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.

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