CRUNCH AND AMERKS BATTLE IN GAME 5
The North Division semifinal series between the Crunch and Rochester Americans concludes tonight in a winner-take-all Game 5 at Upstate Medical University Arena.
The home team has won all four games in the series; the Crunch opened a 2-0 series lead with back-to-back wins two weeks ago before the Amerks responded to force Game 5 with two wins in Rochester last weekend.
AMERKS BLANK CRUNCH TO FORCE GAME 5
Malcolm Subban made 31 saves to shut out the Crunch, 4-0, in Game 4 Sunday at Blue Cross Arena.
The Amerks took a 1-0 lead just 3:38 into the first period. Jiri Kulich scored his second power-play goal of the series from the right circle for the opening tally.
Max Lagace was spectacular in the second period to keep the Crunch within one, but Subban matched him save for save heading into the third.
Rochester finally broke free to take a two-goal lead on a point shot from Lawrence Pilut that tipped off a Crunch stick into the top corner of the goal at 3:06. Mason Jobst and Tyson Kozak added goals later in the period to send the Amerks to a 4-0 win.
Tonight is the ninth winner-take-all playoff game in Crunch franchise history, and it’s the fifth to take place at Upstate Medical University Arena. Syracuse was in this same position last year, contesting a Game 5 on home ice against the Laval Rocket; the Crunch’s overtime loss against the Rocket dropped the team to 2-6 all-time in winner-take-all playoff games.
The Amerks are 11-6 all-time in winner-take-all Calder Cup playoff games. They also contested a division semifinal Game 5 last year, defeating the Utica Comets on the road.
Syracuse and Rochester have met once in a winner-take-all playoff game. The Amerks defeated the Crunch, 4-3, in overtime to complete a comeback from 3-1 down in a 2004 best-of-seven series.
Syracuse has 13 players who have skated in a winner-take-all game in either the NHL or AHL; those 13 players combine for 18 games of experience. Ten returning players skated in last season’s Game 5 against Laval.
The Amerks have 10 players with a total of 14 games worth of winner-take-all experience; six players on their current roster were involved in last year’s Game 5.
SCOUTING THE CRUNCH
The Crunch take their third swing at closing out the Rochester Americans tonight in Game 5 of the division semifinal. The Crunch have lost three straight potential closeout games dating to last season’s Game 5, and they are 4-4 in those games under head coach Ben Groulx. It’s also the first time the team is facing elimination in the playoffs; the Crunch went 1-1 last season when facing elimination.
The Crunch were shut out in Game 4 for just the second time all season (regular season and playoffs). Prior to Sunday, they were last shut out Jan. 27 vs. Utica (L, 1-0). They went on to win the next three games, including a seven-goal outburst in the proceeding game.
Alex Barré-Boulet leads the Crunch in playoff scoring with seven points (1g, 6a) in four games. He set a new franchise record with five points in Game 3.
SCOUTING THE AMERICANS
The Amerks earned a pair of home wins last week to force Game 5 tonight. It’s the second straight season that Rochester will contest a road Game 5 in the division semifinal round; the Amerks scored three third period goals to defeat the Utica Comets, 4-2, last spring.
Jiri Kulich has goals in his first two playoff games. He scored the go-ahead power-play goal in Game 3 and then what turned into the game-winning goal – also on the power play – to open Game 4. Kulich led the Amerks with 24 goals during the regular season.
In his 15th career playoff appearance, Malcolm Subban earned his first playoff shutout with 31 saves in Game 4. Subban is 5-4-2 in 11 appearances (regular season and playoffs) against the Crunch this season, playing to a 2.64 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. He is 0-4 in five career playoff appearances at Upstate Medical University Arena.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
The home team has won the first four games of this North Division semifinal series. The Crunch won Game 1, 3-2, in overtime over two weeks ago and then followed that with a 3-0 shutout in Game 2 the next night. After shifting to Rochester, the Amerks grabbed an 8-5 win in Game 3 and then made it two wins with their backs against the wall with a 4-0 shutout in Game 4 last Sunday.
The Crunch have only played one series in team history in which the home team has won every game. That took place in the 2017 North Division Finals, when the Crunch won four home games to defeat the Toronto Marlies in a best-of-seven series.
Tonight concludes the 2022-23 series between the Crunch and Amerks. Through 16 regular season and playoff games, both teams have secured eight wins and Rochester has scored three more total goals (50) than the Crunch (47). The home teams combined for four wins in 12 regular season games, but they are 4-0 in the playoffs.
Rochester’s power play came to life in the two games at Blue Cross Arena. After going 0-for-7 in two games in Syracuse, the Amerks were 4-for-9 in Games 3 and 4. That mirrored the regular season – the Amerks were first overall at home and 31st on the road in the regular season. Both the Crunch and Amerks are clicking at 25.0% on the power play; the Amerks have had 16 chances and the Crunch have had 12 after Rochester was a +17 in penalty differential in the season series.
There have been zero lead changes in the series, but Games 1 and 3 saw the road team erase two and three different deficits respectively.
This is the first playoff series in Crunch history in which both teams recorded a shutout.
CRUNCH AND AMERKS BATTLE IN GAME 5