2/21/2020 – Utica Comets vs. Belleville Senators

The Comets are back in action tonight as they hit the road to take on the Division-leading Belleville Senators.

The Senators have been running train on the division as of late, having gone 8-1-1-0 in their last ten matchups exclusively against North Division teams. This run of dominance has given the Sens an eight-point lead over the second-place Rochester Americans.

I think I said it last time, but the Comets are slowly but surely losing their grip on a Calder Playoff berth. The team has spent their February playing against opponents who are struggling at the bottom of the North Division.

Certainly, the Comets recent run has been a bad look for head coach Trent Cull, who has legit NHL-level talent at his disposal. The Comets have failed time and time again to come up with a counter to the fast and physical gameplay that opponents have thrown against them.

Through this rough patch, one of the major bright spots has been the goaltending performance of Michael Di Pietro, as his last five starts have seen him face down an average of 34 shots per night. The standard save-percentage and goals-against-average goalie stats * aren’t* that flattering. However, when you watch the Comets play, you get a sense that the majority of the shots that Di Pietro is facing on a nightly basis are high-danger shots from high-percentage scoring areas. I read a quote that Cull had praised the defensive efforts of his team lately, and I almost fell out of my chair. Without Di Pietro playing out of his mind, this team is likely a bottom feeder.

 

Relating to the play of Michael Di Pietro, Trent Cull had this to say in an interview with Cory Hergott from Canucks Army.

I think that ever since Christmas… that he’s kinda been settling in through January and now we don’t have a lot of games here in February, but he’s been playing really well… and you know what, the team has been playing well in front of him as well.

 

I know a coach is never going to say his team has been playing like doody, but, oh boy, the stats don’t lie. This team has been something bad in 2020.

Comets: 2020 Unblocked shot-attempt differential at 5-on-5

Two of the Comets wins this year came from games in which the Comets were out-attempted by 20+! A testament to the impeccable play of Di Pietro.

 

The big worry here is, are the Comets a sleeping giant in a momentary lull, or has the division figured out the Comets and they’re now the lone paper tiger in a division full of predators?

Tonight would be a great game to prove doubters wrong and re-instill a sense of faith in the Fanclub. The Ottawa Senators called up Josh Norris, leaving the Belleville Senators without their #1 center.

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

LW C RW
Baertschi (#47) Camper (#19) Boucher (#24)
Bailey (#95) Stevens (#16) Lind (#13)
Goldobin (#77 Jasek (#9) Bancks (#34)
Stevenson (#26) Malone (#17) LeBlanc (#3)
LD RD
Rafferty (#25) Brisebois (#55)
Blujus (#8) Chatfield (#5)
Petgrave (#22) 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) Jonah Gadjovich (undisclosed) David Pope (undisclosed)

 

Healthy Scratches
Josh Teves Matt McLeod

 

Juolevi was listed as an illness scratch last game, and now an upper-body-injury this game. Totally normal.

Due to the outrageous number of injuries, the Comets signed Brampton Beast forward, Matt McLeod, to a PTO.

Teves getting scratched for Petgrave is genuinely hysterical. Teves hasn’t been perfect, but denying him ice-time isn’t going to make him better.

 

1st period

 

Comets in White

 

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

 

Despite the shot totals being even at 13 apiece, I have to say Utica looked like the stronger team. The fourth-line especially was putting in tonnes of work for the Comets! The Goldobin/Jasek/Bancks line doesn’t look great, as they’ve been on the ice for several brutal giveaways that directly resulted in shots on goal for Belleville. In Jasek’s case, the one brutal giveaway led to the game-tying goal. Regardless, Comets start the second period with four minutes remaining on the powerplay due to the elbowing major from Formenton. It’s not the best way to generate momentum, I’m sure, but a big moment to start for the Comets in the second.

 

2nd Period

 

 

The score at the end of the 2nd period: 4-3 Comets

 

The Comets had a slow down in the middle chunk of the second period but began to regain their footing later on. I’m just saying that a few players on the Comets appear to be putting on a lot of flash in their end-to-end rushes. Maybe, its an effort to get noticed before the trade deadline? Or they’re trying their hardest to convince GMJB that Wayne Simmonds isn’t the answer to this teams concerns heading towards a playoff berth. Comets need to do their best staying out of the penalty box and prevent the Sens from generating any momentum. Not sure a one-goal lead will be enough to put this one away against the divisions best team.

 

3rd period

 

Final Score: 6-3 Utica Comets

 

Scoresheet

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st UTI Seamus Malone Stefan LeBlanc 5v5
1st BEL Joe LaBate Michael Carcone Jonathan Aspirot 5v5
1st UTI Carter Camper Reid Boucher Sven Baertschi 5v5
2nd UTI Justin Bailey Sven Baertschi Nikolay Goldobin PPG
2nd BEL Rudolfs Balcers Filip Chlapik Hubert Labrie SHG
2nd UTI Justin Bailey Lukas Jasek 5v5
2nd BEL Darren Archibald Erik Brannstrom 5v5
3rd UTI Kole Lind John Stevens Justin Bailey 5v5
3rd UTI Sven Baertschi Nikolay Goldobin Brogan Rafferty PPG

 

Takeaways

 

  • Well, I said the Comets needed to make a statement if they wanted to re-instill some faith in the fanbase. Tonight was a great example of what this club can accomplish if they are competing hard for the puck on every shift. Everyone and their mums were competing for loose pucks! Rarely tonight did the Comets get scored on out of a lack of compete or effort, but rather bad giveaways or poor line changes. Overall, tonight was a very impressive defensive effort through and through; one of their best against arguably the best team in the AHL’s eastern conference
  • Great games from Stefan LeBlanc and Seamus Malone tonight who were forechecking aggressively and creating scoring chances on every shift! I think I praised LeBlanc before on his effort playing off-role, and I have to re-iterate that statement again. He records another assist tonight, and it was well deserved. Surely the season has not been easy for him, but he’s been a stud no matter which position he’s played for the team.
  • Happy to see Kole Lind notch a goal and break his slump. I was starting to get genuinely worried that my piece for Pass-it-to-Bulis jinxed him for good. Lind’s goal tonight was his first since January 18th. Ironically, that was also the last time the Comets had a six-goal effort! While he didn’t have many of the subtle plays that end up on the highlight streamables, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t without effort. He was doing everything he could to get pucks into the offensive zone. Belleville was, however, playing quite physical whenever Lind was on the ice, negating a lot of what he was trying to accomplish.
  • John Stevens with another strong game; been pleasantly surprised with his contributions to this team as a penalty-killer and a puck distributor at 5-on-5. Despite the Comets rather brutal 2020, Stevens has posted one of the better shot-share numbers, as the team (through February) controlled 5-on-5 shot-attempts 3.1% more with him on the ice rather than off.
  • Eleven players combined for points tonight against the best team in the conference! Not bad for a team that had just one regulation win in February.
  • Sven Baertschi was fantastic, any GM who follows the Comets Harvest (and there are multitudes of high-ranking executives who follow) I would definitely give up your 3rd-ranked prospect and a first for him at 50% retained. He’s an absolute stud. Just rewatch that streamable of him checking on his fellow #47! I mean come on! Who doesn’t want a guy like that on their roster? *looks towards GMJB*
  • Justin Bailey with an ok return to the Comets with his two-goal, one assist performance.
  • Nice to see Brogan Rafferty alongside Guillaume Brisebois again, think those two complement each other quite nicely.

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Sven Baertschi
  • Justin Bailey
  • Stefan LeBlanc

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets get another break in the action when they return from another five-day break on Wednesday, February 26th, for another critical tilt against the Rochester Americans. Unfortunately, the Comets can’t ride the potential wave of momentum off this huge win in Belleville, but thems the breaks!

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