Dea. The veteran led all Rocket players with 36 points (17g, 19a) in 35 games at Place Bell, but he was held to just 16 points (9g, 7a) in 35 road games. Dea has one assist in the series.
Through two games, this North Division Semifinals series has been a tightly contest match. Both games have featured lead changes and the teams have either been tied or within one goal of each other for all but 22:50 of the series. The largest lead for either two through two games is two, with the Crunch building leads of 3-1, 4-2 and eventually 5-3 in their Game 1 win.
The team that has scored first has lost both games. During the regular season, the Crunch were 27-10-5-0 (0.702) and the Rocket were 25-8-1-2 (0.736) when netting the first goal.
Both teams have scored a pair of power-play goals through the first two games. The Crunch scored twice in Game 1, but were held off the board in Game 2 (0-for-5) and they are 2-for-9 in the series. Laval has netted a goal each game and is 2-for-6 so far.
The Crunch’s second half surge was fueled in part by their ability to turn the page on losses, something they aim to do tonight in Game 3. Syracuse lost three straight games at Laval Feb. 9-12, which dropped their overall record to 17-18-4-1. From that point forward, the Crunch lost back-to-back games just twice, logging an 11-1-1-0 record in games following a loss.
Their offense has also roared to life following a defeat. In those 13 games following a loss, the Crunch have scored at least five goals nine times.