2/26/2020 – Utica Comets vs. Rochester Americans

This time last year, the Vancouver Canucks made a blockbuster trade, 1-for-1, Erik Gudbranson for Tanner Pearson.

This trade-deadline, the Canucks dealt Zane McIntyre for Louis Domingue, while calling up Jake Kielly from the Kalamazoo Wings.

McIntyre had a great start to the season as a backup, winning 6 of his first ten starts.

Unfortunately, the Comets’ aggressive offensive-game and lack of detail-oriented defensive play coincided with McIntyre’s plateauing gameplay.

Zano-Insano’s save percentage this season,

and goals-against-average both feature bleak trendlines for where the rest of his season was heading

Honestly, full-credit to Jim Benning for getting Domingue for McIntyre straight-up, especially considering the goaltending fiasco last season when Demko was injured. In that ordeal, they spent a pick and blew a contract slot on Marek Mazanec and Michael Leighton. Here they acquired a player with objectively, better stats, playing on worse teams than McIntyre.

Domingue might not see AHL action for quite some time, so for now, Jake Kielly will slide into the backup role down the stretch while the Comets push to retain their Calder playoff spot.

I can’t speak to how the Kalamazoo Wings play hockey, but Kielly’s numbers are quite unimpressive. The Wings themselves are dead-last in the western conference with 48 points in 54 games played. Kielly holds the third-highest goals-against-average in the ECHL and the eleventh lowest save-percentage. So I think it’s safe to say that the Comets will be leaning heavily on Di Pietro heading into a very tough March schedule for the Comets.

The Comets, fortunately, are coming off an impressive 6-3 win against the Belleville Senators. Tonight, they take on the surging Rochester Americans; an opponent the Comets just took on last Wednesday, where the lazy effort of the Comets resulted in a 3-2 loss.

The Amerks and Comets at one point in the season were neck-and-neck, competing for the second and first spot in the division. The Comets weak 2020 performances have seen the Belleville Senators vault into the uncontested first-place position, with the Amerks leapfrogging the Comets into second-place with a five-point lead.

According to the Utica-OD’s Ben Birnell, the Comets had nearly a full roster of formerly IR-players present at Monday’s practice, except for Vinny Arseneau. A plethora of healthy bodies and the momentum of an impressive win over Belleville could be all that it takes to push this Comets team to make a significant run.

The giant asterisk, however, is that this is the same team that currently holds a 48.4% Corsi-For at 5-on-5 while being outshot in 33 of their 54 games.

Di Pietro is still young and learning, and depending on how the Comets play over this upcoming stretch, that workload could become overwhelming. The team has to play like they did against Belleville, a game in which they did get outshot, but, a game where they collectively did much better at limiting the number of high-danger shot-attempts and scoring chances faced by their goalie.

Fingers crossed the team can ride that wave of momentum and make it two in a row tonight here in Rochester!

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

LW C RW
Baertschi (#47) Camper (#19) Boucher (#24)
Lind (#13) Stevens (#16) Bailey (#95)
Goldobin (#77) Jasek (#9) Bancks (#34)
LeBlanc (#3) Malone (#17) Stevenson (#26)
LD RD
Brisebois (#55) Rafferty (#25)
Juolevi (#48) Sautner (#6)
Blujus (#8) Chatfield (#5)
G
Michael Di Pietro

 

INJURY REPORT
David Pope (undisclosed) Vincent Arseneau (season done) Jonah Gadjovich (ill) Francis Perron (head) Wacey Hamilton (foot) Tyler Graovac (foot)
Healthy Scratches
Josh Teves Matt Petgrave Mitch Eliot

 

Quite a few bodies technically listed as healthy-scratches, but team says (according to Ben Birnell of the Utica Observer-Dispatch) they want to get the guys returning from lengthy layoffs some ample practice time before getting into games.

 

1st period

Comets in White

 

The score at the end of the 1st period: 1-1 Tie

 

Rochester was picking the Comets apart with their puck control and speed through the majority of that period. Despite their early lead and early aggression on the puck, the relentless pressure of the Amerks offence seemed to cause them to wilt a bit under pressure. The powerplay try off the Chatfield minor-penalty gave the Amerks serious momentum through the back-half of the period. The Comets can’t ever be in a place where they are getting out-shot 14-to-2.

 

2nd Period

 

 

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

 

Comets are barely hanging onto a lead here after 40 minutes of play. The Comets did better at generating scoring chances and legitimate shots on goal, but they’re also allowing a disgusting amount of high-danger shot attempts from high-percentage scoring areas.

Look at the shot-map and how many shots Di Pietro has had to turn away from inside the slot.

Lind left the ice under his own strength but had a bloodied up mouth, not sure if he returns to the game. Hopefully, he does, though, as the Comets could use someone with his tenacity on the puck in the final frame.

 

3rd period

 

 

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

 

Frustrating way to close this one out, but the Comets will get another five minutes to win this one against a tough opponent.

 

Overtime

 

The score at the end of Overtime: 2-2 Tie

 

Couldn’t get it done with the extra five, so it’ll come down to everybody’s favourite skills competition!

 

Shootout

 

Final Score: 3-2 Utica Comets Shootout Win

 

Scoresheet

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st UTI Brogan Rafferty Nikolay Goldobin Reid Boucher PPG
1st ROC Casey Mittelstadt C.J. Smith Andrew Hammond 5v5
2nd UTI Sven Baertschi Dylan Blujus 5v5
3rd ROC Scott Wilson C.J. Smith Andrew Oglevie 6v5

 

Shootout

Team Player Result
ROC Taylor Leier save
UTI Brogan Rafferty miss
ROC Andrew Oglevie miss
UTI Justin Bailey miss
ROC Casey Mittelstadt miss
UTI Reid Boucher Miss
ROC Sean Malone save
UTI Kole Lind save
ROC Lawrence Pilut save
UTI Sven Baertschi GOAL

 

Takeaways

 

  • It wasn’t easy, but the Comets came away with two big points against a tough division rival, even if it should’ve ended at the 20-minute marker of the third period.
  • Mikey with 34 saves on 36 shots-on-goal, a tremendous showing from him in the back-half of the third period and in the shootout to secure the win for his team.
  • I don’t remember if I’ve said it, but the Jasek, Bancks, and Goldobin combination is just awful. The three just have zero chemistry. Jasek and Goldobin might have something, but as a trio, they just have no sense of identity or purpose. Are they a scoring line? Are they a matchup line? A checking line? The trio just kind of skate around while relentlessly fanning on drop passes ad nauseam, or until they get hemmed into the defensive zone before Di Pietro gets scored on, or makes a save to allow them to change.
  • The Blujus/Chatfield pairing was atrocious through the majority of action Wednesday night. Between the high number of failed break-out passes onto the tape of Amerk players, the failed coverage in the slot and down-low, and the general unreliability at 5-on-5 to transition the puck; they were the teams worst pairing nearly every shift. On most nights, Blujus and Chatfield are a reliable penalty-killing duo and are the Comets’ more reliable physical defensive pairing. Tonight, however, both were poor in their areas of strength, and even worse in their areas of weakness. Usually, this kind of game would lead to players like Teves/Eliot/LeBlanc earning ice-time. However, it’s quite clear that Cull has no use for Teves, nor the trust (yet) in Eliot to play over either of #5 or #8.
  • CTRL C+V my musings on Stefan LeBlanc and Seamus Malone from last week’s game
  • Despite remaining off the scoresheet, it was a strong return game for Olli Juolevi tonight. I might be replaying that backcheck streamable in my head over and over, but he was making solid defensive plays on top of his usual crisp cross-ice passes all night.
  • Rafferty and Brisebois, too, had solid games overall! Rafferty hopefully regains some confidence in his offence with tonight’s opening goal
  • Comets did okay holding their lead in the third, but their defensive “strategy” still escapes me. Simply way too much standing around while allowing opponents to cycle and fire shots off at will.
  • Considering their coach is a former AHL defenceman, I just figured, by now, there’d be better defensive structure from the team that doesn’t solely depend on the goaltender bailing them out. The team’s up-tempo aggressive, offensive instincts usually means a lot of offensive rushes and scoring chances, but also a lot of giveaways and not a lot of time spent actually holding onto the puck. Too often, the Comets throw the puck up ice with a pass, regardless of how likely it is that the pass will be successful. Whoever it is on the coaching staff has to figure out by now that it’s okay for the team to slow things down.

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Michael Di Pietro
  • Sven Baertschi
  • Olli Juolevi

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets turnaround is much better this week, as they return this weekend to the Adirondack Bank Center for a homestand double-header that starts with the Toronto Marlies on Friday, followed by Jesperi Kotkaniemi and the Laval Rocket on Saturday.

Also, leap year this year, so Saturday is February 29th! How neat is that?!

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