New era Crunch

A new era begins with a throwback feel at the War Memorial for the Syracuse Crunch.

 It was a merging of the old and new at the Syracuse Crunch home opener Saturday night. In celebration of the American Hockey League’s 75th season, six teams donned the jerseys their organization wore on the year of their creation.  Syracuse and the Lake Erie Monsters, based in Cleveland, were two of the six teams that are participating in a home-and-home opening weekend match-up.

“They didn’t play anywhere together last year, but they are a great group of guys."

The Syracuse Stars won the league championship in the AHL’s inaugural 1936-37 season, and the Crunch wore Stars jerseys from that season--red, white and blue striped sweaters adorned with stars. red, Additionally, a banner hung over the visiting goal cage in celebration of the Calder Cup championship in 1937, and the opening video paid homage to great tough guys of Syracuse hockey, past and present.  But the players who were wearing the throwback uniforms for the Crunch last night were anything but an antique. In fact, the slogan for the evening was “The New Era.” 

The young guns are the story for Syracuse this season, and after being bounced around the league, Syracuse now holds a contract with the NHL's Anaheim Ducks.  The Ducks use their Syracuse farm team to develop young talent.

Syracuse Head Coach Mark Holick explained how signing on with a new parent team can be a challenge.

“These kids have never played together. It’s like an expansion team,”  Holick said. “They didn’t play anywhere together last year, but they are a great group of guys. The signs are encouraging.”

The Crunch had 13 AHL rookies on their opening night roster Friday night in Cleveland. The average age for the entire roster calculates to just over 23 years. In spite of this, the rookies have already contributed in the first two games of the season. While Syracuse fell to Lake Erie Saturday night in an overtime shootout by a score of 2-1, the Crunch’s only goal came from a first-year AHL forward.

Maxime Macenauer scored on the power play in the third period. It was the 21-year-old’s first AHL goal. He picked up his first assist Saturday against the Monsters. 

“It’s always good to score the first goal of the year,” Macenauer said. “It feels pretty good.”

Although it is the first time many of the players have been under the same roof, they have gotten to know each other through training and development camps over the summer. Like any team early in the season, however, a connection continues to grow between the players.

“I’ve played with these guys every training camp for three years, so it’s nice to know each other,” Macenauer said. “In a couple of weeks we’ll have a better chemistry.”

Besides Macenauer’s tally, the Crunch had a difficult time getting any offense going against a staunch Monster defense and goalie John Grahame. In the shots-on-goal column, Syracuse posted an 18-40 deficit, and an additional 15 Monster shots went wide of the net. The Crunch were out-shot Friday night 38-15.

“ We’ve got to do a better job finding the net,” Holick said. “I don’t know how many quality shots we gave up.”

Syracuse went a perfect 7-7 on the penalty kill, but struggled for a second straight night on the power play. The Crunch went 1-14 in power plays in the two-game series. The same issues that brought down the shot count caused the deficit on the man advantage: little traffic in front of the goal and missing the net.

“We need to put more pucks on net,” Macenauer said. “And with that more traffic in front of the net. We’re going to work on that this week.”

A dejected J.P. Levasseur peers into the crowd after allowing a game winning shootout goal. (Photo: Aaron Katchen)

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