Comets Harvest: The Utica Space Rocks vs. the Binghamton Satans

No song-lyric paragraph headers tonight, but Cody’s weekend vibes brought to you by Harbour.

Pre-Amble Stuff:

Don’t fret Canucks nation! Despite the Canucks six-game losing streak, there are, believe it or not, some things to be positive about!

    1. It’s freezing fucking cold.
    2. The local Timmy’s is fucking discontinuing long-john donuts.
    3. TSN1040 got ethered out of fucking nowhere by Bell Media (contact your local MP to get them inquiring about Bells abuse of the CEWS)
    4. Tyler Madden was called up to the fucking Kings taxi-squad.
    5. Troy Stecher is 19th among all NHL defencemen for Game-score value-added while on a pairing with Marc fucking Staal.

Wait… hang on… that didn’t come out right.

Let’s try this again! …there are, believe it or not, some things to be optimistic about!

  1. Quinn Hughes is 6th among all active skaters in points this season (17)
  2. Brock Boeser is 2nd among all active skaters in goals this season (10)
  3. Nils Höglander is 5th among all rookies in points (7)
  4. Comets Harvest favourite, Lukas Jasek, is leading the Comets in several metrics that he was awful in last season.
  5. Despite the scoreline of last Saturday’s game against the Syracuse Crunch, the youth of the Utica Comets are thriving when it comes to controlling shot-attempts

Times are brutal right now, and we must look to the little things to carry us through the day.

Speaking of the little things and that last note! I’ve tracked all of the little things from the Comets’ first two games and have some very early fun numbers to show off!

Top Line Struggles in Toughs:

The top-line of Baertschi, Lind, and Anas have struggled with controlling shot-attempts at 5v5.

This trio is spending most of their 5v5 TOI together. The Comets have a considerable lead in total shot-attempts with these three on the ice at 5v5, but, like the top-line of last season’s Utica Comets, they’ve struggled to keep attempts-against to a minimum.

Individually, their player cards are still pretty solid.

Baertschi, to the surprise of no one, leads the Comets in primary shot-assists at 5v5 but individually hasn’t generated much on net.

Lind currently leads the Comets in shot-attempts at 5v5 and is tied with Lukas Jasek and Sam Anas in goals-for percentage — contributing for two of the Comets’ four total goals scored this season.

Anas is still following his ‘AHL leading scorer’ pace from last season — Which is great! Hoping these three can start clicking a bit better at 5v5 and start capitalizing on their chances!

I do have to note that we shouldn’t glean too much from a two-game sample size, as their opponent, in that second game of a back-to-back, was coming in completely fresh and well-rested. So that top-line was facing top competition on tired legs.

Shot-Control Improvements:

All things considered, the Comets ended up churning out a reasonable effort while on tired hooves! Controlling shot-attempts at 5v5 in a loss is a good sign of progress!

Last season, the Comets controlled shot-attempts at 5v5 just 24 times out of 61 games. Yeah…it wasn’t pretty.

But when they lost, usually it was because they got out-attempted, badly. In fact, their first loss of last season, after going undefeated; that loss came after out-attempting their opponent! However, over their next 52 games, they lost an additional 26 times, and only out-attempted opponents in that spread EIGHT other times.

TLDR; The Comets of old were really bad at controlling shot-attempts.

While still just a two-game sample size…it’s a step in the right direction for a club that hasn’t played clean, defensively, for several seasons.

 

Tonight’s Things to Do:

Goaltending was a bit of an issue in Saturday’s game, which again is a shame because the Comets were genuinely dominating in shot-attempts and the puck-possession game. Jon Gillies is expected to be out with injury. Thus, Jake Kielly will be tasked with drastically improving on his Saturday performance as the de facto starter.

Evan Fitzpatrick, St. Louis’ other goalie they sent to the Comets, is a 2016 second-round draft pick who has put up less-than-impressive numbers in the ECHL over the past two seasons.

If Kielly can’t find his game, the Comets could be looking at another season similar to their 2018-19 campaign. A season that was largely forgettable due to how brutalized they were by injuries and how handicapped they were by goaltending. Ivan Kulbakov posted the most games played during that season, and the near-retired, 37-year-old Michael Leighton had the next best save percentage among goaltenders… fuck….it was BAD. 

After a week off, the Comets should be coming into this matchup against the Devils much better prepared structurally and physically.

The Binghamton Devils are playing their third game in six days; both games were comeback overtime wins by Binghamton.

The two teams stack closely on special-teams. Both have allowed one shorty while on the powerplay, but the Comets are marginally more successful on the man-advantage. Penalty-kill is a tie, but Comets have the lone shorthanded goal-for between the two teams.

The teams are pretty closely matched in that regard, so the Comets will have to capitalize on a potentially tired roster and hope they can make better use of their powerplay opportunities.

“Do stuff!”:

In honour of Jeff Patterson, his classic “do something” bit on the dear and departed TEAM1040 afternoon-drive program with Matt Sekeres and Blake Price; Figured I’d adopt something that should be applied to the kids on the farm!

  • Jonah Gadjovich could afford to stand out and do something to stick out. He has one of the Comets’ only four goals, but he needs to be a bit more active in making something happen. I don’t think taking the passenger-seat to Carson Focht every shift is necessarily a good look for him at this stage of his career.

 

Roster Things:

  • Cull going with two brand new d-pairings while re-jigging his fourth line. Fair enough, as the Arseneau, Kaspick, Stevens combo got brutalized by Syracuse. Posting a negative shot-control rate while generating just 3 shot-attempts as a line.
  • Stevens to the second line with McKenzie and Jasek could be interesting. Stevens was one of the better parts of that fourth-line in game two. He displayed a decent work rate, so it could be a proper fit.
  • Josh Teves continues to not earn the trust of his head coach. Honestly, I think he and Reinke are just an awful pairing. I don’t necessarily think their struggles are all on Teves, nor are they all on Reinke… just a bad pairing between two dudes prone to playing aggressively in the offensive zone while also being prone to throwing the puck away
  • John Stevens slides into tonight’s lineup; he won’t be playing on a line with his brother, Nolan, but still pretty neat! He was a pretty solid pick up by the Comets last season.
    • Comets got him in exchange for an injured ECHL forward, who ended up not playing another game that season.
  • Ben Birnell of the Utica Observer-Dispatch reported that both Nathan Walker and Jon Gillies were dealing with lingering injuries.
  • Gillies, on the other hand, as previously stated, could be a death-knell to a team, which historically plays a system that demands a reliable goaltender.

Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

 

Don’t feel like reading? Click here for spoilers!!

Game Stuff:

1st period

  • Comets playing in Newark, NJ, in an arena that is literally right beside the New Jersey Devils home barn, Prudential Center
  • Rush-chance for Binghamton right off the hop — Steve Santini (#8) caught deep in the neutral-zone, and Tyler Tucker (#2) and Dakota Joshua (#16) get tangled along the left-wing, leaving Fabian Zetterlund wide open on the Comets right side
  • The camera feels way too close to the ice… it will be tough tracking this one
  • Gadjovich eats a hit in the neutral-zone, allegedly, I wouldn’t know because the camera-angle obscured the view
  • John Stevens, Hugh McGing, and Dakota Joshua with a solid forecheck in the offensive zone for the Comets
  • Josh Wesley (#24) lays a hit
  • Curtis McKenzie registers the Comets second shot, 4.5 minutes in, then on the ensuing faceoff, Binghamton takes a slashing penalty! Comets to the Peeper

PP1: Reinke, Baertschi, Lind, Anas, Stevens

  • [GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 Comets] Kole Lind (#13) capitalizes early with a rocket of a one-timer past Aaron Dell. Quick work and a beautiful no-look pass from Sam Anas (#7)

PK1: Joshua, Santini, J. Stevens, Tucker

PK2: Woo, Lockwood, Reinke, McKenzie

  • Sam Anas (#7) draws a slashing call working down the right side, and the Comets are back onto the powerplay
  • [GOAL – UTICA – 3-1 Comets] Is Kole Lind (#13) Reid Boucher now? Sven Baertschi (#47) enters the zone then plays give-and-go with Nolan Stevens (#17). Baertschi (#47) with an absolutely nasty cross-ice feed to Lind for the one-timer.

2nd period

  • More forechecking pressure from the Comets early but quickly, the Binghamton Devils start forcing the Comets into their zone
  • [GOAL – BINGHAMTON – 3-2 Comets] Wellp, the Comets lead gets cut down to one goal. Not really sure what Steven Santini (#8) was thinking, leaving the middle of the ice open for Mikhail Maltsev. Gadjovich’s (#21) backcheck leaves A LOT to be desired too. Second time in as many games that Kielly has let a puck squeak through him, but you need much better coverage than that.
  • Devils trying to take over with pressure in the Comets zone
  • [GOAL – BINGHAMTON – 3-3 Tie] Yikes. For the third time in three games, the Binghamton Devils have rallied to come back from a deficit. Will they again win in overtime? I don’t know, but the Comets have just given up a two-goal lead in a five-minute span… Kielly with a clear line-of-sight on this shot from Michael Vukojevic. Yikes…
  • Comets looking a little fresher as they approach the ten-minute mark of the second
  • Comets getting pinned into their zone again — Danick Martel skates into Sven Baertschi while carrying the puck, and the Comets are off to their second penalty kill

PK1: Wesley, Woo, Stevens, Joshua

  • [GOAL – UTICA – 4-3 Comets] In his first game in the lineup, John Stevens (#16) scores shorthanded for the Comets to regain the lead. Stevens and Dakota Joshua (#11) race in on a two-on-one, where Joshuas shot rolls off Aaron Dell’s pads and sits in the crease. Stevens capitalizes, and this game keeps getting crazier

PP1: Lind, Reinke, Baertschi, Stevens, Anas

  • PP1 loses the draw and then have trouble regaining the zone to set up
  • OOOH, spicy! Travis St. Denis takes a tripping minor along the blue line — Comets off to a minute-long 5v3… PP1 had just changed off, but they come back out on the two-man advantage
  • Can’t make anything happen on the 5-on-3. Thomas leaves the box, and it’s back to a regular 5v4
  • Wellp, nevermind, Baertschi takes his second minor penalty of the game in a battle along the boards. Brief 4v4 followed by a penalty-kill
  • [GOAL – BINGHAMTON – 4-4 Tie] Uh, ok. Nikita Okhotiuk blows past Curtis McKenzie (#81) at the blue line, then turns on the afterburners towards Kielly. Kielly hugs the post but makes himself a bit too small. Okhotiuk lasers the puck past Kielly, and we are back to a tie game. Following this, the Comets are onto a penalty-kill… huge potential momentum shift in the works.
  • Baertschi tries to send in Will Lockwood with a pass and arguably should’ve drawn a penalty, but the refs are particular about their calls suddenly.
  • Canucks youth battling along the d-zone endboards to close out the period. 
  • Messy period, but a fun one nonetheless
  • Devils outshoot the Comets 11-8 through the middle frame

3rd period

PP1: Lind, Reinke, Baertschi, Stevens, Anas

PP2: Santini, Focht, Woo, Jasek, Gadjovich

  • lmao, Martel penalty ends, and Woo takes an interference penalty while finishing a check in the defensive zone
  • Comets to the PK with five minutes remaining

PK1: Tucker, Santini, Joshua, J. Stevens

PK2: Jasek, Wesley, Eliot, McKenzie

PK1: John Stevens, Santini, Tucker

Overtime

1st trio: Anas, Lind, Reinke

  • Lind loses the draw — Maltsev looking fast with the open space

2nd trio: Baertschi, Jasek, Santini

3rd trio: Woo, Focht, McKenzie

Shootout

RESULT:

COMETS WIN IN THE SHOOTOUT 6-5

SCORESHEET:

 

Game Thoughts and Things:

  • What a fun game if you’re a hockey fan. Coaches will certainly hate the lack of discipline, the momentum shifts, giving up the lead four times in 60 minutes, the missed assignments… but hey, a wins a win!
  • Solid opening frame! A fantastic forechecking effort from all four lines that drew two penalties and created three goals.
  • The second period was messy as all hell! Two penalties, three goals against. Were it not for that shorthanded goal from John Stevens, this game really could have gone off the rails.
  • That third period though, holy moly, a lot of tape to go over with the squad after that one. Five completely unnecessary penalties were given up to a team that was clearly generating tons of momentum.
  • As I said earlier, this game will be a goaltending battle and likely the season at large. At least two of the Devils’ goals tonight were very saveable. Comets definitely need someone like Gillies to be healthy. Not that it matters, what with there being no Calder Cup and all! Kielly came up huge for the team in overtime and the shootout, but his second period left a lot to be desired.
  • Jonah Gadjovich did not “do something.” Skating looked atrocious on that one backcheck. Didn’t see him too much in the latter parts of the game. Players like Focht, Lockwood, and Joshua providing much more utility and value to Cull.
  • Lockwood was floating a bit in his first two games, and while he was floating a bit in the first period, he really seemed to have it click in the second and third periods. Really was a momentum changer having him on the ice at 5v5. Love his tenacity on the puck and his skating. Backcheck on a few plays gave me Zack MacEwen vibes. Hands and offence still leave a lot to be desired, but he does many of the little things right, which we love to see.
  • Carson Focht, another solid effort tonight and gets rewarded with his first pro goal. Ended the game tied with Kole Lind for shots on goal. Liking what I see so far from him.
  • That first line had a much better performance tonight. Chemistry really coming along nicely on those first two goals from their line.
  • Curtis McKenzie had a pretty rough night. He was not nearly as active on pucks as he had been in the two games prior. Coughed up a lot of giveaways, which wasn’t helping his line in the slightest. Had serious trouble on that Okhotiuk goal that tied things up for Binghamton to close the second period.
  • Shoutouts to the Stevens brothers, who had themselves really great games. Active on the forecheck early and scored two important goals to break the tie.
  • Jett Woo, outside of his interference penalty, had a fantastic game. Lowkey very impressed by his puck distribution game. Never appeared to shy away from board battles, scrums, or hits. He was a huge difference-maker for them tonight. Hope to see more consistent performances like this, and maybe he starts putting up some points!
  • Kole Lind’s shot looks very good. So far, he’s been kind of a one-period goalscorer. Would like to see him prove he can produce outside of when he’s at his most fresh.
  • Steve Santini had a couple good hits but otherwise missed a couple assignments and took an incredibly stupid penalty to cripple the Comets late in the third.
  • Not a Canucks property, but Tucker looked excellent tonight at both ends of the ice.
  • Tough night for Comets Harvest favourite Lukas Jasek. He had a couple good looks on goal but kept missing the net. Was giving away the puck a bit more than usual
  • Liking this combo of Blues and Canucks prospects. They’ve meshed quite well together and have a pretty good distribution of goals and assists from both teams’ players. It’ll be kind of fun if these guys graduate to the NHL and end up playing each other someday.

 

Three Stars and Stuff:

  1. Kole Lind
  2. The Stevens’ brothers
  3.  Carson Focht

HM: Jett Woo and Sam Anas

 

Next Things on the Docket:

The Comets are back in action this Wednesday/Thursday when they finally play a home game against the Syracuse Crunch, followed by another road game against Rochester.

As of this moment, the Crunch are down 1-zip to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

The Rochester Americans will be a tough game Thursday. Once again, the Comets will be finishing a back-to-back against an opponent playing after weeks of rest. Rochester last played Cleveland on Friday in a 7-3 victory.

Plugs and Stuff:

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for your daily dose of memes, sarcasm, stats, and both Comets and Canucks gameday clips!

You can also catch me on Podcast format with Lachlan Irvine of Lachinthecrease.com! Give the Creasecast a follow on your go-to podcast platform, rate, like and subscribe!

And if you’re more of a video guy! You can check out the Youtube channel, where we upload all our casts in video form!

Cheers, everyone, for reading along! Hope everyone enjoys the rest of their long weekend!

 

 

 

 

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