Well, the cat’s out of the bag, the Botchford Project has called me up from the minors. I’m ecstatic to be suiting up to get my first taste of NHL action, tomorrow when the Canucks faceoff against their archnemesis, the Vegas Golden Knights.
Like the consummate professional I am, and displaying the kind of professionalism that made me worthy to be a Botchford Fellow! I completely forgot there was a Utica game on tonight.
I’d like to blame my, “giddiness over being chosen,” for the reason why I misread the schedule. Truth is, I got pretty tanked at my work Christmas Party Saturday, woke up Sunday, and saw the Comets got absolutely dunked on by the Division-worst, Binghamton Devils, by a pitiful score of 5-1. Taking my head out of the toilet, I decided not to make my hangover worse by enduring such a tragic loss, and an all-too-quick glance of the schedule had me convinced the game was Friday, not Wednesday.
So alas, let’s get into tonight’s game against the Belleville Senators. A team that edges the Comets in points-percentage to secure the final spot for Calder Cup Playoffs. The Baby Sens are on a three-game win streak and are 8-2 in their past ten.
The Comets, on the other hand, are on a two-game losing streak while posting a 5-3-0-2 record in their past ten. Just like the Canucks, divisional opponents have made up ground on the Comets (except Binghamton, they’re literally a dumpster fire). A three-point disparity is all that separates the Comets from the Divisional basement. Tonight’s pivotal matchup would be a great night to find some consistency and get some distance away from that possibility.
THE STARTING LINEUP
|Goldobin (#77)||Camper (#19)||MacEwen (#15)|
|Baertschi (#47)||Malone (#17)||Boucher (#24)|
|Bailey (#95)||Jasek (#9)||Lind (#13)|
|Gadjovich (#21)||Bancks (#34)||Arseneau (#18)|
|Juolevi (#48)||Sautner (#6)|
|Brisebois (#55)||Rafferty (#25)|
|Blujus (#8)||Eliot (#52)|
Mitch Eliot slides into the lineup after being a healthy scratch through the previous five. I never understood Eliot getting scratched over someone like LeBlanc. LeBlanc is older and “tougher,” but Eliot is tied with Dylan Blujus for points over Sautner, LeBlanc, Chatfield, and Teves amongst defensemen.
At this point, they should consider sending Teves down to the AHL. Twenty games played eleven shots on net, eight misses, and twelve blocked shots. Eliot is three years younger, skates just as fast, only a bit weaker in physical battles, but genuinely shows an ability to individually create scoring opportunities on his own through shot-attempts or passing. Teves can skate the puck up ice and is one of the better D at controlled zone-entries. But putting pucks on net, passing and being a contributor on goals-for, just isn’t in his skillset.
RE: INJURY REPORT
|Wacey Hamilton (faceeeeeee)||Dyson Stevenson|
|Stefan LeBlanc||Josh Teves||David Pope||Francis Perron|
Genuinely have no clue why this Comets club thinks they can afford to bench Francis Perron. He skates hard, backchecks with intensity, can kill penalties, and work as the bumper on the 2nd powerplay unit. Barring some trade out of nowhere, this benching makes no sense. I get that MacEwen is back in the lineup, but should that really warrant bumping a dude who can play out of the lineup so the Comets can roll with Gadjovich, MacEwen, AND Arseneau?
The grit/60 requirement for this team is ridiculous if that’s why Perron slid out.
Comets in Blue
- Lukas Jasek’s (#9) weak pass along the right wall gets picked off by a Sen, and the Comets are forced to retreat
- *checks notes* Carter Bancks (#34) with a burst of speed around a Belleville defender to race down the right-wing for a two-on-one opportunity with Jonah Gadjovich (#21)
- Comets in the defensive zone. Reid Boucher (#24) zips a pass cross-ice to Guillaume Brisebois (#55), but Brise can’t control, leading to a dangerous chance for Cole Cassels. Yes, that Cole Cassels
- Comets lose possession in the offensive zone but throw the puck back to Brisebois in the neutral zone. Brise catches Brogan Rafferty (#25) off guard with a weak pass into the D-zone, and Rafferty has to recover in a 1-on-1 with the Sens forechecker
- Max Lajoie picks up a delay of game penalty and the Comets get to work on the powerplay
- 2nd unit starts: Gadjoivch, Goldobin, Camper, Juolevi, and MacEwen
- Carter Camper (#19) gets a one-timer shot on Sens tendy, Joey Daccord. Jonah Gadjovich (#21) gets shoved to the ice while chasing the rebound, and the Sens clear
- 1st unit comes out to replace: Lind, Baertschi, Boucher, Rafferty, and Bailey
- Rafferty with a shot from the point that rebounds off the glass to Sven Baertschi (#47). Baertschi channels all of the soft-skill he can into a shot off the pads of Daccord
- Powerplay ends for the Comets, and after a fourth point-shot from Rafferty, Justin Bailey (#95) winds up in a tilt with Hubert Labrie behind the net
- Belleville is pressuring while the Comets make a line change. Zack MacEwen (#15) gets beat along the right wall by a Sen, but Olli Juolevi (#48) abandons his post at center, to dispossess MacEwen’s man with a poke check. Juolevi’s move opens up Max Verronneau to receive a perfect centering pass from the high-slot, but he fudges the redirect attempt
- Lol, Ashton Sautner (#6) showing off his crisp hands as he whips Reid Boucher (#24) in the face with a dump-in attempt
- Zack MacEwen (#15) getting a little too hyped for Rise of Skywalker, as he attempts the decapitation method of clearing the Comets zone
- Belleville generating a lot of shots on this powerplay, but McIntyre holding steady
- MacEwen leaves the box, just as his former Gatineau Olympiques teammate, Vitali Abramov, carries into the Comets zone, then dummies Olli Juolevi for a cut towards the net
- Juolevi’s shift might have been 54 seconds long
- Some TV timeout games with the Sens mascot, as one guy blows it for his row in a game of “hoagie relay race”
- Seamus Malone (#17) takes a pass from Boucher and carries into the Senators zone. Malone turns away from his defender and hands off to a crashing Mitch Eliot (#52), who blasts one off the pads of Daccord
- Ashton Sautner (#6) gets tied up with Alex Formenton on the backcheck and takes a fist to the face in the process. Sautner winds up for a check to Formenton along the boards, but he evades
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 Comets: Comets get on the board first with a slick backhander from Zack MacEwen. Carter Camper (#19) starts it off by carrying the puck through neutral territory into the Senators zone. Camper whips a pass under to Senators’ sticks to MacEwen behind the defense. MacEwen dekes to the backhand as Daccord drops to his belly. MacEwen gets his fourth goal of the season and his first AHL goal since November ninth.
- MacEwen takes a faceoff violation penalty on the ensuing draw to put the Comets on their second penalty kill of the game
- Juolevi (#48) on the PK, springs Baertschi (#47) ahead with a rink-wide pass for a shorthanded shot on goal
- MacEwen penalty is killed, followed by Lukas Jasek picking off a pass to earn the Comets an offensive zone draw
The score at the end of the 1st period: 1-0 Comets
Comets close the period inside the Senators zone. Overall a pretty back and forth period with chances for both teams. Utica edges Belleville for shots on goal, 13 to 9.
- GOAL – UTICA – 2-0 Comets: Nikolay Goldobin scores his tenth of the year with a fantastic wrister from the left circle. Carter Camper nets his second assist after blocking a shot in the Comet’s end before carrying the puck into the Senators zone. For the second time tonight, Camper zips a cross-ice feed underneath a Sens stick to Goldy, who rips one over Daccord’s shoulders a mere twenty seconds into the second period
- Comets forced to reset out of the Senators zone, but the Senators goof on their breakout pass. Juolevi capitalizes on the Sens D playing too far to one side and goes rink-wide to Reid Boucher, who walks down to the right circle for a wrister into the blocker side of Daccord
- GOAL – BELLEVILLE – 2-1 Comets: Belleville gets on the board after some brutal coverage allows former Comet, Michael Carcone, to net his fourth of the season. Play starts with Mitch Eliot (#52) attempting to dump the puck into the Senators zone. Eliot fails to dump the puck, and the Senators enter the Comets zone on a rush. Eliot tries to recover but gets muscled to the ice by Carcone. The puck gets some favorable bounces to consistently wind up on the Belleville players sticks, while the Comets defenders miss every opportunity they have to clear.
- Belleville is repeatedly looking for the tap-in goal from the crease while one forward draws attention carrying down the wing. They’ve tried the same play three times in a row on separate rushes
- After five minutes of Belleville pressuring, the Sens take a delay of game penalty to put the Comets back on the powerplay
- 2ND unit is the new first unit, as MacEwen, Goldobin, Juolevi, Camper, and Gadjovich start with the offensive zone draw
- Goldobin fans on a pass at the blue line and Filip Chlpaik steals, allowing the Senators to kill 35 seconds off the penalty
- Zack MacEwen (#15) attempts his usual, deke to the inside, zone-entry maneuver, but quickly loses possession and the Comets have to reset
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-1 Comets: Reid Boucher with his franchise record-breaking 76th goal. Boucher and Rafferty take turns passing the puck before Rafferty rips a shot into Sen’s traffic. The puck rebounds right onto Boucher’s stick and he rips the puck into the open net. Justin Bailey providing a solid screen in front of Daccord to ensure he’d have no clue where the next shot was coming from
- Boucher passes Darren Archibald as the Comets all-time leading goalscorer. Archibald got his record in 304 games played with the Comets. Boucher beat the record in just 124
- Belleville with some solid puck movement to open the ice for Josh Norris to walk the puck around Reid Boucher before ripping a shot that goes off the crossbar
- Seamus Malone (#17) with a speedy zone entry for the Comets, before dropping off to Brogan Rafferty (#25), who counters Norris with a shot of his own off the right post of Daccords net
- Lukas Jasek (#9) gets dropped at the Senator’s blue line with a shoulder check. Senators get a breakaway opportunity for themselves on the play as the Comets attempted a wholesale line change while Jasek attempted his carry-in
- Belleville displaying some rapid passing and puck movement when they’re in the offensive zone, but a lot of their shots are sailing wide of the net
- another breakaway opportunity for the Senators after Mitch Eliot goofs a pass while the Comets attempt a change
- Belleville’s Jordan Szwarz beats Olli Juolevi around the end boards and sets up Michael Carcone with a perfect pass to the crease of McIntyre’s net. Carcone, somehow, misses the net by a mile
- Starting to wonder if the Senators ice-surface is just crap quality. Passes are coming clean for them, but shots are wildly inaccurate. Comets, on the other hand, are struggling to complete tape-to-tape passes, but are getting their shots on net
- 6 minutes remaining, and the vast majority of this period has taken place inside the Comets zone
- haha, no way, the Comets finally start getting something going in the Senators end, but Jack Dougherty takes the Sens third delay-of-game penalty to put the Comets on the powerplay
- 1st unit starts this time: Boucher, Rafferty, Lind, Bailey, Baertschi
- GOAL – UTICA – 4-1 Comets: Kole Lind scores his eighth of the season on the powerplay to give the Comets a three-goal lead. Rafferty picks up his second assist of the night as he hands off to Baertschi for the wrister from the left wall. Daccord tries to steer the rebound wide, but Lind reaches around his check for a chop at the rebound that goes well out of Daccords reach
- can’t make this up, off the ensuing faceoff draw, Vitaly Abramov lifts the puck over the glass trying to clear the Senators zone and the Comets are gifted their fourth powerplay off a delay-of-game penalty
- 1st unit back out again to start
- Reid Boucher draws the entire Senators defense towards him on the powerplay, so he hands off to Kole Lind for a one-timer that goes wide of the goal. Rudolfs Balcers gets a shorthanded shot on goal after Filip Chlaik clears
- Rafferty attempts a power-forward drive through center but loses possession. Puck gets played with a high-stick and the Comets 2nd peeper comes out for the defensive zone faceoff
- Jonah Gadjovich (#21) takes a slashing penalty off the draw and the game is going to a brief 4-on-4
- Dylan Blujus (#8) eats an elbow while on the penalty-kill and the Belleville’s brief powerplay is over before it even began. Carter Bancks takes a high-stick while engaged in the board battle, but the referee’s don’t call a second penalty
- Carter Bancks eventually heads down the tunnel due to the high-stick drawing blood, and Trent Cull is irate that there isn’t an additional call
- Comets don’t do much of anything on the man-advantage through the final minute of play
The score at the end of the 2nd period: 4-1 Comets
Comets lead the Senators in shots, 23 to 16, Somehow. Senators edged the Comets in shot-volume and time spent in the offensive zone, but Comets won the accuracy contest. The three straight delay-of-game penalties thwarted any momentum generation for the Senators. Doubt they’ll get that lucky in the third. They need to stay out of the box and avoid throwing the puck away with errant passing.
- Reid Boucher leads a rush into the Sens zone before going cross-ice to Kole Lind. Lind can’t find a shot before hitting the end boards, but he does try a cheeky bank shot off of Daccord.
- Belleville pressuring again, and a one-timer from Rudolfs Balcers hits Dylan Blujus square in the chest
- Belleville’s passing game on point, while the Comets defenders are looking rough on their defensive checking. Lind goes headfirst into the boards chasing his check into the boards, recovers, then dives through center in a dramatic effort to break up a pass
- Carter Bancks had missed the opening 5 minutes, then emerges from the tunnel and immediately takes an offensive zone faceoff, and wins it, haha
- Lind accidentally gives away the puck while skating through neutral ice. Fortunately, he quickly works the puck back to Comets possession
- Juolevi sends a puck on net, and the Comets try to crash for the rebound. Reid Boucher picks up the rebound and walks towards the point as Juolevi moves up towards the left circle before Boucher sends him a pass. Juolevi attempts to send a cross-ice feed to Seamus Malone, but Juolevi’s pass redirects out of range
- Off the previous play, Rudolfs Balcers picks up Juolevi’s redirected pass and sends Josh Norris ahead for a breakaway. Boucher picks up a hooking penalty on the backcheck to put the Comets on the PK
- Comets doing a great job to force the Senators to reset
- GOAL – BELLEVILLE – 4-2 Comets: Belleville cuts the Comets lead to two off a strange one. Alex Formenton rips a shot from the blue line that gets tipped by Vitaly Abramov on its way to the net. The puck rebounds off McIntyre’s pads then deflects off the skate of Guillaume Brisebois (#55) and into the net. Unlucky bounce
- The Comets on the receiving end of an early whistle, as the puck bobbles around the crease of McIntyre’s net with several Senators trying to recover for a shot. Lindstigator steps in when Abramov gets into it with the refs
- Seamus Malone takes a penalty for holding the stick of Jordan Szwarz
- Comets off to their fifth penalty kill of the game
- Comets haven’t technically landed a shot on goal since the fifth minute of the period
- Kole Lind with some crisp moves on the forecheck
- Comets barely have 30 seconds of time in the Sens zone before Jordan Murray takes a slashing penalty to put the Comets on their sixth powerplay of the game
- Alex Formenton with a huge shorthanded drive for Belleville. Despite Kole Lind winning the opening faceoff draw, Formenton aggressively hounds on the loose puck and makes Olli Juolevi look like an amateur as he blows past him for a drive on McIntyre. Rafferty backchecks to apply some pressure on Formenton, who elects to pass to the trailing Jordan Szwarz. McIntyre makes a huge stop on Szwarz to keep the Comets lead at two
- Belleville pulls Daccord for the extra attacker
- Reid Boucher attempts a rink wide pass but it gets deflected wide by a broken stick on the ice
- McIntyre stacks the pads!
- They show the bench during a timeout and Gadjovich and Arseneau look just thrilled to be parked on the bench
- Comets force Belleville out of their zone and even break into the Sens zone, but MacEwen whiffs on the empty netter
- Comets break out again, and Carter Camper attempts to set up Reid Boucher on the doorstep, but he has his empty netter shot blocked
- GOAL – BELLEVILLE – 4-3 Comets: Belleville within one, with 51 seconds remaining in the game. Rudolfs Balcers’ wrists a shot through traffic that gets tipped by former Comet, Joe LaBate, on its way to the net. The puck rebounds out to Vitali Abramov who snipes one over the left shoulder of McIntyre as he scrambled to go coast-to-coast.
- Belleville is pressuring to close out the game with the extra-man. A golden, one-timer pass comes out of a battle along the Comets end boards, but Sven Baertschi (#47) utilizes some quick feet to pick off the pass and chew down the remaining seconds of the game
- Experience Comets Hockey!
Final Score: 4-3 Utica Comets
|1st||UTI||Zack MacEwen||Carter Camper||Nikolay Goldobin||5v5|
|2nd||UTI||Nikolay Goldobin||Carter Camper||—||5v5|
|2nd||BEL||Michael Carcone||Alex Formenton||Hubert Labrie||5v5|
|2nd||UTI||Reid Boucher||Brogan Rafferty||Kole Lind||PPG|
|2nd||UTI||Kole Lind||Sven Baertschi||Brogan Rafferty||PPG|
|3rd||BEL||Vitaly Abramov||Alex Formenton||Jordan Murray||PPG|
|3rd||BEL||Vitaly Abramov||Joseph Labate||Rudolfs Balcers||6v5|
Comets Three Stars
- Nikolay Goldobin
- Kole Lind
- Carter Camper
HM: Brogan Rafferty
- Comets wind up getting outshot seventeen to four over the final twenty minutes of the game, and that’s after starting the game on a powerplay and getting one in the final five minutes of the game. The team simply had no rebuttal to the speed or crisp passing game of the Belleville Senators. Good on Zane McIntyre for hanging in there through the final frame, because the team played like pylons to close.
- Kole Lind looked good tonight, flaws and all. Had several moments tonight where he could have cheated after making mistakes, but he put in the effort to recover on nearly all of his errors. Picked up a goal and an assist for his efforts tonight, and IMO should have gotten the second star.
- Brogan Rafferty’s two-point night gives him 24 in 29 games played. He leads all AHL defensemen in points and is 3rd amongst all rookies. Yes, I’m aware, giant asterisk, he’s 24. I would hope the Canuck’s org gives Rafferty a look before making any brash roster decisions. *cough* don’t trade Troy *cough*
- Sven had a very noticeable night, was featured prominently on the penalty kill, and generally made his presence known every time he was on the ice. His lone, primary assist tonight puts him at 24 points in 17 games played. At evens, Sven is having the “Petey” problem at the AHL level, where everyone focuses on him pretty hard. He’s a force on the Comets powerplay, though, and a major factor as to why the Comets lead the eastern conference with powerplay success %.
- Jasek had a pretty quiet night, as did Justin Bailey, whom I thought was quite invisible overall. Jasek had quite a few instances where he’d at least transition the puck effectively. Bailey was nowhere to be found. Not a single instance of him going end-to-end for a weak shot into the side of the net
- Seamus Malone seems to have the speed and the hockey IQ, but boy, the guy’s hands, look completely different to where they were at last season. I wonder if that arm injury that ended his season last year has impacted his ability to shoot. It’s a shame that his lone goal came in a lost cause against Binghamton last Saturday. Maybe he can turn it around if the bounces start going his way. Because of his size, and how easy it is for opponents to throw him off the puck, he needs to find a scoring or playmaking touch to stick around as the season progresses. Injuries to Hamilton and Graovac are likely the one thing keeping him in a prominent 1st/2nd line center role.
- Bless Goldobin for still trying his ass off. Sits ninth in AHL scoring and likely will never get a sniff of the NHL again because of this BS “hard skill” “soft skill” garbage.
The Comets Trajectory?
Comets return Friday (I’m pretty sure). Having a bit of a ‘friendsmas’ celebration that night, so will undoubtedly be a late recap! Their opponent Friday is the Alex Burrows (assistant) coached, Laval Rocket. The last time these two teams met, the Comets got thoroughly dominated in even-strength shot-attempts but were bailed out by a tremendous goaltending performance from Michael Di Pietro. They follow the home matchup with Laval with a Saturday roadie against the Division-leading Rochester Americans. More crucial divisional match-ups are on the way for the Farm team, hopefully, they can build on tonight’s win, even if it’s without their star rookie goaltender.
If you want more Comets coverage from yours truly, you can now find MORE of my writing at thesinbin.net