COMETS HARVEST: The Gang Opens the Floodgates

Following their gruelling shutout victory over the Binghamton Devils, the Utica Comets look for their second straight win tonight against the Rochester Americans!

The ‘Merks and the ‘Mets…wait, that doesn’t sound right.

The ‘Merks and the Comets have split wins through six games this season, with Utica barely edging the ‘Merks by a single point, thanks to one shootout loss back in February.

    • Their current record head-to-head record: 3W-2L-0 OTL-1 SOL

It’s been a tough road for the farm team post-COVID layoff, with the Comets seemingly hit hard by the fatigue factor and the depleted roster.

Since I haven’t caught up on micro stats tracking yet, this graphic will suffice.

Over their last three games, the Comets have struggled to produce offence at 5v5 while giving up excessive shots to their opponents.

It’s certainly no coincidence either that this massive uptick in 5v5 shots-against came immediately following Jack Rathbone’s call-up to the Canucks.

Without Rathbone in the lineup, Trent Cull and his coaching staff are forced to cobble together a defensive group that is underwhelming at producing 5v5 offence and very meh at preventing 5v5 offence.

Definite “Wolverine lying in bed meme” vibes while looking at Jack Rathbone’s placement on the above chart.

The Comets just aren’t generating much 5v5 offence from the back-end.

In the seven games since returning to play, the Comets have eighteen goals total, with ten goals coming at 5v5 (a good balance). However, the defence has picked up points on only ten of those total goals.

If you subtract Jack Rathbone from the equation, it’s only six goals

When you boil it down to goals at 5v5? It’s just two.

Just two goals scored at 5v5 in the return-to-play that had the defencemen contributing.

DO SOMETHING

There were going to be hundreds of question marks on this team’s abilities after missing an entire month due to a COVID outbreak.

I can’t stress enough how badly the Comets need offence from their defencemen at 5v5.

The number of 5v5 shots on goal has slowly decreased since game two of the return to play, and while it’s great that Joel Hofer picked up his first pro shutout, relying on him to put up 40 save performances every night to give them a chance is unrealistic.

The Comets skaters need to do their rookie netminder a favour tonight and get the early advantage on the scoresheet. 5v5, powerplay, shorthanded, whatever avenue, they need to do it!

I’m not sure if my brain can handle two death marches from one organization.

STARTING ROSTER

  • Let me know in the comments if you like the added 5v5 goals for and against information on the starting lineup card!
  • Comets moved a bunch of guys off of IR and are healthy scratches tonight! Possibly the healthiest the roster has been in weeks.
  • Comets will be glad to have Sven Bärtschi back in the lineup!
  • The Comets sticking with Gadjovich, Stevens, and Lockwood, is the right call; I really liked what they were bringing on Wednesday!
  • Kielly starts for the first time since April 9th; he spent the last week and a bit “banged up,” according to head coach Trent Cull.

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

GAME 17:

1st period:

PK1 – Kaspick, Tucker, Lockwood, Wesley

  • Off of the faceoff, Tucker immediately takes a high-stick to the face and goes down hard.
  • PK1 forces Rochester out to neural ice, and Comets change their PK units after they ice the puck on an entry attempt

PK2 – Jasek, John Stevens, Teves Eliot

PP1 – Anas, Jasek, Gadjovich, Bärtschi, Reinke

PP2 – Focht, McGing, McKenzie, Woo, Nolan Stevens

  • GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 COMETS: What a start for PP2! Carson Focht (#19) rifles a one-timer on Billy Christopoulos while McKenzie (#81) screens. Focht’s shot rebounds out to Hugh McGing (#14), who slips his shot past Chritopoulos’ blocker side and into the net. Talk about gaining the early advantage for the team!

2nd period:

PP1 – Bärtschi, Jasek, Gadjovich, Reinke, Anas

PK1 – Lockwood, John Stevens, Wesley, Teves

PK1 – Lockwood, John Stevens, Wesley, Eliot

  • Lockwood, vibing, wins a puck battle and pushes the Amerks powerplay into their zone for a reset.

PK2 – Jasek, Kaspick, Teves, Reinke

  • Interesting that Cull elected to swap Teves with Wesley — I’m assuming this is some calculation made due to Tyler Tucker’s absence.
  • Jasek picks off two passes in a row to foil any powerplay setup from the Amerks.
  • Twenty-seven shots, six goals, two fighting majors, and one game misconduct later; the second period concludes.
  • Comets finish the middle frame up in shots, seventeen to ten, and up in goals, five to three.
    • They’re possibly up in pride/60 too, but it’s hard to say.

3rd period:

PK1 – Kaspick, Reinke, Wesley, Jasek

  • Kaspick, with his trademark excellent penalty killing as he forechecks into the Amerks zone, then plays rink wide pass with Josh Wesley to chew time off the clock.
  • GOAL – ROCHESTER – 6-4 COMETS: The Amerks get themselves back within two via a powerplay goal from Dominic Franco. Remi Elie whips a shot towards Kielly, and though Mitch Eliot (#52) drops to block the shot, he only gets a piece of it. Franco picks up the puck and takes one whack then another that sneaks past Kielly.
  • Comets pull Christopoulos for the extra attacker. Comets facing the 6-on-5 with less than three remaining in the period
  • GOAL – UTICA – 7-4 COMETS: John Stevens picks off a pass in the neutral zone and sinks the empty-netter to re-re-re-regain the three-goal lead for Utica.
  • Mitch Eliot takes a slashing penalty, and the Comets will finish this one facing a 6-on-4 for the final two minutes of the game.
  • GOAL – ROCHESTER – 7-5 COMETS: With a minute twenty left in the game, Michael Mersch redirects a slap pass behind Kielly to make a twelve-goal game and put the Amerks back within two.
  • Nolan Stevens (#17) sets up Anas (#7) for a late chance on Christopoulos. Anas’ shot goes into Christopoulos’ glove, but he elects to play the puck so that the Amerks may get the extra attacker.
  • Comets ice the puck with ten seconds left in the game
  • Jasek wins the final faceoff, and Wesley smothers the puck along the end boards; this chaotic-ass game comes to a close
  • Comets register five shots to the Amerks twelve over the last twenty minutes of play.

RESULT:

UTICA DEFEATS ROCHESTER 7-5

SCORESHEET:

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • Wildly chaotic game, but par for the course when you have atrocious goaltending on one side of the table and bad bounces on the other side.
    • Kielly wasn’t great, so we’re clear, but a couple of those goals resulted from awful puck-handling by his skaters.
    • Christopoulos is going to get exposed hard if he plays against the Comets again. That glove side of his is begging to be lit up.
  • Truly, a fantastic game from Will Lockwood and the Comets’ second line. I loved how aggressive they were on the forecheck and how they created havoc for the Amerks defenders. I had my doubts that Lockwood’s shorty from Wednesday would be an actual “opening of the floodgates.” But now I’m wondering if that actually did the trick. He looked outstanding. Two goals, four shots, and a Plus-3 on the night. The fact that Lockwood is also the first guy out for the Comets penalty kill is excellent news for this team and the Canucks organization. If Lockwood can go on a scoring heater late in the season, that bodes well for Lockwood’s training camp aspirations for the 2021-22 season. I have been high on his skating, compete, battle, and utility as a penalty killer. All that was missing was proof that he could do something with his physical talents, and these last two games have been very promising that he can.
    • Gadjovich looked solid again, trying to play the same role as Lockwood instead of being a one-trick triggerman.
    • John Stevens ended his night with one goal and two assists and largely thanks to the efforts of Lockwood and Gadjovich. This second line could be deadly for the Comets facing subpar AHL competition down the stretch.
  • Ethan Keppen looks like he could probably use a break. He’s a big boy, and there are some shifts where he gets caught out for just a bit too long, leading to him looking incredibly lethargic with his skating. Unnoticeable for most of the night.
  • Jasek continues to struggle. He puts up good underlying shot-control metrics but has had a tough go trying to produce offence. Coaches need to get this kid shooting his shot.
  • Bärtschi was largely unnoticeable for the evening, but that was to be expected given his time off due to injury.
  • Another night where I come away impressed with the work of Teves and Eliot
  • Kaspick had a quiet night post-fight but was still lethal on the Comets penalty kill. Have to wonder if the fourth-line didn’t see much ice time because of an injury concern with Kaspick’s hand; He was shaking it out in the penalty box post-fight.
  • Jett Woo was quiet for the night, but I noticed his outlet passes and defensive positioning quite often. Had several instances where he could’ve done “the AHL thing” by double-teaming a skater in the defensive zone by giving up the net-front. But he played it safe every single time. The lone 5v5 goal that he was on-ice for came after a clearing attempt that got deflected off of Lukas Jasek’s stick past Kielly. Hard to really fault him on that one.
  • I critique Tyler Tucker’s play quite often, but he’s kind of like Tyler Myers. Unspectacular, mostly, but he eats minutes like a workhorse at 5v5 and on the penalty kill. You have to hope that he comes away from that boarding unscathed; it was truly an ugly hit from behind.
  • Sam Anas finally breaks his goal-scoring slump with two tonight on six shots. This might sound weird, but Anas was unnoticeable for most of the night but in a good way. Usually, he’s noticeable because he’s constantly throwing offence at the net or giving the puck away in the neutral zone. He barely threw the puck away tonight, which is an excellent step in the right direction for him.
  • Carson Focht had himself an excellent first two periods, but he disappeared in the third. He’s got a sneaky good two-way game and was lethal on the forecheck for Utica in the early goings of this game. His play, combined with Nolan Stevens’ play, made the Comets’ second and third lines the most dangerous on the evening.
    • Focht finished the night with one assist and one goal on four shots
  • Shoutout to the Comets play-by-play guy Jason Shaya, whose commentary made this chaotic game even more entertaining. I’m still cackling over the call on that shorthanded goal the Comets gave up.

 

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Will Lockwood
  2. Carson Focht
  3. John Stevens

HM: Sam Anas, Nolan Stevens

Next Up on the Docket

The Comets are back in action this Sunday against the Syracuse Crunch at 3 PM EST/12 PM PST.

Depending on how stats tracking on these last three games goes, I’ll see if I feel up to recapping!

Plugs

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