Comets Harvest: The Syracuse Squish versus the Utica Meteorites

Pre-gameage:

Hello all, and welcome to another edition of the Comets Harvest! Tonight’s game is a rematch of the Comets’ first blowout loss of the season. A 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Syracuse Crunch.

Avid readers of the Harvest will remember that the Comets were at a spectacular disadvantage, playing their second game of a back-to-back against a Crunch team who were coming in completely fresh and rested.

Tonight, the Comets will get to avenge that blowout on a much more even playing field.

Both teams are coming into night’s game off of a four-night rest with the Comets looking to build upon their shootout win against Binghamton, while the Crunch look to end a two-game losing streak that followed their season-opening demolishing of the Comets.

The Crunch have a very spread-out attack. In three games, of the Crunch’s 20 skaters, EIGHTEEN have notched a point already.

The Comets, on the other hand, are very top-heavy, and by contrast, in three games, only TWELVE of 22 skaters have earned points so far.

Last season, the Comets were able to find scoring in their bottom-six quite often. It was their middle-six who found the most success against Syracuse in their first outing.

The Comets have done an admirable job controlling shot-attempts at 5v5 thus far. Despite their 1-1-0-1 record, the team has managed a +22 shot-attempt differential across three games.

For perspective, last season, the Comets were running a +23 shot-attempt differential following three straight wins.  In fact, even after winning their first eight, the Comets 5v5 shot-attempt differential was at negative-17.

The Comets aren’t close to an eight-game sample size, but the early results have been promising for a team loaded with rookies making their pro debuts.

The Kids are Gonna be ok:

I spoke about this at length in the most recent episode of The Creasecast, but the early results from the Cauncks two forward prospects have been encouraging!

Carson Focht’s skating and forechecking presence have been wonderful to see. Many of my complaints about Lind, Gadjovich, and Dahlen during their rookie years were their lack of foot movement away from the puck. That doesn’t seem to be an issue with Focht, who is constantly engaging in and away from the play to make things happen for the team.

Carson Focht Player Card after three games

On top of hearing his first pro-career goal on Saturday, he and his linemates, Gadjovich and Lockwood, chewed up their opposition at 5v5 when on-ice together.

Game 3 vs. Binghamton: 5v5 Shot-Control Rates

On the other hand, Lockwood shares a lot of the similar gameplay qualities of Focht but has struggled at converting his forechecking presence and off-puck movement into scoring opportunities.

Will Lockwood Player Card after Three Games

Because of his age, I’m hoping Lockwood can put together the offensive side because his skating and edgework have been above-average. He’s one of five Comets players to not have an unforced giveaway, and his takeaways are fifth overall on the squad. Just need to see him pump up those shot-assist and offensive metrics to offset some of the gaudy on-ice goals-against metrics.

Lockwood has been on-ice for three of the Comets 5v5 goals-allowed and none for; need to turn that around. Controlling shot-attempts will take you only so far if you’re still rocking one of the worst on-ice save percentages of the team. Only Blues prospect, Tanner Kaspick, has a worse relative on-ice save at 5v5.

He’s not awful defensively by any stretch, but for someone as active with his feet as he is, you’d hope that would result in fewer goals occurring in his own end.

 

DO SOMETHING:

Because I already asked him to “do something” last week — I’ll spare him tonight, even though he remains a high-priority “do something” candidate.

Tonight, let’s say we go with Will Lockwood for all the reasons stated above. He’s doing a bunch of little things right, but he’s gotta start proving he can do more than just skate well, hit, and steal the puck.

 

STARTING ROSTER:

Game 4 Starting Lineup
  • Curtis McKenzie is out reportedly due to “awesome news.” About 99% sure McKenzie’s wife was due with their first child, so congrats to him on a monumental weekend!
  • The lineup, outside of McKenzie, remains largely unchanged from Saturday.
  • Jon Gillies returns from a very brief stint on IR to act as tonight’s starting goalie.

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

GAME 4:

1st period:

PP1: Lind, Baertschi, Reinke, Walker, Anas

  • A couple of good shots on net from the Comets on PP1 — but no dice, they are forced to reset from their end, and PP2 comes out.

PP2: Focht, Santini, Jasek, Gadjovich, Stevens

  • Aleksi Hepponiemi leaves the rink during a TV timeout… a huge loss for Syracuse this early in the game.
  • A brutal shift for the Jasek line as they get pinned into their zone for quite some time; get caught icing the puck twice but eventually clear.
  • LOL, Syracuse exchanges with an icing of their own
  • Syracuse gets dinged for a trip with 1:50 left in the opening frame! Right off the draw

PP1: Reinke, Baertschi, Lind, Walker, Anas

2nd period:

  • Whoops, Nathan Walker called for slashing while defending in the d-zone, and the Comets are off their first PK of the night.

PK1: Santini, Tucker, Stevens, Joshua

  • Stevens wins the draw and clears for Utica.
  • Stevens and Joshua holding the Crunch to the neutral zone. Eventually, a puck gets deflected out of play and PK1 changes.

PK2: Jasek, Lockwood rotate in

  • Jasek and Lockwood clear, and Joshua and Stevens come back on.
  • Dakota Joshua (#11) draws a tripping penalty against Otto Somppi, and the Comets first PK ends about as well as a PK can
  • Focht, Gadjovich, Reinke, Woo out for the first 4v4 offensive-zone draw
  • Gadj gets caught up yelling at the ref on a perceived non-call in the offensive zone, allowing the Crunch to rush the opposite way for a shorthanded chance. Bit of a ding dong move
  • Comets to a minute-thirty powerplay

PP1: Lind, Reinke, Anas, Walker, Baertschi

  • [GOAL-UTICA-3-0 Comets] Wow…what a gorgeous pass from Sam Anas (#7) past two Crunch defenders, Ludvig and Witkowski, to set up Nathan Walker (#12) for his first of the season.

  • Focht gets called for cross-checking while defending a Syracuse rush into the d-zone, and the Comets are back to the penalty-kill
  • Joshua again proving to be a force on the Comets penalty kill. Just forechecking aggressively and eating away precious seconds off of the clock.
  • Comets kill off another PK — really keeping the Crunch to the outside and preventing them from generating any chances.
  • Focht (#19) with a breakaway chance right out of the penalty box! 
  • Refs call the LFG line for an intentional offside… Sir… this is the AHL…they’re not that calculated with their moves.
  • Josh Wesley (#24) bowls over Jimmy Huntington off the defensive zone-entry
  • Jasek with a steal in the offensive zone late but time winds down
  • Comets notch two goals on four shots
  • Crunch edge them in shots through the middle stanza, six-to-four

3rd period:

PK1: Joshua, Stevens, Santini, Tucker

RESULT:

COMETS WIN 5-2 IN REGULATION

SCORESHEET:

 

Game Thoughts:

  • A solid defensive effort from the Comets (ignoring the final ten minutes of the third period in which they were really put on their heels by the Crunch). Really limited the Crunch to their looks in the first two periods. Very rare to see low-event hockey in the AHL, let alone a two-goal on four-shots second period. Impressive work from a very young team!
  • Had a hearty chuckle at Lockwood and Gadjovich combining on that opening goal. It’s as if they knew what my “do something” section would be about them! Who knew!?
  • Props to Gadjovich, who, despite his underwhelming skating, had a pretty decent night when it came to TOI and production. Two goals on three shots and out for a closeout situation late in the period is good stuff for him!
  • Baertschi with a lowkey solid game. He was hustling all over the ice, especially in the d-zone to assist with breakouts. And believe it or not… he looked like an NHL caliber talent on the powerplay and at 5v5! Who knew!?
  • Shoutouts to St. Louis Blues properties, Tyler Tucker and Steven Santini, who are both chewing up defensive minutes for this team right now. Tucker especially, a rookie being trusted with upwards of 22-25 minutes a night, with the majority of those minutes exclusively coming at 5v5 or while shorthanded. Kids got a bright future if he keeps this up. Ended the night with one assist, a +3, and one shot on goal—a huge effort to close out the game.
  • Bit of a quiet night for Kole Lind. Not sure if it’s the move to center or the new linemates or the responsibilities of matching up against top-competition; but, he looked off tonight. He wasn’t floating by any stretch, but more often than not, I was noticing that he wasn’t touching or controlling the puck when he was on the ice.
  • I don’t know if any Canucks fans follow MMA or the UFC, but there used to be an organization called PRIDE FC in Japan. They were rad. But they had a completely different judging system to the standard American boxing method of scoring rounds 10 for the round-winner and nine or less for the round-loser. In Japan, they scored bouts by the whole. The first round was ten-minutes long, with a five-minute second round. So a fight could theoretically win the first eight minutes of the fight, but if the judges viewed that the opponent won the latter eight minutes more convincingly, they would win the fight more often than not. That’s what this game feels like when it comes to evaluation. The Comets were methodical in the way they picked the Crunch apart. For 50 minutes, they limited scoring chances and capitalized on their opportunities off of vicious forechecking. Then the final ten minutes happened…and it kind of clouds my evaluation of the team. Because they really looked brutal while on their heels.
    • An ECHL call-up moving from defence to forward in Dmitri Semykin gave the LFG line considerable fits in that final ten. Not a great look.
    • I’m willing to give the team the benefit of the doubt, however. Back to back, and up by three goals with ten minutes left… I get why the foot may have come off the pedal. It’s a bad lesson to learn, but I get it.
  • Props to Will Lockwood on a solid game. Utilized that speed and forechecking about as effectively as you could hope for. Really slick set-up for Gadjovich on that opening goal. Promising start for him!
  • Woo had that brutal giveaway on the Huntington goal, but it’s whatever; he had a great game up until that point. A learning experience for the young rookie!
  • Not many takeaways for them, but more strong games from Jasek, Focht and Anas. Consistently providing quality minutes to the team at evens and while shorthanded.

 

Comets Harvest Three Stars:

  1. Jonah Gadjovich
  2. Tyler Tucker & Steven Santini
  3. Will Lockwood

HM: see the last bullet-point in the game-thoughts

Next Up on the Docket:

The Comets are back in action tomorrow night for the second half of a back-to-back.

Once again, they’ll be up against it as they take on a well-rested team in the Rochester Americans, who have been waylaid since last Friday after cruising against the Cleveland Monsters in a 7-3 rout.

Plugs and Stuff:

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