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Syracuse Crunch Weekly Release – May 7, 2024

Credit: Syracuse Crunch

CRUNCH PLAYOFF SERIES GOING THE DISTANCE  

The Crunch are heading on the road for a winner-take-all Game 5 in their North Division Semifinals after a split of Games 3 and 4 in Syracuse last week.

With the series shifting to Syracuse tied at one win apiece, the Crunch snagged a Game 3 victory in double overtime last Thursday to take a 2-1 series lead. Both goaltenders were sharp and the Crunch fired 62 shots on net – a new franchise record for most shots in a playoff game – to earn the win. Waltteri Merelä broke the deadlock after over 90 minutes of action with a breakaway goal at 10:18 of double overtime to end the night with a 2-1 Crunch win.

Syracuse had a chance to close the series Saturday night. The Crunch raced out to a 3-0 lead, but the Amerks rallied for a 4-3 overtime win to tie the series and force Game 5.

Syracuse Crunch Waltteri Merelä (89) jumps out of the way of a shot from Alex Barré-Boulet (12, not pictured) which got past Nikita Novikov (74) and goalie Devon Levi (27) for a goal against the Rochester Americans in American Hockey League (AHL) playoff action at the Upstate Medical University Arena in Syracuse, New York on Saturday, May 4, 2024. Rochester won 4-3 in OT. Credit: Syracuse Crunch.

TOP PERFORMERS

Alex Barré-Boulet scored a goal in both games last week as he tries to win a playoff series for the first time with the Crunch. Barré-Boulet opened the scoring of Game 3 on a redirect off a pass from Declan Carlile just past the midway point of the second period. 

Syracuse Crunch Cole Koepke (45) celebrates his goal against the Rochester Americans in American Hockey League (AHL) playoff action at the Upstate Medical University Arena in Syracuse, New York on Saturday, May 4, 2024. Credit: Syracuse Crunch

He finished Game 3 with a team-high 10 shots on goal in the win. Barré-Boulet followed up with seven more bids on net in Game 4, and he potted a power-play goal – the Crunch’s first of the series – to give the Crunch a 3-0 lead.

The sixth-year-pro has 18 points (4g, 14a) in 18 career Calder Cup Playoff games. This is the first time he has scored more than one goal in a playoff series.

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Waltteri Merelä potted his first two Calder Cup Playoffs goals in Games 3 and 4 last week. The Finnish forward was the double overtime hero in Game 3, converting on a breakaway at 10:18 of the second overtime. It ended the third-longest game in Crunch history (90:18). He followed up with a rebound goal in Game 4, which put the Crunch ahead 2-0 in the second period.

Syracuse Crunch Sean Day (74) battles with Rochester Americans Brett Murray (81) in front of Crunch goalie Brandon Halverson (31) in American Hockey League (AHL) playoff action at the Upstate Medical University Arena in Syracuse, New York on Saturday, May 4, 2024. Credit: Syracuse Crunch.

Merelä is in his first season in North America after claiming back-to-back championships in Finland the last two seasons. He scored nine goals and had 22 points in 29 playoff games over the two years.   

OVERTIME AGAIN

The Crunch and Amerks have gone to overtime in three straight games, starting with Game 2. It’s the first time the Crunch have played three straight overtime games in the playoffs since the first three games of their 2008 North Division Semifinals vs. Manitoba.

This is the third Crunch playoff series that has seen at least three games go to overtime. It joins the 2006 North Division Semifinals vs. Manitoba (three overtime games) and the aforementioned 2008 series (five overtime games). 

WINNER-TAKE-ALL

Friday will mark the 10th winner-take-all game in Crunch history, and the third against the Amerks. Syracuse is 2-7 all-time in decisive games, including a 1-3 mark on the road and an 0-2 record against Rochester. This will be the first winner-take-all game on the road since Game 7 of the 2008 North Division Finals at Toronto.

This is the third straight Crunch playoff series that has gone the distance. They lost Game 5s at home in overtime to Laval (2022) and Rochester (2023).

NORTH DIVISION SEMIFINALS SCHEDULE  

Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 26 – ROCHESTER 3, Syracuse 2

Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 28 – Syracuse 4, ROCHESTER 3 (OT)

Game 3 – Thu., May 2 –  SYRACUSE 2, Rochester 1 (2OT)

Game 4 – Sat., May 4 – Rochester 4, SYRACUSE 3 (OT)

Game 5 – Fri., May 10 – Syracuse at Rochester, 7:05

UPCOMING WEEK

Friday, May 10 at Rochester | 7:05 p.m.     

For the second straight season, the Crunch and Rochester Americans will contest a winner-take-all Game 5 to decide the North Division Semifinals. Unlike last season, this year’s Game 5 will take place at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester after the Amerks earned home-ice advantage on the final day of the regular season. Rochester is 12-6 all-time in winner-take-all games, including two road wins in the last two seasons.

The teams split the first two games of the series in Rochester; the Amerks won Game 1, 3-2, and the Crunch won Game 2, 4-3, in overtime. Syracuse has won six of the eight meetings, including the regular season and playoffs, in Rochester.

Syracuse Crunch goalie Brandon Halverson (31) makes a save against Rochester Americans Graham Slaggert (19) in American Hockey League (AHL) playoff action at the Upstate Medical University Arena in Syracuse, New York on Saturday, May 4, 2024. Credit: Syracuse Crunch.

WEEK 30 RESULTS

Thursday, May 2 | NDSF Game 3 vs. Rochester | W, 2-1 (2OT)

Rochester      0 1 0 0 0 – 1     Shots: 8-8-8-7-3-34      PP: 0/2

Syracuse        0 1 0 0 1 – 2     Shots: 21-11-6-19-5-62                      PP: 0/6

2nd Period-Barré-Boulet 1 (Carlile, Myers), 11:10. 2nd Overtime-Merelä 1 (Goncalves), 10:18. . . . Halverson 2-1-0 (34 shots-33 saves) A-4,504

Saturday, May 4 | NDSF Game 4 vs. Rochester | OTL, 4-3

Rochester      0 0 3 1 – 4     Shots: 14-10-15-8-47      PP: 0/3

Syracuse        1 2 0 0 – 3     Shots: 12-15-12-5-44      PP: 1/2

1st Period-Koepke 1 (Lilleberg, Fortier), 4:00. 2nd Period-Merelä 2 (Goncalves, Robert), 3:53. Barré-Boulet 2 (Goncalves, Crozier), 7:02 (PP). . . . Halverson 2-1-1 (47 shots-43 saves) A-5,888

CategoryAverage/TotalAHL Rank (Reg)
Power Play8.3% (1-for-12) 18th (T-9th)
Penalty Kill71.4% (2-for-7)T-18th (T-8th)
Goals For2.75 GFA (11)T-9th (T-17th)
Goals Against2.75 GAA (11)T-9th (T-9th)
Shots For44.25 SF/G (177)2nd (23rd)
Shots Against33.50 SA/G (134)19th (3rd)
Penalty Minutes5.00 PIM/G (20)21st (19th)
Category Leader
Points4Goncalves
Goals2Barré-Boulet|Bellerive|Merelä
Assists3Carlile|Goncalves|Myers
PIM6Walcott
Plus/Minus+2Carlile|Duke|Schmiemann
Wins2Halverson
GAA2.28Halverson
Save %.918Halverson
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