2/28/2020 – Utica Comets vs. Toronto Marlies

In a battle between mediocre North Division teams playing roller-coaster hockey in 2020, the Utica Comets face off with the Toronto Marlies in another inter-divisional matchup.

I say roller-coaster because both teams have had brief moments of domination. Toronto’s 7-6 comeback win against Belleville or Utica’s 6-3 win over Hartford being the primary example of both sides looking top-tier. They’ve also shared similar moments this year where they looked god-awful, primary examples being Toronto’s 8-2 loss to the Syracuse Crunch and Utica’s 4-0 loss to Belleville.

Toronto is rocking an 8-12-1-1 record through 2020 for a 0.41 points-percentage

Utica is rocking a truly mediocre 10-10-0-1 record through 2020 for a 0.500 points-percentage

What does it all mean?

In the AHL? Literally nothing! Teams are up and down the standings, all the time. For AHL squads, it’s about those momentary runs that they go on that help float them to playoffs down the stretch, especially when bodies start disappearing due to call-ups, or due to injuries.

The Comets phenomenal 8-0 run in October has allowed them to struggle in 2020 without the risk of falling too far down the standings.

The Comets also have the benefit of games-in-hand on several of the teams chomping at their third-place playoffs spot.

I’m currently in the midst of tracking Wednesday’s overtime win against the Rochester Americans, but I stopped before the third-period because it was getting too painful to keep up.

On the Comets’ ability to generate shot-attempts at 5-on-5, the Marlies, fortunately, are one of the few teams that the Comets have managed to hold a positive shot-differential over.

On the season, the Comets have outscored the Marlies 13 to 12 and out-attempted them at 5-on-5, 116 to 103.

So with history on their side, let’s hope the Comets can give Mikey a break on the back-end and win another two-points before a brutal March schedule kicks off!

 

THE STARTING LINEUP

LW C RW
Baertschi (#47) Camper (#19) Boucher (#24)
Bailey (#95) Hamilton (#36) Lind (#13)
Goldobin (#77) Stevens (#16) Perron (#27)
Gadjovich (#21) Malone (#17) Stevenson (#26)
LD RD
Juolevi (#48) Rafferty (#25)
Brisebois (#55) Sautner (#6)
Blujus (#8) Chatfield (#5)
G
Michael Di Pietro

 

INJURY REPORT
David Pope (upper-body) Vincent Arseneau (season done) Tyler Graovac (foot) Carter Bancks (undisclosed) Lukas Jasek (undisclosed)
Healthy Scratches
Matt Petgrave Stefan LeBlanc

 

Quite a few bodies back in the lineup after long stints on IR

Francis Perron missed the last five games after taking a puck to the dome in practice.

Jonah Gadjovich returns after two games.

But the big return is Wacey Hamilton returning after missing the last 16 games with a foot/ankle injury.

Not sure I like him with Lind/Bailey as I personally think John Stevens has been a great fit with those two.

Also, I have to amend my Wednesday’s lineup as I had Brise listed with Rafferty — though they did spend some time on the ice together, it was mostly he and Juolevi as a pairing when things weren’t broken up by PP/PK time.

I also thought that LeBlanc’s strong play as a forward ought to have earned him some ice time on the third D-pairing. Blujus/Chatfield were pretty brutal Wednesday against the Amerks, so I don’t think it would be out of the question to see LeBlanc playing in his natural position after several strong games off-role.

1st period

Comets in their home blues

 

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

 

I almost don’t even want to compliment or say anything about the teams play that period. They were good. Like, really good. I praised the defensive chops of the team in the Belleville game, but that pales in comparison to their effort in tonight’s opening twenty minutes. Comets end the period outshooting the Marlies 13-to-6.

 

2nd Period

 

The score at the end of the 2nd period: 5-1 Utica Comets

 

I am going to plead the fifth on this one. That strategy worked at the end of the last period, and since the Comets will spend the first 1:40 of the third on the PK, it’s for the best if I don’t invoke a jinx. But the Comets are playing fantastic hockey right now. Definitely can’t count out the Marlies, however, as they’ve come back from worse deficits before. Have to cross our fingers that the Canucks have a similar display of dominance over their Torontonian opponents tomorrow!

 

3rd period

 

Final Score: 7-3 Utica Comets

 

Scoresheet

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st UTI Wacey Hamilton Kole Lind 5v5
1st UTI Reid Boucher Carter Camper Ashton Sautner 5v5
2nd UTI Reid Boucher Carter Camper Sven Baertschi 5v5
2nd TOR Joseph Duszak Matt Read Kenny Agostino PPG
2nd UTI Dylan Blujus Reid Boucher Justin Bailey 5v5
2nd UTI Sven Baertschi Reid Boucher Olli Juolevi 5v5
3rd UTI Justin Bailey Kole Lind Wacey Hamilton 5v5
3rd TOR Kenny Agostino Mac Hollowell 4v4
3rd TOR Egor Korshkov Kenny Agostino 5v5
3rd UTI Reid Boucher Sven Baertschi EN

 

Takeaways

  • Comets get outshot 2-to-1 in the third period but it doesn’t matter because they entered it leading the Marlies 27-to-15 in shots on goal and leading, 5-1. Great defensive effort from the club overall with very few mistakes, outside of those late rallying goals from the Marlies to cut the lead down to the three.
  • Boucher casually breaking franchise records in back-to-back seasons is certainly a look. I know the Canucks are pretty set at forward, but oh boy, it certainly would be something to see if the Canucks could bring him up at least for a look on the 2nd powerplay unit. Historically, the Canucks have been pretty bad at employing guys who have very catered roles (a la Gagner). Still, Boucher has been one of the teams better penalty killers and is a proven playmaker/goal-scorer. So far every forward on the Comets has gotten a look, I think it’s about time Boucher gets a look, especially now that the Canucks need something new out of their fourth line.
  • Impressive game from the Lind/Bailey/Hamilton trio. Every shift through the first 40 minutes, these three were just hemming the Marlies into their end with a great cycle and pressure. Happily eat my words on that call in the pre-amble that this wouldn’t work. Hamilton has his flaws as a player, but this was a great bounce-back for him with one-goal, one-assist, and four shots in his return. He was a great complimentary piece to Lind/Bailey, who both ended the game with two points each.
  • Another strong game on the fourth line for Seamus Malone. He didn’t end up on the scoresheet, but he looked just as dangerous tonight as he had done in the previous two games with Stefan LeBlanc on his wing.
  • Di Pietro faced a few unlucky bounces and awkward goals tonight, but on some of those shots that should have been sure-goals, he was clutch. That save on Korshkov while the Comets were on the PK was huge for the team.
  • Again, outside of that pretty embarrassing Korshkov goal late in the game, the defensive group was solid AF. Juolevi/Rafferty with another strongk game together as they controlled play in the offensive-zone incredibly well whenever they were on the ice together.
  • Dyson Stevenson was the only player from the Comets not to record a shot or a point. Everyone else at least recorded a shot on goal or a point on a goal. That’s a huge collective effort from the squad to beat a tough division rival! Great momentum builder heading into tomorrows matchup against the Laval Rocket
  • Goldobin was dingle-dangling through most of tonight, and while he had a few high-quality scoring chances with Perron and Stevens, it still feels like he’s playing too cheeky of hockey. I feel like if he kept it a bit simpler, he’d be racking up the points (a la Baertschi), but the guy just loves to style on dudes with the puck. Still a solid game from him despite remaining off the scoresheet, but wish we saw more out of him besides the dangles.

 

Comets Three Stars

  • Reid Boucher
  • Wacey Hamilton
  • Sven Baertschi

 

The Comets Trajectory?

The Comets are back at it again tomorrow, when they take on the visiting Laval Rocket. Comets will be looking to LEAP up the standings as they now find themselves within four points of the second-place Rochester Americans, with one game in hand.

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