2/5/20 – Utica Comets vs. Laval Rocket

The Utica Comets are in Laval, Quebec tonight following a disappointing start to their February, with that 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Monsters on the road.

The Comets start in 2020 has been a weird one. After a five-game win streak vaulted them to the top spot in the North Division, the Comets floundered with five losses in six games that rapidly dropped them into third place.

Tonight’s opponents, the Laval Rocket, have had an equally frustrating start to 2020, but are nipping at the Comets heels in the fourth-place spot with 50 points to the Comets 56.

A win tonight over Laval will give the Comets a healthy distance from that fourth and final Calder playoff spot. Depending on the result of the Rochester Americans and Cleveland Monsters match-up (also happening tonight), the Comets could place themselves into a tie for second with Rochester with a win here on the road.

So there are some stakes to tonight’s matchup. Not Kobe Beef level, but certainly Costco or higher level of stakes.

(yes, I am hungry)

Not joining the Comets for the foreseeable future is the fourth-line, crushing winger, Vincent Arseneau. Two weeks after a concussion received in a fight against the Hartford Wolf Pack’s, Mason Geertsen, Arseneau’s season is done after having undergone a pretty serious hip surgery. According to the Utica-OD’s, Ben Birnell, this was an ongoing hip-injury and not related to the fight.

Arseneau ends his season 15th on the Comets for points, and eight on the team in goals scored. The Comets will miss Arseneau’s physical presence, with Zack MacEwen with Vancouver, and lingering injuries sustained to Dyson Stevenson and Jonah Gadjovich, there isn’t a strong physical presence to the Comets forward group moving forward without him.

Godspeed, in your recovery, French freight train.

Also, not joining the Comets on this trip to Laval is Nikolay Goldobin, who is apparently out dealing with the flu.

Fortunately, the team has Reid Boucher, Dyson Stevenson, and Jonah Gadjovich returning to the lineup, a welcome relief to the team who was missing their key trigger-man and net-front muscle over the last stretch.

With all that in mind, let’s get into the Comets final road game of this five-game roadie and peep the starting lineup!

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

LW C RW
Baertschi (#47) Camper (#19) Boucher (#24)
Perron (#27) Jasek (#9) Gadjovich (#21)
Lind (#13) Stevens (#16) Pope (#11)
Stevenson (#26) Bancks (#34) LeBlanc (#3)

 

LD RD
Sautner (#6) Rafferty (#25)
Juolevi (#48) Chatfield (#5)
Brisebois (#55) Blujus (#8)
G
Michael Di Pietro

 

INJURY REPORT
Wacey Hamilton (foot) Vincent Arseneau (done for the season) Nikolay Goldobin (ill)

 

Healthy Scratches
Richard Bachman Josh Teves Mitch Eliot Seamus Malone Tanner Sorenson

 

1st period

 

Comets in White

 

The score at the end of the 1st period: 2-1 Laval

 

Pretty brutal period as the Rocket immediately gets to work pressuring the Comets inside their zone. Comets appeared to have no answer to the Rocket’s stifling offensive pressure. There was simply way too much standing around flat-footed for my liking, have to hope they were just caught off-guard by the Rocket’s blistering start, and they come out a bit more prepared in the second. Laval concluded the period outshooting the Comets 16 to 11.

 

2nd Period

 

 

The score at the end of the 2nd period: 3-3 Tie

 

A very messy but competitive second period as the Comets rattle off 13 shots to the Rockets’ seven. Hard to fault them too badly on that shorthanded goal, to be honest, there really should have been a 5-on-3 penalty after that blatant jersey holding behind the net of Di Pietro on Rafferty. Regardless, fantastic battle from the Comets being shown to overcome three leads. Every line so far has shown some solid control and playmaking in the offensive zone, with the exception (ironically) of the Comets first-line of Boucher, Baertschi, and Camper.

 

3rd period

 

The score at the end of the 3rd period: 4-4 Tie

 

Well, they eke one point out of this very messy hockey game. Great battle from the squad to force overtime, but it’s quite clear that after that game-tying goal, the Comets started to fade. The Rocket closed out the period looking like the team that started the game, as they repeatedly capitalized on the Comets puck-handling errors. Comets registered just two shots on goal in the final ten minutes of action, one from Dyson Stevenson and another from David Pope.

 

Overtime

 

 

Final Score: 5-4 Laval Rocket

 

Scoresheet

 

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st LAV Charles Hudon Xavier Ouellet Jesperi Kotkaniemi PPG
1st UTI Francis Perron Jonah Gadjovich Lukas Jasek PPG
1st LAV Charles Hudon Jesperi Kotkaniemi Xavier Ouellet PPG
2nd UTI Guillaume Brisebois Lukas Jasek Olli Juolevi PPG
2nd LAV Jake Evans Karl Alzner Josh Brook SHG
2nd UTI John Stevens Stefan LeBlanc Ashton Sautner 5v5
3rd LAV Jake Evans Xavier Ouellet Jesperi Kotkaniemi PPG
3rd UTI Reid Boucher Carter Camper Sven Baertschi 5v5
OT LAV Xavier Ouellet Charles Hudon Jake Evans 3v3

 

Takeaways

 

  • The Comets are going to be choked that they didn’t get two points out of this one, they had tremendous battle to get themselves back in this game after being sooooo out of it to start. Coach needs to have a long discussion with this team about taking stupid penalties that accomplish nothing. Like Jasek taking a hooking penalty while his opponent is retreating into the defensive zone. Dumb penalty. Sven Baertschi sticking his leg out after already having dispossessed a player in the defensive zone. Dumb penalty. Discipline and a weak-AF penalty-kill is what cost them every piece of momentum they generated for themselves.
  • Just last game I was writing about how unnoticeable Brogan Rafferty’s game was against the Cleveland Monsters. Here he was tonight putting on a skating and puck-movement clinic against the Laval Rocket. His transition game is just so smooth, but again, those brutal giveaways and unforced errors that keep popping up make me think that a coach like Travis Green could never trust him. For every one of those beautiful end-to-end rushes of his, there are two or three giveaways in the defensive zone.
  • The team got back Reid Boucher in the lineup, but to be honest, he was a complete non-factor through the majority of tonight’s action against the Rocket. The chemistry between Camper, Baertschi, and Boucher just did not seem to be there at all tonight. Boucher still managed a team-high six shots on goal, but there was a noticeable lack of punch from his shot-attempts.
  • While on the subject of the first line being very “meh.” Sven Baertschi has just two points in his last nine games for the Comets. Been very surprised at how little he’s contributed in 2020 thus far. Yes, he missed five games with illness/injury, but for a player of his calibre, it is strange seeing him be a non-factor for this team when it comes to goalscoring.
  • completely. unbiased. stars. selections.
  • Laval Rocket had six players combine for points on their four goals tonight. Utica had 11 players combine for points on three goals. So, safe to say, Utica won the battle of depth scoring!
  • Shout out to Stefan LeBlanc, who picked up an assist and was a +1 on the night despite playing as a forward on the fourth-line. I can’t imagine that D-men are chomping at the bit to play off-role in the AHL. LeBlanc has been serviceable in a position he has no business playing. I’m glad that he’s been able to pick up points. It is outrageous that a pro sports organization does not, or can not afford to carry the number of players necessary to field a competent roster on a nightly basis, but instead resorts to playing it’s depth defensemen off-role as consistently as they have.
  • Solid game from John Stevens, he was a machine in the faceoff dot and created a lot of shot opportunities for his defensemen with his ability to retrieve pucks off of even lost draws. Wicked shot on that 2-2 tying goal as well! I’ve been pleasantly surprised at his contributions to the team thus far

 

Comets Three Stars

  • John Stevens
  • Stefan LeBlanc
  • Jonah Gadjovich

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets ended their four-game road-trip with a pretty dismal 1W-2L-1OTL record. Fortunately, for the Comets, they forgo their usual weekend doubleheader, and instead, they return Saturday for a pivotal division matchup against the Syracuse Crunch.

 

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