While the Tampa Bay Lightning may have crashed and burned out of the playoffs, their AHL affiliate in Syracuse is just starting their post-season run.
The Syracuse Crunch locked up the North Division crown and are set to play the Cleveland Monsters in the first round of the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs. It’s a funny coincidence that these teams meet. The parent hockey team of Cleveland is the Columbus Blue Jackets, the very team that knocked Tampa Bay out of the playoffs. That aspect just adds to the intensity that is playoff hockey.
“If you’ve never been to a hockey game, you will come back,” Crunch owner Howard Dolgan said. “It is probably the most exciting event to watch of any major sport.”
This year was one of the best in franchise history, with the Crunch setting a new team record in win percentage with a 47-21-4-4 record, making their win percentage .671. The team also tied franchise records for points in a season (102), wins in a season (47), most home wins (27) and least losses in a season (25). This is the team’s second North Division Championship in three years and the expectations are high.
“We would love nothing more than to bring the Calder Cup here, because the one thing we know how to do is put on parties,” said Dolgan. “If we ever win the thing..it will be a party, believe me.”
A few key players have made their names known. Goalie Eddie Pasquale won the Harry “Hap” Holmes Award for being the goaltender with the lowest goals against average in the league. Meanwhile, forwards Carter Verhaeghe and Alex Barre-Boulet won awards for their scoring prowess. Verhaeghe won the Sollenberger Trophy as the league’s points leader. Meanwhile, Barre-Boulet and Verhaeghe won the Willie Marshall Award as the league’s leading goal scorers.
Barre-Boulet has had a phenomenal rookie season with the Crunch. In addition to setting a Crunch record for goals by a rookie, he was also named to the All-Rookie Team and won the Garret Memorial Award as the best rookie in the league.
The Crunch will be getting some reinforcements from their parent club, as the Lightning sent down defenseman Cameron Gaunce to re-join Syracuse after playing two games for Tampa.
Despite the strong season, there is no way to be sure who will win the Calder Cup. So, the Crunch need all of the support they can get. “Our team is ready (and) our fans will be ready,” Dolgan said.
The opening round of the playoffs start Friday April 19th at 7:00pm at the War Memorial. You can get your first round tickets and cheer on the Crunch at the War Memorial box office, by phone at 315-473-4444 or online by visiting ticketmaster.com.