2/16/2020 – Utica Comets vs. Rochester Americans

The stakes have never been higher…

Last night, the Rochester Americans defeated the Syracuse Crunch via the shootout to give themselves a one-point advantage over the Comets for the second-place standing in the North Division.

Nipping at the Comets heels are the surging Toronto Marlies, who are on a four-game win streak and sit only four points back in the 4th and final spot for the Calder Playoffs. Not too far past them is the Syracuse Crunch, who are five points back in the fifth-place spot, while riding a point streak of six games.

So yeah, safe to say the Comets need to put some consistent performances together that aren’t wholly dependant on their rookie netminder bailing them out.

Last Friday’s pathetic performance against the Syracuse Crunch is unacceptable for a team that is 24 games away from the conclusion of the regular season. The team should have ironed out the kinks of their game by now. The North Division is ramping up its competitiveness down the stretch; the Comets are dead-last in the division alongside the Laval Rocket for having picked up the least amount of points in their past ten outings.

Given that the Comets are still without some of their key players, I can forgive the sloppy, uncharacteristically chemistry-less hockey. Against a team playing the end of a back-to-back weekend, the Comets need to show well here.

I staunchly refuse to pinpoint any struggling players or guys coming into Sunday’s matinee lineup, because I completely jinxed Ferland in my preamble last game, and that’s a power I am just not yet ready to wield.

Apologies if this preamble is completely incoherent; I was up ’til 4 AM last night catching up on stats-tracking! One period and one game (excluding today’s) left to go, and I’ll be all caught up! Once its all input into my nerd-spreadsheets, I will return to dropping juicy shot-share factoids about this confounding farm team!

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

LW C RW
Baertschi (#47) Camper (#19) Boucher (#24)
Goldobin (#77) Jasek (#9) Lind (#13)
Gadjovich (#21) Stevens (#16) Bancks (#34)
Stevenson (#26) Malone (#17) LeBlanc (#3)
LD RD
Petgrave (#22) Rafferty (#25)
Chatfield (#5) Blujus (#8)
Teves (#4) Eliot (#52)
G
Michael Di Pietro

 

INJURY REPORT
Wacey Hamilton (foot) Vincent Arseneau (done for the season) Ashton Sautner (arm) Francis Perron (undisclosed) Olli Juolevi (ill)
Healthy Scratches
David Pope

 

Juolevi getting scratched is certainly going to lead to calm and collected reactions

That Rafferty/Petgrave pairing is going to get murdered if they’re together the entire night. Petgrave is a giveaway machine, and Rafferty often plays quite far up into the offensive zone. Not to mention, for a big guy, Petgrave’s physicality is non-existent.

After a brief two-game stint with the KWings, Josh Teves returns to the Comets starting lineup. Hopefully, Teves regained a bit of confidence as he managed to pick up one goal and one assist during his popover to Michigan.

Bizarre to me that the Comets aren’t utilizing Stefan LeBlanc as a defender. Petgrave’s listed position is F/D, so play him marginally on the fourth line, why piss away Stefan LeBlanc’s skill with minimal minutes for some ECHL PTO who’s skill is, “he’s big.” As a matter of fact, keep David Pope in the lineup at forward and just keep Petgrave out entirely. This way, you give your team the best competitive advantage possible? Does left-side/right-side really matter to this Comets team that will continuously play Sautner on his offside?

Took Ferland out of the active rotation, as per Rick Dhaliwal, Ferland’s conditioning stint is over, and he’ll be returning to Vancouver for evaluation.

 

1st period

Comets in the White

 

The score at the end of the 1st period: 2-0 Rochester

 

It was a pretty brutal start for the Comets, as they give up two early goals while looking uncoordinated, sloppy, and lazy in their defensive efforts. Comets forward groups, once again, have no answer to a physical team who forces them to the outside — the top six, in particular, seems like they have no answer than to hope their opponent goofs on their coverage. Brogan Rafferty leads all Comets players with shots (and shot-attempts, I’m sure) with Jonah Gadjovich leading all forwards with two shots on goal (and shot-attempts, I’m sure of that as well). Good battle back in the latter half of the period, but they need to start putting more effort into their skating to create space for themselves because the Amerks aren’t giving them an inch so far.

 

2nd Period

 

 

The score at the end of the 2nd period: 3-1 Amerks

 

Certainly a more competitive period from the Comets; they do, however, have a big hole to climb out of over the final twenty minutes of action. Comets did outshoot the Amerks ten to seven in the second, and now lead the game in shots on goal 21 to 17. Lukas Jasek and Sven Baertschi (penalty aside) had strong performances in the second period and were responsible for many of the Comets scoring chances. More of that fellahs!

 

3rd period

 

Final Score: 3-2 Rochester Americans

 

Scoresheet

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st ROC Remi Elie William Borgen Casey Mittelstadt 5v5
1st ROC Eric Cornel Scott Wilson 5v5
2nd ROC Taylor Leier Jean-Sebastien Dea Zach Remond 5v5
2nd UTI John Stevens Sven Baertschi 5v5
3rd UTI Nikolay Goldobin Jalen Chatfield Dylan Blujus 5v5

Takeaways

  • The Comets were physically outmatched by the superior team in Rochester, and their inability to suppress high-quality shots from dangerous areas of the ice spelled their demise.
  • Going to be a Monday of scoreboard watching for the Comets coaching staff as a pivotal matchup between Toronto and Binghamton could see the Marlies within one point of the Comets third-place position. Another key matchup between Syracuse and Belleville could result in the Crunch closing the gap on Utica’s precipitous grasp of a Calder playoff spot.
  • Per the above, Toronto has three games in hand on Utica — Belleville and Rochester have one game in hand. Now is certainly not the time to be slumping or hitting cold streaks.
  • Lukas Jasek looked much more involved in the play during tonight’s action, was skating much harder than I’m used to seeing him, and looked more eager to hound on loose pucks for secondary shot attempts. With his new role at center, he’s often been timid with chasing down loose pucks; tonight was a return of the 2018-19 Jasek who was a beast at winning board battles and moving the puck towards the opponent’s net.
  • Sven Baertschi was a stud tonight; he was the difference-maker during every shift he skated. Played physical when he needed to, was forechecking and backchecking hard on some very long shifts. The interference call was unfortunate, but fortunately, the PK group bailed him out. I still think he’s an NHL’er, and given that Bailey is likely on his way back to the Comets, I wouldn’t mind seeing him get another shot, now that Boeser is likely out for some time. The majority of Canuck Nation and I are over the Schaller experiment.
  • Baertschi, Jasek, and Rafferty tied with four recorded shots on goal tonight. Reid Boucher with a highly uncharacteristic, single shot on net tonight.
  • Goldobin had way fewer giveaways than usual and showed great compete on the goal to put the Comets within one.
  • Kole Lind has just three assists in his last eleven games — Once I’ve input all of my tracking data, we can examine just what the hell has been going on with the Utica Comets through this 2020 stretch of hockey
  • I already said it, but I have to double down on this point. Put Stefan LeBlanc on defence if you have two guys out with injuries. He is a completely safe, reliable option on any pairing who plays with a physical edge on almost every shift. I don’t believe that Brogan Rafferty carries enough experience to be bailing out an ECHL PTO who overextends in the offensive zone as much as Rafferty does. Petgrave has an absolute bomb of a one-timer, so stick him on the right-wing alongside Stevenson and Bancks, and maybe they can get something going. Asset management from this farm club is just so confounding over simple stuff like this. Cull already shortens his bench when he’s facing a deficit or when he’s in the third period. So what do the Comets lose with Petgrave riding the pine as a forward?
  • Sidenote, despite Lukas Jasek’s pretty abysmal shot-differential numbers, I do appreciate that he’s tied for second on the team with Brogan Rafferty in the always fun to discuss stat, plus/minus, with a +17.

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Michael Di Pietro
  • Lukas Jasek
  • Sven Baertschi

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets light February schedule continues, as they get a nice five-day break before another road matchup, this time, against the North Division’s team-to-beat, Belleville Senators.

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