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

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