COMETS HARVEST: Utica Space Minerals vs. The Rochester United States Citizens

Pre-Gameage:

Well, folks, it’s a quick turnaround for the Comets! This means my favourite thing ever!

Half-hearted pre-ambles!

After a dominant effort against the Crunch, I expect a bit of a sleepy effort from the Comets tonight. Rochester is coming in fresh, and the last time this happened, they out-controlled their opponent but still wound up giving up six goals.

There’s a chance to surprise, but this team is young and have to temper expectations on nights like these! Let’s just hope for something fun 🙂

Before we get into the starting lineup and tonight’s game action, I wanted to quickly touch on a couple standout veterans for the Comets thus far.

Sven Baertschi

I have to give a shout-out to the consummate professional, Sven Baertschi, who is working his dang butt off to remain relevant to the NHL.

Sven Baertschi player card after first 3 games

After four games, Bae is second on the team in 5v5 points-per-game and second on the team in primary shot-assists.

The Comets, to the surprise of nobody except maybe a guy whose name rhymes with Bim Jenning, have the best on-ice shooting % with Baertschi on the ice at 5v5. The guy just knows when to set up his teammates or when to take shots himself. He has an on-net percentage of 72%, meaning 72% of all his individual shot-attempts wind-up on-goal.

The two players with the next-best on-net percentages, ironically, are shared by the Stevens brothers. Which is simply just adorable.

But yes, CometsHarvest has been a fan of Baertschi in the NHL and in the AHL. He’s constantly forechecking or trying to make things happen for his linemates this year. Sucks that the Canucks management gave up on him one year into his deal (brilliant move, by the way, very intelligent), but he’s been a bright spot for a Comets team that has been desperate for puck-distributors in their lineup.

Sam Anas

Secondary shoutout to AHL short king, Sam Anas who’s casually earned two points each game (except the Syracuse loss) up until tonight.

Sam Anas player card after first 3 games

Highest involvement %, 5v5 points-per-game, shots-on-goal, primary-assists, points… again… dude is 5’7″ 160 pounds soaking wet.

An undrafted free-agent, Anas joined Quinnipiac as a 20-year-old and was immediately a point-per-game player for three years straight. Eventually earning an “A” on his sweater in his final year before signing with the Wild.

This is why I talk about the importance of utility and penalty-killing because here’s a guy who had a fifty-assist season last year and couldn’t even manage a call-up from the Minnesota Wild.

The WILD

These prospects can produce all they want, but if they can’t prove utility outside of being a goalscorer or a distributor, they won’t have value to an NHL coach.

Anas is in it tough trying to crack a recent cup contender in St. Louis. But kids like Lind, Lockwood, Focht, Gadjovich, and Jasek have a tangible opportunity to prove their worth to an organization that is desperate to try and move on from signing the likes of Roussel, Beagle, Sutter etc. to fill the special-teams void.

Also, St. Louis, if you want to trade Anas to the Canucks for Virtanen, maybe we should make that happen… because I, for one, would like to see Anas given a chance in an NHL uniform. Guy has wheels, he can distribute, and he can score. Give him a shot! Why not!? If Rocco Grimaldi can make it happen, then surely someone with Anas’ work-ethic can earn his shot too!

Stop placing such a premium on size, and recognize that skill wins games more than how hitty a bigi boi can hit!

With the praise out of the way, let’s get into tonight’s “do something!”

DO SOMETHING:

Tonight’s “do something” candidate might not be fair, but fuck it, it’s my show — Kole Lind!

Kole Lind player card after first 3 games

While he’s operating at a point-per-game pace, I’d love to see a bit more off-ice puck action and net-positive events at 5v5. Three of his four goals have come on the powerplay, with his 5v5 goal-differential at a negative-two.

Wednesday night, he was fine, but fine won’t cut it if the end-goal is, “make the Vancouver Canucks.”

And for a top line that carries an NHL calibre winger and a Quad-A AHL talent, you’d expect a bit more at evens.

Tonight would be a good time to start proving your elite fringe-NHL’er line can actually be effective at 5v5: more foot-movement, takeaways, passing, and shot generation. We need to just see much more activity from Lind in his new role at center. It’s early, so I understand there are some kinks and hurdles to get over. But we need to see something at 5v5 that proves it’s a position-shift worth sticking with this season.

STARTING ROSTER:

Game Five Starting Lineup
  • Bold to go back to Gillies in a back-to-back. Especially against an Amerks team that is coming in completely fresh
  • Rack Jathbone technically listed as a healthy-scratch but is in the travel/quarantine process until at least the 27th 
  • Corsi-for rates for lines aren’t updated yet as I still have to track last nights game four 🙂
  • Shoutouts to Josh Teves for earning $700,000 of Frank the Tank’s money to ride the pine in Utica this season

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

GAME 5:

I’m aware of a bug where using dark-mode filters on Webpress causes embedded videos to not load properly — I’ll be including hyperlinks to the Utica-goal streamables for those who don’t want to turn off their dark-mode. As someone with atrocious eyesight, I get it. Hope the ease-of-access helps and enjoy the game 🙂

1st period:

PK1: Tucker, Santini, John Stevens, Joshua

PK2: Jasek, McGing, Wesley, Woo

PP1: Baertschi, Reinke, Anas, Walker, Lind

2nd period:

PK1: Tucker, Santini, John Stevens, Joshua

  • Dakota Joshua picks off a pass in the d-zone and clears, allowing PK1 to change off for PK2.

PK2: Woo, Wesley, Jasek, Lockwood

PP2: Nolan Stevens, Santini, Focht, Jasek, Gadjovich

  • [GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 Comets] Lukas Jasek (#9) gets the Comets on the board with a glorious tip from the slot off a Steven Santini (#8) point-shot. PP2 cycling effectively before Focht (#19) sauces a pass to Santini on the point. Jasek with a tip so good that even AHL. Tv trackers having trouble pinpointing the goalscorer!

3rd period:

PP1: Baertschi, Reinke, Anas, Walker, Lind

PP2: Focht, Jasek, Santini, Gadjovich, Nolan Stevens

  • [GOAL – UTICA – 2-2 Tie] Jonah Gadjovich ties the game at two! Jasek (#9) wins the faceoff back to Carson Focht (#19) on the blue line, who rips a slapper on Luukkonen. Luukkonen doesn’t control well, and Gadjovich (#21) taps in the rebound from the slot! PP2 with two tallies tonight!

PK1: Tucker, Santini, Stevens, Joshua

  • Good PK for the Comets so far as the Amerks powerplay units get forced out and fail to get set up
  • [GOAL – ROCHESTER – 3-3 Tie] Unlucky, Oskari Laaksonen winds up for a bomb that gets tipped at the last second by Steven Fogarty. Once again, Comets leaving their crease unattended on the PK. Not sure if that’s intentional, but it’s a strategy that has not worked thus far tonight.
  • Comets get an offensive zone faceoff after another odd bounce into the benches. Unfortunately, they lose the ensuing faceoff and are forced out.
  • Both teams appearing content to play “dump and chase.”
  • Some late pressure from the Comets fourth-line. Gadjovich (#21) screening at the net-front
  • First-line with some late pressure — throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Luukkonen
  • Dylan Blujus with a pretty blatant high-stick on Nolan Stevens, but the refs ignore it.
  • Jasek gets a stick caught in his skates and goes to push off and then goes down awkwardly. Hopefully, nothing serious.
  • Time winds down, and this one is going to overtime.
  • Comets outshoot the Amerks badly in the final frame fifteen to nine. 38 TO 26 overall

Overtime:

Shootout:

 

RESULT:

Rochester Def. Utica via Shootout 4-3

SCORESHEET:

Game Five Scoresheet

 

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • Props where it’s due, a tired Comets team pushed a rested Amerks squad to its limit. Backing them up with two goals in two minutes on the powerplay and dominating them in shots on goal. Unfortunately, the Comets penalty-killers weren’t up to snuff against an experienced veteran group led by Jean-Sebastian Dea, Steven Fogarty, and Remi Elie. Canucks can take solace that they are earning moral-victories in both organizations! They overachieved in this one.
  • Getting a feeling that my “do something” section has “manifest” energies to it. Tonight both Kole Lind and Sven Baertschi were electric at 5v5. They were defensively sound and constantly creating in the offensive end. Really impressive games from both tonight.
  • Notice Mitch Eliot and Will Lockwood went pretty MIA as the game tightened up in the third period. As I said in the last CH, Lockwood has many raw physical abilities and instincts, but using them to net positive results seems to be absent. Not sure if that’s an IQ thing or what. Both players had several really good looks during the game, but you could tell that Cull had considerably shortened the bench.
  • Lockwood and Blues prospect, Hugh McGing, were the only two skaters to not register shots on goal tonight. McGing is kind of a mystery… he looks like he’s trying really hard and has quite decent shot-control measures, but I never see him with the puck or controlling the puck himself. Might have to pay more attention during my tracking session to see what that’s all about.
  • Two penalties aside, I thought Focht had a really good game tonight. Looked much more comfortable with his shot. Need more of that. Trust your feelings.
  • Steven Santini was a horse for the Comets tonight and was on the ice for 26 minutes again. Premiere penalty-killer, 5v5 minute-muncher. When Cull chops up the minutes of Woo, Wesley, and Eliot, it’s because he’s using Santini and Tucker as much as possible.
  • Another strong game from Lukas Jasek on the faceoff dot. Both powerplay goals that he contributed to came because of his faceoff-wins. Always strong in puck-battles and consistent in both ends of the ice.
  • Comets have earned points in four of their five games this season. It isn’t quite an eight-game win streak to start the season, but for a team this young, you’ll take moral victories like this any day of the week. Yes, you’d have liked to see Focht not take that penalty late in the third. But in all fairness, the reffing was kind of all over the place—quite a few weak calls made in favour of several blatant infractions by both sides.
  • Farmies and Comets Harvest readers will remember that the Comets of last season and the season prior were absolutely awful at out-shooting their opponents. It’s quite wild to see a team that once relied heavily on opportunistic shooting and aggressive pinches from four of five skaters suddenly become a team reliant on patient defensive play and offence generation from heavy forechecking presence. Kudos to the coaching staff for overhauling their methods.
    • Also, respect to the coaches for putting together an OT trio comprised of two brothers. That’s pretty cute.
  • Final thoughts belong to Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who was an absolute wall for the Amerks tonight. Stopped 35 of 38 shots and really kept his team alive in the third period, where they were getting crushed by shots on goal.
  • Trade for Sam Anas and play him with Höglander

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS:

  1. Lukas Jasek
  2. Carson Focht
  3. Steven Santini

HM: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

Next Up on the Docket:

The Comets get another week off to work out the kinks of their game. They return next Friday/Saturday for a repeat of this week, as they again take on the Syracuse Crunch and Rochester Americans in a back-to-back.

Plugs and Stuff:

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Cheers for tuning in, and I’ll catch you next week for a repeat of this weeks’ double-header madness!!

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