The Syracuse Crunch (43-22-6-5) are heading to the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals after clinching first place in their division. They will have home ice advantage. The Crunch are third in the AHL Eastern Conference with 97 points.
The Crunch and the Pirates have not played against each other in three years. At the time, the Pirates were affiliated with the Buffalo Sabres and the Crunch were affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks.
Despite several roster changes from call-ups to trades to coaching changes, the Crunch have still managed to battle through it all. Among the call-ups to Tampa Bay were: Tyler Johnson, Brett Connolly, Radko Gudas, Mark Barberio, J.T. Wyman, Matt Taormina, Ondrej Palat, Cedrick Desjardins, Dana Tyrell, Mike Angelidis, Cory Conacher, Richard Panik, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, and Alex Killorn. P.C. Labrie and Alex Killorn will stay with Tampa, whereas Radko Gudas and Richard Panik have been reassigned to Syracuse for the playoffs.
Two Crunch players are in the top 10 of top scorers in the AHL. Tyler Johnson, who was recently named AHL MVP, leads the leagues in goals scored with 37 goals in 62 games and Brett Connolly isn’t too far behind him with 33 goals in 71. The Pirates have one player in the top 10, which is Chris Brown, he has 29 goals in 68 games. Ondrej Palat is 9th in the league with assists, 39 assists in 56 games played. Four Crunch players lead the league in +/-; Gudas +32, J.P. Cote +27, Ondrej Palat +26 and Tyler Johnson +26.
The Crunch are going into the postseason with a +46 goal differential, 33.41 shots on goal per game and tied for 10th in the AHL for an average of 2.64 goals against. The Portland Pirates are the only team in the Eastern Conference with a negative goal differential, which is -3, they’ve put up 31.57 shots on goal per game and have an average of 3.07 goals against.
Series schedule as follows:
Game 1- Saturday – Syracuse vs. Portland – War Memorial Arena, 7:30 p.m.
Game 2- Sunday – Syracuse vs. Portland – War Memorial Arena, 7:30 p.m.
Game 3- Thursday, May 2 – Syracuse @ Portland – Cumberland County Civic Center, 7:00 p.m.
Game 4- Friday, May 3 – Syracuse @ Portland – Cumberland County Civic Center, 7:00 p.m.*
Game 5- Sunday, May 5 – Syracuse vs. Portland – War Memorial Arena, 7:30 p.m. *
* if necessary