The Last Comets Harvest: The one versus the Rochester Americans

Excuse me while I wax poetic here.

In November of 2018, I had a scheduling change at work that would completely alter the next few years of my life.

I was home by 3:30 PM every single day and needed something to fill the void before my wife got home from work.

Enter the Utica Comets!

For the last two and a half years, I’ve devoted most of my spare time to clipping, recapping, tracking, and reviewing AHL games for a team on the other side of the continent.

It’s been a long journey since that first Farmies post on Reddit.

Little did I know that this hobby would end up with me covering an NHL game live in Rogers Arena.

Nor did I realize the kinds of doors that would open for me over the next few years.

Just a dude, vibing, watching an atrocious AHL team bench their prospects in favour of AHL grinders for the purposes of “development.”

The first clip I made of Utica Comets hockey was Tanner MacMaster channelling his inner Elias Pettersson and teeing up a slapshot from point-blank range down the left-wing.

I wonder what will be the last?

This season has been bizarre, from the mix of St. Louis Blues and Vancouver prospects, the COVID shutdown that lasted an entire month, and the fact that the games never had any stakes due to there being no playoff format this season.

It is no doubt disappointing to have this truncated season be the one that closes the Canucks/Comets near-decade-long affiliation. The Utica faithful ought to have had a full barn to say their goodbyes.

For me, it’s been a fun ride covering the Utica Comets for Canucks fans! I can’t wait for Abbotsford to enter the fold, and I can cover games live.

With all of my revisitation of the past out of the way, let’s look ahead to tonight’s final game against the Rochester Americans that closes out the Canucks longest-serving AHL affiliation.

DO SOMETHING

Today’s ‘do something’ belongs to Sven Bärtschi, who will finish a tumultuous run with the Canucks organization in Rochester.

Bärtschi hasn’t had much puck luck over the past eight games, so it would be great for him to finish his time in Canucks blue and green with some points.

STARTING ROSTER

  • The Comets’ final lineup as the affiliate of Vancouver is the same as it has been for most of this season, with Ethan Keppen being the lone substitution for Trent Cull.
  • 19-year-old rookie, Will Cranley, makes his pro debut between the pipes for Utica
  • The Amerks play their third game in three nights to close their season, and they will be doing so without Dalton Smith, who received a one-game suspension for his sucker punch on Utica’s Vincent Arseneau during their Friday game.
    • In theory, this game should be a pretty lowkey affair.

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

GAME 28:

1st period:

PP2 – McGing, Alexandrov, McKenzie, Focht, Woo

PP1 – Anas, Bärtschi, Jasek, John and Nolan Stevens

PK1 – Tucker, Wesley, Jasek, John Stevens

PK2 – Teves, Eliot, McGing, McKenzie

2nd period:

  • Comets open the second period with twenty seconds spent shorthanded

PK1 – Jasek, Tucker, Wesley, John Stevens

PK1 – Wesley, Woo, John and Nolan Stevens

  • Rochester is forced to reset from their zone after a shot attempt wrings around the glass and out of play.
  • Rochester ices the puck attempting a zone entry; the Comets PK continues to have success.
  • McKenzie brute-forces the puck out of the d-zone as Tucker leaves the box
    • Comets PK has allowed only two goals over their last twenty penalty kills. A 90% kill-rate which would make it the AHL’s best penalty kill
  • Period winds down with the Comets outshot eight to six over twenty minutes.

3rd period:

PP1 – Anas, Jasek, Bärtschi, John and Nolan Stevens

PK1 – Jasek, John Stevens, Wesley, Woo

  • Comets quickly dump the puck after the faceoff, and Rochester spends the first minute of their powerplay attempting to re-enter the zone.

PK2 – McKenzie, Nolan Stevens, Teves, Eliot

RESULT:

Rochester def. Utica 2-1

SCORESHEET:

 

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • The first clip of Utica Comets hockey was a teed-up slapshot from a player no longer in the Canucks/Comets system. The last one, an incredible backchecking effort from a player not in the Canucks/Comets system.

  • The number of turnovers by the Comets during this game was too damn high.
  • LMAO, the Comets play-by-play man, Jason Shaya, has such utter contempt for in-arena DJs. He’s been popping off over the past couple of games, and I very much appreciate it. I will be tuning in to future AHL games where he is the pbp guy. He provided some much-needed comedy over the last few games that were devoid of on-ice entertainment.

  • Comets fans can blame Ben Birnell of the Utica Observer-Dispatch for jinxing the Comets in their final game as Vancouver’s affiliate. It took a penalty shot, so it wasn’t quite a shutout, but it sure did feel like it. The Comets spent 60 minutes struggling to generate anything remotely dangerous.
    • Comets were thirty-six seconds away from being shut out for the first time this season. Anas bless.
  • Just like last game, there is nothing to take away from tonight’s action. Until Dylan Blujus’ opening goal, the Comets dominated the Americans with sustained pressure in the offensive zone. Unfortunately, after Blujus’ goal, the wheels fell off for Utica. Michael Houser didn’t even look particularly good tonight. Houser was struggling with rebound control, holding pucks in the glove, staying upright in his crease; By all accounts, the Comets should have scored at evens or on one of their two powerplays, but the bounces weren’t going their way tonight.
  • The top-six combined for a total of eight shots on goal while the defence combined for twelve.

  • Bärtschi was unceremoniously deemed “not good enough” for the NHL by Benning and Green before the 2019-20 season. In the previous season, Bärtschi dealt with post-concussion symptoms while still producing fourteen points in 26 games, the eighth-best points-per-game rate on the team. The Canucks then signed Michael Ferland to be that top-six replacement for Bärtschi, above value with an extra year added to the term. Despite Ferland’s admission, he had health concerns following concussion issues of his own during the 2018-19 season. After essentially telling the entire league that Bärtschi’s contract made him impossible to trade and tanking his value, Bärtschi went to work for Utica. In his first season with the Comets since 2014-15, Bärtschi posted thirteen goals and thirty-three assists for slightly above a point-per-game pace. This season, the production hasn’t come for him as much. It hasn’t come for many members of the Utica Comets. Of the 31 skaters who dressed for the Comets this season, only two players produced at a point-per-game pace, with only one player above a point-per-game in Jack Rathbone. As an observer, it’s been tough watching the Canucks roll out the sea of Granlund while Bärtschi, a proven producer at the NHL level, toiled in the minors making less money than the man they signed to replace him. Even though he had zero reasons to opt into playing this season for a team that turned their backs on him, he did, and he played admirably. Sven provided his usual highlight-reel playmaking ability and sage mentorship to a very young and rookie-laden Comets team in an otherwise meaningless season of AHL hockey. It wasn’t the way anyone expected the final years of his contract to go, but he made the most out of it.
  • It is tough to say what the Canucks brass will take away from this season. A tumultuous offseason lies ahead of the Canucks. Between the expansion draft, the entry draft, and re-signings galore, the Canucks will need to construct both a credible NHL team but a brand new AHL team as well!
    • Jett Woo had his struggles but ended up being a pretty credible 2nd pairing defenceman, mostly while playing with fellow rookies Jack Rathbone or Nathan Staios.
    • Lukas Jasek proved himself once more as a utility forward who can consistently produce at 5v5.
    • Josh Teves proved that he can still wheel and make smart decisions with the puck in both ends while still being prone to turnovers.
    • Mitch Eliot struggled to produce this season, his shot is still one of his best attributes, but outside of it, there isn’t much noteworthy about his game.
    • Carson Focht struggled down the stretch to produce, but he displayed a decent two-way game and an impressive shot.
    • Will Lockwood proved that he has NHL wheels and utility as an effective penalty killer, but whether that translates to the NHL remains to be seen.
    • Jack Rathbone is an NHLer. He won’t gain much from playing in the AHL.
    • Ethan Keppen is a big body with ok skating, but his game is a complete work in progress. Did he do enough to earn an ELC?
    • Jonah Gadjovich proved he could score, but as Canucks fans will find out in Sunday’s action against Calgary, will he even be able to keep up?
    • Kole Lind had a rather unspectacular start to the season, then found himself the beneficiary of a quarantine loophole when he had his nose broken. He’s been whatever at the NHL level over the past few games, but so has everyone on the Canucks. Am I spending an expansion draft protection spot on him after this season? I don’t know; his first step isn’t that great at the AHL level and hasn’t been impressive at the NHL level either. Lind has played much better defensively in the NHL than the AHL ironically, but he looks to be another blade in the Plains of Highmore than an effective top-six contributor.
    • Guillaume Brisebois played for the Comets a bit, and he was fine.
  • Once I’ve finished tracking the final two games of the Comets season, I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how the Canucks prospects fared overall in their shot-share metrics.

  • It’s been a blast covering hockey taking place 4700-kilometres away; shoutout to Ben Birnell, Scoop and the boys at KROCK radio, former pbp man Joe Roberts, Michael E. Lehr, and so many more for being supportive and lending me a helping hand over the past few years.

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Will Cranley
  2. Sam Anas
  3. No one

HM: Will Cranley again

Plugs

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 at the Creasecast! Please give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!

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

Cheers for tuning into this season, and I’ll see everyone for my year-end recapper as we turn our heads towards next season with the to-be-named Abbotsford AHL squad!

COMETS HARVEST: The Final Friday

For most people, Friday’s just the day before the weekend. But after this Friday, the neighborhood’ll never be the same.

Ice Cube’s character, from F. Gary Gray’s cult classic, Friday, summarized it best.

After this weekend, the neighbourhood will never be the same.

The Vancouver hockey landscape will never be the same.

For the first time, the Canucks primary affiliate will be located within BC

I say “primary” because there was that brief period when their ECHL affiliate was the short-lived Victoria Salmon Kings, who ceased operations in 2011 after the Chilliwack Bruins moved to the island to become the Victoria Royals and stole the ECHL’s thunder.

Shame because the logo rocked.

Vancouver will have their AHL affiliate in their backyard, and with it, extra eyes turn to an organization that has struggled to make managing an NHL team look easy.

For nearly a decade, the Utica Comets operated on an island, away from the prying eyes of local Vancouver media.

Dependant on only a few sources for information, no one knew what was happening with Canucks prospects or their development.

When I first started to write about the Comets, it was out of a desire to see how the Canucks 2017 draft class fared in their rookie years.

Narrator: it did not go well.

That 2018-19 season was an unmitigated disaster, marred by goaltending issues and legitimate prospects scratched in favour of ECHL plugs.

The most notable issue being when both Petrus Palmu and Jonathan Dahlen publicly voiced problems with the management and coaching staff over playing time and communication.

If we’re generous to the Canucks management group, there have been three players drafted or signed out of free agency, who have developed in the AHL and turned into full-time NHL players.

Here’s a list of most of the U23 AHL’ers that have entered the Canucks AHL system since the Comets became their affiliate: Alex Grenier, Nicklas Jensen, Alex Friesen, Frank Corrado, Peter Andersson, Alex Mallet, Frank Corrado, Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce*, Mike Zalewski, Jordan Subban, Andrey Pedan, Joe Labate, Ashton Sautner, Cole Cassels, Evan McEneny, Jake Virtanen, Marco Roy, Zack MacEwen*, Guillaume Brisebois, Michael Carcone, Jalen Chatfield, Tanner MacMaster, Danny Moynihan, Nikolay Goldobin, Jonathan Dahlen, Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, Petrus Palmu, Lukas Jasek, Thatcher Demko, Jack Rathbone, Carson Focht, Ethan Keppen, Jett Woo, Mitch Eliot, Adam Gaudetteand I’m missing some more.

  • The Canucks got an entire NHL season out of Brendan Gaunce, but footspeed concerns and a lack of offence kept him out of future call-up considerations. Especially after the team invested in Jay Beagle and other bottom-six contracts. He arguably would be on that Graovac plain of NHL’er if the Canucks had just stuck with him.
  • Virtanen, let’s not even get into it.
  • MacEwen busted his ass to make the taxi squad and appeared to be on the verge of breaking out, but this year has been a disaster for him. He might have an NHL future as a 13th forward, but he isn’t a “must play” starting 16 forward at the NHL level at this juncture.
  • Thatcher Demko – grade A proof of development. The only asterisk is that he is a goalie, and goalies develop much differently than skaters.
  • Adam Gaudette and Jack Rathbone are two players who were infinitely better than those playing around them. They were on different skill levels, and their placement in the AHL was primarily due to circumstance rather than ability or needing time to cook/develop in the AHL.

So after eight years of remote management of prospect development, this club has a goalie and a 13th forward to show for their AHL development work.

The 4700-kilometre distance may have kept this ugly black spot out of the spotlight, but once the Abbotsford Aeronauts hit the ice next September, it will be tough to wave off their spotty development record.

Syracuse re-upped their head coach of the last six seasons, Benoit Groulx, who has churned out a new bottom-six/middle-six forward for the Tampa Bay Lightning every year he has been the head coach. Their recipe is a gold standard of what the Canucks organization should strive to model themselves after.

Syracuse Players with insignificant prior AHL/NHL exp who played 50+ AHL games before graduating to current NHL’ers

I performed the last exercise to examine AHL development records of various NHL franchises. The above list for Syracuse excludes Ross Colton, who debuted as a reliable bottom-six producer for Tampa this season.

The above list also excludes players like Alexander Volkov, who split time with Anaheim and Tampa Bay this season.

Utica players with insignificant prior AHL/NHL experience with 50+ AHL GP before graduating to current NHL’ers

Yikes.

YIKES.

All eyes are on the Canucks organization this summer. If they are truly invested in a grand-scale audit of their organization. It’s about time they include their AHL affiliate into those considerations.

DO SOMETHING

With just two games remaining in this abbreviated Comets season, I’d like to see something from Blues prospect Tyler Tucker.

Mostly because his production chart is hilarious, haha

Absolutely nothing for the bulk of the season, then a casual point-per-game pace over the last six games, haha.

For Canucks prospects, tonight’s ‘do something’ belongs to Carson Focht.

Carson Focht Stats (25GP tracked)

Focht has put up impressive shot suppression and goal suppression numbers relative to his teammates and ice time, but the 5v5 goal scoring has not been there often this season.

STARTING ROSTER

  • DiPietro’s call up to the World Cup is great for him, but man, only starting four games out of a possible seven over a 14-month span looks ugly as hell.
  • Evan Fitzpatrick with his second start since April 14th, 2021
  • Nathan Walker went from being on the quarantine list for Utica to being on the quarantine list of the NHL, so I doubt he plays any more games for the Comets this season.

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

GAME 27:

1st period:

PK1 – Jasek, Teves, Eliot, John Stevens

PP1 – Five-forward unit

  • Cull elects to go with the five-forward unit, which has scored once since its inception.
  • Jasek blasts a one-timer into the body of an Amerk defender, and Rochester forces the Comets to reset from the neutral zone.

PP2 – Focht, McKenzie, McGing, Woo, Alexandrov

  • Hugh McGing fans on a one-timer set up by Nikita Alexandrov and Rochester clears the zone.
  • PP1 heads back over the boards for Utica
  • Bärtschi passes to the vacant blueline, forcing the Comets to reset from the neutral zone.
    • Nothing happening on this powerplay for Utica
  • Focht (#19) records the Comets only shot on goal during the five-minute powerplay. OOF!
  • The game returns to 5-on-5 with under 55 seconds left in the period; truly, a pathetic powerplay.
  • Some other things happened in the final minute of the period, but it was inconsequential.
  • That powerplay might have killed my will to live.
  • Comets finish the game down in shots on goal nine to eight. Haha.

  • LMAO, I mean, what the fuck is that!?

2nd period:

PK1 – Jasek, Tucker, Wesley, John Stevens

PK1 – Tucker, Wesley, Stevens’ brothers

  • Comets are holding the Amerks to outside very well through the first minute of the Amerks powerplay.
    • Wesley picks off a pass and dumps the puck to allow for a wholesale change of personnel.

PK2 – Jasek, McKenzie, Teves, Eliot

  • Brent Gates Jr. whips a shot nowhere near the net, forcing the Amerks to reset from the neutral zone.
    • McGing hops on for McKenzie on the reset.
  • PK1 back out for a spin, and the Amerks once again force themselves to reset from the neutral zone
  • Amerks finally register a shot on goal with less than one minute remaining in their major powerplay.
  • Oskari Laaksonen records the Amerks second shot on the powerplay

  • Sven Bärtschi joins Nolan Stevens (#17) for a shorthanded rush in the dying seconds of the penalty kill. Stevens and Bärtschi are perhaps too carefree with their setup as the backchecking Amerks disrupt any attempt at a shot on goal.
  • Bad night for five-minute majors, holy guacamole! Only two shots on goal registered by Amerks on their five-minute try
  • A line of Bärtschi, Alexandrov, and Jasek post up inside the offensive zone for a great bit of sustained pressure for Utica.
    • Jett Woo with several shot attempts
  • Shawn Cameron gets called for slashing, and the Comets will close out the second period on another penalty kill.
  • Amerks generate nothing on the powerplay as time winds down on the period
  • Comets have been outshot, 23 to 16, after forty minutes of play.

3rd period:

RESULT:

Utica def. Rochester 1-0

SCORESHEET:

 

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • Let this thought marinate, two of the game’s five-minute major powerplays combined for only three shots on goal. I think my brain might be broken after that.
  • Lukas Jasek led the Comets with five shots on goal, and two of them came while shorthanded. Impressive two-way game from him tonight.
  • Nathan Staios is a pretty speedy little defenceman. I kind of like his overall game. Staios is somewhat undersized, but he holds his ground fairly well in board battles. He and Woo showed much better coordination and chemistry in tonight’s action. Both were much more effective together than they had been in previous outings.
  • It was another solid outing for the rage-king, Curtis McKenzie. He came in clutch with the lone goal and was incredibly effective on the Comets penalty kill.
  • Speaking of the Comets penalty kill, they managed to kill off nearly fourteen minutes facing the man advantage. Over their past ten games played, the Comets have successfully killed 23 of 26 penalties. That PK% of 88% would put them at the top of the league for penalty killing. As it stands, the Comets have an 81% penalty-killing rate which places them 17th among the league.
    • The Comets powerplay, despite its struggles down the stretch, sits ninth in the league.
  • There genuinely isn’t much to take away from tonight’s game except for Evan Fitzpatrick’s stellar performance between the pipes.

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Evan Fitzpatrick
  2. Lukas Jasek
  3. Curtis McKenzie

Next Up on the Docket

The Comets return for their season finale this Sunday at 5:05 PM EST/3:05 PM PST.

Plugs

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 at the Creasecast! Please give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!

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

COMETS HARVEST: A Final Goodbye to the City of Utica

I have seen things you wouldn’t believe.

Five attackers setting up to fire below the circles.

I’ve watched a journeyman AHL tweener turn into a Sedin twin at the twilight of his Canucks career.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Time …to move.

Tonight is the last home game for this Vancouver Canucks iteration of the Utica Comets.

Let’s hope they give the home crowd something to remember Vancouver by.

Their opponent over the next three games is the Rochester Americans, who recently had a bevy of tweeners join their ranks with the conclusion of Buffalo’s season.

Very Canuck-luck to play your last home game against a Rochester Americans squad that is arguably the most loaded it’s been all season.

No pressure.

DO SOMETHING

Carson Focht is the Harvest’s choice to “do something” in tonight’s finale at the Adirondack Bank Center.

Last game, Focht was put on a very bizarre fourth-line featuring Vinny Arseneau and Shawn Cameron. The line did not get scored on, but they also didn’t generate much of anything either.

Tonight, Focht slides back onto a line with Curtis McKenzie and Hugh McGing, so hopefully, that will help him out in terms of production.

STARTING ROSTER

  • Joel Hofer got a call-up to the Blues, so DiPietro will likely be the Comets starter for the final three games of the season.
  • Glad to see Focht on a line with McKenzie again, they had good chemistry, and the decision to split that up in Monday’s game seemed odd.
  • Keean Washkurak slides in for Tanner Kaspick on the Comets fourth line
    • Washkurak has shown decent enough speed but has not wowed at either end of the rink.
  • Tanner Kaspick coming out of the lineup for Washkurak is an odd choice. Kaspick is a 1st-out penalty killer with decent wheels.
    • Comets will have to hope they stay out of the box tonight

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

GAME 26:

1st period:

  • Buffalo Sabres’ all-star goalie, Michael Houser, makes the first save of the evening on a shot from Lukas Jasek.
  • Brett Murray with a huge shot on Dipietro; Rochester has spent the bulk of the opening three minutes inside the Comets zone.
  • GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 COMETS: It could only be you! Vinny Arseneau opens the scoring off a slick setup from Shawn Cameron (#15) from behind the net of Michael Houser. Keean Washkurak picks up his first point with a relay along the half-wall to Cameron, who gives a shimmy shake to get around Patrick Polino for the centering one-timer pass to Arseneau (#18). Great shift from the Comets fourth line to generate some momentum for the Comets.

 

 

  • Carson Focht attempts to clear the Comets d-zone with a high-flip but sends it over the glass. Comets to the PK with thirteen minutes left in the period.
    • Rochester rocks the league’s best powerplay at a 27.7% success rate.

PK1 – Jasek, John Stevens, Tucker, Wesley

  • Stevens wins the draw to Tucker, who immediately sends the puck down the ice.
  • The first PK group gets caught out on the ice for a long shift; DiPietro makes one save, then Tucker makes another long clear down the ice to allow the tired PK group to change.

PK2 – Nolan Stevens, McKenzie, Teves, Eliot

PP1 – Stevens Bros, Anas, Bärtschi, and Jasek

PP2 – Cameron, McGing, McKenzie, Focht, Woo

PP1 – Five-Forward PP 4ever

  • Nolan Stevens wades in for a shot that deflects over the glass; Amerks clear the puck off the ensuing faceoff. PP1 has to reset from the d-zone.
  • PP2 hops over the boards after a clearance from the Amerks

PP2 – McKenzie, Focht, McGing, Woo, Alexandrov

  • Alexandrov misses his hold on the blue line, and time winds down on the powerplay and the period
  • Comets outshoot the Amerks eleven to nine over the opening twenty minutes

2nd period:

  • Breakaway chance for Sven Bärtschi in the opening thirty seconds, but he gets muscled off his shot attempt
  • Amerks get caught with too many men on the ice, and the Comets head to the powerplay.
    • PP2 starts
  • Focht misses two shot attempts wide of the goal, Amerks clear the zone off both missed shots.
    • PP1 takes over
  • Amerks clear
    • Comets powerplay struggles continue; 0/3 so far this game
  • Lukas Jasek (#9) closes a long shift in the offensive zone with a great defensive play on Brendan Warren in the d-zone.
  • An ugly sequence of events for Utica as they get pinned into the d-zone by Rochester
  • GOAL – UTICA – 2-0 COMETS: Wooooooooooooooooooooo! Jett Woo notches his third goal of the season thanks to a bizarre hop off the stick of Michael Houser. Nolan Stevens (#17) starts the sequence by quickly moving the puck out of the Comets’ d-zone onto Woo’s stick as he’s driving down the right-wing. Woo with a slick little stutter step to stagger Amerks defenceman, Griffin Luce.

 

3rd period:

  • The third period starts with a minute of 4-on-4
  • Utica with two back-to-back saves on the Amerks after a brutal string of giveaways from Utica’s third line.
  • Rochester with loads of sustained pressure inside the Comets d-zone through the first five minutes of the third period
  • Patrick Polino gets called for slashing, and the Comets are off to their fourth powerplay of the game.

PP2 -Woo, Alexandrov, McGing, McKenzie, Focht

RESULT:

Utica Comets def. Rochester Americans 3-1

SCORESHEET:

 

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • What a way for the Utica Comets to close out their final season as the affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. Rochester had spurts of sustained pressure in the Comets zone, but the Comets stood tall at every opportunity. DiPietro was robbed of a great moment, sadly. A shutout in his final home start at the Adirondack Bank Center would’ve been a beautiful closer to a brutal year. Frankly, DiPietro should’ve closed his 2021 season with way more than six starts out of a possible nine. The kid needed games this year, and somehow Joel Hofer got more starts last week at home than DiPietro did. DiPietro carried the 2019-20 Utica Comets last season and ought to have played every home game in his return. I doubt home/away matters to DiPietro, but the fans deserved to see one of their favourites more than they did. Shitty way to end the relationship between the city of Utica and a beloved netminder.

  • Kevin Woodley puts it better than I could

  • Something to watch for Sunday’s game
    • The above tweet would make that only five games of pro hockey played for DiPietro in a year. Just piss-poor asset management from the Canucks.
  • Mikey leaving Saturday to play for Team Canada is fantastic for him and his development. However, if he can’t play Friday, then that means he’ll have only suited up for FOUR games of professional hockey in over a calendar year.

That’s enough frustration over DiPietro’s management; let’s talk about the good from tonight’s action!

  • Vincent Arseneau disobeying the code and deciding to be an elite power-forward for the home crowd is fantastic stuff. Arseneau was keeping the Amerks on their toes every time the fourth line got inside the offensive zone. The mere threat of Arseneau laying a massive hit was keeping their heads up and opening up the ice for the fourth line to generate significant scoring chances and shot attempts.
    • The fourth line combined for six shots on goal, a penalty draw, and one goal on the night
    • Arseneau also avoided taking any stupid penalties or game misconducts; a big game for him.
  • Nolan Stevens was snakebitten against Rochester tonight, as he had several glorious scoring chances turned away by Michael Houser. Stevens finished his night with the most shots on goal among Comets players with six total.
  • Alexandrov falls to below a point-per-game for the first time in his AHL career. Very disappointing. I joke. Alexandrov was a monster along the boards tonight as he, Jasek and Stevens made mincemeat out of the much larger Amerks squad.
  • Carson Focht didn’t end up on the score sheet, but he played with some bite tonight. I like his one-timer and creativity. As well, I think Focht has a pretty underrated two-way game. I’m hoping the Comets try him out on the penalty kill in these last few meaningless games. The team needs to find out if Focht can be a suitable replacement for Lukas Jasek, given that Jasek’s current deal expires after this season, and I’m pretty confident that the Canucks aren’t even aware he exists.
  • Speaking of whom, Jasek is good. Give him an extension and see if he can be cheap, serviceable depth. He’s legitimately one of the only Canucks prospects with all of the tools in the toolshed, without the elite speed that would make him a top-six forward in the NHL. Canucks need guys who can PK, so why not!?
    • With zero points tonight, his six-game point streak came to an end.
  • Jett Woo had a solid game tonight, he struggled on the lone goal-against, but I chalk that up to the Comets trying to spend the final three minutes of the game-tying the puck along the boards inside the d-zone. Woo has performed admirably with a rookie d-partner who likes to adventure a lot. Woo looks pretty confident now when driving down the wing with the puck.
  • Only two more games remain before Sven Bärtschi is finally free to sign elsewhere in the NHL on a contract that doesn’t suck. Production hasn’t been there for him in the post-COVID layoff, but he’s brought it every night. Still have to think with his skating and offensive IQ that he’d be an effective NHL’er on the right team.
  • Tyler Tucker casually at a point-per-game pace over the last six games should be encouraging to Blues fans.
  • Canucks should try to lift Nikita Alexandrov out of the St. Louis Blues organization. I don’t know how. But, if they can, they should. The dude is very fun to watch.
  • Cheers to the Utica faithful who supported a Canucks farm team that rarely received the attention it needed from its own management group. Hopefully Canucks fans will meet them again in the near future in Calder Playoffs.
<3

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

For the first time in three seasons recapping Utica Comets games, I agree with the three stars as selected by the AHL.

  1. Vincent Arseneau
  2. Michael DiPietro
  3. Jett Woo

HM: Nikita Alexandrov

Next Up on the Docket

Comets close out their season with games on Friday and Sunday against the Rochester Americans. The Amerks will be opening and closing a triple-header weekend against Utica, with a game against Syracuse on Saturday.

Plugs

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 at the Creasecast! Please give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!

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

COMETS HARVEST: The Last Dance at the Galaxy Cup [For the Canucks]

One night and one more time
Thanks for the memories
Even though they weren’t so great
“He tastes like you only sweeter.”

The great poets Fall out Boy summarized the Utica Comets history better than a thousand monkeys working on a thousand typewriters writing the great Canadian analogy ever could.

The last line, in particular, best captures the feeling of watching the Syracuse Crunch dominate Utica the way they have over the past three seasons.

When the Crunch were on this season, they were a force. Through thirteen games played, they earned 16 points out of a possible 26.

The last three outtings against the Crunch have not been kind to the Comets.

At 5-on-5, the Comets have posted a minus-22 shot attempt differential, a minus-three goal differential, a 16% powerplay, and a penalty kill rate of 80%.

Yeah, it was a rough patch for the Comets over the past several days.

Alas, for Canucks fans, tonight marks the end of an era. An end to the suffering. By moving westward, Canucks prospects finally avoid the dreaded bus trip down Highway 90 to face off against the best developmental team in the AHL.

No longer will Canucks prospects be feasted upon by the likes of Alex Barré-Boulet, Taylor Raddysh, Ross Colton, Cal Foote, or the other dozens of prospects that Tampa has unearthed over the years.

It’s a glorious day to be a Canucks goaltending prospect.

It is not a glorious day to be a Utica Comets faithful in New York, however.

Yes, the New Jersey Devils have a solid prospect pipeline in the works, but team history does not exactly bode well for the fanbase.

There might be some years of pain ahead, so for their sake, let’s hope the Utica Comets can punctuate a near-decade-long rivalry with a victory at home.

Tonight is the Vancouver Canucks last dance at the Galaxy Cup, an annual series competition between the two teams cradling Highway 90 in upstate New York.

The intergalactic battle for supremacy will rage on without Vancouver. Next year, Syracuse will be New Jersey’s problem.

Until Calder Playoffs, thanks for the memories, Syracuse. You’ve been just the worst. But, in a fun way!

DO SOMETHING

Lukas Jasek has been one of the Comets’ most consistent producers this season.

While he won’t blow you away with speed, hitting, or his shot, he will blow you away with his uncanny ability to win board battles and set up linemates for goals.

Jasek has been a swiss-army knife for the Utica Comets over the last two years. Between alternating from center to the wings, becoming a penalty-killing staple, a powerplay staple, and a serviceable matchup forward at 5-on-5, Jasek has utility in spades.

During the “great rookie debut misfire” of 2018-19, Jasek was one of the team’s better producers and appeared to have a grasp on the defensive side of the game better than any other Canucks prospect.

Jasek transitioned to a full-time center during his sophomore year, where he struggled mightily at suppressing shot attempts but still churned out the eighth-most points on a stacked offensive team.

This year, he’s done it all. I think Jasek has flown so under the radar that even the Canucks organization forgets what they have in him.

Jasek had a tough break to start this season when his flight to Canada arrived late, and his quarantine proceedings saw him miss the entirety of training camp except for the final day of scrimmages. A scrimmage in which he looked exhausted from lack of proper training and ice-time during his quarantine period.

He’s been solid for the Comets for his third and final year on his current deal.

I don’t know if the organization brings Jasek back, but he represents one of the few Canucks prospects with the kind of utility you need in your depth pieces.

Hopefully, this selection for tonight’s ‘do something’ section earns him that final forward call-up, and he gets in at least one game against Calgary.

STARTING ROSTER

  • The Comets are facing even more lineup juggling with the additional call-up of Will Lockwood to the Canucks.
  • Shawn Cameron enters the Comets lineup for the first time since April 25th.
  • Vinny Arseneau re-joins the starting lineup after serving his four-game suspension.
  • Guillaume Brisebois has missed the last few games due to injury! Kudos to Ben Birnell for the clarification on why he’s been out.

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

GAME 25:

1st period:

PP1 – Jasek, Anas, Bärtschi, Stevens’ brothers

PP2 – McKenzie, McGing, Focht, Alexandrov, Woo

PK1 – Tucker, Wesley, Kaspick, John Stevens

  • Hofer makes a one-timer save before John Stevens clears the puck

PK2 – Nolan Stevens, McKenzie, Teves, Eliot

  • Hofer faces three dangerous shot attempts, but the Comets kill the penalty successfully.
  • Comets generate a three-on-two rush as Arseneau leaves the box, but they can’t capitalize on the opportunity.
  • Comets finish the period narrowly outshot eleven to ten.

1st-period intermission:

  • Mikey DiPietro answers questions from a 5-year-old girl in a Comets jersey, and she ends the segment saying I hope to see you next season.
  • I guess no one in the Comets org had the heart to tell her the news.

2nd period:

3rd period:

 

RESULT:

Utica def. Syracuse 3-0

SCORESHEET:

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • It was quite the rookie debut for Joel Hofer! Two shutouts in eight starts! By my tracking, Hofer had a healthy 0.923 save percentage, 3.33 goals-against average while facing an average of 55 shot attempts a night. He still has little things to work on, like his rebound control and puck settling. He tends to overplay the puck in his end, which results in some scrambly moments around his crease. Otherwise, Hofer made a decent debut during a very awkward season after having not played hockey in well over a year.
  • It was a great night for the Nolan Stevens, Lukas Jasek, and Nikita Alexandrov trio. The three players were forechecking aggressively and punishing the Syracuse Crunch with shots on practically every single shift. The line combined for 1/3rd of the team’s total shots on goal with ten total. I like this trio, and it’s a shame that there are only three games left of this possible combination.
  • Sam Anas and Sven Bärtschi were their usual dominant selves through the first two periods, but as they tend to do: they disappeared in the third period. That isn’t to say they didn’t contribute anything, just that their on-ice flash wasn’t to the level set during the first two periods.
  • Jett Woo had a much better game tonight than he had in the previous four/five games. He appeared to be gelling a lot better with his fellow rookie d-partner, Nathan Staios. Staios was a lot more active on his defensive reads, making Woo’s job a lot easier. The Crunch weren’t exactly sustaining pressure in the Comets zone all that often tonight, but these two held their ground whenever they needed to block shooting lanes or transition the puck out of the zone.
  • Carson Focht was pretty invisible tonight, but I chalk that up to him playing with Vinny Arseneau and Shawn Cameron. Two players who require very niche minutes in the offensive zone to be successful. Focht is a decent enough passer, but he thrives on having the puck end up on his tape for shots rather than the reverse.
  • Hugh McGing probably played his best game as a Comet. Size is still a massive concern at this level.
  • Tyler Tucker had another one of those games where he displays all of the skills that make him a valuable AHL defender and all the flaws that will keep him as a valuable AHL defender only. He still makes questionable pinches all over the ice. That backhand pass to Stevens was pretty damn slick, though. More of that. Less of the point-blank writers into defencemen’s shinguards.
  • Josh Teves played very well tonight. I liked his speed and his activation in the offensive zone to generate shots on goal. He and Eliot have been quite dominant in the shot-control department but have struggled this season to be on the positive end of goals-for and goals-against.
  • Curtis McKenzie is hilarious. Dude rages at the refs over calls at least once a game. After his ejection, I thought back on all the times he mouthed off to the officials and got away with it.
  • Fun game to close out this season’s Galaxy Cup. Comets finish the 2021 Syracuse series with a 7W-7L record.

 

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Joel Hofer
  2. Lukas Jasek
  3. Nikita Alexandrov

Next Up on the Docket

The Comets conclude their AHL season with a three-game series against the Rochester Americans on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

I’ll probably recap the Friday/Sunday games, and then, once I’m finished with my tracking, I’ll complete a microstats season review and evaluate how everyone did!

Plugs

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 at the Creasecast! Please give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!

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

Will Lockwood’s 2021 AHL campaign and the strong second half that earned him a look

Will Lockwood is on his way to Vancouver for a cup of coffee. The Canucks org jumped on the call-up after Lockwoods’ very strong second-half of a tough rookie season.

First Fifteen Games

Lockwood spent the first chunk of his season alternating between a checking line with Tanner Kaspick or on a scoring energy line with Jonah Gadjovich and Carson Focht.

Truth be told, Lockwood was all over the place in his first nine games.

He played like he wasn’t sure whether he should be exclusively a hard-hitting, gritty PK specialist or utilizing his tremendous speed to be an aggressive forechecking solo play-driver.

His point totals reflected this indecision as he accumulated just three points through his first thirteen games, all assists exclusively at 5v5.

Worth noting that the points Lockwood had earned came on little ice time. As a first-unit penalty killer with zero powerplay time, Lockwood saw reserved 5v5 minutes.

When we last checked in on the prospects’ stats, I noted Lockwood’s solid on-ice shot control rates, low shooting percentage, and unimpressive goals-against numbers.

Will Lockwood Per-60 Rates Relative to Team Average (after 5GP)

I said then that Lockwood needed to use his skating to find or create shooting lanes for himself or his linemates while praising his tenacity, work rate and NHL-level skating. I was fairly optimistic that he could put it all together, but the results at the time weren’t very encouraging.

The Breakthrough

Mixed into Lockwood’s first fifteen games played was the Comets month-long hiatus due to a COVID outbreak.

An outbreak that hit fellow call-up, Jonah Gadjovich, pretty hard. 

Lockwood struggled in that initial return to play. In those first five games back from the layoff, Lockwood posted the second-worst shot-attempt differential at 5-on-5, while contributing just one secondary assist.

The breakthrough/turnaround moment of Lockwood’s AHL debut came in the sixteenth game of the season when he finally notched his first goal as a professional.

 

Yea, he picked one helluva way to score his first.

From there, it seemed like the offensive side clicked for Lockwood.

After scoring his shorty, Lockwood casually went from being in a three-way tie for fourth in 5v5 goal-production, into a three-way tie for second in 5v5 goal-production.

And it wasn’t just production. Everything appeared to be clicking.

Lockwood went from having one of the worst shot-attempt differentials over five games to having one of the best differentials over a nine-game stretch.

The team controlled play at its best with the recently suspended Vincent Arseneau, who posted a +29 shot-attempt differential at 5v5 while being on-ice for zero goals for and zero-against.

 

Lockwoods production through the second half of this season tracked with his closest Canucks comparable: Tyler Motte.

Before his 22-year-old AHL season, Motte had already entered the NHL as a 21-year-old with Chicago, where he picked up seven points in 33 games played.

During his 21-year-old AHL season, Motte produced 16 points in 43 games for a 0.37 points-per-game pace. His high work rate, skating, and forechecking impressed the Chicago brass and earned him several looks throughout the year.

Lockwood spent the extra year in the NCAA and debuted during a highly bizarre NHL/AHL season in which call-up possibilities were few and far between. Granted, after his first half, I don’t think he’d have been earning too many cups of coffee.

That being said, what Lockwood has pulled off in the back half of his season is rather impressive.

Will Lockwood Per-60 Rates Relative to Team Average (after 24GP)

Lockwood went from being a non-factor, offensively, at 5-on-5 to being slightly above average in nearly every category.

Lockwood’s impressive run of late even earned him some powerplay time of late.

However, worth noting that since Rathbone, Reinke, and Gadjovich were recalled by their NHL clubs, the Comets powerplay hasn’t been all that great.

Since the departures mentioned above, the Comets powerplay has generated only four goals over their last 27 attempts. None of which featured Lockwood on the ice.

The Comets have been rocking a five-forward first powerplay unit, which absolutely slaps for the visuals. But, they’ve struggled to make it work.

Regardless of powerplay misery, Lockwood adding “powerplay option” to his resume is excellent for him.

He’s already established himself as one of the team’s better penalty killers. The Comets have their fourth-best save percentage with him on the ice, killing penalties while also being one of the two players to score shorthanded.

What to Expect

Speed.

Effort.

Willingness to drive towards the net.

Effort.

Speed.

There won’t be a lot of runway for Lockwood during these final few games of the Canucks season. But that might be to Lockwood’s benefit.

At most, he’ll be able to suit up for the final two games of the season against Calgary once his quarantine is complete.

Sadness

Lockwood has a great opportunity ahead of himself to throw his name on the list of cheap, speedy, effective bottom-six replacement options.

With Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes due for their first big contracts, the Canucks are going to be hard-pressed to fill out their roster with effective bottom-six contributors who can skate, kill penalties, and chip in offence.

In 24 games of watching Lockwood play, I believe he could be that option for them. Like Justin Bailey, his skating is clearly above-average NHL quality. Lockwood’s game is simple enough that he might have an easier time transitioning to NHL play. His hands sometimes can’t keep up with his feet, but his game could transition well if he keeps it simple.

Relative to his AHL peers, he is infinitely more active inside the d-zone. Lockwood’s tenacity and aggressive pursuit of puck carriers inside the d-zone will make him a very useful asset to a tired Canucks team that tends to shut down when facing sustained pressure.

Canucks fans shouldn’t count on him racking up points in his two-game stint, but they can at least count on his speed, high work rate, and energy. Attributes that are all sorely needed during the final stretch of this forgettable Canucks season.

Even if Lockwood is at best a 13th forward, his call-up represents another win for the scouting staff and a new name to the Canucks bottom-six.

The Forest of Lockwood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMETS HARVEST: Rematches and Reconnected Controllers

So that we’re all aware of my mental state coming into tonight’s re-re-re-rematch between the Utica Comets and the Syracuse Crunch–the above video is where my head is presently at, and it’s giving me life.

And maybe, just maybe, the good vibes I’m feeling tonight will travel 4700 kilometres eastward to the Adirondack Bank Center and motivate a tired and possibly deflated Comets team to victory.

The Utica Comets begin the final leg of their condensed schedule tonight with a triple-set against the Syracuse Crunch followed by a triple-set against the Rochester Americans.

In total, the Comets will play six games in ten days, starting with a back-to-back and finishing with a back-to-back. They’ve looked rather tired the past two games and the next six-in-ten stretch will not help energy levels one bit.

What the Comets have accomplished despite their post-COVID layoff is commendable.

The Comets went from controlling play at 5v5 and having a reliable goaltending tandem throughout the first nine games.

After the layoff, the Comets had to rely on two rookies in Joel Hofer and Evan Fitzpatrick. Thus, the team saw a significant and understandable drop-off in 5v5 shot-control.

Pre-layoff, the Comets controlled 5v5 play in all but one game. Out of the gate of their restart, the Comets got out-controlled in four of their first seven before returning to form in their last five games.

I’m not including last Wednesday’s game because I have not finished tracking it. But that game will assuredly be a tick in the negative column as the Comets generated next to nothing.

Glad to see some other names pop up on the 5v5 goalscoring list. Blues prospect Nikita Alexandrov jumping up into a five-way tie for third in 5v5 goal scoring in three games played is something else. I’m looking forward to seeing how much more he can produce over the final six games of the season.

The Comets are hurting lately without Gadjovich, Reinke, and Rathbone. Three integral pieces to the Comets’ first powerplay unit. Guillaume Brisebois has been fine but unspectacular on the blue line.

Pre-layoff, the Comets powerplay was operating at a 22.7% clip

Post-layoff, the Comets powerplay has been running at a 20.7% clip.

The Comets are still rocking the sixth-best powerplay in the AHL. But two goals in their last seventeen attempts isn’t a promising sign. And with no sign of Reinke, Rathbone, or Gadjovich to return, it’s safe to say the Comets might be relying even more on their Quad-A players like Bärtschi and Anas to come up big for the club at 5v5.

DO SOMETHING

Tonight’s ‘do something’ belongs to Sven Bärtschi!

View post on imgur.com

Sven has been reliable to the Comets all year and has produced quite well against the other top lines of the AHL.

Tonight’s ‘do something’ is mostly a good luck charm pick. It was either Bärtschi or Jett Woo. But, eh, I can’t be bothered to be critical of Woo right now because it’s Fridayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

Then Saturday Sunday!

It’s Fridayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

Then Saturday Sunday!

STARTING ROSTER

  • Alexandrov out with injury is a bit of a bummer. He is entertaining to watch play hockey.
  • Guillaume Brisebois “stepping out” of tonight’s action draws a quizzical eyebrow raise from me.
  • Making his AHL debut tonight is Nathan Staios, the 19-year-old son of former Vancouver Canuck, and current Hamilton Bulldogs GM, Steve Staios.
    • It is rather odd that neither the Comets, Blues, nor Canucks, announced Staios debut, but instead, the Bulldogs did.
  • Not sure I like breaking up the McKenzie, Focht, and Nolan Stevens trio. Nor do I like seeing Lockwood away from Jasek as they had some really great chemistry building in the last few games.

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

GAME 23:

1st period:

PK1 – Lockwood, Teves, Wesley, Kaspick

PK2 – Jasek, John Stevens, Eliot Wood

  • Comets are electing to go with two rotating duo’s with Brisebois out of the lineup. Lockwood and Kaspick right back out after Jasek and Stevens change off the ice
  • OOF, DiPietro attempts to wring the puck around the glass but unfortunately throws it directly over the glass.
    • Comets head to a 5-on-3 penalty kill for twelve seconds

PK1 – John Stevens, Wesley, Teves

 

  • GOAL – SYRACUSE – 1-1 TIE: For the second time in as many games, the Comets give up the equalizer less than thirty seconds after scoring. This time, Bärtschi throws away the puck behind the Comets goal line to Henry Bowlby, who tries a wraparound of his own. DiPietro lays flat to try and smother the attempt, but Ryan Lohin bats in the puck to tie the game at one apiece.
  • Curtis McKenzie (#81) chases down an iced puck into the Crunch’s zone, but he can’t beat Borgman. Borgman gives McKenzie a shove after the whistle, and McKenzie punches him in return. Refs send both to the box for roughing.
  • Time winds down on the first period with the Comets narrowly up in shots eleven to ten

2nd period:

PP1 – John Stevens, Nolan Stevens, Anas, Bärtschi, Jasek

  • Trent Cull rolling with five forwards on the powerplay unit, with Jasek postured up on the blue line
    • I love it
  • GOAL – UTICA – 2-1 COMETS: The five-forward powerplay pays off as John Stevens (#16) helps out his younger bro with the one-timer feed! The play begins with Sam Anas (#7) fumbling the puck in the high slot. Fortunately, Syracuses’s Boris Katchouk overskates the loose puck, allowing John to steal and then set up Nolan for the goal. How cute.

PK1 – Eliot, Teves, Jasek, J. Stevens

  • Comets are doing a fantastic job tying up the puck along the boards and preventing the Crunch from setting up a cycle.

PK2 – Tucker, Wesley, Kaspick, Lockwood

  • DiPietro loses his stick on a one-timer, then Kaspick loses his glove going for a block; hectic PK for the second group.
    • Comets kill the penalty.
  • Off of a d-zone draw, Nolan Stevens draws a holding penalty against Cole Koepke while attempting to break out of the d-zone.
    • Comets to their second powerplay of the game

PP1 – Jasek, Anas, Bärtschi, Stevens bro’s

  • PP1 Looks for the Nolan Stevens one-timer, but Syracuse get traffic in front of it to send the puck wide
  • PP1 attempting a lot of shots but can’t get pucks through traffic

PP2 – Lockwood, McGing, Focht, McKenzie, Woo

  • McGing attempts a shot, but it’s blocked, and Syracuse make the long change
  • PP2 can’t capitalize on the man-advantage, and the game returns to 5-on-5
  • Josh Wesley draws a tripping penalty against Taylor Raddysh, and the Comets are right back onto the powerplay
  • PP1 loses the zone early and chew through most of their man-advantage attempting to re-enter
  • PP2 rotates onto the ice, but Anas stays out for a double-shift of powerplay time.
    • Powerplay ends with not much happening on it.
  • GOAL – UTICA – 3-2 COMETS: “Who needs a powerplay?” Said Josh Wesley (#24) emphatically. Syracuse attempts a rush after the powerplay expires, only for DiPietro to turn them away. Sam Anas (#7) passes off to Wesley for the break-out, and he elects to take it from there by racing end-to-end and pulling a semi-Forsberg-move on Spencer Martin to regain the lead for Utica.
  • Comets get caught with too many men on the ice less than one minute after the Wesley goal, and they head off to the penalty kill.
    • Hugh McGing serves the penalty; he also served DiPietro’s delay-of-game penalty earlier, haha.

PK1 – Tucker, Wesley, Jasek, John Stevens

  • DiPietro with a wicked lunging-post-save on the PK
  • Comets dump the puck after doing a great job at limiting the Crunch’s chances, and the game returns to 5-on-5
  • Time winds down on a wild period as the Comets get outshot ten to seven but outscore the Crunch two-to-one

3rd period:

PP1 – Jasek, Anas, Bärtschi, Woo, John Stevens

  • Comets cycling well until Bärtschi breaks his stick on a one-timer attempt
  • Bärtschi with four individual shot attempts from the ‘Reid Boucher’ one-timer spot

PP2 – Wesley, Tucker, Focht, McKenzie, Nolan Stevens,

Overtime:

1st trio: Bärtschi, Woo, John Stevens

 

RESULT:

Utica Comets defeat Syracuse 5-4 in Overtime

SCORESHEET:

 

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • What a wild game, but a really fun one! The game’s momentum was clearly in Utica’s favour through most of the 60-minute affair, Syracuse playing incredibly opportunistic on some brutal turnovers by the Comets defensive group to keep it interesting. That, and several very fortunate bounces. This was a fun game, though. The Comets should be happy with this result. It wasn’t pretty (no AHL hockey game is ever pretty, start to finish), and they got clutch goals from the unlikeliest of people. Kaspick, Wesley, Tucker, and Jett Woo. I think it was the last game, or the one previously, where I criticized the team’s lack of goalscoring coming from the backend. Really great of the Comets young d-corps to reconnect the controller and contribute some goals. Overall, this is a big win for a team that hasn’t fared too well against Syracuse this season.

  • Have to say that I am a big fan of this season’s Comets’ willingness to put shots on the net from the slot. The defence certainly throw a lot of shots from the point, but the Comets have been solid this season at generating secondary scoring chances from the slot.
  • Jett Woo struggled mightily throughout the game, possibly due to being paired with a green-eyed rookie in Nathan Staios. Fittingly, he scores a goal to make up for his numerous giveaways, of which there were a lot.
  • Quiet night for most of the Canucks prospects. Save for Will Lockwood and Lukas Jasek, who played exceptionally well with an ever-revolving door of linemates.
  • I can’t say Ethan Keppen stood out for good reasons in tonight’s game. He played here and there, but I barely noticed him when he was on the ice. When I did, it was usually because he was looking slow or offering nothing to the play in either end. He’s a big body, but I don’t think I’ve seen him show enough consistency with his speed to warrant a full-time spot in the lineup. Players like Washkurak, Dickinson, and Kaspick offer so much more speed that it’s tough to justify his place in the lineup. Keppen does do some things quite well; he throws his body and can battle for loose pucks. But, again, just not seeing enough positives so far.
  • DiPietro had a rough night. His save percentage won’t accurately reflect the brutal shots or bounces that he was facing tonight. Those final two goals from Syracuse were nigh impossible to stop.
  • I still love Will Lockwood’s game. His speed is very promising. The fact that he’s a first-out penalty killer bodes well for his chances at next year’s training camp.
  • Carson Focht was pretty quiet tonight, possibly due to being paired with fellow greenhorn Keean Washkurak (who’s got speed but has played much less in the AHL than Focht) and Hugh McGing, who frankly is not any good. That trio showed a lot of speed and aggressive forechecking, but they accomplished mostly nothing. Focht was at his best when he’d cycle out with McKenzie and Nolan Stevens.
  • I have to wonder if DiPietro gets the start tomorrow in the back-to-back. It would be weird to send DiPietro to Utica to only play five out of ten possible games.
  • I still can’t get over how sexy this logo is in silver, black, and red. Dope jerseys have spoiled the city of Utica.

 

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Tyler Tucker
  2. Will Lockwood
  3. Sam Anas

HM: Lukas Jasek

Next Up on the Docket

The Comets return tomorrow night for the re-match against Syracuse; 7 PM EST/ 4 PM PST.

I have to now catch up on two games worth of microstat-tracking, so I might skip recapping tomorrow’s game. But I’ll be back for Monday’s re-re-rematch.

Plugs

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 at the Creasecast! Please give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!

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

Cheers for tuning in,

COMETS HARVEST: Moving and Snoozing Edition

Let’s talk about Utica for a bit, shall we?

As an avid Farmies/CometsHarvest reader, I’m sure you’ve noticed my shoutouts to the locals, whether that be in clips, tweets, screenshots, or in some cases even radio hits with the local ESPN KROCK team.

The Utica Comets faithful have taken care of Vancouver’s prospects, and by extension, me and my little game recaps, for so long. But sadly this season will be the last time we share an umbrella with such a warm and inviting city.

Last year, on the precipice of the ‘mass pro-sports league shutdown,’ 3935 fans packed the Adirondack Bank Center for what would stand as the last packed house event featuring the Utica Comets. And they laid in egg.

In that game, the Comets got out to an early lead thanks to a powerplay tally from Justin Bailey, only to surrender three-straight unanswered goals to the Syracuse Crunch in a very ho-hum affair in front of the sold-out home crowd.

At the time, I criticized the team for their lax efforts in what might be the last game Utica ever watches in their barn.

This season, the Adirondack Bank Center has had the good fortune of allowing some spectators inside the arena to watch games.

Now, in a bizarre bit of poetry, the Comets return to play in front of a sparsely packed auditorium to rematch the Syracuse Crunch. Less than 24 hours after the news, Vancouver would be pulling their farm team to the west coast. The little team that kept the franchise afloat and saved countless jobs with their creation of the “puck the virus” shirt campaign, now finds themselves without an NHL affiliate heading into the end of May, through no fault of their own.

Now, let’s be clear here. Utica will likely have AHL hockey return.

Robert Esche has already put in the groundwork for a Utica/New Jersey Devils merger.

There is some rough history between the local Utica population and the New Jersey organization. But, I’m sure fences will be mended in order to bring hockey back to a rowdy and deserving market.

So yeah, the Utica faithful will have AHL hockey to cheer. But a fanbase as rabid as Utica’s should’ve had the chance to say goodbye to the Vancouver franchise.

This is a proud bunch that would purchase Darren Archibald jerseys, organize group trips to Rochester, Binghamton or Providence via bus so they could cheer on the farm in enemy territory.

They cared! A lot! And as someone who’s remotely observed this tiny market for the past two seasons, it feels bittersweet to see it end this way.

Selfishly, I’m thrilled that Vancouver is moving its farm team to the lower mainland. But, as someone who, as a child, saw his beloved Winnipeg Jets unceremoniously moved to the desert, my heart goes out to those diehards.

Hopefully, the Comets move to Abbotsford allows me to take the next step with my gameday coverage. I would be incredibly fortunate to provide in-rink coverage, Including in-person interviews with players and coaching staff as part of all future gameday recaps.

Until then, let’s keep it to a #ThankYouUtica, a fanbase 4700km away who showed nothing but relentless support for hockey and Vancouver’s youngest developing prospects for nearly ten years.

DO SOMETHING

Whatever, anyone, I don’t care.

Let’s go with Will Lockwood, who has just one point in his last five games.

STARTING ROSTER

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

GAME 22:

1st period:

 

PK1 – Lockwood, Teves, Eliot, Kaspick

  • PK1 with an early clear that forces the Crunch to reset in the neutral zone
  • Teves with a painful-looking shot block that allows the Comets to ice the puck and get a full change

PK2 – Wesley, Tucker, Jasek, McKenzie

  • GOAL – SYRACUSE – 2-1 CRUNCH: With one second remaining on the Stevens penalty, the Crunch score on the man-advantage after the second opportunity on an uncontrolled rebound winds up past Hofer. It was a really good penalty kill for the Comets up until this last-second play by the Crunch. Defending the crease has proven quite tricky for Tyler Tucker and Josh Wesley this season.
  • GOAL – UTICA – 2-2 TIE: The Crunch’s Chase Priskie with a brutal blind backhand turnover behind his goal line, directly leading to a gorgeous five-hole goal from Sam Anas (#7). Priskie might now be on Jim Benning’s radar with moves like that!
  • Time winds down on the clock with the Crunch edging the Comets in shots narrowly, ten to nine.

2nd period:

PK1 – Kaspick, Jasek, Tucker, Wesley

  • Jasek with a big block midway through the PK
  • Hofer makes a huge one-timer stop with his right pad

PK2 – Lockwood, John Stevens, Eliot, Teves

PP1 – Brisebois, Anas, Jasek, Bärtschi, Nolan Stevens

  • Syracuse controls the puck for PP1’s entire shift and generates several high-danger scoring chances… PP2 comes out in relief

PP2 – Alexandrov, Woo, Focht, McKenzie, McGing

3rd period:

PP2 – Woo, Alexandrov, McGing, McKenzie, Focht

  • PP2 generates nothing, so PP1 hops out

PP1 – Jasek, Bärtschi, Anas, Brisebois, Nolan Stevens

RESULT:

Syracuse Defeats Utica 5-3

SCORESHEET:

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • How can an eight-goal game be as boring as this one was?
  • To be fair to the Comets team, they’re playing a very hyper-condensed schedule against the same opponents with a less-than-ideal lineup after a month-long COVID outbreak. Of which, the after-effects on the Comets lineup are unknown to media and spectators. Similar to the Vancouver Canucks of late, the Comets struggled to find that late burst of energy that they needed to generate significant scoring chances in the third period.
    • The first line of Anas, Bärtschi, and John Stevens was great through the first two periods but was invisible in the third.
    • The second line of Jasek, Lockwood, and Alexandrov played excellently. Despite the lack of shot attempts, I loved the o-zone possession time they were generating with their cycling. I was glad to see them score a 5v5 goal through their zone control efforts.
    • The third line of Focht, Stevens, and McKenzie had its ups and downs. I liked what they were doing defensively and liked some of the looks they were generating in the offensive zone.
    • Trent Cull used his fourth line quite sparingly throughout the game. McGing is way too undersized at the AHL level and gets knocked over way too easily. Tanner Kaspick is a perfectly fine and aggressive penalty killer with decent offensive instincts, but he obviously struggled to carry the load of McGing and the debuting Tanner Dickinson. I liked what I saw of Dickinson in his brief TOI. He looked fast, played hard and aggressive on the forecheck and created some great momentum for his team early on in the first.
  • Joel Hofer was the real hero in this one. The Comets defensive groups left him high and dry around the net-front. The Comets managed three shots in the slot, whereas the Crunch generated three goals and four additional shots from just outside the crease. Tyler Tucker and Josh Wesley’s coverage will surely be a point of focus for the coaching staff over the next few days. The former gets noticeably lost and caught coasting away from coverage while watching the play unfold around him. There needs to be so much more commitment to clearing the slot from tip-in and redirect chances. Unfortunately, the Comets goaltending isn’t getting that support with the absences of Reinke and Rathbone from their d-corps.

  • On that note, Tyler Tucker may have been brutal defensively, but he was ‘on one’ offensively as he led the team in shots on goal with five on the night! Good for him, not so great for the team.
  • Alexandrov is fun to watch. That is all.
  • Jett Woo has not had the best run of games lately. I still have that blue line fumble between him and Josh Teves replaying over and over in my brain. He started this season so strong with his decision-making, speed, and assertiveness on the blue line, but lately, he’s been looking very sloppy in nearly all facets of the game. He’s still young and has tonnes of time to grow, but it is a bit concerning to see a mid-season skill regression, even if it’s just a minor bump in the road.
  • I’m starting to wonder if the Canucks would get more use out of seeing games from Will Lockwood than they would of Jonah Gadjovich. I’m impressed by his work rate and his skating speed. If his hands can catch up with his feet just a bit more, then I think the Canucks might have an option for their bottom-six at next season’s training camp.

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Joel Hofer
  2. Sam Anas
  3. Will Lockwood

Next Up on the Docket

Comets are back at it this Friday for the rematch when they take on the Syracuse Crunch at 7 PM EST/4 PM PST.

Then it’s the re-rematch when they take on the Crunch on Saturday, May 8th, at 7 PM EST/4 PM PST.

Then finally, it’s the re-re-rematch when they battle the Syracuse Crunch on Monday, May 10th, at 7 PM EST/4 PM PST.

I probably won’t recap them all… but then again, I found out I won’t be getting my puppy this summer, so I might need to fill the empty void of my life with something this weekend. So I just might.

Plugs

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Cheers for tuning in. Sorry it sucked, haha.