Syracuse Crunch November Recap: A Month to Forget

LAVAL, QC, CANADA - MARCH 13: Alexandre Grenier #28 of the Laval Rocket on the ice fighs for the puck against Gabriel Dumont #40 of the Syracuse Crunch at Place Bell on March 13, 2019 in Laval, Quebec. (Photo by Stephane Dube/Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC, CANADA - MARCH 13: Alexandre Grenier #28 of the Laval Rocket on the ice fighs for the puck against Gabriel Dumont #40 of the Syracuse Crunch at Place Bell on March 13, 2019 in Laval, Quebec. (Photo by Stephane Dube/Getty Images) /

November was not kind to the Crunch.

The Syracuse Crunch would likely want to erase the month of November from their record this season if given a chance. After a decent start to the season in October, they followed up with a 2-6-1-1 record in November and now sit 6-8-2-1 on the season, which has them tied for last in the North Division.

The biggest issue for the Crunch during November was their inability to consistently get the puck in the back of the net. In the ten games they only averaged 2.3 goals per game and were held to 1 goal in four of their games. At the same time, they gave up an average 3.2 goals per game.

Stat Leaders

November Scoring Leaders

  1. Gabriel Dumont – 10GP, 6G, 5A, 11P
  2. Remi Elie – 9GP, 3G, 4A, 7P
  3. Charles Hudon – 10GP, 1G, 6A, 7P

Season Scoring Leaders

  1. Gabriel Dumont (F) – 17GP, 9G, 7A, 16P, -1
  2. Charles Hudon (F) – 16GP, 4G, 9A, 13P, -5
  3. Gabriel Fortier (F) – 17GP, 4G, 7A, 11P, +3
  4. Jimmy Huntington (F) – 17GP, 6G, 4A, 10P, -3
  5. Sean Day (D) – 15GP, 2G, 8A, 10P, -1
  6. Cole Koepke (F) – 13GP, 2G, 7A, 9P, -6
  7. Remi Elie (F) – 11GP, 3G, 4A, 7P, -1
  8. Gage Goncalves (F) – 14GP, 4G, 2A, 6P, -6
  9. Alex Green (D) – 17GP, 0G, 6A, 6P, -6
  10. Daniel Walcott (F) – 11GP, 2G, 3A, Even

Season Goaltending Leaders

  1. Amir Miftakhov – 9GP (3-3-2), 2.32 GAA, .922 SV%,
  2. Hugo Alnefelt – 6GP (2-3-1), 3.56 GAA, .864 SV%
  3. Max Lagace – 4GP (1-2-0), 3.62 GAA, .857%

Storylines we are following:

Injury Updates

Injuries have plagued the Crunch since the start of the season. Just as some players have returned, others have found themselves missing games due to injury. Notable returnees over November include goaltender Max Lagace, forwards Daniel Walcott, Otto Somppi, Odeen Tufto, and defenseman Darren Raddysh. Additionally, Andrej Sustr made his debut for the Crunch after spending the beginning of the NHL season filling in for Cal Foote and Zach Bogosian in Tampa.

Notable players to pick up injuries and not return during the month include goaltender Hugo Alnefelt and forward Gage Goncalves. Alnefelt has been out since suffering a concussion during the November 5th game against the Utica Comets, and Goncalves picked up an apparent shoulder/arm injury in the November 19th game against the Cleveland Monsters.

Gemel Smith is still recovering from a preseason injury and is expected back in mid-December, but whether he stays with Tampa or is reassigned to Syracuse is yet to be determined.

Jimmy Huntington Cools After Hot Start

After jumping out to one of the greatest goal-scoring starts in Crunch history in October, Huntington came back down to Earth in November. He was held scoreless after being the first Crunch player to score 5 goals in the first 5 games since Nikita Kucherov and was only able to chip in with 3 assists. Huntington began the month as the top center, but now looks to have settled into a center spot behind Gabriel Dumont and Otto Somppi.

Veteran Forwards Leading the Way Offensively

When the Lightning signed veteran forwards Gabriel Dumont, Charles Hudon, and Remi Elie over the offseason it was expected that they would bring consistency and leadership to the rookie-heavy team. While Dumont has been named the Crunch’s captain (see below), the three of them have also been the team’s best forwards across the November slate of games. They scored 10 of the 23 goals scored by the Crunch over the month. While the three cannot do it all themselves, the Crunch should be in a good position once the younger players start settling into their roles as the season progresses.

Goaltending Carousel

Amir Miftakhov was supposed to be spending the year in Orlando as the Solar Bears’ starting goalie, but for a stretch of games in November he was the only healthy goalie on the Crunch signed to an NHL contract. Recall that Maxime Lagace was injured in the season opener and that Alnefelt was injured in the first game of November. Lagace has since returned to action, but Alnefelt remains out.

Even though the Crunch have struggled as a team this season, Miftakhov has been one of the few bright spots. He has outclassed Alnefelt and Lagace and was in net for the lone shutout against the Laval Rocket on November 6th. The Crunch arguably would have had another win or two in the games Miftakhov started in November if there had been more goal scoring support.

Miftakhov’s emergence has likely solidified himself a spot in Syracuse for the season but has also raised the question of what will happen to Alnefelt once he returns from his concussion. It is hard to imagine Lagace being sent to Orlando as his professional career record indicates his potential is much greater than his stats thus far in his limited sample of games. And having three goalies rostered on the Crunch, two being rookies in need of playing time, does not sound practical either. So, it is possible Alnefelt could find himself sent to the ECHL Solar Bears once healthy.

Penalty Kill Keeping Crunch in Games

Another bright spot for the Crunch thus far has been the performance of their penalty kill unit. They are currently 8th in the AHL with an 84.5% success rate but were as high as 1st before a rough stretch to close out the month saw them fall down the order. Without the strong penalty kill performances, it is likely that the Crunch’s record would be even worse than it is currently.

Simon Ryfors’ North American Adjustment

When the Lightning signed 24-year-old forward Simon Ryfors out of the Swedish pro hockey league over the offseason, there was much intrigue into how he would fit into the organization. He was coming over after a career season that saw him finish 6th in scoring in the SHL (25G-20A-45P in 51GP), but the adjustment in play style required for the smaller size rinks in North America compared to Europe means that success in Europe does not guarantee success in North America.

Ryfors was one of the last cuts from the Lightning’s preseason camp before being assigned to the Crunch. However, his season thus far for the Crunch has been unremarkable as he has only managed 2 goals and 2 assists (12th on the team in scoring) in his 17 games. While the numbers at face value do not inspire much hope for his future, he has been looking much more comfortable in recent games as he adjusts to the smaller rinks. He’s been making the right play more often and is getting more high-quality shots to the net. It feels likes he could really breakout once he puts it all together.

Gabriel Dumont Named Captain

The Crunch started the season without a captain after former captain Luke Witkowski signed with the Detroit Red Wings in the offseason. The vacancy was filled when the team announced before the November 26 game that Gabriel Dumont was named captain. Dumont had previously served as the Crunch’s captain during the 2018-19 season before spending two seasons in the Minnesota Wild organization. Fredrik Claesson and Daniel Walcott were also announced as alternate captains for the season.

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