2/21/2020 – Utica Comets vs. Belleville Senators

The Comets are back in action tonight as they hit the road to take on the Division-leading Belleville Senators.

The Senators have been running train on the division as of late, having gone 8-1-1-0 in their last ten matchups exclusively against North Division teams. This run of dominance has given the Sens an eight-point lead over the second-place Rochester Americans.

I think I said it last time, but the Comets are slowly but surely losing their grip on a Calder Playoff berth. The team has spent their February playing against opponents who are struggling at the bottom of the North Division.

Certainly, the Comets recent run has been a bad look for head coach Trent Cull, who has legit NHL-level talent at his disposal. The Comets have failed time and time again to come up with a counter to the fast and physical gameplay that opponents have thrown against them.

Through this rough patch, one of the major bright spots has been the goaltending performance of Michael Di Pietro, as his last five starts have seen him face down an average of 34 shots per night. The standard save-percentage and goals-against-average goalie stats * aren’t* that flattering. However, when you watch the Comets play, you get a sense that the majority of the shots that Di Pietro is facing on a nightly basis are high-danger shots from high-percentage scoring areas. I read a quote that Cull had praised the defensive efforts of his team lately, and I almost fell out of my chair. Without Di Pietro playing out of his mind, this team is likely a bottom feeder.

 

Relating to the play of Michael Di Pietro, Trent Cull had this to say in an interview with Cory Hergott from Canucks Army.

I think that ever since Christmas… that he’s kinda been settling in through January and now we don’t have a lot of games here in February, but he’s been playing really well… and you know what, the team has been playing well in front of him as well.

 

I know a coach is never going to say his team has been playing like doody, but, oh boy, the stats don’t lie. This team has been something bad in 2020.

Comets: 2020 Unblocked shot-attempt differential at 5-on-5

Two of the Comets wins this year came from games in which the Comets were out-attempted by 20+! A testament to the impeccable play of Di Pietro.

 

The big worry here is, are the Comets a sleeping giant in a momentary lull, or has the division figured out the Comets and they’re now the lone paper tiger in a division full of predators?

Tonight would be a great game to prove doubters wrong and re-instill a sense of faith in the Fanclub. The Ottawa Senators called up Josh Norris, leaving the Belleville Senators without their #1 center.

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

LW C RW
Baertschi (#47) Camper (#19) Boucher (#24)
Bailey (#95) Stevens (#16) Lind (#13)
Goldobin (#77 Jasek (#9) Bancks (#34)
Stevenson (#26) Malone (#17) LeBlanc (#3)
LD RD
Rafferty (#25) Brisebois (#55)
Blujus (#8) Chatfield (#5)
Petgrave (#22) Eliot (#52)
G
Michael Di Pietro

 

INJURY REPORT
Wacey Hamilton (foot) Vincent Arseneau (done for the season) Ashton Sautner (arm) Francis Perron (undisclosed) Olli Juolevi (ill) Jonah Gadjovich (undisclosed) David Pope (undisclosed)

 

Healthy Scratches
Josh Teves Matt McLeod

 

Juolevi was listed as an illness scratch last game, and now an upper-body-injury this game. Totally normal.

Due to the outrageous number of injuries, the Comets signed Brampton Beast forward, Matt McLeod, to a PTO.

Teves getting scratched for Petgrave is genuinely hysterical. Teves hasn’t been perfect, but denying him ice-time isn’t going to make him better.

 

1st period

 

Comets in White

 

The score at the end of the 1st period: 2-1 Comets

 

Despite the shot totals being even at 13 apiece, I have to say Utica looked like the stronger team. The fourth-line especially was putting in tonnes of work for the Comets! The Goldobin/Jasek/Bancks line doesn’t look great, as they’ve been on the ice for several brutal giveaways that directly resulted in shots on goal for Belleville. In Jasek’s case, the one brutal giveaway led to the game-tying goal. Regardless, Comets start the second period with four minutes remaining on the powerplay due to the elbowing major from Formenton. It’s not the best way to generate momentum, I’m sure, but a big moment to start for the Comets in the second.

 

2nd Period

 

 

The score at the end of the 2nd period: 4-3 Comets

 

The Comets had a slow down in the middle chunk of the second period but began to regain their footing later on. I’m just saying that a few players on the Comets appear to be putting on a lot of flash in their end-to-end rushes. Maybe, its an effort to get noticed before the trade deadline? Or they’re trying their hardest to convince GMJB that Wayne Simmonds isn’t the answer to this teams concerns heading towards a playoff berth. Comets need to do their best staying out of the penalty box and prevent the Sens from generating any momentum. Not sure a one-goal lead will be enough to put this one away against the divisions best team.

 

3rd period

 

Final Score: 6-3 Utica Comets

 

Scoresheet

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st UTI Seamus Malone Stefan LeBlanc 5v5
1st BEL Joe LaBate Michael Carcone Jonathan Aspirot 5v5
1st UTI Carter Camper Reid Boucher Sven Baertschi 5v5
2nd UTI Justin Bailey Sven Baertschi Nikolay Goldobin PPG
2nd BEL Rudolfs Balcers Filip Chlapik Hubert Labrie SHG
2nd UTI Justin Bailey Lukas Jasek 5v5
2nd BEL Darren Archibald Erik Brannstrom 5v5
3rd UTI Kole Lind John Stevens Justin Bailey 5v5
3rd UTI Sven Baertschi Nikolay Goldobin Brogan Rafferty PPG

 

Takeaways

 

  • Well, I said the Comets needed to make a statement if they wanted to re-instill some faith in the fanbase. Tonight was a great example of what this club can accomplish if they are competing hard for the puck on every shift. Everyone and their mums were competing for loose pucks! Rarely tonight did the Comets get scored on out of a lack of compete or effort, but rather bad giveaways or poor line changes. Overall, tonight was a very impressive defensive effort through and through; one of their best against arguably the best team in the AHL’s eastern conference
  • Great games from Stefan LeBlanc and Seamus Malone tonight who were forechecking aggressively and creating scoring chances on every shift! I think I praised LeBlanc before on his effort playing off-role, and I have to re-iterate that statement again. He records another assist tonight, and it was well deserved. Surely the season has not been easy for him, but he’s been a stud no matter which position he’s played for the team.
  • Happy to see Kole Lind notch a goal and break his slump. I was starting to get genuinely worried that my piece for Pass-it-to-Bulis jinxed him for good. Lind’s goal tonight was his first since January 18th. Ironically, that was also the last time the Comets had a six-goal effort! While he didn’t have many of the subtle plays that end up on the highlight streamables, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t without effort. He was doing everything he could to get pucks into the offensive zone. Belleville was, however, playing quite physical whenever Lind was on the ice, negating a lot of what he was trying to accomplish.
  • John Stevens with another strong game; been pleasantly surprised with his contributions to this team as a penalty-killer and a puck distributor at 5-on-5. Despite the Comets rather brutal 2020, Stevens has posted one of the better shot-share numbers, as the team (through February) controlled 5-on-5 shot-attempts 3.1% more with him on the ice rather than off.
  • Eleven players combined for points tonight against the best team in the conference! Not bad for a team that had just one regulation win in February.
  • Sven Baertschi was fantastic, any GM who follows the Comets Harvest (and there are multitudes of high-ranking executives who follow) I would definitely give up your 3rd-ranked prospect and a first for him at 50% retained. He’s an absolute stud. Just rewatch that streamable of him checking on his fellow #47! I mean come on! Who doesn’t want a guy like that on their roster? *looks towards GMJB*
  • Justin Bailey with an ok return to the Comets with his two-goal, one assist performance.
  • Nice to see Brogan Rafferty alongside Guillaume Brisebois again, think those two complement each other quite nicely.

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Sven Baertschi
  • Justin Bailey
  • Stefan LeBlanc

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets get another break in the action when they return from another five-day break on Wednesday, February 26th, for another critical tilt against the Rochester Americans. Unfortunately, the Comets can’t ride the potential wave of momentum off this huge win in Belleville, but thems the breaks!

2/16/2020 – Utica Comets vs. Rochester Americans

The stakes have never been higher…

Last night, the Rochester Americans defeated the Syracuse Crunch via the shootout to give themselves a one-point advantage over the Comets for the second-place standing in the North Division.

Nipping at the Comets heels are the surging Toronto Marlies, who are on a four-game win streak and sit only four points back in the 4th and final spot for the Calder Playoffs. Not too far past them is the Syracuse Crunch, who are five points back in the fifth-place spot, while riding a point streak of six games.

So yeah, safe to say the Comets need to put some consistent performances together that aren’t wholly dependant on their rookie netminder bailing them out.

Last Friday’s pathetic performance against the Syracuse Crunch is unacceptable for a team that is 24 games away from the conclusion of the regular season. The team should have ironed out the kinks of their game by now. The North Division is ramping up its competitiveness down the stretch; the Comets are dead-last in the division alongside the Laval Rocket for having picked up the least amount of points in their past ten outings.

Given that the Comets are still without some of their key players, I can forgive the sloppy, uncharacteristically chemistry-less hockey. Against a team playing the end of a back-to-back weekend, the Comets need to show well here.

I staunchly refuse to pinpoint any struggling players or guys coming into Sunday’s matinee lineup, because I completely jinxed Ferland in my preamble last game, and that’s a power I am just not yet ready to wield.

Apologies if this preamble is completely incoherent; I was up ’til 4 AM last night catching up on stats-tracking! One period and one game (excluding today’s) left to go, and I’ll be all caught up! Once its all input into my nerd-spreadsheets, I will return to dropping juicy shot-share factoids about this confounding farm team!

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

LW C RW
Baertschi (#47) Camper (#19) Boucher (#24)
Goldobin (#77) Jasek (#9) Lind (#13)
Gadjovich (#21) Stevens (#16) Bancks (#34)
Stevenson (#26) Malone (#17) LeBlanc (#3)
LD RD
Petgrave (#22) Rafferty (#25)
Chatfield (#5) Blujus (#8)
Teves (#4) Eliot (#52)
G
Michael Di Pietro

 

INJURY REPORT
Wacey Hamilton (foot) Vincent Arseneau (done for the season) Ashton Sautner (arm) Francis Perron (undisclosed) Olli Juolevi (ill)
Healthy Scratches
David Pope

 

Juolevi getting scratched is certainly going to lead to calm and collected reactions

That Rafferty/Petgrave pairing is going to get murdered if they’re together the entire night. Petgrave is a giveaway machine, and Rafferty often plays quite far up into the offensive zone. Not to mention, for a big guy, Petgrave’s physicality is non-existent.

After a brief two-game stint with the KWings, Josh Teves returns to the Comets starting lineup. Hopefully, Teves regained a bit of confidence as he managed to pick up one goal and one assist during his popover to Michigan.

Bizarre to me that the Comets aren’t utilizing Stefan LeBlanc as a defender. Petgrave’s listed position is F/D, so play him marginally on the fourth line, why piss away Stefan LeBlanc’s skill with minimal minutes for some ECHL PTO who’s skill is, “he’s big.” As a matter of fact, keep David Pope in the lineup at forward and just keep Petgrave out entirely. This way, you give your team the best competitive advantage possible? Does left-side/right-side really matter to this Comets team that will continuously play Sautner on his offside?

Took Ferland out of the active rotation, as per Rick Dhaliwal, Ferland’s conditioning stint is over, and he’ll be returning to Vancouver for evaluation.

 

1st period

Comets in the White

 

The score at the end of the 1st period: 2-0 Rochester

 

It was a pretty brutal start for the Comets, as they give up two early goals while looking uncoordinated, sloppy, and lazy in their defensive efforts. Comets forward groups, once again, have no answer to a physical team who forces them to the outside — the top six, in particular, seems like they have no answer than to hope their opponent goofs on their coverage. Brogan Rafferty leads all Comets players with shots (and shot-attempts, I’m sure) with Jonah Gadjovich leading all forwards with two shots on goal (and shot-attempts, I’m sure of that as well). Good battle back in the latter half of the period, but they need to start putting more effort into their skating to create space for themselves because the Amerks aren’t giving them an inch so far.

 

2nd Period

 

 

The score at the end of the 2nd period: 3-1 Amerks

 

Certainly a more competitive period from the Comets; they do, however, have a big hole to climb out of over the final twenty minutes of action. Comets did outshoot the Amerks ten to seven in the second, and now lead the game in shots on goal 21 to 17. Lukas Jasek and Sven Baertschi (penalty aside) had strong performances in the second period and were responsible for many of the Comets scoring chances. More of that fellahs!

 

3rd period

 

Final Score: 3-2 Rochester Americans

 

Scoresheet

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st ROC Remi Elie William Borgen Casey Mittelstadt 5v5
1st ROC Eric Cornel Scott Wilson 5v5
2nd ROC Taylor Leier Jean-Sebastien Dea Zach Remond 5v5
2nd UTI John Stevens Sven Baertschi 5v5
3rd UTI Nikolay Goldobin Jalen Chatfield Dylan Blujus 5v5

Takeaways

  • The Comets were physically outmatched by the superior team in Rochester, and their inability to suppress high-quality shots from dangerous areas of the ice spelled their demise.
  • Going to be a Monday of scoreboard watching for the Comets coaching staff as a pivotal matchup between Toronto and Binghamton could see the Marlies within one point of the Comets third-place position. Another key matchup between Syracuse and Belleville could result in the Crunch closing the gap on Utica’s precipitous grasp of a Calder playoff spot.
  • Per the above, Toronto has three games in hand on Utica — Belleville and Rochester have one game in hand. Now is certainly not the time to be slumping or hitting cold streaks.
  • Lukas Jasek looked much more involved in the play during tonight’s action, was skating much harder than I’m used to seeing him, and looked more eager to hound on loose pucks for secondary shot attempts. With his new role at center, he’s often been timid with chasing down loose pucks; tonight was a return of the 2018-19 Jasek who was a beast at winning board battles and moving the puck towards the opponent’s net.
  • Sven Baertschi was a stud tonight; he was the difference-maker during every shift he skated. Played physical when he needed to, was forechecking and backchecking hard on some very long shifts. The interference call was unfortunate, but fortunately, the PK group bailed him out. I still think he’s an NHL’er, and given that Bailey is likely on his way back to the Comets, I wouldn’t mind seeing him get another shot, now that Boeser is likely out for some time. The majority of Canuck Nation and I are over the Schaller experiment.
  • Baertschi, Jasek, and Rafferty tied with four recorded shots on goal tonight. Reid Boucher with a highly uncharacteristic, single shot on net tonight.
  • Goldobin had way fewer giveaways than usual and showed great compete on the goal to put the Comets within one.
  • Kole Lind has just three assists in his last eleven games — Once I’ve input all of my tracking data, we can examine just what the hell has been going on with the Utica Comets through this 2020 stretch of hockey
  • I already said it, but I have to double down on this point. Put Stefan LeBlanc on defence if you have two guys out with injuries. He is a completely safe, reliable option on any pairing who plays with a physical edge on almost every shift. I don’t believe that Brogan Rafferty carries enough experience to be bailing out an ECHL PTO who overextends in the offensive zone as much as Rafferty does. Petgrave has an absolute bomb of a one-timer, so stick him on the right-wing alongside Stevenson and Bancks, and maybe they can get something going. Asset management from this farm club is just so confounding over simple stuff like this. Cull already shortens his bench when he’s facing a deficit or when he’s in the third period. So what do the Comets lose with Petgrave riding the pine as a forward?
  • Sidenote, despite Lukas Jasek’s pretty abysmal shot-differential numbers, I do appreciate that he’s tied for second on the team with Brogan Rafferty in the always fun to discuss stat, plus/minus, with a +17.

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Michael Di Pietro
  • Lukas Jasek
  • Sven Baertschi

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets light February schedule continues, as they get a nice five-day break before another road matchup, this time, against the North Division’s team-to-beat, Belleville Senators.

2/14/2020 – Utica Comets vs. Syracuse Crunch

Good evening Canucks Nation, it’s time for another edition of the Comets Harvest!

I missed out on last Wednesday’s game against the Laval Rocket as my sister took out a small personal loan leveraged against everything she owns, and purchased lower bowl seats to the Sedins jersey retirement game for us to go and see live!

The last time I recapped a game, they played against the Syracuse Crunch! Tonight, they face off against the Syracuse Crunch!

Instead of mashing the ole CTRL C and V, I’m going to augment what I said last time!

The Utica Comets return home hit the road for a crucial pretty important, intra-divisional match-up against rivals, Syracuse Crunch, after a disappointing neat four-game two-game “road trip” around the North Division win-streak that saw them pick up a single win. win their first home game since January 18th.

Coming into Wednesday’s matchup against the Rocket, the Comets were on an incredible streak of 292-minutes without having held the lead in a hockey game. A stretch that dates back to their February 1st matchup against the Cleveland Monsters, where they led for the opening six minutes. The streak was ended 36 seconds into the third period by Reid Boucher with what would end up being the game-winning goal.

At the risk of jinxing this team that has had a run of unlucky injuries plague them this past week — Francis Perron took a puck to the head during Wednesday’s warm-up, forcing him out of action in that game and tonight’s as well.

Because Micheal Ferland is set to make his Comets debut tonight, I’m just going to get into tonight’s starting lineup and crossing all fingers and toes that the team comes away unscathed!

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

LW C RW
Ferland (#79) Jasek (#9) Baertschi (#47)
Goldobin (#77) Lind (#13) Boucher (#24)
Gadjovich (#21) Camper (#19) Pope (#11)
Stevenson (#26) Stevens (#16) Bancks (#34)

 

LD RD
Chatfield (#5) Juolevi (#48)
Blujus (#8) Rafferty (#25)
LeBlanc (#3) Eliot (#52)
G
Michael Di Pietro

 

INJURY REPORT
Wacey Hamilton (foot) Vincent Arseneau (done for the season) Ashton Sautner (arm) Francis Perron (undisclosed)

 

Healthy Scratches
Seamus Malone

 

Richard Bachman removed from the scratch-list as he was loaned out to the SHL due to a lack of available playing time with the Comets. By all accounts, Bachman was a great locker-room presence for the team, and I’m sure he’ll be missed. Di Pietro makes his fourth straight starts, so it’s quite clear the coaching staff are much more inclined to give MDP the reps, for better or for worse. Godspeed to him on his SHL journey.

 

1st period

 

Comets in the White/Green alternates

 

The score at the end of the 1st period: 1-0 Syracuse

 

Comets outshot 17 to 6.

Comically pathetic period of hockey from the Comets, who aren’t really missing any major players from their lineup. Poor Di Pietro once again getting hung out to dry by this team, which allows a never-ending stream of shot-attempts. Ferland was okay in his few shifts, took a few bumps on his zone-entries but nothing major.

 

2nd Period

 

 

The score at the end of the 2nd period: 2-0 Syracuse

 

You don’t score goals from here!

Not a single shot on goal from below the dots?

How can any team be expected to remain competitive throughout, if they can’t even get towards the net?

Sorry, there isn’t much from that period, but the Comets genuinely aren’t doing anything worth noting besides getting caved in by shot-attempts from Syracuse.

Unless you guys want a relentless stream of footage confirming that the Comets suck ass

 

3rd period

 

Final Score: 3-2 Syracuse Crunch

 

Scoresheet

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st SYR Ben Thomas Otto Somppi 5v5
2nd SYR Gemel Smith Taylor Raddysh Ross Colton PPG
3rd UTI Nikolay Goldobin Lukas Jasek Carter Camper 5v5
3rd UTI Reid Boucher 5v5
3rd SYR Taylor Raddysh Boris Katchouk Ben Thomas 5v5

Takeaways

  • Comets rally back from a pathetic 33 to 13 shot differential to a 42 to 21 shot differential!
  • The goals from Goldobin and Boucher show that this team is one perfect shooting lane away from changing the complexity of the game, no matter how badly they’re getting embarrassed on the ice.
  • No point in getting into the individual players, because everyone was awful except for Michael Di Pietro, who did his very best to keep the Comets in it
  • Di Pietro has faced 141 shots in his last four starts for the Comets, roughly 30 or more per game, for an average save percentage of 0.900 and an average goals-against-average of 3.42. He had a pretty underwhelming start to January, but his past six starts have been nothing short of incredible for this team. They likely are pointless in three of their last four without him in the net. Still has much to work on before even being considered as a backup option for the Canucks, but he’s had a solid debut season.
  • Lind has just TWO ASSISTS since I wrote about him for Pass it to Bulis.
  • Rafferty has remained off the scoresheet in his last five games. Three since I wrote about him for Pass it to Bulis
  • Also, I totally jinxed Ferland too in my pre-amble…
  • Is the Farmies curse a real thing?
  • The Syracuse Crunch’s win-streak improves to four wins and one shootout loss in their past five games played. Comets still have a decent six-point lead on Syracuse, who now tie the Toronto Marlies in points, but performances like this won’t lead to them staying at the top of the heap for too long. Time for their former AHL defenceman coach to sort this shit out.
  • Can we get an F in the chat for Micheal Ferland? Had a decent first shift, and that was all she wrote. It might be time for him to thinking about his long-term health at this point.

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Michael Di Pietro
  • Michael Di Pietro
  • Michael Di Pietro

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets return for a Sunday matinee when they take on the Rochester Americans. The Amerks sit just one point below the Comets in the standings but are fortunately riding a four-game losing streak. Comets must win this matchup to avoid a downward spiral into irrelevance.

2/8/20 – Utica Comets vs. Syracuse Crunch

The Utica Comets return home for a crucial intra-divisional match-up against rivals, Syracuse Crunch, after a disappointing four-game “road trip” around the North Division that saw them pick up a single win.

The Comets had a wild one in their last outing when they came back from four one-goal deficits to force overtime against the Laval Rocket. Comets will need to show that same compete-level tonight if they plan on kicking this losing streak to the curb and return to their winnings ways.

Many issues are plaguing this team right now. Firstly, the goaltending has been steadily falling off a cliff since the start of the season. During this past run of 7 games, the only win the Comets picked up was due to the shutout performance of Di Pietro.

Zane McIntyre’s save percentage trendline

Michael Di Pietro’s save percentage trendline

Asking a rookie netminder to put on shutout performances every night to give them a chance is not going to cut it. That starts with the defence of the team. The Comets aren’t a big team, especially without the likes of Justin Bailey, Zack MacEwen, or Vinny Arseneau. But someone on the back-end or at forward needs to step up and start playing the body on their checks. Too often, this team relegates themselves to waving their stick in front of their opponent as if it’s the only solution to zone-entry and net-front-drive prevention.

The Comets opponents face virtually no adversity when entering the Comets zone, and for a team coached by a former AHL defenseman/goon. It’s quite shocking that their defensive system seems devoid of physicality. I’m not saying the team needs to be headhunting opponents who enter their zone, but they need to do a little bit more than just stand still while allowing their opponents to wade into high-danger scoring positions.

And believe me, the above streamable isn’t a one-off thing, every Comets d-man freezes up in their end. It is a big reason why they sit 12th in the league for the most shots allowed on goal. Too much sitting and watching. A team that’s on track to be in the Calder playoffs cannot have this be their thing. Clean it up!

All that being said, let’s get into the Comets starting lineup, and cross our fingers that they pick up a much-needed two-points against a tough division rival.

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

LW C RW
Baertschi (#47) Camper (#19) Boucher (#24)
Perron (#27) Jasek (#9) Gadjovich (#21)
Goldobin (#77) Stevens (#16) Lind (#13)
Stevenson (#26) Bancks (#34) LeBlanc (#3)

 

LD RD
Sautner (#6) Rafferty (#25)
Juolevi (#48) Chatfield (#5)
Blujus (#8) Teves (#4)
G
Michael Di Pietro

 

INJURY REPORT
Wacey Hamilton (foot) Vincent Arseneau (done for the season)

 

Healthy Scratches
Richard Bachman David Pope Tanner Sorenson

 

With Guillaume Brisebois up with the Canucks, Trent Cull has re-inserted Josh Teves into the lineup alongside Dylan Blujus. Teves last saw game action on January 25th against Belleville.

The team also sent Mitch Eliot and Seamus Malone down to the Kalamazoo Wings, so I wonder how they’ll be handling the 2nd powerplay unit, which had been featuring Eliot as the point-man alongside Olli Juolevi.

 

1st period

 

Comets in Blue

 

The score at the end of the 1st period: 3-2 Syracuse

 

Sigh… another crazy one. Crazy-bad period of hockey from Ashton Sautner and the majority of the defensemen. Problems I addressed earlier in the pre-amble appear to remain unchanged, or unaddressed by the coaching staff. No clue how they find this style of “defence” acceptable.

 

2nd Period

 

 

The score at the end of the 2nd period: 3-3 Tie

 

This is turning into a literal repeat of the Laval game; total back-and-forth game, that is exciting, but also kind of painful because you’re mostly waiting for the next tiebreaker goal for Syracuse. VERY dominant period from Utica, however, as their play at 5-on-5 and on the powerplay was infinitely cleaner than it was during the opening stanza.

 

3rd period

 

The score at the end of the 3rd period: 4-4 Tie

 

So it’s a LITERAL repeat of the Laval game, haha. When I spoke earlier about showing the same kind of compete level, I didn’t literally mean, give up four leads in one game and force OT!

 

Overtime

 

 

The score at the end of the Overtime: 4-4 Tie

 

Couldn’t make it happen in OT despite an absolutely incredible chance for Kole Lind late in the extra session. This one goes to a shootout!

 

Shootout

 

 

Final Score: 5-4 Utica Comets

 

Scoresheet

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st SYR Taylor Raddysh Boris Katchouk Daniel Walcott 5v5
1st UTI Carter Camper Reid Boucher Sven Baertschi 5v5
1st SYR Mathieu Joseph Ross Colton 5v5
1st UTI Jonah Gadjovich Olli Juolevi Ashton Sautner PPG
2nd UTI Lukas Jasek Stefan LeBlanc SHG
3rd SYR Taylor Raddysh Danick Martel Boris Katchouk 5v5
3rd UTI Reid Boucher John Stevens 5v5

 

Shootout
Mathieu Joseph saved
Nikolay Goldobin saved
Taylor Raddysh saved
Francis Perron goal
Alex Barre-Boulet goal
Reid Boucher goal

 

Takeaways

  • my tracking, Mitch Eliot has been a net-positive for shot-attempt differential at 5-on-5; every other Comets defenseman is running in the negatives. I’m not sure if the Comets coaches are preaching a physical defensive effort or not, but if they are, they aren’t getting it anyways, so give Eliot a longer look.
  • Another solid game from John Stevens tonight. Really solid pick up from Ryan Johnson as Stevens has been crucial to the teams PK in the wake of Wacey Hamilton’s injury (even though, yes, the PK hasn’t been that good), but it has been good with Stevens on the ice. Beautiful pass that led to the game-tying goal and the Comets pbp booth rewarded him with the third-star honour for his efforts tonight, so good on him for making an impact.
  • Really impressive game from Olli Juolevi who was dynamite in the offensive zone and was rarely making unforced errors in the defensive zone. Had a few of those “Stand-still and wave stick” blunders, but relative to Ashton Sautner, they were minor.
  • Speaking of which, I cannot believe how bad of a first two periods Ashton Sautner was having. To the point where I want to revisit this game during my stats-tracking and try to see if Sautner was getting benched in the third period, or saw his TOI dip. Through the first forty minutes of play, Sautner was a complete net-negative on the ice, he has been relatively passable defensively this season, but this game was a bit of an eye-opener. I might have to revisit some of the older games and re-evaluate.
  • Lukas Jasek had a very strong game as well, and not just because of the shorthanded tally. He was strong along the boards and was creating a lot of great scoring opportunities for his linemates whenever he was on the ice. It might be one of the first games in a while where he was a net-positive in shot attempt differential.
  • Lind and Boucher looked pretty frustrated through much of the game, and I think that’s because they were being hard-matched by Syracuse’s top line of Volkov, Boulet and Raddysh. Boucher was given zero space to work tonight, but he still managed to lead the team with four shots on goal.
  • Once again, goal-scoring was spread throughout the lineup and helped the Comets rally back multiple times to earn some much-needed points. Extra shoutout to Dyson Stevenson, Stefan LeBlanc and Carter Bancks for their suffocating forechecking efforts tonight that kept hammering the Crunch into their zone.
  • Sven Baertschi had a phenomenal game too, he ended the game with one assist, but he arguably should have had more. It seemed as though Scott Wedgewood turned on his A++ game whenever Baertschi was creating offence in the Crunch zone. Tough game for Baertschi akin to Boucher and Lind, as the Syracuse team was ALL over him and barely giving him an inch to work. Fortunately, for the Comets, it didn’t matter how little room Baertschi was given; his outstanding skating drove offensive play for his linemates tonight. Given my comments, last game, wondering whether he was checked out or just sick, I think tonight’s game answered those questions. Baertschi is all in for this team, and he was dynamite for them every second he was on the ice.
  • Tough game for Di Pietro, but he’s young and will learn. His rebound control does need work, however, as Syracuse was given multiple secondary scoring chances off weak redirections of his.
  • Quieter night for Goldobin. That’s it. That’s the tweet.

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Sven Baertschi
  • Reid Boucher
  • Lukas Jasek

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets return next Wednesday when they take on the visiting Laval Crunch in a rematch of their recent road game. Could it be possible that we get another 5-4 extra-time game? Check out next weeks Comets Harvest to find out!

2/5/20 – Utica Comets vs. Laval Rocket

The Utica Comets are in Laval, Quebec tonight following a disappointing start to their February, with that 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Monsters on the road.

The Comets start in 2020 has been a weird one. After a five-game win streak vaulted them to the top spot in the North Division, the Comets floundered with five losses in six games that rapidly dropped them into third place.

Tonight’s opponents, the Laval Rocket, have had an equally frustrating start to 2020, but are nipping at the Comets heels in the fourth-place spot with 50 points to the Comets 56.

A win tonight over Laval will give the Comets a healthy distance from that fourth and final Calder playoff spot. Depending on the result of the Rochester Americans and Cleveland Monsters match-up (also happening tonight), the Comets could place themselves into a tie for second with Rochester with a win here on the road.

So there are some stakes to tonight’s matchup. Not Kobe Beef level, but certainly Costco or higher level of stakes.

(yes, I am hungry)

Not joining the Comets for the foreseeable future is the fourth-line, crushing winger, Vincent Arseneau. Two weeks after a concussion received in a fight against the Hartford Wolf Pack’s, Mason Geertsen, Arseneau’s season is done after having undergone a pretty serious hip surgery. According to the Utica-OD’s, Ben Birnell, this was an ongoing hip-injury and not related to the fight.

Arseneau ends his season 15th on the Comets for points, and eight on the team in goals scored. The Comets will miss Arseneau’s physical presence, with Zack MacEwen with Vancouver, and lingering injuries sustained to Dyson Stevenson and Jonah Gadjovich, there isn’t a strong physical presence to the Comets forward group moving forward without him.

Godspeed, in your recovery, French freight train.

Also, not joining the Comets on this trip to Laval is Nikolay Goldobin, who is apparently out dealing with the flu.

Fortunately, the team has Reid Boucher, Dyson Stevenson, and Jonah Gadjovich returning to the lineup, a welcome relief to the team who was missing their key trigger-man and net-front muscle over the last stretch.

With all that in mind, let’s get into the Comets final road game of this five-game roadie and peep the starting lineup!

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

LW C RW
Baertschi (#47) Camper (#19) Boucher (#24)
Perron (#27) Jasek (#9) Gadjovich (#21)
Lind (#13) Stevens (#16) Pope (#11)
Stevenson (#26) Bancks (#34) LeBlanc (#3)

 

LD RD
Sautner (#6) Rafferty (#25)
Juolevi (#48) Chatfield (#5)
Brisebois (#55) Blujus (#8)
G
Michael Di Pietro

 

INJURY REPORT
Wacey Hamilton (foot) Vincent Arseneau (done for the season) Nikolay Goldobin (ill)

 

Healthy Scratches
Richard Bachman Josh Teves Mitch Eliot Seamus Malone Tanner Sorenson

 

1st period

 

Comets in White

 

The score at the end of the 1st period: 2-1 Laval

 

Pretty brutal period as the Rocket immediately gets to work pressuring the Comets inside their zone. Comets appeared to have no answer to the Rocket’s stifling offensive pressure. There was simply way too much standing around flat-footed for my liking, have to hope they were just caught off-guard by the Rocket’s blistering start, and they come out a bit more prepared in the second. Laval concluded the period outshooting the Comets 16 to 11.

 

2nd Period

 

 

The score at the end of the 2nd period: 3-3 Tie

 

A very messy but competitive second period as the Comets rattle off 13 shots to the Rockets’ seven. Hard to fault them too badly on that shorthanded goal, to be honest, there really should have been a 5-on-3 penalty after that blatant jersey holding behind the net of Di Pietro on Rafferty. Regardless, fantastic battle from the Comets being shown to overcome three leads. Every line so far has shown some solid control and playmaking in the offensive zone, with the exception (ironically) of the Comets first-line of Boucher, Baertschi, and Camper.

 

3rd period

 

The score at the end of the 3rd period: 4-4 Tie

 

Well, they eke one point out of this very messy hockey game. Great battle from the squad to force overtime, but it’s quite clear that after that game-tying goal, the Comets started to fade. The Rocket closed out the period looking like the team that started the game, as they repeatedly capitalized on the Comets puck-handling errors. Comets registered just two shots on goal in the final ten minutes of action, one from Dyson Stevenson and another from David Pope.

 

Overtime

 

 

Final Score: 5-4 Laval Rocket

 

Scoresheet

 

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st LAV Charles Hudon Xavier Ouellet Jesperi Kotkaniemi PPG
1st UTI Francis Perron Jonah Gadjovich Lukas Jasek PPG
1st LAV Charles Hudon Jesperi Kotkaniemi Xavier Ouellet PPG
2nd UTI Guillaume Brisebois Lukas Jasek Olli Juolevi PPG
2nd LAV Jake Evans Karl Alzner Josh Brook SHG
2nd UTI John Stevens Stefan LeBlanc Ashton Sautner 5v5
3rd LAV Jake Evans Xavier Ouellet Jesperi Kotkaniemi PPG
3rd UTI Reid Boucher Carter Camper Sven Baertschi 5v5
OT LAV Xavier Ouellet Charles Hudon Jake Evans 3v3

 

Takeaways

 

  • The Comets are going to be choked that they didn’t get two points out of this one, they had tremendous battle to get themselves back in this game after being sooooo out of it to start. Coach needs to have a long discussion with this team about taking stupid penalties that accomplish nothing. Like Jasek taking a hooking penalty while his opponent is retreating into the defensive zone. Dumb penalty. Sven Baertschi sticking his leg out after already having dispossessed a player in the defensive zone. Dumb penalty. Discipline and a weak-AF penalty-kill is what cost them every piece of momentum they generated for themselves.
  • Just last game I was writing about how unnoticeable Brogan Rafferty’s game was against the Cleveland Monsters. Here he was tonight putting on a skating and puck-movement clinic against the Laval Rocket. His transition game is just so smooth, but again, those brutal giveaways and unforced errors that keep popping up make me think that a coach like Travis Green could never trust him. For every one of those beautiful end-to-end rushes of his, there are two or three giveaways in the defensive zone.
  • The team got back Reid Boucher in the lineup, but to be honest, he was a complete non-factor through the majority of tonight’s action against the Rocket. The chemistry between Camper, Baertschi, and Boucher just did not seem to be there at all tonight. Boucher still managed a team-high six shots on goal, but there was a noticeable lack of punch from his shot-attempts.
  • While on the subject of the first line being very “meh.” Sven Baertschi has just two points in his last nine games for the Comets. Been very surprised at how little he’s contributed in 2020 thus far. Yes, he missed five games with illness/injury, but for a player of his calibre, it is strange seeing him be a non-factor for this team when it comes to goalscoring.
  • completely. unbiased. stars. selections.
  • Laval Rocket had six players combine for points on their four goals tonight. Utica had 11 players combine for points on three goals. So, safe to say, Utica won the battle of depth scoring!
  • Shout out to Stefan LeBlanc, who picked up an assist and was a +1 on the night despite playing as a forward on the fourth-line. I can’t imagine that D-men are chomping at the bit to play off-role in the AHL. LeBlanc has been serviceable in a position he has no business playing. I’m glad that he’s been able to pick up points. It is outrageous that a pro sports organization does not, or can not afford to carry the number of players necessary to field a competent roster on a nightly basis, but instead resorts to playing it’s depth defensemen off-role as consistently as they have.
  • Solid game from John Stevens, he was a machine in the faceoff dot and created a lot of shot opportunities for his defensemen with his ability to retrieve pucks off of even lost draws. Wicked shot on that 2-2 tying goal as well! I’ve been pleasantly surprised at his contributions to the team thus far

 

Comets Three Stars

  • John Stevens
  • Stefan LeBlanc
  • Jonah Gadjovich

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets ended their four-game road-trip with a pretty dismal 1W-2L-1OTL record. Fortunately, for the Comets, they forgo their usual weekend doubleheader, and instead, they return Saturday for a pivotal division matchup against the Syracuse Crunch.

 

2/1/2020 – Utica Comets vs. Cleveland Monsters

Well, I ended up passing out pretty early and accomplished none of the tracking catch-up I’d hoped too, FML.

Fortunately, I’m well-rested and ready for this morning’s Comets/Monsters rematch!

Not much has changed in the 16 hours since these two teams last met, and it looks like the starting lineup has no changes to it, so let’s just get right into it!

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

LW C RW
Baertschi (#47) Jasek (#9) Goldobin (#77)
Perron (#27) Camper (#19) Lind (#13)
Malone (#17) Stevens (#16) Pope (#11)
Sorenson (#74) Bancks (#34) LeBlanc (#3)

 

LD RD
Sautner (#6) Rafferty (#25)
Juolevi (#48) Chatfield (#5)
Brisebois (#55) Blujus (#8)
G
Zane McIntyre

 

INJURY REPORT
Wacey Hamilton (foot) Vincent Arseneau (concussion) Dyson Stevenson (ankle) Reid Boucher (hip) Jonah Gadjovich (undisclosed)

 

Healthy Scratches
Richard Bachman Josh Teves Mitch Eliot

 

1st period

 

Comets in White

 

The score at the end of the 1st period: 2-1 Monsters

 

The game started promising for the Comets, but oh boy, the Monsters are just dominating the Comets at 5-on-5. Complete shooting gallery in the Comets end today, while the Comets patient and calculated approach at 5-on-5 is getting them nowhere in Cleveland’s end. Shots favour the Monsters thirteen to eight.

 

2nd Period

 

 

The score at the end of the 2nd period: 3-2 Monsters

 

Jasek’s even-strength goal makes the third period a bit more interesting, but the Comets are really struggling with the speed and size of the Cleveland Monsters today — Forwards look completely disengaged on their backchecking, and the D are getting beat on the outside ad nauseam. Comets outshot the Monsters nine to six but go 0/2 on the powerplay, and 0/1 on the PK. Comets will start the period with 1:41 of 5-on-4, a great opportunity for them to tie the game early.

 

3rd period

 

 

Final Score: 3-2 Cleveland Monsters

 

Scoresheet

 

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st UTI David Pope Carter Camper Olli Juolevi PPG
1st CLE Calvin Thurkauf Paul Bittner Anton Karlsson SH
1st CLE Stefan Matteau Adam Clendening Kevin Stenlund PPG
2nd CLE Trey Fix-Wolansky Marko Dano Stefan Matteau PPG
2nd UTI Lukas Jasek Jalen Chatfield Nikolay Goldobin 5v5

 

Takeaways

 

  • The lack of physicality from this Comets team without Stevenson, Gadjovich, Arseneau, Hamilton, and even Boucher is quite apparent. Comets were getting pushed and hit over and over with zero response from the team. Obviously playing physical and laying hits isn’t the reason they lost, but it’s a big part when literally 12 forwards cannot out-muscle their opponents to get to the net. Peep the shot map 50% of the Comets 28 shots on goal were weak attempts from the point, but when they managed to get to the slot, they scored on 25% of their shots (2/8). Not sure if it was exhaustion, simply physically outmatched, or a lack of drive, but a Comets team without long-range firepower HAS to have the will to crash the net and fight for rebounds, otherwise, they’re going to get killed down the stretch.
  • After last night’s game where I was concerned with the play of Brogan Rafferty, he came back with a pretty decent, albeit, unnoticeable game today. Love his ability to transition the puck on his own with his skating. The Monsters were all over the Comets tonight to prevent there skating game from flourishing, but when afforded the time and space to move, Rafferty looked great doing so.
  • Comets defencemen have noticeably regressed to their November-style tactics of getting repeatedly caught up in the offensive zone. The number of odd-man rushes given up due to this tendency to pinch high without puck-control is too damn high!
  • Olli Juolevi had an OK game, relative to his teammates and his game last night. He had quite a few giveaway gaffes early, but that one streamable of his speedy backcheck was a massive relief to see. Clearly, there are still kinks he’s sorting out with his knee/hip problems, but this weekend was a good sign of forward progress, all things considered
  • I think I jinxed Jalen Chatfield last night when I said he had a good game because he was all over the place today. His coverage on some of those Cleveland rushes were near-disastrous, and his overcommitment on offensive zone pinches was easily the worst amongst defenders. For a guy with nine assists in his last 70 games, you’d think he’d stick to his strengths as a speedy, physical, defensive defensemen because the offensive contribution side of his game kept putting the Comets at a disadvantage. Maybe if the Comets forwards actually tried backchecking for once, maybe his aggression would pay off, but there is just way too much standing around for Chatfield’s style to be effective.
  • The one-timer option: I cannot believe how sad the Comets one-timers looked tonight. Do they really not drill or practice their one-timer attempts? Is Reid Boucher the only player allowed to attempt one-timers? I suppose it doesn’t matter because the forwards, in general, had a rough weekend. But holy moly, if Boucher is out for a while, and if MacEwen/Bailey are up with the Canucks for an extended period of time, then they really need to find a one-timer option, and quick.
  • I was pretty critical of Zane McIntyre’s first two goals allowed in the opening period, but he was clutch through the final two periods. Facing down odd-man rushes isn’t easy, repeated east-west movement isn’t easy, but he persevered and stopped the Monsters final 13 of 14 shots to at least give his struggling forward group a chance to tie things up.
  • Nikolay Goldobin looked pretty checked out in today’s game. So much so that I have to wonder if the MacEwen/Bailey dual-call-up is playing into his mental. He got two goals last night but looked indifferent through much of today’s 60-minute affair.
  • Adam Clendening registered ten shots against the Comets over the weekend double-header, lol

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Olli Juolevi
  • Lukas Jasek
  • Zane McIntyre

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets return Wednesday for a roadie against the Laval Rocket! I haven’t recapped a mid-week game in quite some time, so I’m sure it’ll be a disaster! 😀

1/31/2020 – Utica Comets vs. Cleveland Monsters

IT ME!

I cannot believe how long it’s been since I last recapped a Comets game!

After a decent trip to Maui with family, in which I got the flu, crashed my rental car, and then no got sun for the final six days of the trip — I then had to go cross-country to the ice-cold tundra of Montreal, for work.

All told, I missed an entire month’s worth of game recaps — so, for that, my dear readers, I apologize.

The real apology goes out to my darling wife, who has been an absolute trooper since my return from Montreal. Why? Because I’ve done nothing with my free time but attempt to catch up on a month’s worth of shot-attempt data.

Now that the AHL’s All-Star break is over, the AHL schedule has resumed to normal, so my work-load of five games will bump up to seven games after this weekend! But it’s all necessary to further my work for the Harvest, and my newest venture as an associate freelancer for Passittobulis and his new spot at Vancouverisawesome.com!

 

January has been a weird one for the Comets. Despite outshooting their opponents (raw shots only, not attempts) in seven of their eleven games this past month, the Comets have a less than stellar record of five wins and seven losses.

A stretch that has seen players like Justin Bailey record three hat-tricks in four games played, and players such as Nikolay Goldobin, Brogan Rafferty, and Kole Lind step into the top-15 of AHL scoring.

Alas, there’s something off with this club.

The team still sits 2nd in goals-for and goals-for per-game, and despite not having all of the data yet, look to have put in significant work to improve their 5-on-5 shot output relative to their opponents.

However, the goaltending tandem of McIntyre and Di Pietro, are no longer posting save-percentages above 0.950, like they were to start the season.

In fact, the Comets save percentage has been on a steady overall decline since the season began.

McIntyre’s numbers have been freefalling, to the point where he’s now sitting with his worst regular-season AHL save-percentage and goals-against-average of his career.

Di Pietro has done admirably in his rookie season, but the rigours of the AHL appear to be taking their toll, as Di Pietro’s numbers have slowly seen him fall out of the top 20 of AHL goaltending.

He’s still top-5 in AHL rookie goaltending, so relax, I’m not trying to go in on him. I am merely pointing out that the Comets goaltending having a rough month has been a factor in the Comets spotty January record.

Another issue plaguing this team in 2020 appears to be related to their discipline or lack thereof. Through the first 34 games of the season, the Comets picked up 185 total infractions (including coincidental minors, majors and misconducts), in their past twelve games, the Comets have picked up an additional 70! The Comets now sit second in the Eastern Conference of the AHL for number of times spent short-handed.

The Comets special teams haven’t been able to keep up with this increased lack of discipline either. After once having a penalty-killing percentage top-three in the Eastern Conference, the Comets PK has dropped to the sixth-worst in the East. After giving up 26 powerplay goals through their first 34 games, the Comets have given up eleven in their past twelve in 2020; nearly one powerplay goal given up every single game this year.

In sumrary, it’s been a weird month, with some positives but some concerning negatives. Hopefully, the Comets can close out January with a win that ends their current four-game losing streak, thereby re-establishing themselves as one of the teams to beat in the AHL’s North Division.

The Canucks are currently dealing with the major-injury to Tyler Motte and the uncertainty of how Jay Beagle’s arm is holding up. Because of that, the team elected to call up Justin Bailey and Zack MacEwen for a shot in the Canucks bottom-six.

Zack MacEwen has generally been a non-factor for the Comets this season. Chalk it up to the constant yo-yo-ing between the two clubs, while not having a set-role with the Comets. Defensively, MacEwen has improved his positioning and work to suppress shot-attempts by opposing squads while on the ice. But his speed appears not to be what it was last season. I’ve yet to see one of those incredible backchecking efforts like we often saw last season, the kind that left the Canucks brass with no choice but to give him a look. Nonetheless, his work last season put him on the Canucks radar as a valuable call-up option, and they’ve rewarded with some healthy looks this season. Fingers crossed he can find a way to contribute some offence in a limited role.

Bailey, on the other hand, is a first time Canucks call-up, and he has been dynamite for the Comets second line as a speedy winger who can transition the puck up ice while providing significant firepower from the slot.

Although a bit streaky, Bailey’s three hat-tricks in four-games in early January couldn’t have come at a better time, as a visiting GMJB liked what we saw and couldn’t deny the guy his chance with the club.

Bailey had seen great success with Kole Lind as of late, and it’s great to see that the Canucks find themselves in a position to call-up player’s as a reward for their efforts. Although historically, Bailey hasn’t put it together in the NHL, it is hard to deny that his speed wouldn’t be a massive punch-up to the Canucks fourth-line. Maybe he can make it happen, I mean, Victor Olofsson is older than Bailey? So who knows! Late bloomers are a thing! Right?!

 

Tonight’s opponent are the North Divisions last-place team, the Cleveland Monsters. The monsters are in the midst of a similar rough January as the Comets, having won just three games in their last ten. The Monsters have the worst powerplay percentage in the division, but incredibly, the divisions best penalty kill! Normally, I’d say here that “the Comets would do best to stay out of the box in this one,” but I think they’ll be fine now that I’ve seen this stat, haha.

 

With all that catch-up out of the way, let’s take a look at tonight’s starting lineup!

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

 

LW C RW
Baertschi (#47) Jasek (#9) Goldobin (#77)
Perron (#27) Camper (#19) Lind (#13)
Malone (#17) Stevens (#16) Pope (#11)
Sorenson (#74) Bancks (#34) LeBlanc (#3)

 

LD RD
Sautner (#6) Rafferty (#25)
Juolevi (#48) Chatfield (#5)
Brisebois (#55) Blujus (#8)
G
Michael Di Pietro

 

INJURY REPORT
Wacey Hamilton (foot) Vincent Arseneau (concussion) Dyson Stevenson (ankle) Reid Boucher (hip) Jonah Gadjovich (undisclosed)

 

Lot of injuries since I’ve been away! Dylan Blujus got tied up with a player on a penalty kill and took a powerplay blast right to the chest that bruised a rib. Brutal. Brisebois had a broken finger-tip, Vinny Arseneau in concussion protocol after picking a fight with Mason Geertsen, and the teams de facto number one center during the injury wake, Wacey Hamilton, with a broken foot stemming from a blocked shot. Lot of size, and key penalty killers out of the Comets daily rotation, which no doubt has played into the Comets struggling penalty-kill. Hopefully, the returns of Blujus and Brisebois to the active roster will result in some better penalty-killing, should the team’s discipline fail them again.

 

Healthy Scratches
Richard Bachman Josh Teves Mitch Eliot

 

The bright side of these injuries is Carter Camper not getting shafted as a veteran scratch.

Stefan LeBlanc continues his run as the 12th Comets forward. This season, LeBlanc has done a great job playing off-role for the Comets. I’m sure this isn’t how he was hoping his sophomore season with the Comets to go, but it’s a crowded list of Canuck-signed D-men to earn playing time over.

 

1st period

 

Comets in White

 

 

The score at the end of the 1st period: 2-0 Comets

 

Couple blunders here and there that gave the Monsters some dangerous offensive drives, but overall, the Comets did well during the opening twenty for this one. Cleveland closes the first period leading in shots on goal with eight to the Comets seven.

 

2nd Period

 

 

The score at the end of the 2nd period: 2-0 Comets

 

Period was a snooze right up until the Rafferty and Blujus penalties when things got interesting. A gutsy penalty-killing effort from the Comets penalty killers, with special commendation to Olli Juolevi for showing zero regard for his body on multiple PK shifts. The latter half of the period was rough for the Comets, as they struggled mightily to hold the Monsters out of their end. This period certainly did not do the Comets any favours in regards to their on-ice shot-attempt metrics. MDP with a solid night so far to keep the Comets in the game. That save on Dano denied the Monsters a significant momentum building event. Comets incredibly registered six shots on goal to the Monsters nine. Shot-attempts are a completely different story, however, haha.

 

3rd period

 

 

Final Score: 3-0 Utica Comets

 

Scoresheet

 

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st UTI Carter Bancks Tanner Sorenson 5v5
1st UTI Nikolay Goldobin Lukas Jasek Ashton Sautner 5v5
3rd UTI Nikolay Goldobin Kole Lind Brogan Rafferty PPG

 

Takeaways

 

  • Apparently, Jonah Gadjovich picked up an injury during the team’s morning skate. I have to say that it’s getting rather concerning how injury-prone Gadjovich is. His crash-bang style around the net certainly doesn’t help either. His injury tonight puts him at 29 man-games lost due to injury out of 123 games available to be played in over the last two seasons. 23% of the games he could’ve played in, he was out with injury.
  • Clips like this really make me wonder if Rafferty’s unforced errors are due to depth-perception issues stemming from his whole “blindness in one eye” thing. Mistakes like this are permissible at the AHL level when you’re managing to lead all AHL defensemen in points. Before this market goes nuts over how he’s a “sure-fire NHL defender,” I just thought I’d posit the following question. How would Travis Green react to a defenceman who occasionally passes to the opposing team, drop passes to nobody, or takes high-sticking penalties because his depth perception throws off his ability to stick-lift on backchecks? Food for thought really, I still love his skating and puck movement. But given how often we hear about, Travis Green not trusting Troy Stecher, it’s hard to envision him trusting someone who makes as many unforced errors through no fault of his hockey IQ., but due to physical limitations.
  • Pretty quiet night for most of the Comets. Standout games came from the defencemen and Di Pietro. The forward groups appeared to be struggling with chemistry through much of the affair at 5-on-5.
  • Jalen Chatfield had an excellent game. Liked his physicality, puck movement, and positioning throughout the night. I think he’s had a solid run since returning from the Canucks, even though the shot-attempt metrics do not paint that kind of picture of him whatsoever. Decent night, he and Juolevi have looked solid together as a pairing.
  • Speaking of OJ48, this kid’s a warrior. There are still massive concerns with his skating and pivoting ability. This deep into the season, I was hoping for some kind of marked improvement, but it’s just not there yet. That shouldn’t take away from the fact that he had a good game against Cleveland tonight, and was literally the difference-maker during the Comets penalty kills tonight
  • A lot of invisibility from the Comets forward groups, but I cannot fault them. New lines, awkward chemistry, late changes to the starting lineup, it’s a miracle they came out of this matchup with two points.
  • Michael Di Pietro was huge for the Comets tonight. First star and first AHL shutout. He was saved pretty hard by that baffling no-goal call from the ref’s, but regardless, he was huge for the Comets tonight — really impressive performance from him after a month of pretty “meh” showings.

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Michael Di Pietro
  • Nikolay Goldobin
  • Olli Juolevi

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets return tomorrow at 10 AM for the rematch against the Monsters! I hope to be up early tomorrow to recap, but I might opt to stay up until 4 AM tonight to catch up on stats tracking — so no promises folks!

12/31/19 – Utica Comets vs. Rochester Americans

Happy New Years Canucks Nation,

It’s time to round out a whirlwind 2019 with a recap of the Utica Comets final home-game of the decade. Tonight the farm takes on the division-leading, Rochester Americans, in a critical matchup between the two major-players of the AHL’s Eastern Conference.

The Americans sit in first place with 44 points in 31 games played, while the Comets sit 2nd in the division with 42 points in 33 games played. A win tonight doesn’t vault them into first, but it does give them the leading edge once Rochester catches up on the games in hand.

Comets are riding a wave of momentum currently, a five-game point streak with additional points coming in seven of their last ten. The Amerks visit the Adirondack bank center off a shutout loss to division-basement-dweller, the Binghamton Devils.

Last season, the Comets closed out 2018 with a 4-3 victory over the Americans, so fingers crossed they can continue this wave of momentum into the New Year, and they cement that place amongst the tops of the AHL’s Eastern-Conference.

Also, once again, my greatest appreciation to all of you in R/canucks and Canucks Nation, who gave my Botchford Project piece a read. It is still genuinely surreal to see something I wrote on a platform as large as the Canucks own site. Just over a year ago, I decided to recap and review the Comets games because I had time to kill and was genuinely interested in how the prospects were faring. Never would have expected to see it take me here. So again, my thanks and appreciation to everyone who’s spread the piece, or shared their support.

Now that the tissues are away and I’ve dried my eyes,

Let’s close out 2019 with a look at the starting lineup!

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

LW C RW
Baertschi (#47) Hamilton (#36) Boucher (#24)
Goldobin (#77) Jasek (#9) Lind (#13)
Sorenson (#74) Bancks (#34) Bailey (#95)
Gadjovich (#21) Malone (#17) Arseneau (#18)

 

LD RD
Brisebois (#55) Rafferty (#25)
Juolevi (#48) Sautner (#6)
Blujus (#8) Chatfield (#5)
G
Zane McIntyre

 

INJURY REPORT
Francis Perron (eye) Dyson Stevenson (fight related)

 

Gadjovich returns to the lineup after missing the last one with a brief illness. Gadj and Arseneau were fantastic on a line together earlier this season. Hopefully, they can pick up where they left off.

 

Healthy Scratches
Richard Bachman Josh Teves Carter Camper Mitch Eliot Stefan LeBlanc

 

Again, I still cannot fucking believe that Carter Camper is getting scratched for Wacey Hamilton’s “Penalty-killing expertise.” Genuinely do not know how Trent Cull can justify Hamilton getting taken out of the lineup. He should consider himself lucky the farm * isn’t* in Abbotsford, or he’d be raked over the coals for such a baffling roster decision.

 

1st period

 

Comets in Blue

 

The score at the end of the 1st period: 1-0 Amerks

 

Well, I guess I shouldn’t find it TOO bizarre that the Comets got outshot by a two-to-one ratio, and gave up the games opening goal off of a lazy backchecking effort. Zane McIntyre once again, being asked by the Utica Comets to stand on his head against a tough Rochester team. Just once, in the previous four games played, have the Comets controlled shot-attempts at 5-on-5. Amazingly, the Comets have split the season-record against the Amerks, thanks to incredible goaltending efforts from McIntyre and Richard Bachman. It would be quite the feat to conclude the 2019 portion of the season with a positive winning percentage against the Rochester Americans by employing the absolutely atrocious rope-a-dope tactic.

 

2nd Period

 

 

The score at the end of the 2nd period: 2-1 Comets

 

All told, an infinitely better effort in the second period from the Comets, as they go on to outshoot the Amerks ten-to-nine. Great effort from the Comets penalty-killers to negate any momentum-generation from the Amerks. Special commendations to Justin Bailey who’s speed proved mighty difficult for the Amerks’ powerplay to deal with during their two brief opportunities.

 

3rd period

 

 

Final Score: 3-2 Utica Comets

 

Scoresheet

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st ROC Taylor Leier Kevin Porter Casey Mittlestadt 5v5
2nd UTI Brogan Rafferty Jonah Gadjovich Lukas Jasek PPG
2nd UTI Wacey Hamilton Sven Baertschi Reid Boucher 5v5
3rd ROC Taylor Leier Zach Redmond Lawrence Pilut PPG
3rd UTI Justin Bailey Kole Lind Sven Baertschi PPG

 

Takeaways

 

  • Comets record two shots on goal in the third period. Good for a 50% shooting percentage!
  • Goaltending was the difference in tonight’s matchup because the Comets couldn’t generate shot-attempts to save their lives. I say it every game, but I’m curious what the shot-attempt lines will look like for this one. Rochester over 60 minutes, doubled the Comets output. Were it not for McIntyre’s 0.943 save-percentage, or his 2.00 goals-against-average, this one likely could’ve been way worse.
  • McIntyre’s 0.943 save-percentage is his first SV% above 0.910 since November 15th, when he stopped 21 of 23 against Syracuse.
  • Justin Bailey had a fantastic December. Seven goals and five assists in thirteen games played. He, at best, is a career AHL’er, but it’s nice to see him utilize his strengths effectively. November was a brutal stretch where he simply did nothing with his speed. Happy to see him turn it around and become a productive contributor to the Comets penalty kill and powerplay units.
  • Comets now have three players in the top 15 of AHL scoring, with Reid Boucher topping the list for first in the AHL, tied with Drake Batherson of the Belleville Senators. Brogan Rafferty now has a four-point lead on Derrick Pouliot for AHL defenceman scoring, while being tied with Lucas Elvenes for rookie scoring, at 30 points.
  • Glad to see Lukas Jasek being given time on the powerplay unit. Kids’ confidence is likely, completely shot playing off-role as a centerman. Take him off the PK and provide him with powerplay duty to at least give him some scoring confidence because, at 5-on-5, the kid is just not having any luck whatsoever. Amongst forwards, Jasek is second-lowest on the team with a 48GF% — i.e. Jasek’s only earned points (directly contributed) to just 48% of the 33 goals he was on-ice-for. I’ve complained ad nauseam this season about getting Jasek back to his more natural position. It genuinely bothers me that this organization has no problem tossing a year of Jasek’s development into the dumpster because they didn’t satisfy a roster requirement heading into the season.
  • Jalen Chatfield had a solid game despite not ending up on the scoresheet. He was jumping up into the offensive zone quite a bit but was making quick, decisive actions to return to the blue line to defend. Rather than overstaying on the forecheck and allowing his opponents odd-man-rushes the other direction. Outlet passes looked sharp, as did his positioning and gap control. I’d venture to say, Chatfield’s gap control was at its best tonight than it had been in previous efforts. Have to think all that time with the Canucks has taught him a thing or two.
  • Sven Baertschi is probably too good to be playing in the AHL – two assists and was without a doubt, the Comet’s most dangerous player offensively tonight. Tenacious on the forecheck, and was routinely setting up his linemates with crisp passes. Not to mention, Baertschi’s time spent on the powerplay, PK and the waning minutes facing Rochester’s six-man attack. Guy was rock-solid for the Comets tonight, a great display of hard and soft skill. Whatever the fuck that is
  • Wacey Hamilton – 1 goal – 4 shots – 3 minor penalties, one of which directly resulted in a game-tying goal from Rochester. Like I said earlier, I hope Camper is simply injured, and the organization, for whatever reason, hasn’t addressed it because you can’t seriously tell me that Hamilton’s efforts as an elite penalty taker are better than Campers 4 goals and 17 assists.
  • Jonah Gadjovich and his linemates barely saw ice time in the third period due to the sheer number of penalty kills. Still, he, Arseneau, and Malone were easily the team’s most dynamic line throughout that first twenty-minute period. I really liked how his game has looked during limited ice-time. Had a couple moments where he whiffed on golden scoring opportunities, but besides those few and far between, he was aggressive in the offensive zone and creating for his linemates, which is all anyone can ask, really, of their fourth-line.

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Zane McIntyre
  • Sven Baertschi
  • Justin Bailey

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets return January 3rd for a home-tilt against the Springfield Thunderbirds. However, the Comets Harvest will be taking a two-week hiatus, as I head down to Maui with my family for a much-needed vacation!

I hope to find time tracking stats while I’m away, so you can periodically check-in on how the squad is doing, here. I’ve completely overhauled the way Corsi is evaluated, simplified some of the equations, and gone through my data with a fine-toothed comb to ensure everything is A-OK.

Will be sad to miss this Thunderbirds game, as the last one was a complete doozy

First Harvest of the New Year will likely be January 18th, barring any travel difficulties.

Until then, however, I bid Canucks Nation adieu, and I wish you all a very Happy New Year! Drop your resolutions in the comments, and we’ll see how everyone held up during my next recap!

 

If you want more Comets coverage from yours truly, you can now find MORE of my writing at thesinbin.net

12/28/19 – Utica Comets vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms

What’s up Canucks Nation, time for a quick turnaround as the Comets hit the road to take on the Atlantic Divisions, last-place, Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

The Phantoms are coming off back-to-back 4-2 losses to division rivals, the Charlotte Checkers, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

The Phantoms play incredibly dull hockey, having racked up the league’s lowest goals-for in 31 games played, with 73 total. Good for 2.35 goals per game. They’ve also allowed the 11th fewest goals in the league with 87. But with a powerplay and penalty kill that ranks in the bottom-four in both departments, it’s safe to say that the Phantoms haven’t quite figured out a way to make boring hockey work for them.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum sit out Utica Comets, who rank 3rd in the AHL in goals-for per-game, with a staggering 117 goals scored across 32 games played. A rate that works out to 3.66 goals-for per game for the Farm. As for special teams, the Comets have the 4th ranked powerplay in the league, and the 15th ranked penalty-kill in the league.

At one point, the Comets penalty-kill was tops in the AHL, but losing PK staples such as Olli Juolevi and Jalen Chatfield for extended periods has hurt their place in the special-teams standings.

In theory, the Comets should come out of tonight’s intra-conference matchup with two points. The Phantoms have had an atrocious season, and the Utica Comets have proved that they can hang with the best in the league, even when down by three-goals after the opening period.

I posit, “In Theory,” because this is the same Comets team that blew a double-header a few weeks ago to division bottom-feeders, the Binghamton Devils and Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

During this December stretch, the farm has done admirably at picking up points, but they have rarely been games where they’ve thoroughly dominated their opponents at 5-on-5. By my tracking estimates, just three times this month have the Comets controlled shot-attempts at even-strength.

Last night’s comeback attempt against Hershey was a great “character building” effort. More importantly, the game was a fantastic sign of the compete level of this team when up against the wall. At times this season, the Comets have looked incredibly lethargic or appeared to be skating-by on the goal-scoring and play-driving abilities of their Quad-A all-stars that litter throughout the lineup.

After the first-line got shutdown so thoroughly by the Bears, it took a spectacular performance from Justin Bailey and the bottom-six contingent to make that comeback happen. Although the result didn’t go their way, hopefully, it was a confidence builder, and the squad can earn a couple more points in the second last game of 2019 against a relatively weak opponent.

Some pretty crazy line rushes during warmup that might make that job a little difficult, so let’s take a look at the starting lineup and get into tonight’s matchup.

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

LW C RW
Baertschi (#47) Hamilton (#36) Boucher (#24)
Goldobin (#77) Jasek (#9) Lind (#13)
Arseneau (#18) Malone (#17) Bailey (#95)
Sorenson (#74) Bancks (#34) LeBlanc (#3)

 

LD RD
Brisebois (#55) Rafferty (#25)
Juolevi (#48) Sautner (#6)
Blujus (#8) Chatfield (#5)
G
Michael Di Pietro

 

INJURY REPORT
Francis Perron (eye) Jonah Gadjovich (ill) Dyson Stevenson (fight related)

 

What is it with the Utica Comets and getting their faces fucked? Also looks like the claim that the Comets had no injuries during the last game was wrong, as Dyson Stevenson still remains injured from his massive tilt with Ben Harpur against Toronto on December 11th.

 

Healthy Scratches
Richard Bachman Josh Teves Carter Camper Mitch Eliot

 

So, no injury or illness diagnosis for Carter Camper? I can’t imagine he’s a healthy-scratch though, given the Comets dearth of centers. Looks like the team has Stefan LeBlanc slotting in as a winger to fill up the roster. Comets play by play man Joe Roberts states that Carter Camper was scratched due to the “veteran” limit.

So to get this straight, Trent Cull is scratching the only AHL center who can actually distribute the puck, for his penalty-killing “expert” Wacey Hamilton? JFC, what a joke if that’s true.

Camper has four goals and seventeen assists in 24 games played this season with the Comets.

Hamilton has two goals and thirteen assists in his last 38 games played with the Comets.

Baffling, if that’s true

Remind me again, what was the point of signing a bunch of ECHL PTO’s if they don’t ever plan on having more than two healthy forwards available in reserve to battle for spots?

Genuinely don’t understand splitting up the Lind, Jasek, and Bailey line. They’ve been solid together as of late. Now you have an ultra-soft line of Jasek, Goldobin, and Lind? No way that line sticks through the full 60.walked back, haha

 

1st period

 

Comets in White

 

The score at the end of the 1st period: 1-0 Comets

 

Have to feel bad for the Phantoms fanbase in Allentown, because holy shit that was atrociously boring hockey. I mean, look at this shot map on the period, four shots only, with one being an inconsequential dump-in shot from center? Comets playing to their opponents level a bit, and getting caught playing “ring the puck around the boards.” Which, as a stats-tracker, is amazing for me, but as an appreciator of hockey, it’s absolutely dreadful to watch. Hopefully, the Comets turn on the jets in the second and light this team up, because the Phantoms legitimately don’t look like they’re trying.

 

2nd Period

 

 

The score at the end of the 2nd period: 3-2 Comets

 

Comets almost let the game get away from them, but they pulled it together and started pressuring hard in the back-half of the game. Lehigh doing a much better job at getting their shots on net; Comets missing on many of their attempts. Shots tied overall now at 14 apiece. Good battle-back from the Comets in their back-to-back efforts this weekend. Albeit, they probably shouldn’t have put themselves in a position to “battle back” against this blatantly weak, Phantoms squad. Fingers crossed they don’t let the game slip away from them in the third. The waning seconds of that period weren’t exactly encouraging.

 

3rd period

 

 

Final Score: 4-2 Utica Comets

 

Scoresheet

 

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st UTI Kole Lind Olli Juolevi Lukas Jasek 5v5
2nd LV Kurtis Gabriel Matthew Strome Steven Swavely 5v5
2nd LV Gerry Fitzgerald Maksim Sushko Carsen Twarynski 5v5
2nd UTI Wacey Hamilton Olli Juolevi Reid Boucher 5v5
2nd UTI Justin Bailey 5v5
3rd UTI Sven Baertschi SH/EN

 

Takeaways

 

  • Gonna make these takeaways quick because I want to see Pettersson attempt a Hoglander against the Kings
  • Incredibly dull first period, and an incredibly weak third. Have to wonder if the four-hour bus ride in from Utica played into the lethargy displayed in tonights effort. The team’s lackadaisical play made this game way closer than it ever should have been. Twelve of the Phantoms 24 shots on net were from outside of the circles and had zero chance of getting past Di Pietro. Where they fell apart was the lack of aggression to thwart the Phantoms from cutting towards the slot for shot-attempts. Eight of the Phantom’s most dangerous attempts occurred in a teeny square outside the crease of Di Pietro’s net and is where both goals were scored.
  • Kind of like “Palpatine using the force to clout everyone’s judgement” as an end-all justification for why everyone is a moron in the prequels. Chalking up the weak effort to exhaustion of last night’s comeback effort is the case for tonight’s takeaways as well. Could probably go in on a few players for looking disengaged throughout, but given the injuries and the commute into Allentown, I’ll let it slide. They got the two points and overtake the Toronto Marlies for second in the North Division.

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Justin Bailey
  • Olli Juolevi
  • Lukas Jasek

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets return Tuesday night for an afternoon game to close out 2019. Their opponents are none other than the division-leading, Rochester Americans. The Amerks are coming off a shutout loss to the division-worst, Binghamton Devils, and now sit just two points ahead of the Comets with 44 points and a 0.710 points-percentage. Big opportunity for the Comets to close out 2019 with a win that ties them for first in the division.

 

If you want more Comets coverage from yours truly, you can now find MORE of my writing at thesinbin.net

12/27/19 – Utica Comets vs. Hershey Bears

Merry Christmas Canucks Nation, it’s been a while since we checked in on the Farm with the Comets Harvest!

As you all know, I was selected as the fourth fellow for the Botchford Project and that, coupled with my many Holiday obligations, took me away from my usual Comets coverage.

My day as a Botchford Fellow was a whirlwind, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. Beyond the crash-course in Canucks-media activities, it was a fantastic learning opportunity where I was able to meet plenty of staples to Canucks media who welcomed me with open arms.

That doesn’t even account for the fantastic people within the Canucks organization who did everything they could to allow me to get everything I needed for my piece.

Although interviewing players is a completely foreign concept to me, I’m stoked that this experience allowed me to spread my wings and give’er a whirl. Hopefully, I didn’t embarrass myself too much in front of the guys who graciously offered up their time to me! I think my inexperience may have resulted in me not getting all the right information that I was looking for. But, nonetheless, I’m proud of what I put together, and hopefully, it reads well.

Huge thanks to everyone on this subreddit, on twitter, discord, Hfboards, anywhere really, who sent encouraging words to me throughout this process! Truth be told, it was a very bittersweet experience, knowing why I was there at all. I paid a visit to the Botchford bench beforehand and asked the legend himself to send some luck my way for the night. Outside of goofing on my interviews a bit, the day ended up going my way, the 19th.

Oh, and the Canucks are now 3-and-0 since my visit.

 

¯_(ツ)_/¯

 

Just saying!

 

Oh, right, the Comets! The Comets are riding a three-game win streak after an up-and-down month that has seen the Comets ride a December record of 5-wins, 3-losses, and two shootout-losses.

Coming into tonight’s matchup, the Farm team sits 3rd in the North Division with 39 points and a 0.629 points-earning-percentage. Their opponent tonight, the Washington Capitals farm-team, Hershey Bears, sit similarily third in the Atlantic Division, with 37 points and a 0.617 points-earning-percentage.

The last time the Comets played the Bears, the team was bailed out by a phenomenal goaltending performance from Michael Di Pietro. During the match, the Comets dragged a 1-1 game to the shootout after giving up an astonishing 72 shot-attempts at even-strength to their 36. MDP ended the game with a 0.974 save percentage and a 0.92 goals-against-average.

The Bears are coming into tonight’s matchup riding an eight-game win streak, having gone undefeated through the entirety of December.

On the Comets side, tonight is the return of Michael Di Pietro to the starting lineup, as well as PK specialist Jalen Chatfield. The team’s PK suffered in Chatfield’s recent absence, as they killed off just 9 of their past 13 times spent short-handed. Amongst Culls penalty-kill staples, Chatfield leads the Comets with the highest powerplay suppression percentage, at 95.6% with him on the ice.

Apparently, this is the first time all season where no one on the Comets lineup is listed on IR prior to tonight’s festivities! Let’s get into tonight’s starting lineup!

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

LW C RW
Baertschi (#47) Malone (#17) Boucher (#24)
Goldobin (#77) Camper (#19) Perron (#27)
Bailey (#95) Jasek (#9) Lind (#13)
Gadjovich (#21) Bancks (#34) Arseneau (#18)
LD RD
Juolevi (#48) Sautner (#6)
Brisebois (#55) Rafferty (#25)
Blujus (#8) Chatfield (#5)
G
Michael Di Pietro

 

Healthy Scratches
Richard Bachman Dyson Stevenson Mitch Eliot Wacey Hamilton Josh Teves Stefan LeBlanc

 

The Comets sent David Pope back down to the Kalamazoo Wings, just in time for their weekend wearing their flying skate jersey!

 

1st period

 

Comets in Blue

 

The score at the end of the 1st period: 4-1 Bears

 

They looked ok through the first 6 minutes, but oh boy did they fall apart through that middle chunk of the period. Comets end the period having been outshot by the Bears 13 to 6. Comets rang two shots off the bar, but those were the only real dangerous shots they had. Remaining forty minutes are going to be tough for this squad if they can’t find a way to hit the net.

 

2nd Period

 

The score at the end of the 2nd period: 4-2 Bears

 

Way better period from the Comets, Bears caught on the backfoot through the majority of the second period. The entirety of the action took place in the Bears end or through neutral ice. Comets outshot the Bears eleven to six through the middle frame and certainly out-attempted them as well. Will be interesting tracking this one after the fact as the Comets have had a complete inverse performance in the second period.

 

3rd period

 

 

The score at the end of the 3rd period: 5-5 Tie

 

An absolutely fantastic comeback effort from the Utica Comets after 60 minutes of play, erasing two three-goal leads and a late one-goal lead off a brutal non-call after a player injury. Could’ve seen the team collapse on that shorthanded goal, but I think the non-call on the high-stick to Perron gave the team some extra fire to close this one out in front of the home crowd. At the very least, they’ll be getting one-point out of this terrific effort.

 

Overtime

 

  • Lind back on the bench to start overtime with some stitches on the chin
  • Jasek, Goldobin, Brisebois start
  • Baertschi, Boucher and Rafferty out next after the puck gets cycled around the Comets end through the first minute
  • Camper Bailey Sautner third out for the defensive zone draw
  • Bears get a rush into the Comets zone, and Carter Camper (#19) gets called for hooking on Jonsson-Fjallby
  • Bears pull Vanecek for the extra-attacker, and after getting a touch on the puck, the Comets will spend two of the remaining three minutes shorthanded
  • Bancks, Chatfield, Juolevi the penalty-killers for Utica
  • GOAL – HERSHEY – 6-5 Bears: Mike Sgarbossa wins it for the Bears in overtime with a rifling one-timer under the glove-side of McIntyre. Chatfield gets caught spinning as he chases Sgarbossa’s pass to Bobby Nardella, and loses position to block Sgarbossa’s blast. Unfortunate end to an otherwise exciting comeback effort from the Comets.

 

Final Score: 6-5 Hershey Bears

 

Scoresheet

 

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st HER Garret Pilon Mike Sgarbossa 5v5
1st HER Garret Pilon Mike Sgarbossa 5v5
1st HER Kody Clark Axel Jonsson-Fjallby Brian Pinho 5v5
1st UTI Vincent Arseneau Jonah Gadjovich Carter Bancks 5v5
1st HER Joe Snively Mike Sgarbossa Tyler Lewington 5v5
2nd UTI Seamus Malone Olli Juolevi Vincent Arseneau 5v5
3rd UTI Carter Camper Reid Boucher Olli Juolevi 5v5
3rd UTI Lukas Jasek Justin Bailey Kole Lind 5v5
3rd HER Brian Pinho Axel Jonsson-Fjallby SHG
3rd UTI Lukas Jasek Justin Bailey 5v5
OT HER Mike Sgarbossa Bobby* Nardella Garret Pilon PPG

 

Takeaways

 

  • Olli Juolevi was on the ice for seven of the first seven goals scored tonight. Defensively, he’s a complete liability whenever that puck is out of his reach. When there is a loose puck sitting out of arms reach of Juolevi and an opponent is racing for it, I tense up. History has shown that unless Juolevi’s linemates make the extra effort to recover on the loose puck, then there is likely a scoring chance going the other way. Offensively, the guy is dynamite from the point. His shot is crisp and almost always finds its way towards the net. Even someone as reliable as Ashton Sautner can’t make up for Juolevi’s skating deficiencies, however. I don’t know if I could single-out Juolevi on any of those goals-against as the first three were the result of pretty poor puck tracking and rebound control from MDP. Still, those odd-man rushes generated by Juolevi’s lack of skate speed will not allow him to succeed at the NHL level, let alone at the AHL level.
  • Fantastic battle from the Comets to rally back after a brutal opening period. Too bad they couldn’t generate anything on the powerplay. Five powerplay opportunities with nothing to show for it is a bad look for any team. Let alone a team with Reid Boucher, Nikolay Goldobin and Sven Baertschi on it.
  • Nikolay Goldobin had a fantastic game, even if he didn’t wind up on the scoresheet. He led the team in shots on goal and was displaying some excellent puck handling all throughout. Unfortunate he couldn’t capitalize on any of his chances, nor could his linemates with him on the ice. Liked his battle overall, interesting to see him getting significant penalty-kill time for Cull tonight. He’s been used sparingly on the PK in previous games, but that was usually due to injuries. Tonight, the team had practically all of their main PK staples, and Goldobin was still on the second shift out for the Baertschi-elbowing PK.
  • Justin Bailey has quietly racked up five goals and five assists through eleven games this month. Tonight he was utilizing his speed effectively, using his speed to get around the defense and set-up his linemates at center-ice on numerous occasions. More of this! Less of the “skate circles around the offensive zone, before lobbing a weak shot off the back of the net.
  • Pretty brutal night for Reid Boucher and Sven Baertschi on that first line. Couldn’t get the bounces to go their way in the first, with both guys ending their night with the worst goal-differentials on the team. Not for lack of trying, however, as both seemed to struggle to find the right shooting lanes. But the Bears hard-matched their line with the speedy trio of Snively, Pilon and Sgarbossa. The one time the Boucher-Baertschi-Malone trio were not getting hard-matched, they scored, with the Carter Camper goal that brought the team within one. As fast as Seamus Malone can be for that line, he simply can’t match the physicality of other teams’ first-line players. Carter Bancks, despite his effectiveness as a fourth-line center, might actually be a better fit for them moving forward. Malone will do much better not having to physically match his opponents when he’s got guys like Gadjovich and Arseneau carrying the physical load for him
  • Outside of the overtime winner, I thought Chatfield had a really good game. He and Blujus were a much better pairing than Chatfield/Juolevi has ever been. I like his game way more in that shutdown, minute-eater role with Blujus than in that “puck-moving/offensive-defenseman” role, alongside Juolevi.
  • Lukas Jasek had a solid second half of the game, after a brutal display of defensive coverage on the Bears’ third straight goal in the first period. At one point, Jasek was put out there with Goldobin, and the two looked very lethargic together. I know the two hang out a lot outside of team events, but on-ice tonight the two looked flat. The two last played consistently on a line together back on November 1st against the Providence Bruins. Back when Jasek centered Baertschi and Goldobin, the team had won eight games straight. In their brief time together tonight, they looked like they’d never played together before. I enjoyed the Euro line back in October, so I hope tonight’s rather “meh” display from the two doesn’t void any chance of that trio reuniting in the future. Happy to see Jasek pick up two goals tonight, he’s had a rough season when it comes to controlling shot-attempts at even-strength. He could use the bounces going his way moving forward. Also, move him back to the wing.
  • The Gadjonaissance continues with a strong showing on the fourth-line tonight. Started a fair number of shifts with defensive zone faceoffs and turned them into scoring chances the other way. His assist tonight gives him 9 points in 18 games played in very limited minutes. By my estimation, Gadjovich logs around 11 minutes per night, glad to see him make use of his limited time and be a difference-maker for the team.

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Justin Bailey
  • Lukas Jasek
  • Vincent Arseneau

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets return tomorrow night when they hit the road to face off against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Phantoms currently sit dead last in the Atlantic Division with 29 points and have had a brutal December stretch, having picked up wins in just three of their last nine games. The Phantoms sit with the worst penalty-killing-percentage in the Atlantic Division and are barely surviving with the second-worst powerplay-percentage. Comets have a good chance against a weak team. But as the Comets showed against Bridgeport and Binghamton two-weeks ago, easy-wins aren’t always guaranteed.