COMETS HARVEST: RETURN OF THE (SHORT) KING

Arise, arise, Riders of Utica!
Sticks shall be shaken, shinguards shall be splintered,
a stick-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Skate now, skate now, skate! Skate for ruin and the season’s ending!
Death! Death! Death!
Forth Eorlingas!

DiPietro’s battle cry was heard echoing through the hallways of the Adirondack Bank Center as he made his triumphant return to lead his team onto the ice Friday night.

DiPietro looked to harness everything he had learned during his lengthy stay in Vancouver. After months and months of one-on-one time with Ian Clark, DiPietro finally put his practice to good use.

As a quick refresher, DiPietro’s last real game-action came against the Syracuse Crunch back on March 11th, 2020.

The team in front of him laid an egg in front of a sold-out home crowd. At the time, I criticized the team for such a pitiful effort in what could be the last game of their 2019-20 season.

The words proved prophetic, as the Comets would not return to the Adirondack Bank Center until February 17th, 2021.

With rumours that the Utica Comets might move to the westfold, it felt poetic that DiPietro would return once more to the Adirondack Bank Center and backstop the team to a dominant victory. A victory that was ower to the Utica faithful some 415 days ago.

Tonight’s game was wild. It was carnage. And it had everything you could expect from a hockey game.

Penalty shots.

Fights.

Game misconduct galore.

More fights.

Multi-point nights from debuting rookies.

Sven Bärtschi instigating a scrum.

And Vincent Arseneau manning a powerplay unit before attempting to murder someone with a body check in the final two minutes of a 7-1 blowout.

The game was pure entertainment. And, like the Rohirrim’s charge, it felt great to see the good guys get a big W for once.

DO SOMETHING

Tonights do something was a holdover from the last game.

“Anyone other than Gadjovich, please score at 5v5!” – Sincerely, me.

STARTING ROSTER

  • DiPietro SZN baybeeeee
  • Nikita Alexandrov makes his anticipated debut with the Comets on a pretty decent-looking second line with Gadjovich and Jasek!
  • Dakota Joshua joins Nolan Stevens and Will Lockwood on the third line, and my god, their speed will give Rochester problems.
  • Did I mention it was DiPietro szn!?

 

Here is tonight’s lineup noting the 5v5 CF% and Goals-For rates minus some of the line changeups.

    • Note the 5v5 goals-for and against for what I mean by “this team needs 5v5 goal production from people not named Jonah Gadjovich.”

 

  • Bärtschi and Anas have a 44.53 CF% together without John Stevens
  • Gadjovich and Jasek have a 63.93 CF% together without the debuting Nikita Alexandrov
  • Nolan Stevens and Will Lockwood have a 53.64 CF% without Dakota Joshua
  • Curtis McKenzie and Carson Focht have a 51.75% CF% without Vinny Arseneau

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

GAME 20:

1st period:

PP1 – Bärtschi, Jasek, Gadjovich, Brisebois, Anas

  • An errant pass loses the zone for the Comets, then Gadjovich fans on a pass that forces them to reset from the d-zone. Ugly powerplay

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

  • Time winds down on the period, and the Amerks players look frustrated as all hell.
  • Comets finish the period up in shots, eight to six, and up on the scoreboards three to one.

2nd period:

  • Gadjovich switched to a line with Nolan Stevens and Will Lockwood to start the second.
  • Jonah Gadjovich asks Matej Pekar to honour “THE CODE,” and Pekar obliges.
  • Joshua (#11) with a dangerous chance in Lekkas’ crease only to send his shot wide of the goal.
  • GOAL – UTICA – 4-1 COMETS: Nikita Alexandrov with his first pro-goal on North American ice! Jasek (#9) starts the play by digging the puck out of a board battle that Alexandrov is engaged in. Jasek then passes back to Josh Teves (#4), who instantly slaps a shot towards Lekkas that gets tipped by Alexandrov and goes five-hole. Great play from Alexandrov to win the battle and get to the net for his first!
  • Utica College head coach Gary Heenan pointing out during the break that Cull likely put Gadjovich out with Stevens and Lockwood for the faceoff so that he could fight Pekar.
    • Code things
  • Ryan Jones with a hit from behind on Arseneau that comes nowhere near the play
    • Arseneau gives Jones several whacks with the stick in retaliation. Refs turn a blind eye on the ruckus.
  • Dakota Joshua drives on goal for a scoring chance, and Nick DeSimone gets called for hooking Joshua on the attempt.
    • Comets are off to their second powerplay of the game.

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

  • GOAL – UTICA – 5-1 COMETS: Four seconds onto the powerplay, and the Comets add another one to the tally. Woo (#22) corrals a clearing attempt and quickly relays over to Carson Focht (#19), who rifles one that redirects off the leg of Griffin Luce and into Lekkas’ pads. McKenzie (#81) picks up the uncontrolled rebound and quickly puts it over a sprawled Lekkas to continue the rout.
  • Amerks head coach opts not to change goalies, which seems rather cruel at this point.
  • Brett Murray trips Eliot in the neutral zone, and the Comets are right back onto the powerplay.

PP1 – Jasek, Gadjovich, Bärtschi, Anas, Brisebois

PK1 – Tucker, Jasek, Wesley, John Stevens

  • Quick gloved shot by DiPietro

PK2 – Joshua, Lockwood step on for Jasek/Stevens

PK3 – Teves, Eliot, McKenzie, Nolan Stevens

PP1 – Gadjovich, Anas, Bärtschi, Jasek, Brisebois

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

  • I mean, good lord! Lekkas is just getting zero support around the net!

3rd period:

PP3 – John Stevens, Tucker, Joshua, Lockwood, Arseneau

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

  • Shot from Focht comes just as Welsh leaves the box

PP3 – Lockwood, Tucker, Arseneau, Joshua, John Stevens

RESULT:

Utica crushes Rochester 7-1

SCORESHEET:

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • That’s one helluva game to make your return! The Utica Comets didn’t need DiPietro that much tonight, but he came up huge for them when they did.

  • Personally, I’m looking forward to Quadrelli’s review of DiPietro’s game! I’m no goalie expert, but I thought he looked infinitely more calm, poised, and controlled in the crease. Last season, he was like 2016-17 Markstrom, flopping all over the ice to make flashy and acrobatic saves on routine shots. Tonight, he was calculated in his movements, hugged his posts hard and rarely let himself get into positions where he was flopping on his belly to make wild calf-muscle saves on one-timer opportunities.

  • My fanfiction Theoden speech might have actually happened?

  • A bit of an understatement! Lockwood was wheeling around the rink tonight, making the Amerks defender look foolish on practically every zone entry of his. I had a feeling that the trio of Lockwood, Joshua, and Nolan Stevens would give the Amerks fits. But, I did not expect them to cave them the way they did as often as they did. It was a  slaughter every shift. The brief third-period powerplay look was a bit clunky and awkward for Lockwood, but I won’t hold that against him. His speed is a separator at the AHL level. I think he might be closer to an NHL look than Gadjovich with his speed. Although, Lockwood’s one deficiency is his hands can’t keep up with his feet. But, if you’re entering the zone at will with speed like that, then who cares! Just dish it off and let your linemates do the rest of the cycling. I’ve been pleased with his turnaround these past few games!

Lockwood’s Per-60 Rates Relative to Team Average
  • Lockwoods production chart and shot-control metrics are now starting to look very promising
  • Lukas Jasek looked good with Gadjovich and Alexandrov! He needed a game like tonight where he just controlled play heavily in the offensive zone. Alexandrov was a great fit with the two of them. Alexandrov has a nose for the net, good speed, a good shot, and above-average skating, a perfect complement to Jasek’s distributing and  Gadjovich’s shot and vision. It was great to see him immediately bounce back from the lone goal-against with a 5v5 goal of his own. Jasek’s shooting luck has been atrocious this season, and I wonder if it’s a confidence issue. Hopefully, tonight’s goal is the pat on the back that he needed for a return to form.
  • Woo struggled again tonight as he got caught being indecisive several times in the neutral zone, which led directly to dangerous breakaway chances for Rochester. Not sure if it’s the d-partner adjustment or what, but he’s had an uncharacteristic number of blunders in the neutral zone as of late. Chalk it up to rookie growing pains for now.
  • Carson Focht had a good night with Arseneau and McKenzie. Bizarre trio to put together, and frankly, I think someone like Tanner Kaspick ought to keep his spot in the lineup for his speed and utility as a penalty-killer. The Comets penalty kill didn’t get tested often tonight, but against a goalie like Lekkas, I believe Kaspick could’ve made swiss cheese out of him.
Teves and Eliot’s Per-60 Rates Relative to Team Average
  • Always good to see the depth D on the team step up big for the Comets; Tucker, Teves, Eliot, and Wesley were providing big minutes on the PK and at 5v5 for the club. Teves and Eliot have sneakily been one of the club’s most reliable duo against the opposing team’s depth.
  • Because I know I will be asked about it, yes, Gadjovich needs to work on his skating. No, he isn’t a complete write-off. But, his skating is a hindrance. He has been doing much better this season at keeping pace, but even comparing his wheels to Will Lockwood, and there is a sizeable difference. Fortunately, he’s found a way to use his size and positioning to rack up goals for the club. But getting that positioning is worlds-different at the NHL level than it is at the AHL level. We can all be happy that Gadjovich has found a niche as an elite AHL goalscorer. But, as we’ve seen before with elite AHL goalscorers. Sometimes, it’s just not enough.
  • Brisebois was Brisboi-ok on the powerplay, but otherwise, he’s unspectacular to watch. He had a couple of good backchecking moments to recover for his partner, Woo, but otherwise. Meh.
  • As you all know, the Comets Harvest is a big fan of Vinny Arseneau, but that hit in the dying minutes of a blowout game was really gross. I imagine the AHL is going to levy quite a few suspensions once they’ve reviewed the tape. It was an ugly game. I still blame the Amerks’ head coach Seth Appert for this one. He left in a goalie that gave his team zero chance, and his skaters were blatantly frustrated after the first period with the goaltending they were getting. It won’t ever happen, but Appert should face some kind of discipline for this.
    • As should Matej Pekar for his cheap shot from the bench on Arseneau.
  • Also, leave Sven Bärtschi alone. Who the fuck tries to throw an elbow on Bärtschi after all he’s been through with concussions?

Bärtschi’s Per-60 Rates Relative to Team Average
  • The Seattle Kraken are 100% going to have Bärtschi in their lineup next season, aren’t they?
    • Paging Namita Nandakumar. Give Bae a chance!

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Will Lockwood
  2. Nikita Alexandrov
  3. Michael DiPietro

HM: Jonah Gadjovich and the whole gang!

Next Up on the Docket

The Comets are back in action this Sunday, 3 PM EST/12 PM EST. I will probably be very hungover, so don’t count on a game recap.

Plugs

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Cheers for tuning in, despite some shitty fights and code-related things; it rocked!

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