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.

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