11/27/19 – Utica Comets vs. Syracuse Crunch

Well, Canuck Nation, did we ever have a night of hockey in store for us this freezing Wednesday evening! With storylines galore to focus on! The all-junior squad of the Canucks facing off against the surging Penguins, the Goldy/Petey reunion, Stecher back on the first pairing, and lastly, Loui Eriksson, getting scratched for Zack MacEwen on the fourth line.

 

It’s nights like these where I genuinely dislike having a Farm team on the east coast because it is going to be tough to track this Utica Comets showdown with the Syracuse Crunch when that kind of game is going down on my other screen!

 

The Comets aren’t without their storylines either. After a brutal back-to-back weekend against the Laval Rocket, the Comets saw their list of available centers crater even further if such a thing was thought to be possible!

 

After Saturday’s action, the Comets lost Wacey Hamilton, Lukas Jasek, and Vincent Arseneau to injuries. The injuries to Hamilton and Jasek will prove most difficult for this squad to overcome, as there are barely any natural centers remaining on the roster. As it stands, the team has Francis Perron and Carter Bancks floating in the center position for the time being. But their top-six is currently being centered by Carter Camper and Seamus Malone.

 

For those who’ve kept up with the Farm, Malone has missed the last four games with an arm injury. Before that, Malone had been alternating time between the press box and the fourth-line. Tonight he sees the promotion of all promotions when he centers Sven Baertschi and Reid Boucher. I’ve liked Malone’s game since his debut with the Comet’s late last season. In his brief time with the Comets, he’s displayed a decent shot and solid foot speed, albeit a bit undersized. I would not be surprised if he impressed alongside these two, as he seems like the type who would elevate his game to his linemates level.

 

The Comets (by my tracking) have been getting dominated at even-strength as of late, so the additions of Sven Baertschi and Antoine Roussel to the lineup will be a welcome relief to this squad.

 

Tonight, the Comets faceoff against the Syracuse Crunch, as mentioned above. The Crunch come into Wednesday’s matchup on a three-game winning streak. Having spent their last week dominating the Eastern Conference-leading, Hartford Wolf Pack, in back-to-back games.

 

The Comets, by comparison, haven’t won a home game since October 30th. I know what you’re thinking, it’s a spooky curse! But, it might just be that this team has been propped up by incredible goaltending, and the erosion of the team’s top players has caused this, once-hot team to cool off to a concerning degree. For the Utica faithful’s sake, I hope this rag-tag group can put together a win for the home crowd.

 

With that out of the way, let’s get into tonight’s game starting with the night’s lineup!

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

 

LW C RW
Baertsch (#47) Malone (#17) Boucher (#24)
Roussel (#62) Camper (#19) Lind (#13)
Gadjovich (#21) Perron (#27) Bailey (#95)
Sorenson (#74) Bancks (#34) Stevenson (#26)
LD RD
Sautner (#6) Chatfield (#5)
Brisebois (#55) Rafferty (#25)
Blujus (#8) Eliot (#52)
G
Michael Di Pietro

 

All-star Rookie Goalie, Michael Di Pietro, gets the start at home. MDP was absolutely phenomenal on Saturday against the Rocket, where he posted an incredible 0.953 save% and a 2.01 Goals-against-average.

Other lineup notes not previously addressed; Tanner Sorenson slides into the lineup for the first time this season. Sorenson picked up three goals and three assists with the Kalamazoo Wings, before getting the call-up as an injury replacement.

Dylan Blujus also slides in for Josh Teves on that third pairing. I can’t complain about that one too much, as Teves hasn’t found a scoring touch yet in his time with the Comets. That and Blujus has the experience advantage, which this team will rely on heavily against the aggressive Crunch.

 

RE: INJURY REPORT

 

Injury Report
Olli Juolevi (not the knee) Lukas Jasek Vincent Arseneau Wacey Hamilton

 

Healthy Scratches
Richard Bachman Stefan LeBlanc Josh Teves

 

1st period

 

Comets in Green/White Alternates

 

 

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

 

Comets looking ok, all things considered. Shots tied at nine apiece! Game looks like it will be getting very chippy eventually. Roussel was mucking it up with a couple of Crunch players after heading to the bench on the PK. Given the team’s dearth of centers, it’s impressive they’ve stayed somewhat competitive at even-strength. Baertschi not doing much of anything tonight so far. Chalk it up to the brutal travel-to Syracuse. Shot attempts just not happening whenever Baertschi is controlling the puck. Seamus Malone has been driving play with Reid Boucher on that line tonight. Baertschi’s fundamentals are keeping him in the play, but he genuinely isn’t bringing much, shot-wise.

 

2nd Period

 

 

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

 

Hard to fault them on the goal that cut the Comets lead, as MDP did his very best to try get a glove on it. Game is getting into bizarre territory with the odd number of penalties being called — 18 minutes worth of penalties, and four minutes of coincidental penalties. Comets outshot the Crunch twelve to ten. Couldn’t even tell you who was edging who at even-strength. So much of this period has been spent on the man-advantage and so little at 5-on-5.

 

3rd period

 

 

 

Final Score: 4-1 Utica Comets

 

Scoresheet

 

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st Utica Mitch Eliot Carter Camper Francis Perron PPG
2nd Utica Reid Boucher Sven Baertschi Brogan Rafferty PPG
2nd Syracuse Danick Martel Nolan Valleau Otto Somppi PPG
3rd Utica Dylan Blujus Tanner Sorenson Dyson Stevenson PPG
3rd Utica Sven Baertschi Reid Boucher 5v5

 

Takeaways

 

  • Comets get a clean win over Syracuse despite being quite undisciplined through the first two periods of play. Comets conclude the game having outshot the Crunch, 35 to 24. The third frame was particularly impressive for the Comets as they managed to hold the Crunch to five shots.
  • Impressive season debut for Tanner Sorenson. After last seasons revolving door of middling ECHL call-ups, its been a welcome change to see guys like Dyson Stevenson and Tanner Sorenson step into the Comets lineup and be valuable additions to their fourth line. Sorenson notches his first career AHL point after spending the last four years alternating between the ECHL, the VHL (KHL’s version of the A), and the NLB (Swiss version of the A). Props to him on a wildly successful debut. I can’t wait to do the stats-tracking on this one to see if the underlying numbers match my eye test impression!
  • Antoine Roussel, when he was playing, was a constant threat. He didn’t have much ice-time tonight, but I think that was mostly because he wasn’t playing 1st unit powerplay time or much PK time. He did play second unit on the right wall, as well as on the PK, but Cull rolled out his main guys for the insane amount of special-teams time as opposed to his NHL vets. Roussel looked solid all-in-all, skating was never a concern, his turning and burst looked unencumbered. Stoked to see this guy two more times before he returns to the Canucks
  • Don’t be fooled by Baertschi’s stat line. He may have ended the night with one goal and one assist, but the dude just hemorrhages shot attempts-against. Even before he left for his stint with the Canucks, Baertschi’s control numbers were somewhat suspect during his time with the Comets. Baertschi’s CORSI and FENWICK Off-ice percentages suggest that the Comets are controlling shot-attempts at a much higher rate without him on the ice as opposed to with him on the ice. For someone of his pedigree, that seems like the opposite of what should be happening, especially given Baertschi’s current 1.50 pts per game status. Fact is, Baertschi knows how to position and how to take advantage of the lax defending in the AHL. Perhaps, his natural playmaking allows him to cheat heavily on the defensive side of the game. But if he wants to earn a chance with the Canucks again, he’s going to have to put in way more effort in his defensive side to be useful to this Comets team in a first-line capacity.

Svens stat line based on my own tracking

  • A writeup on the data I’ve put together so far after 19 (22 after this weekend) will come out soon hopefully! Just about really making sure I’ve done my homework and am not speaking out of turn when it comes to my armchair-stat-tracking
  • Reid Boucher had himself a solid game tonight as he dominated the Syracuse Crunch in the neutral zone with his oppressive takeaway game. Boucher ended his night with one goal and one assist with six shots on net. Guy was a constant threat and looked to have instant chemistry with Seamus Malone as his center.
  • Seamus Malone was fantastic in his return game tonight, was aggressively forechecking, solid in his own end, and created numerous scoring chances for his line. His stat line might lead people to think that he was a passenger tonight, but he genuinely was carrying the offensive load with Boucher tonight. A great game overall for him after a brutal string of unfortunate injuries over the summer and this season.
  • Jonah Gadjovich continues to impress. Registered just one shot on goal, but his much-improved skating and looks in the offensive zone were a far cry from the guy who struggled last season to generate momentum with his skates. Gadjovich looked sharp against the Crunch, holding his own in the defensive zone just as well as he did as leading his line for zone-entries. I said it already this season, but, most people auto-wrote Gadjovich off after last season but were readying themselves for the “Lind resurgence.” Maybe, folks should’ve been paying attention to what guys like Cory Hergott and myself were saying at the end of last year, that the kid was turning a corner to close out last season and would be one to watch this year.
  • Guillaume Brisebois (and all the defensemen for that matter) were solid tonight. No truly glaring errors that stood out above all. There were a few risky passes through the high-slot that could’ve been bad news, but otherwise, I think they all collectively played well tonight. Blujus, Rafferty, Sautner, Eliot, and Brisebois combined for sixteen of the Comets 34 shots on net. Fantastic contribution from the backline tonight. Rafferty tempered his willingness to overcommit in the offensive zone tonight and played a more subdued game. I believe his and other agro defensemen toning back on the offensive aggression contributed to the Comets playing a much cleaner game in both ends of the ice.
  • Justin Bailey showed off his speed quite a bit tonight, but boy was he frustrating to watch. The second he gets his motor going, you just know he’s going to skate too far past the goal line to get a meaningful scoring chance. If he starts to do a lap around the offensive zone, you know he’s going to taper off towards the end of his run, and it will lead to an easy save for the goaltender. His speed should provide unpredictability to his opponents that opens up scoring chances. But, somehow, despite his NHL speed, it’s just a matter of letting him tired himself out to turn the play the other way. Somethings gotta get fixed there because it’s a massive waste to see that speed only result in low% shot attempts.
  • Mitch Eliot continues to impress at the AHL level. His bomb from the blue line tonight was crisp AF. I think one of my main concerns heading into this season was the lack of d-men who could hit the net from the blue line with a shot. Chatfield and Sautner continue to be MIA in that department, so it’s great to see the rookies, Eliot and Rafferty, step up in such a huge way with their impressive shots.

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Reid Boucher
  • Mitch Eliot
  • Tanner Sorenson

HM: Jonah Gadjovich

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets return this Saturday and Sunday for another roadie double-header when the Comets head north to face off against the Toronto Marlies. The Marlies lead the North Division with 29 points, while the Comets now sit in third with 25. The Marlies currently sit on a six-game win streak, but they will be heading into the weekend double-header after also playing the Rochester Americans on the road Friday night. Utica has to do everything they can to overwhelm, what should be, an exhausted Marlies team.

 

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

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