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 Syracuse Crunch

Syracuse Crunch Weekly - Vol. 30, No. 32

May 21, 2024 - American Hockey League (AHL)
Syracuse Crunch News Release


The Crunch lost the opening two games of the North Division Finals to the Cleveland Monsters last week at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland.

The series opened with a tightly contested Game 1 last Thursday. The only goal came early in the third period on a shorthanded goal by Justin Pearson. The 1-0 loss was the Crunch's first ever playoff loss by that score. Syracuse opened the scoring in Game 2 with a power-play goal by Devante Stephens, but a pair of markers by the Monsters answered in the first. They scored twice more in the third for a 4-1 final and a 2-0 series lead.

The series shifts to Syracuse for Game 3 on Wednesday with the Crunch facing elimination for the second time in the playoffs.


Defenseman Devante Stephens scored the Crunch's only goal over their two games last week in Cleveland. His blast from the right circle was a power-play goal and staked the Crunch to a 1-0 lead in the first period of Game 2 on Saturday.

The goal was his first career Calder Cup Playoff goal in 11 career AHL playoff games. It also marked his first career power-play goal in 377 pro games (regular season and playoffs) between the AHL and the ECHL. The 27-year-old had one career power-play goal in 203 WHL games before turning pro in 2017-18.

Stephens finished the regular season with a career-high seven goals and 19 points.


The Crunch lost the first two games of the best-of-five North Division Finals. They need to win three straight games to avoid elimination and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. That quest begins Wednesday on home ice, and continues, if necessary, Friday in Syracuse. A potential Game 5 is scheduled for Cleveland on Sunday afternoon.

This is the fifth time in Crunch history they've trailed 2-0 in a best-of-five series, including the second time in two playoff meetings against the Monsters.

Thirteen teams in AHL history have come back from 0-2 down to win a best-of-five Calder Cup Playoff series, including Milwaukee in this year's division semifinals vs. Texas.


Forward Niko Huuhtanen signed his entry-level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The three-year contract comes after the Finnish forward joined the Crunch on a PTO at the end of the regular season.

Huuhtanen, 20, made his AHL debut in Game 5 of the North Division Semifinals vs. Rochester, and has played in the last three Crunch games.

Selected with the 224th and final pick of the 2021 NHL draft, Huuhtanen scored 19 goals and logged 46 points in Finland's Liiga this season.


Game 1 - Thu., May 16 - CLEVELAND 1, Syracuse 0

Game 2 - Sat., May 18 - CLEVELAND 4, Syracuse 1

Game 3 - Wed., May 22 - Cleveland at Syracuse, 7:00

*Game 4 - Fri., May 24 - Cleveland at Syracuse, 7:00

*Game 5 - Sun., May 26 - Syracuse at Cleveland, 3:00

*if necessary


Wednesday, May 22 vs. Cleveland | 7 p.m.

The Crunch look to extend their season as the North Division Finals shift to Upstate Medical University Arena for Game 3 on Wednesday.

The Crunch are 1-1 on home ice so far in the playoffs; they won Game 3 but lost Game 4 in their division semifinals series vs. Rochester. Syracuse has not lost three straight (non-shootout) games since Dec. 20-23.

They've been stymied offensively by the Monsters so far in the division finals. The Crunch have scored only one goal over two games, their lowest two-game output of the season.

The Monsters enter Game 3 riding a five-game winning streak after losing Game 1 of the division semifinals vs. Belleville. They had two winning streaks of five or more games during the regular season.

*Friday, May 24 vs. Cleveland | 7 p.m.

*If necessary

If necessary, the Crunch and Monsters continue their North Division Finals Friday for Game 4 at Upstate Medical University Arena.

The Crunch need to win three straight games, starting with Game 3 on Wednesday. Cleveland lost three straight games only twice during the regular season, most recently in a seven-game skid March 18-April 5.

The teams split two regular season games in Syracuse.


Thursday, May 16 | NDF Game 1 at Cleveland | L, 1-0

Syracuse 0 0 0 - 0 Shots: 12-8-8-28 PP: 0/4

Cleveland 0 0 1 - 1 Shots: 10-8-6-24 PP: 0/2

Halverson 3-2-1 (24 shots-23 saves) A-9,634

Saturday, May 18 | NDF Game 2 at Cleveland | L, 4-1

Syracuse 1 0 0 - 1 Shots: 5-6-7-18 PP: 1/4

Cleveland 2 0 2 - 4 Shots: 5-13-10-28 PP: 1/3

1st Period-Stephens 1 (Day, Fortier), 8:07 (PP). . . . Halverson 3-3-1 (27 shots-24 saves) A-10,570

Category Average/Total AHL Rank (Reg)

Power Play 8.7% (2-for-23) 21st (T-9th)

Penalty Kill 73.3% (11-for-15) T-17th (T-8th)

Goals For 2.43 GFA (17) 16th (T-17th)

Goals Against 2.57 GAA (18) 6th (T-9th)

Shots For 34.71 SF/G (243) 4th (23rd)

Shots Against 29.14 SA/G (204) 11th (3rd)

Penalty Minutes 6.00 PIM/G (42) T-20th (19th)

Category Leader

Points 6 Goncalves

Goals 3 Koepke|Merelä

Assists 5 Goncalves

PIM 8 Walcott

Plus/Minus +3 Carlile|Fortier|Goncalves

Wins 3 Halverson

GAA 2.19 Halverson

Save % .916 Halverson

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