COMETS HARVEST 3.1: The Utica Blues v. the Rochester Amerks

Bring It All Back Now

331 days ago, the Comets concluded their 2019-20 campaign with one of their worst performances.

After scoring the game’s opening goal, a powerplay tally from Justin Bailey, the Comets gave up three straight, all in a very “2021 Canucks”-like manner.

First, poor defensive coverage from Mitch Eliot and John Stevens at 5v5 to tie the game.

Second, Luke Witkowski picks off Kole Lind’s pass in the neutral zone during the Comets breakout attempt, wheels around ECHL Call-up, Matt Petgrave, and dances on goal to gain the lead.

And finally, the Comets, pressuring in the offensive zone, lose possession of the puck, and the Crunch capitalize by breaking out and rushing into the Comets end. A pitiful display of coverage around the net leaves a wide-open Boris Katchouk to seal the deal.

The Comets season ended on a sour note.

But they did get a smidgeon of redemption when they played the Crunch in an exhibition game earlier this week.

On display was the familiar goal-scoring prowess that Comets fans are used to. Only this time, it wasn’t Reid Boucher leading the way; it was non-other than the guy that nobody was taking:

Kole Lind.

With two goals and two assists in a single exhibition game. One has to wonder if Lind took it personally that he didn’t crack the Canucks taxi-squad and is going to make them rue the day that the team that took Kole Lind didn’t take Kole Lind!

 

Don’t Stop, Never Give Up

Kole Lind’s growth over the last two seasons has been insane. A testament to why you can’t give up on a player too early.

Lind parlayed a brutal rookie campaign into a standout sophomore comeback of the year season, to an impressive return-to-play camp that had people pegging him as a Black Ace, and to another decent pre-season, which resulted in some fans pre-emptively pulling hairs trying to protect him from Seattle!

Yes, Lind has a lot on his plate this season — not only is he playing to establish himself as a forward that the Canucks need in their 2021-22 starting roster, but he’ll be trying to do so while adjusting to his new position as a top-six center.

But! Lind won’t be given a plastic knife and fork for said plate! Looks like he’ll be sharing the majority of his 5v5 minutes with two quad-A talents in Sam Anas and Sven Baertschi. Baertschi, as we know is wonderful, and deserved better. On his other side is Anas (Anne-iss), who was the AHL’s leading scorer last season with the Iowa Wild. Anas net twenty goals and FIFTY assists. So yeah, good company for Lind to ply his trade!

On top of good company, Lind will be maximizing his TOI with PP1 and light PK duty! AKA all of the opportunity available to prove his value and utility to the Canucks organization (or any other organization) moving forward.

For what it’s worth, in his brief looks at center last season, I thought Lind’s skill set as a tenacious puck-distributor and agitator was not out of place. In fact, I wondered why Lind hadn’t been moved to center full-time earlier!

Lind has found a way to impress and improve on a year to year basis. He doubled his 5v5 assist rate while managing the third-best shot-control rate on a team that was horrific at controlling shot-attempts.

It should be a fun season to watch him grow and adapt to his new role.

If his play in the exhibition game against Syracuse translates into tonight’s game against the Rochester Americans, then we could be looking at a player who, like Zack MacEwen before him, forces the Canucks’ hands and leaves them no choice but to make space for him, two-week quarantine period be damned.

Hold your head high and reach the top

The Comets schedule this season will be absolutely wild to watch unfold.

Hell, we already had a scrap in an exhibition game between the Comets and Crunch!

The Comets start their season tonight in a first of FOURTEEN games series (first to eight, wins? I guess?) against the Rochester Americans, the Amerks, as the kids say down in the ‘Ca (That’s Cody slang for Utica)

Without a Calder Cup pencilled in, there isn’t much to play for other than ice-time and development. Which is great for this young amalgamated St. Louis/Vancouver farm team. Not so much for the vets who might be in it for the glory of a championship!

Execs haven’t quite ruled out a Calder Cup or divisional cup occurring after this abbreviated season, however, so something to look forward to, at least!

 

Let the world see what you have got

Tonight’s starting lineup brought to you by [insert sponsor here // money me now]:

Looks like an even distribution between St. Louis players and Vancouver players!

Forwards

Defence

Goalies
Healthy Scratches:

John Stevens, Nolan Stevens (brothers btw), Tanner Kaspick, Robby Jackson, Jake Kielly, Josh Wesley

 

  • That first line is about as stacked as it gets for this incredibly miniaturized AHL North Division. Expecting fireworks from them tonight!
  • Jasek between two experienced vets will be promising as well.
  • That third line from the Comets is about as “development as it gets.” Gadjovich has the most AHL experience with 81 games played. Joshua split time with the ECHL and AHL last season after four years in the NCAA. Focht, as we know, is making his pro-debut after signing with the Canucks on January 6th.
  • The Amerks’ starting roster tonight features ten forwards and seven defencemen. Have to think that is COVID-related. But fingers crossed it isn’t because I can’t handle another hockey shutdown.

Don’t care for the details? Click here for spoilers!!

Bring It All Back to You:

1st period:

PK1 – Santini, Focht, Joshua, Tucker

  • Considering how long I’ve been begging Cull to play the kids on the PK… I’m SHOCKED to see Focht on PK1

PK2 – McKenzie, Teves, Woo, Jasek

  • see previous point
  • Smooth PK for the Comets, heavily limit the Amerks chances with timely blocks and clears
  • [GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 Comets] Kole Lind MIGHT have taken the AHL placement personally. Baertschi (#47) hands off to Sam Anas (#7), who cruises through the neutral-zone before passing back to Bae. Bae goes to his left for Lind (#13), who absolutely rifles a shot over Tokarski’s glove side.

PK1 – Santini, Tucker, Jasek, McKenzie

PK2 – Lockwood, Woo, Teves, Joshua

PK3 – McKenzie, McGing, Tucker, Santini

  • Saw this a lot last season, with all of the Comets planting their feet and letting their opponent cycle the puck along the end-boards without resistance. Good hit from Tucker (#2) but no follow-up battle to try and clear the puck from anyone on this shift.
  • [GOAL – ROCHESTER- 1-1 Tie] Turns out, standing still and letting your opponent move the puck at will is a bad thing! Who’d have thought!? Amerks’ work the puck back to Matthias Samuelsson, who blasts a one-timer off of Gillies, who makes the initial stop. The uncontrolled rebound gets picked up by Dominic Franco, who throws one between Gillies legs. A completely unchallenged Patrick McGrath gets the easy tap-in to seal it.

  • Amerks rattle off a few more shots to close out the final few seconds
  • Good start for the Comets — but they looked gassed in the second-half a bit
  • Out-shot 12 to 3 after the first twenty minutes… yikes

2nd period:

  • Dang, an early penalty against the Amerks’ lone goalscorer, Patrick McGrath. A good early opportunity for the Comets here to generate some momentum

PP1 – Lind, Anas, Baertschi, Reinke, Walker

  • Ahhhhhhhhhhh — Reinke (#28) hits Anas (#7) with a pass with a bit too much steam on it. The puck goes off Anas’ skate, and the Amerks’ get a shorthanded rush opportunity from it.
  • PP1 re-enters but shortly after sends the puck over the glass

PP2- Gadjovich, Jasek, McGing, Focht, Santini

PP1 – Reinke, Lind, Walker, Baertschi, Anas

  • PP1 puts themselves offside after losing the zone, and Cull quickly rolls out PP2

PP2 – McKenzie, McGing, Santini, Jasek, Focht

3rd period:

PK1 – McKenzie, Jasek, Teves, Reinke

PK2 – Woo, Lockwood, Joshua, Tucker

  • Amerks cycling well, but Comets young PK groups doing well to thwart the Amerks’ chances.
  • Wow, as I finish that thought, the Amerks put one off the inside of the post and out!
  • Amerks pull Tokarski with 1 minute left in regulation.
  • Comets kill down the clock.
  • Comets crush the Amerks in shots: 16-5 over the final twenty.

RESULT:

Comets Win in regulation: 3-2

scoresheet:

 

Don’t you know it’s true what they say

  • Messy first game — lots of turnovers and back-and-forth breakaway action from both teams. But Utica comes away with a win to start a very bizarre season!
  • Kole Lind still hasn’t worked on the whole “keep your head up” thing. Drew a penalty tonight after taking a hit to the shoulder, but man, the kid just puts his head down way too much for my liking.
  • Glad the team woke up after a pretty rough first period where they got absolutely shelled. Wonder if Trent Cull said, “who are you guys trying to play like? The Canucks!? Cause that’s not going to cut it here in the AHL!”
  • Always a fan of Lukas Jasek’s game — he looked infinitely more comfortable out there as a center. Wonder if playing 18 games in the Czech league as a bottom-six center helped his confidence a bit? Great sense on that Gadjovich goal to pounce on the loose puck, then knowing that Gadj would move down into position properly. Good start for him in his 3rd AHL season as he remains one of the Canucks better utility forwards. Skating might hinder him a bit, but he looked like a seasoned vet out there tonight.
  • Carson Focht has speed. Really didn’t know what to expect from him, to be completely honest. If he manages to use his speed to beat defenders outside like he did tonight, then he could be a pretty useful piece to this team.
  • Will Lockwood was pretty quiet tonight — threw a couple hits, played on the PK, showed off his edges, but his offensive game didn’t ever really stick out. He had a great look, at one point, where he used his speed to break down the right side, only to hit the brakes and settle for a weak shot off the blocker. Cull needs to give him the green light to try and solo on these plays when they present themselves.
  • D core was a mess. Fortunately for them, they had Jon Gillies bailing them out of a brutal first period and a dozen or so dangerous chances in the final 2/3rds of the game. Santini was the standout, and that’s obviously from experience.
    • Jett Woo looked okay. Had a few moments where he played the body and completely ignored the puck — which gave the Amerks a few opportunities around the crease
    • Tyler Tucker kept joining the rush and playing forward, but he does not have the wheels to be doing such things that often. Looked slow on his backcheck.
    • Josh Teves has speed and good skating, but man, his passing and IQ with the puck are severely lacking. He was still arguably one of the better Comets D tonight in spite of that.
    • Mitch Eliot went mostly unnoticed save for a few times where he outright could not keep up with his man around the d-zone. Didn’t get to uncork his bomb of a shot at all, which speaks to where he spent most of his night
    • Reinke was a giveaway machine. Kind of like Teves but a bit better with coverage around the net. Played a good chunk of the minutes tonight, including PP1 and PK1 duty
  • Gadjovich skating looked pretty good and was engaged on every shift. Had a couple of moments where he stopped moving his feet on the backcheck and alarm bells went off in my head… but I had to remember that this is their 2nd piece of game action in 330 days, so I can’t fault them for being gassed. Created a lot of chances off the rush, which is really saying something about his skating… or it’s saying something about the quality of AHL defense this season. I’ll say the former because I want to remain positive about his chances at elevating his stock this season.
  • Sam Anas looks good… like really good… He has speed, good passing, shot, vision — he’s a 0.76 points-per-game player in the AHL and hasn’t even whiffed an NHL opportunity. Yes, small sample size Cody, calm down. But I wonder if it’s just his stature that’s preventing teams from giving him a look. I thought he was pretty dynamic!
    • Giant asterisk — Cody is a huge mark for the short kings.
  • Hugh McGing isn’t a Canucks prospect, but I just have to point out that his name is fun to say. He looked a little rough at times, got stood up at the blue line a couple times and lost the puck in his feet a few times.

 

That life, it ain’t easy

 

Can I just say that for an $80USD service, that the AHL really needs to train its AV folks on what “white-balancing” and “levels” are?

I shouldn’t have to wear shades to watch a game because the ice is completely blown out on screen.

I should also not be going deaf every time an awful 80’s Van Halen song gets blasted through the in-arena speakers.

C’mon folks! This is basic stuff here!

 

But your time’s coming around

Cody’s three stars of the night

  1. Kole Lind – 2G – 0A – 4 shots
  2. Sam Anas – 0G – 2A – 2 shots
  3. Jon Gillies – 25 saves on 27 shots against

Honourable Mentions: Dakota Joshua, Jonah Gadjovich

 

So don’t you stop tryin’

The Comets are in for a quick turnaround when they play the Syracuse Crunch in game one of the “Galaxy Bowl.”

The boys in Blue/Green/White, Black/Yellow, and sometimes Purple Urban Camo already have the mental-edge after their crushing 7-5 exhibition victory on February 1st

Can they repeat the ‘W’ and move that “technical” success into factual success!? Find out tomorrow night!

 

[Chorus Reprise]

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Cheers everyone, thanks for coming back after a long and arduous 2020. Happy to have you here, and with the Comets Harvest as we cover the latest and greatest in Canucks AHL development!

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