I cannot believe how long it’s been since I last recapped a Comets game!
After a decent trip to Maui with family, in which I got the flu, crashed my rental car, and then no got sun for the final six days of the trip — I then had to go cross-country to the ice-cold tundra of Montreal, for work.
All told, I missed an entire month’s worth of game recaps — so, for that, my dear readers, I apologize.
The real apology goes out to my darling wife, who has been an absolute trooper since my return from Montreal. Why? Because I’ve done nothing with my free time but attempt to catch up on a month’s worth of shot-attempt data.
Now that the AHL’s All-Star break is over, the AHL schedule has resumed to normal, so my work-load of five games will bump up to seven games after this weekend! But it’s all necessary to further my work for the Harvest, and my newest venture as an associate freelancer for Passittobulis and his new spot at Vancouverisawesome.com!
January has been a weird one for the Comets. Despite outshooting their opponents (raw shots only, not attempts) in seven of their eleven games this past month, the Comets have a less than stellar record of five wins and seven losses.
A stretch that has seen players like Justin Bailey record three hat-tricks in four games played, and players such as Nikolay Goldobin, Brogan Rafferty, and Kole Lind step into the top-15 of AHL scoring.
Alas, there’s something off with this club.
The team still sits 2nd in goals-for and goals-for per-game, and despite not having all of the data yet, look to have put in significant work to improve their 5-on-5 shot output relative to their opponents.
However, the goaltending tandem of McIntyre and Di Pietro, are no longer posting save-percentages above 0.950, like they were to start the season.
McIntyre’s numbers have been freefalling, to the point where he’s now sitting with his worst regular-season AHL save-percentage and goals-against-average of his career.
Di Pietro has done admirably in his rookie season, but the rigours of the AHL appear to be taking their toll, as Di Pietro’s numbers have slowly seen him fall out of the top 20 of AHL goaltending.
He’s still top-5 in AHL rookie goaltending, so relax, I’m not trying to go in on him. I am merely pointing out that the Comets goaltending having a rough month has been a factor in the Comets spotty January record.
Another issue plaguing this team in 2020 appears to be related to their discipline or lack thereof. Through the first 34 games of the season, the Comets picked up 185 total infractions (including coincidental minors, majors and misconducts), in their past twelve games, the Comets have picked up an additional 70! The Comets now sit second in the Eastern Conference of the AHL for number of times spent short-handed.
The Comets special teams haven’t been able to keep up with this increased lack of discipline either. After once having a penalty-killing percentage top-three in the Eastern Conference, the Comets PK has dropped to the sixth-worst in the East. After giving up 26 powerplay goals through their first 34 games, the Comets have given up eleven in their past twelve in 2020; nearly one powerplay goal given up every single game this year.
In sumrary, it’s been a weird month, with some positives but some concerning negatives. Hopefully, the Comets can close out January with a win that ends their current four-game losing streak, thereby re-establishing themselves as one of the teams to beat in the AHL’s North Division.
The Canucks are currently dealing with the major-injury to Tyler Motte and the uncertainty of how Jay Beagle’s arm is holding up. Because of that, the team elected to call up Justin Bailey and Zack MacEwen for a shot in the Canucks bottom-six.
Zack MacEwen has generally been a non-factor for the Comets this season. Chalk it up to the constant yo-yo-ing between the two clubs, while not having a set-role with the Comets. Defensively, MacEwen has improved his positioning and work to suppress shot-attempts by opposing squads while on the ice. But his speed appears not to be what it was last season. I’ve yet to see one of those incredible backchecking efforts like we often saw last season, the kind that left the Canucks brass with no choice but to give him a look. Nonetheless, his work last season put him on the Canucks radar as a valuable call-up option, and they’ve rewarded with some healthy looks this season. Fingers crossed he can find a way to contribute some offence in a limited role.
Bailey, on the other hand, is a first time Canucks call-up, and he has been dynamite for the Comets second line as a speedy winger who can transition the puck up ice while providing significant firepower from the slot.
Although a bit streaky, Bailey’s three hat-tricks in four-games in early January couldn’t have come at a better time, as a visiting GMJB liked what we saw and couldn’t deny the guy his chance with the club.
Bailey had seen great success with Kole Lind as of late, and it’s great to see that the Canucks find themselves in a position to call-up player’s as a reward for their efforts. Although historically, Bailey hasn’t put it together in the NHL, it is hard to deny that his speed wouldn’t be a massive punch-up to the Canucks fourth-line. Maybe he can make it happen, I mean, Victor Olofsson is older than Bailey? So who knows! Late bloomers are a thing! Right?!
Tonight’s opponent are the North Divisions last-place team, the Cleveland Monsters. The monsters are in the midst of a similar rough January as the Comets, having won just three games in their last ten. The Monsters have the worst powerplay percentage in the division, but incredibly, the divisions best penalty kill! Normally, I’d say here that “the Comets would do best to stay out of the box in this one,” but I think they’ll be fine now that I’ve seen this stat, haha.
With all that catch-up out of the way, let’s take a look at tonight’s starting lineup!
THE STARTING LINEUP
|Baertschi (#47)||Jasek (#9)||Goldobin (#77)|
|Perron (#27)||Camper (#19)||Lind (#13)|
|Malone (#17)||Stevens (#16)||Pope (#11)|
|Sorenson (#74)||Bancks (#34)||LeBlanc (#3)|
|Sautner (#6)||Rafferty (#25)|
|Juolevi (#48)||Chatfield (#5)|
|Brisebois (#55)||Blujus (#8)|
|Michael Di Pietro|
|Wacey Hamilton (foot)||Vincent Arseneau (concussion)||Dyson Stevenson (ankle)||Reid Boucher (hip)||Jonah Gadjovich (undisclosed)|
Lot of injuries since I’ve been away! Dylan Blujus got tied up with a player on a penalty kill and took a powerplay blast right to the chest that bruised a rib. Brutal. Brisebois had a broken finger-tip, Vinny Arseneau in concussion protocol after picking a fight with Mason Geertsen, and the teams de facto number one center during the injury wake, Wacey Hamilton, with a broken foot stemming from a blocked shot. Lot of size, and key penalty killers out of the Comets daily rotation, which no doubt has played into the Comets struggling penalty-kill. Hopefully, the returns of Blujus and Brisebois to the active roster will result in some better penalty-killing, should the team’s discipline fail them again.
|Richard Bachman||Josh Teves||Mitch Eliot|
The bright side of these injuries is Carter Camper not getting shafted as a veteran scratch.
Stefan LeBlanc continues his run as the 12th Comets forward. This season, LeBlanc has done a great job playing off-role for the Comets. I’m sure this isn’t how he was hoping his sophomore season with the Comets to go, but it’s a crowded list of Canuck-signed D-men to earn playing time over.
Comets in White
- Congrats to Comets PbP man Joe Roberts on the birth of his daughter!
- Start of the game brought to us via telescope!
- Slow-goings through the opening three minutes. Comets really struggling to complete smooth passed tape-to-tape. Francis Perron with the long shot on net
- Cleveland breaks out of their zone into the Comets end after the puck takes a lucky bounce off the end of Carter Camper’s (#19) stick. MDP comes up with a huge mask-save after Marko Dano threads a pass between the legs of Olli Juolevi (#48) to Kole Sherwood for the one-timer
- The new guy, John Stevens (#16) records the Comets second shot of the game off a blocked Dylan Blujus (#8) shot lands right on Stevens stick in the high-slot
- Dylan Blujus (#8) takes a crushing reverse hit from the monstrous 5’6″ Trey Fix-Wolansky
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 Comets: The Comets fourth-line wins a defensive-zone draw and immediately moves the puck up ice into the Monsters zone. Recently recalled, Tanner Sorenson (#74), with a great forechecking effort to set up Carter Bancks (#34) in the crease of Veini Vehvilainen’s net (not going to type this out every time tonight, holy fuck).
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) draws a tripping penalty on Derek Barach
- Comets first powerplay unit: Perron, Goldobin, Baertschi, Lind, Rafferty
- Sven Baertschi (#47) along the right wall creating space on the powerplay, as he draws in two Cleveland defenders before passing to Francis Perron (#27) in the high-slot for a quick shot on net
- 2nd unit: Juolevi, Jasek, Pope, Camper, Brisebois
- powerplay ends, but the Comets return to 5-on-5 holding the Monsters in their end
- Tanner Sorenson (#74) continuing his strong period as he forechecks aggressively, dispossessing a Cleveland defender, and allowing the Comets to set up again for more prolonged offensive-zone pressure
- Jalen Chatfield (#5) with a decent pass to an open Stefan LeBlanc (#3) on the Monsters blue line, who then lobs a shot on Veini-V. Leblanc almost gets a rebound try after Veini mishandles the puck
- Comets caught playing ridiculously over-aggressive off a Sven Baertschi (#47) zone-entry, where four Comets, including d-man Dylan Blujus (#8), join a standard rush into the offensive zone. The Monsters pick off Sven’s centring feed to Lukas Jasek (#9), mid-air, and then the Comets four-man unit gets caught staring at the puck in the o-zone as the Monsters quickly breakout off the takeaway for a 3-on-1 rush the other direction
- Can kind of see HOW that style would work, when passing is picture-perfect, and AHL’ers forget how to defend, but it’s super easy to counter when 4/5 players doddle around even after having lost possession. Just that split second of not moving their feet nearly cost them a game-tying goal against
- John Stevens (#16) with a near-giveaway in the Comets end after getting pressured by Cleveland’s Kevin Stenlund
- GOAL – UTICA – 2-0 Comets: Nikolay Goldobin (#77) doubles the lead with a hopper over the glove of Veini-V. Play begins with a one-timer attempt from Ashton Sautner (#6) that gets blocked into the half-wall, the puck gets poked out to Lukas Jasek (#9) who switches from a one-timer to a pseudo-slap/chip pass to Goldy at the inside of the left circle. Two goals for the Comets, both of which were awkward hoppers over the glove-side of Veini-V.
- Jalen Chatfield (#5) with a slap pass from the blue line to set up Sven Baertschi (#47) for the tip-in, but it gets deflected high and wide
- Ryan MacInnis with a turning shot that rings off the post
- First-line gets stuck in their end for quite some time before a glove save from MDP allows them to change
- A lot of back and forth action, but it’s basically a game of giveaways and shooting the puck into the netting for both teams in the final four minutes of the opening frame
The score at the end of the 1st period: 2-0 Comets
Couple blunders here and there that gave the Monsters some dangerous offensive drives, but overall, the Comets did well during the opening twenty for this one. Cleveland closes the first period leading in shots on goal with eight to the Comets seven.
- Comets immediately pinned into their zone for the opening thirty seconds
- Lukas Jasek (#9) and Nikolay Goldobin (#77) enter the monsters zone, before Goldy curls a pass back to a trailing Guillaume Brisebois (#55). Brisebois’ drags to get around a defender before sending a shot into the belly of Veini-V.
- Former Canucks legend Adam Clendening with a pretty greasy knee-on-knee hit to John Stevens. Jalen Chatfield (#5) gives a shove to Clendening and then mixes it up with a very irate, Brett Gallant
- 1st peeper out to start
- The Comets I know and love playing defence against a three-man penalty-killing unit while on the powerplay
- Second unit shifts on, but this powerplay is over, with the Comets having registered only one shot on goal
- Kole Sherwood toe-drags around Carter Bancks (#34) for a shot into the chest of Di Pietro
- Olli Juolevi (#48) challenges for the puck at center-ice, allowing the Comets to gain the Monsters’ zone, where Juolevi then rips a shot off the body of Veini-V
- What is charging anyway?
- Cleveland with a quick rush where a shot from Sam Vigneault goes off the tip of Di Pietro’s glove and lands right in front of a crashing Calvin Thurkauf. Fortunately, Thurkauf doesn’t anticipate the loose puck, and Di Pietro steers the weak follow-up try into the end boards
- Francis Perron (#27) with a brilliant cross-ice pass to Kole Lind (#13), who’s wrister sails wide of the net
- Same shift, Kole Lind (#13) finds himself on a breakaway, but a backchecking Anton Karlsson makes up significant ground to catch him and prevent a shot-attempt
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) takes an incredibly dumb high-sticking penalty that turns into a double-minor. Comets to a four-minute PK with nine minutes remaining in the second
- First PK Unit: Blujus, Bancks, Sautner, Stevens
- Marko Dano attempts the Michigan, successfully drawing a slashing penalty on Dylan Blujus (#8)
- Comets with a full 5-on-3 PK for two-minutes
- Juolevi, Sautner and Stevens out for the Comets
- To start the PK Stefan Matteau rips a shot off the post
- Crowd boo’ing their own team for not taking enough shots, haha
- After getting stuck out on the ice for a minute and a half of the 5-on-3, Olli Juolevi (#48) eats a shot to the shoulder that allows Sautner (#6) and Stevens (#16) to combine for a clear
- Juolevi out for a second PK shift, this time on the 5-on-4, and while dropping low to break up a centring pass to Clevelands, Ryan MacInnis, eats a stick directly to the face for his efforts
- A shot from Adam Clendening rebounds out to Andrew Peeke who has a wide-open net for a tap-in goal and somehow sends it wide of the goal
- Comets caught overextending during a line change that gives the Monsters a two-on-one. Ashton Sautner (#6) comes up big by breaking up a Maxime Fortier rink wide one-timer feed to Brett Gallant
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) misreads Brisebois (#55) movement as he inadvertently plays the puck down the right wall to Clevelands, Ryan MacInnis. Kole Sherwood drops Rafferty with a hit, before receiving a pass from MacInnis in the slot, only to send his backhander wide of the net
- A shot from Doyle Somerby gets bodied down by Guillaume Brisebois (#55) and out to Marko Dano, who plays give-and-go with Ryan MacInnis. Dano reaches around Brisebois for a backhander that a sprawling Di Pietro barely gets a piece of with his glove that keeps the Monsters off the scoresheet
The score at the end of the 2nd period: 2-0 Comets
Period was a snooze right up until the Rafferty and Blujus penalties when things got interesting. A gutsy penalty-killing effort from the Comets penalty killers, with special commendation to Olli Juolevi for showing zero regard for his body on multiple PK shifts. The latter half of the period was rough for the Comets, as they struggled mightily to hold the Monsters out of their end. This period certainly did not do the Comets any favours in regards to their on-ice shot-attempt metrics. MDP with a solid night so far to keep the Comets in the game. That save on Dano denied the Monsters a significant momentum building event. Comets incredibly registered six shots on goal to the Monsters nine. Shot-attempts are a completely different story, however, haha.
- Comets get a quick rush from John Stevens and the third-line. David Pope (#11) finds a crashing Seamus Malone (#17) with a pass from the Monsters blue line, and Malone attempts to set up Stevens (#16) on the doorstep, but a sliding Dillon Simpson disrupts the pass
- Comets get a bit of a freebie, as Sam Vigneault drives into the Comets zone from neutral-ice and gets the puck into the pads of Di Pietro in spite of Ashton Sautner’s (#6) best efforts. Cleveland’s, Paul Bittner, follows the play and takes one whack at the loose puck by Di Pietro’s glove and the puck crossed the goal-line. The referee says no, however.
- I don’t think Di Pietro ever had control of the puck, nor was Di Pietro run into by anyone? Oh well, the Comets will take the freebie as they’ve been outshot five-zip through the games opening six minutes
- Crowd erupts in a very long and drawn out “ref you suck” chant, haha
- Comets with some nice puck movement to clear their zone, as Olli Juolevi (#48) rings the puck around the boards to Sven Baertschi (#47) at center-ice, who backhands a cross-ice feed to Nikolay Goldobin (#77). Goldy walks into the Monsters zone and attempts to slip past Andrew Peeke, but loses the puck and then the zone
- Chatfield (#5) showing some love to his goalie after catching a shot tipped by Paul Bittner that takes an awkward hop into the glove
- Ashton Sautner (#6) lays out Marko Dano with a hit as MDP makes a huge point-blank stop on Kole Sherwood
- The battle rages on, as Sautner (#6) gives a shove to Kole Sherwood along the left wall, and Sherwood’s legs go in opposite directions as he falls awkwardly into the boards. Good-guy Sautner pretty much stops playing to make sure Sherwood is okay, as PBP-man Joe Roberts goes on about how huge the collision was, haha
- I can’t stress enough how the majority of this third period has taken place inside the Comets zone
- 5:42 remaining in the game and both Dylan Blujus (#8) and Kevin Stenlund get tied up behind the play, with both receiving roughing minors for mucking it up
- Comets are electing to play defence during the 4-on-4, not even trying to make plays into the offensive zone, appearing content to simply sit on their lead
- 2:20 remaining and the Monsters pull Veini-V for the extra attacker
- Comets on the 5-on-6, and while trying to carry the puck out of the defensive zone, Lukas Jasek (#9) draws a hooking penalty to put the Comets on the powerplay with 1:32 left in the game
- Cull elects to throw out Baertschi, Goldobin, Lind, Rafferty, and Juolevi, rather than a full-on powerplay unit
- After getting forced out of the Monsters zone, the refs call a 2-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Kole Sherwood, and then assess him a 10-minute game misconduct for abusing the officials from the bench
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-0 Comets: The Comets capitalize on the late powerplay, as Brogan Rafferty (#25) rips a blast that deflects high into the body of a Cleveland defender. Kole Lind (#13) bats at the loose puck and his shot goes off the post and out to Nikolay Goldobin (#77) who pots his second of the night with an easy tap-in from the doorstep
- Comets still on a 5-on-4 powerplay for the remaining 59 seconds, and they just carry the puck into their own end and run down the clock
- Di Pietro with his first career AHL shutout as Carter Bancks grabs the game puck for the rookie
Final Score: 3-0 Utica Comets
|1st||UTI||Carter Bancks||Tanner Sorenson||—||5v5|
|1st||UTI||Nikolay Goldobin||Lukas Jasek||Ashton Sautner||5v5|
|3rd||UTI||Nikolay Goldobin||Kole Lind||Brogan Rafferty||PPG|
- Apparently, Jonah Gadjovich picked up an injury during the team’s morning skate. I have to say that it’s getting rather concerning how injury-prone Gadjovich is. His crash-bang style around the net certainly doesn’t help either. His injury tonight puts him at 29 man-games lost due to injury out of 123 games available to be played in over the last two seasons. 23% of the games he could’ve played in, he was out with injury.
- Clips like this really make me wonder if Rafferty’s unforced errors are due to depth-perception issues stemming from his whole “blindness in one eye” thing. Mistakes like this are permissible at the AHL level when you’re managing to lead all AHL defensemen in points. Before this market goes nuts over how he’s a “sure-fire NHL defender,” I just thought I’d posit the following question. How would Travis Green react to a defenceman who occasionally passes to the opposing team, drop passes to nobody, or takes high-sticking penalties because his depth perception throws off his ability to stick-lift on backchecks? Food for thought really, I still love his skating and puck movement. But given how often we hear about, Travis Green not trusting Troy Stecher, it’s hard to envision him trusting someone who makes as many unforced errors through no fault of his hockey IQ., but due to physical limitations.
- Pretty quiet night for most of the Comets. Standout games came from the defencemen and Di Pietro. The forward groups appeared to be struggling with chemistry through much of the affair at 5-on-5.
- Jalen Chatfield had an excellent game. Liked his physicality, puck movement, and positioning throughout the night. I think he’s had a solid run since returning from the Canucks, even though the shot-attempt metrics do not paint that kind of picture of him whatsoever. Decent night, he and Juolevi have looked solid together as a pairing.
- Speaking of OJ48, this kid’s a warrior. There are still massive concerns with his skating and pivoting ability. This deep into the season, I was hoping for some kind of marked improvement, but it’s just not there yet. That shouldn’t take away from the fact that he had a good game against Cleveland tonight, and was literally the difference-maker during the Comets penalty kills tonight
- A lot of invisibility from the Comets forward groups, but I cannot fault them. New lines, awkward chemistry, late changes to the starting lineup, it’s a miracle they came out of this matchup with two points.
- Michael Di Pietro was huge for the Comets tonight. First star and first AHL shutout. He was saved pretty hard by that baffling no-goal call from the ref’s, but regardless, he was huge for the Comets tonight — really impressive performance from him after a month of pretty “meh” showings.
Comets Three Stars
- Michael Di Pietro
- Nikolay Goldobin
- Olli Juolevi
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets return tomorrow at 10 AM for the rematch against the Monsters! I hope to be up early tomorrow to recap, but I might opt to stay up until 4 AM tonight to catch up on stats tracking — so no promises folks!