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
|Baertschi (#47)||Hamilton (#36)||Boucher (#24)|
|Goldobin (#77)||Jasek (#9)||Lind (#13)|
|Sorenson (#74)||Bancks (#34)||Bailey (#95)|
|Gadjovich (#21)||Malone (#17)||Arseneau (#18)|
|Brisebois (#55)||Rafferty (#25)|
|Juolevi (#48)||Sautner (#6)|
|Blujus (#8)||Chatfield (#5)|
|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.
|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.
Comets in Blue
- Early long bomb from Rochester’s Eric Cornel gets steered aside by McIntyre
- Kole Lind (#13) chases the puck around the Comets end boards and gets hit hard to the ice
- Arseneau, Malone, Arseneau line pressuring in the Amerks zone very well after a rink wide feed from Gadjovich gains the zone. Solid shift from Gadjovich as he works all over the ice to get pucks towards the net
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) fans on his breakout pass, almost leading to an Amerk offensive rush, but he recovers on his error and forces them out of the Comets zone
- Olli Juolevi’s (#48) pass around the Comets end boards misses Lukas Jasek (#9), and the Amerks nearly capitalize as Taylor Leier picks off the pass and sets up a dangerous scoring chance with a rink wide feed to Andrew MacWilliam
- A “hold your breath” moment as Zane McIntyre leaves his crease to play the puck while under pressure
- Sven Baertschi (#47) sauces a rink wide pass to Reid Boucher (#24), who leads a two-on-one rush with Brogan Rafferty (#25). Boucher gets his pass around the diving Amerk defender, but Rafferty whiffs on the one-timer attempt
- Comets under pressure in their zone; Ashton Sautner (#6) picks up the puck behind the net of McIntyre and clears it out to Jonah Gadjovich (#21) along the right-circle. Gadjovich turns to lead the breakout, but the puck goes off the skate of Vincent Arseneau (#18), leading to Gadj eating a sandwich. Arseneau picks up the loose puck and attempts an outlet pass to Seamus Malone (#17), but it’s picked off for a shot on goal by Casey Nelson
- Eight minutes in and the Comets have failed to register a shot on goal. Amerks volume-approach has been killer against Utica this season – In four games played this season, the Amerks have out-attempted the Utica Comets 284 to 230 – this game looks like it won’t be helping that shot-attempt differential
- Jalen Chatfield (#5) joins the rush alongside Nikolay Goldobin (#77) and registers the teams first shot on goal as he retreats to his position through the Amerks left-circle
- Kole Lind (#13) with some solid moves through neutral ice to get around three Amerk’s to enter Rochesters zone. Lind catches an edge along the Amerks end boards and ends up throwing the puck away to Remi Elie at the blue line
- Guillaume Brisebois (#55) with a bit of an aggressive chip behind the Comets goal line that wrings around the end boards to a Rochester defender, which results in the Amerks getting a dangerous scoring chance off the giveaway
- In the battle of #17 S.Malone’s, Seamus with the takeaway on a Rochester breakout attempt, which results in a backhand feed towards the net from Brogan Rafferty (#25). Rafferty’s chance gets redirected wide of the net by Jonah Gadjovich (#21)
- Vincent Arseneau (#18) leads a re-entry for the Comets fourth-line, takes a hit, and falls to the ice. An Amerk attempts to capitalize on the uncontrolled puck, but Arseneau recovers for a pass to Seamus Malone (#17), who sets up Gadjovich (#21) for the tap-in on the doorstep, but he completely goofs and misses the perfect set up
- GOAL – ROCHESTER – 1-0 Amerks: Amerks capitalize on their ninth shot of the period, as the Comets scramble around the defensive zone chasing the puck. Casey Mittlestadt catches the puck behind the Comets goal line and rips a high-slot feed that gets tipped by Kevin Porter on its way to Taylor Leier. Leier settles the puck and gets around Reid Boucher (#24), who drops to a knee for the block, and wrists one under the blocker side of McIntyre
- Comets New Years Resolution: Be first to the puck more often
- Wacey Hamilton (#36) centers for Reid Boucher (#24), but an Amerk defender picks off the feed and attempts a clear. Ashton Sautner (#6) has the clear land right on his stick, but he rips his wrister nowhere near the net
- Amerks with a speedy set-play in the Comets end after a lethargic backcheck from the Comets forwards opens up plenty of space
- 2:49 remaining and penalty-killing extraordinaire, Wacey Hamilton, takes a hooking penalty
- 1st peeker: Sautner, Jasek, Bancks, and Chatfield
- Early one-timer from Zach Redmond goes wide of the net, and the Amerks have to reset from neutral ice
- Bailey and Goldobin shift on for Jasek and Bancks
- Goldobin (#77) gets away with a trip on Taylor Leier, but Leier recovers and sets up Mittlestadt for a dangerous scoring chance on McIntyre
- Juolevi (#48) drops to a knee to block a shot, and Sven Baertschi (#47) picks up the loose puck for an odd-man rush the other way with Wacey Hamilton (#36), as he leaves the box. Reid Boucher (#24) picks up Hamilton’s deflected cross-ice feed and sets-up a crashing Guillaume Brisebois (#55) with a quick pass under pressure. Breezy has Hamilton available in the slot, but his pass has way too much steam on it.
- Comets somehow draw a slashing call against CJ Smith, and they’ll close out the final 33 seconds of the period on the man-advantage
- 1st peeper: Baertschi, Lind, Boucher, Rafferty, Bailey
- Boucher with two whistling shots towards the net of Hammond before time expires
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.
- Starters: Boucher, Goldobin, Lind, Juolevi, Baertschi
- Interesting, Comets lose the opening faceoff and then get caught offside during a zone-entry attempt, so Cull switches out Juoleiv with Rafferty
- Nikolay Goldobin (#77) gets absolutely annihilated with a hit from behind from Rocehsters’ Remi Elie.
- Elie to the box and the Comets will get a brief 5-on-3 powerplay
- Comets get one shot on Hammond during the 5-on-3
- Lukas Jasek (#9) changes on for Sven Baertschi (#47) and nearly has a Reid Boucher (#24) centering feed redirect off his skate past Hammond
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-1 Tie: Brogan Rafferty (#25) with his fifth goal of the season to make this a tie game. Play starts with Lukas Jasek (#9) winning the offensive-zone faceoff, with Jonah Gadjovich (#21) shuffling the puck back to Rafferty. Rafferty dekes with the spinorama around an Amerk defender to then wheel to the right-circle where he rifles a shot through the defense of Hammond.
- Comets looking a lot feistier in the Amerks zone through the opening four minutes of this period
- Justin Bailey (#95) nearly gets himself a breakaway into the Amerks zone but has the puck stripped off his stick. Tanner Sorenson (#74) joins his rush, and the Amerks nearly get a 4-on-3 rush for their failed effort. Wacey Hamilton (#36) jumps on the ice and backchecks to break up the Amerks offensive drive
- Penalty-Killing extraordinaire, Wacey Hamilton, takes a goaltender interference penalty, and the Comets are off to their second PK of the night
- Justin Bailey (#95) springs himself on a shorthanded breakaway drive alongside Nikolay Goldobin (#77). Bailey cuts towards center in the Amerks zone and draws a tripping penalty on Lawrence Pilut to end the PK early
- Brisebois (#55) with an end-to-end rush for Utica only to lose possession in the Amerks zone. Amerks pressure the other way and nearly regain the lead with a shot that rips off the post and out
- Juolevi (#48) with patience on the blue line as he passes to Reid Boucher (#24) around Remi Elie. Boucher’s cross-ice pass redirects off an Amerk skate towards the net of Hammond, who makes the save
- Seamus Malone takes down an Amerk defender with a chop, and the Comets are back to the PK
- lol, seconds into the PK, Carter Bancks draws one of the weakest slashing calls I’ve ever seen. It looks like Bancks attempts to wring the puck around the boards, and his stick comes up and hits Kevin Porter, so he slashed himself? Bizarre call, but Seamus Malone breathes a sigh of relief from the box
- Rochester with a quick rush into the Comets zone, and space opens up for William Borgen to get a point-blank blast on McIntyre. The puck trickles through McIntyre’s pads, but Wacey Hamilton (#36) is there to clear
- Lind (#13) enters the zone for the Comets before getting tied up along the boards. Nikolay Goldobin (#77) steps in to help out and zips a rink wide feed to the opposite side. Ashton Sautner (#6) tracks down Goldy’s pass and winds up for a one-timer from hell that rips off the goalpost
- line looks to set up for a cycle, but Jasek (#9) misplays the puck and forces the Comets out of the zone to reset
- Jonah Gadjovich (#21) with a solid shift as he gets off two shot-attempts, hounds on a loose puck to set up Vincent Arseneau (#18), then sets up Malone (#17) for a one-timer on the doorstep of Hammond’s net
- Gadj really making use of his limited ice-time for the Comets
- Scott Wilson takes an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the Comets get themselves a powerplay opportunity with six minutes remaining
- 1st peeper: Baertschi, Bailey, Lind, Boucher, Rafferty
- Comets 1st peeper lose the puck along the Amerk’s end-boards, and Zane McIntyre is forced to make two huge shorthanded saves off the ensuing rush
- 2nd peeper rolled out: Goldobin, Juolevi, Gadjovich, Jasek, Malone
- Goldobin (#77) and Juolevi (#48) bobble the puck along the Amerks blue line allowing Remi Elie a shorthanded scoring chance
- Juolevi (#48) with the one-timer feed to Goldobin (#77) that gets blocked by Andrew MacWilliam
- Probably a mean-nothing play to most, but you can see Jalen Chatfield (#5) opt-out of his usual aggressive pinch while backchecking. He throws the stick out to along the boards while already prepping his turn into the D-zone which allows him to stick with his man, while Kole Lind (#13) recovers with a pretty slick chip off the glass to Goldobin (#77)
- Above is pretty neat because, historically, Chatfield would commit his stick and entire body to take his check man-on. Might be one of the few times where I’ve seen him commit an action with his stick while anticipating the result with his body in the defensive end, that didn’t just look like he was manically chasing the play
- Net has come off the moorings like…5 times this period alone. Glad the ice-quality is consistent between the NHL club and the AHL club
- GOAL – UTICA – 2-1 Comets: Sven Baertschi (#47) with fantastic hustle to chase down a Reid Boucher (#24) dump-in behind the net of Andrew Hammond. Baertschi outraces the Amerk defender and turns towards center for a perfect centering feed to Wacey Hamilton (#36), who drops to a knee for a one-timer over the blocker-side of Hammond.
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.
- Jalen Chatfield (#5) pokes the puck off his check in the defensive zone, then carries the puck out for an outlet pass that allows the Comets a change
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) gets dinged for tripping, and the Comets PK goes back to work for the fourth time
- Reid Boucher (#24), lowkey PK AND powerplay specialist
- Comets kill the penalty, holding the Amerks to zero shots on goal
- Zane McIntyre blockers a Zach Redmond blast high into the air. Brogan Rafferty (#25) attempts to glove it down, and nearly throws it into the net
- Wacey Hamilton (#36) takes his third minor penalty of the night
- Camper better be injured, three in one game is just ridiculous
- GOAL – ROCHESTER – 2-2 Tie: Unreal, off of the defensive-zone faceoff, Zach Redmond goofs on his one-timer from the blue-line, sending it hopping towards the net of McIntyre. The puck hits the body of Taylor Leier and redirects under McIntyre’s pads. It’s a weird one, but they’ll take it, as Rochester ties the game with 12:28 remaining in the third
- bounces are getting weirder as this game progresses, as a blast from Remi Elie deflects high into the body of Ashton Sautner (#6) before rolling along the top of the net, before getting gloved down by McIntyre
- Sven Baertschi (#47) attempts to CTRL C+V his earlier assist, but Hammond makes the stop on Hamilton (#36)
- Hamilton’s shot is the Comets first of the period – yeesh
- Jalen Chatfield (#5) steps in on Kevin Porter at neutral ice and demolishes his stick, sending porters stick-blade up into the jumbotron. Insignificant play, but Joe Roberts with a great call on the action
- Goldobin (#77) gets stripped of the puck by Sean Malone, leading to a huge breakaway opportunity for Rochester. Guillaume Brisebois (#55) with fantastic hustle to get back, but Malone still gets the shot off. Fortunately, McIntyre makes the save
- 1st peeper out Lind, Bailey, Baertschi, Boucher, Rafferty
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) with the classic whoops at the blue line
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-2 Comets: Comets powerplay connects, as Kole Lind (#13) finds Justin Bailey (#95) from behind the Amerk’s goal-line with a one-timer feed. Bailey doesn’t even get a good stick on the pass, but Hammond completely misses the hopper, and the Comets regain the lead.
- Olli Juolevi (#48) takes a crosschecking penalty as he shoves Taylor Leier out of McIntyre’s line-of-sight.
- The play stopped a shot-on-goal, but now the Comets are off to their sixth penalty kill of the night
- McIntyre with a save on Mittlestadt that turns into a clear from Lukas Jasek (#9), and a near-scoring-chance for Reid Boucher (#24), as he fights through three Amerk’s players just trying for a shot-attempt
- Comets kill off Juolevi’s penalty, allowing three shots on goal, and several other attempts
- Comets pressuring in the Amerks end in the final five minutes but are truly struggling to generate shot-attempts
- Olli Juolevi (#48) with a solid check along the boards, before picking up the puck along the Comets half wall for a reversal to Sautner
- Holy shid, Comets ran a 50/50 draw that split $89k
- Olli Juolevi (#48) with a one-timer that deflects wide of the net
- Comets lines taking turns redirecting the Amerks out of their end before dumping the puck into the Amerks zone from neutral ice and changing. Cull content on sitting on this lead given they’ve registered two shots on net, I guess it’s reasonable not even to bother trying to draw up a plan
- Hammond pulled for the extra attacker with two minutes remaining
- Trent Cull with an arm on Hamilton’s shoulder, explains to his bench why he had to bench Camper
- Reid Boucher aggressive in the neutral zone forces Zach Redmond to make a bad pass, icing the puck. Comets with an offensive zone faceoff with 58 seconds left
- Amerks ice the puck again and the Comets get another offensive-zone draw
- Sven Baertschi (#47) with a lunging shot-block in the final ten seconds of the game, that sends the puck high-up into the netting, forcing a stoppage in play. Jalen Chatfield (#5) mucks it up with an Amerk along the end boards after throwing a bit of a late hit after the whistle
- Wacey Hamilton wins the final draw of the decade, and the Comets head into the next decade in a tight battle for first in the North Division
- Kole Lind (#13) with some respect for his tendy
- Justin Bailey (#95) with the handshake line
Final Score: 3-2 Utica Comets
|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|
- 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