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.
Tonight’s ‘do something’ belongs to Sven Bärtschi!
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!
Then Saturday Sunday!
- 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!!
- Early shot on DiPietro from Syracuse gets blockered aside
- A great minute of pressure from the Comets first line inside the Crunch’s zone
- Josh Teves (#4) holds the blue line with a kick-pass to Sam Anas (#7), who passes off to Sven Bärtschi (#47) for the shot on goal.
- Syracuse ices the puck, and the Comets get fresh legs out for the o-zone faceoff against a tired group.
- Comets lose the first draw as Syracuse ices the puck a second time
- Comets lose the second draw, allowing Syracuse to change personnel
- Comets elect to roll out their very young and undersized fourth line for a d-zone faceoff
- Syracuse sends out the monstrous Nikita Pavlychev, the 6’7″ 200 lb. center, in response, haha
- The rookie, Nathan Staios, skates himself into a bit of danger while attempting to break the puck out of the Comets’ d-zone. Staios turns over the puck to Ryan Lohin but recovers in time to get a stick on Peter Abandonatto’s shot attempt.
- Josh Wesley (#24) with an extremely aggressive pinch in the neutral zone that misses and instantly gives Sean Day a breakaway opportunity for Syracuse. DiPietro comes up huge for his team with a save.
- Tyler Tucker (#2) threads a shot on goal through traffic
- Bärtschi (#47) with an atrocious giveaway in the neutral zone. Fortunately, Boris Katchouk rips a slapshot nowhere near the net of DiPietro.
- Mitch Eliot (#52) with a shot off of Spencer Martin’s pads followed by Lukas Jasek (#9) getting a good tip on a point-shot by Josh Teves (#4).
- Will Lockwood (#10) lays a big hit on Andreas Borgman in the neutral zone before setting up Tucker (#2) for a breakaway shot attempt.
- Tyler Tucker takes a cross-checking penalty while holding the Crunch’s blue line, and the Comets are off to the first PK of the night.
PK1 – Lockwood, Teves, Wesley, Kaspick
- Lockwood (#10) with a great read inside the Comets d-zone to block a pass, strip the puck, and clear the zone.
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
- DiPietro makes two quick saves before John Stevens clears to end the 5-on-3
- Jasek (#9), pursuing Cal Foote, nearly forces Syracuse out of the zone, but they recover. Eliot (#52) makes a clutch block on Abbandonatto.
- While forechecking, Carson Focht (#19) capitalizes on a turnover by Andreas Borgman inside the Crunch’s zone for a shot on goal.
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 COMETS: With two minutes left in the period, Tanner Kaspick (#26) opens the scoring for Utica as he capitalizes on a Lockwood rebound for a wraparound goal. The play begins with an excellent pick-up by Kaspick in the neutral zone as he capitalizes on a missed pass by Boris Katchouk at the Comets blue line. Comets have been solid at 5v5 thus far tonight, and they get rewarded for their efforts with a slick-looking goal.
- 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
- Syracuse with loads of pressure early
- DiPietro has a massive save on Gabe Fortier after John Stevens (#16) gets knocked off the puck in the d-zone.
- DiPietro with another good save on a Crunch two-on-one rush
- Comets have spent the first three minutes of the period spinning around in their end, trying to break out
- This clip here is how you know a city is a great hockey market. My mans is rocking an Ashton Sautner jersey.
- Sam Anas (#7) with a great effort on the backcheck to lay his stick down and deflect a one-timer pass up into the glass.
- Nolan Stevens draws a slashing penalty against Sean Day while driving towards the net of Spencer Martin.
- Comets head to their first powerplay of the night
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.
- Comets coming to life after the powerplay goal with Lockwood nearly making it a two-goal lead after a point-blank wrister goes high over the net
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 2-2 TIE: A brutal goal ties the game at two after a dump-in from the neutral zone deflects off the Zamboni door and out to Henry Bowlby. DiPietro had left his net to catch the dump-in behind the net but forgot that Utica’s Zamboni door is notoriously prone to dangerous redirections. Easy empty-netter for Bowlby.
- Staios picks up his first penalty as a pro after trying to stop a Somppi drive on goal.
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
- GOAL – UTICA – 4-2 COMETS: Tyler Tucker earns his first pro-goal with the most casual snipe I think I’ve ever seen. Tucker (#2) picks off an errant pass inside the neutral zone, then casually wheels around three Syracuse defenders before wiring a shot over Spencer Martin’s glove side. Wow. What a snipe.
- Hugh McGing (#14) almost makes it three straight “first goals of the year” for Utica. After blocking a shot in the d-zone, McGing races end-to-end on a breakaway for a shot off of Spencer Martin’s mask.
- Lockwood (#10) capitalizes on another Syracuse errant pass through the neutral zone but is perhaps a bit too unselfish after entering the offensive zone.
- Jett Woo (#22) with a pass through the neutral zone that Ryan Lohin picks off. Woo gets back into the d-zone and prevents any rebound opportunities from a shot by Henry Bowlby.
- John Stevens (#16) with a great feed to Sven Bärtschi (#47) on the doorstep. Martin with a big save to prevent the Comets from going up by three.
- A dicey moment for Utica after a miscue between DiPietro and Lockwood
- Zamboni door nearly gives Utica a freebie, but a well-timed stick deflects Carson Focht’s empty-netter attempt out of harm’s way
- Odd play here; Will Lockwood blocks a shot inside the d-zone and clears the puck up-ice for Curtis McKenzie (#81). McKenzie races down the rink as Spencer Martin was leaving for the bench and blatantly interferes with McKenzie’s rush. McKenzie then gets hauled to the ice after being interfered with, and the Comets celebrate, knowing it should be a goal.
- The rule should dictate an automatic goal (think Nik Ehlers bizarre hat-trick years ago)
- For some reason, the refs do not award the goal even though Spencer Martin clearly had one foot on the bench while throwing a poke-check.
- Comets earn a powerplay opportunity, but you can tell the team is rattled by the non-call. The camera catches the bench looking incredulous.
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,
- Time winds down on the powerplay with less than six minutes remaining in the period
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 4-3 COMETS: Another turnover inside the Comets d-zone results in another goal-against. Once again, Jett Woo fans on his break-out pass, turning the puck over to Boris Katchouk, who quickly moves over to Raddysh, who slaps a pass to Chase Priskie for the redirect over DiPietro’s shoulder.
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 4-4 TIE: Wow. Syracuse with a carbon copy play of the Priskie goal to tie the game at four. A missed pass by Nolan Stevens results in the game-tying goal with less than five to go. DiPietro with absolutely no chance on these last two goals. Beautiful tips by the Syracuse players.
- DiPietro leaves the net to play the puck and nearly turns the puck over for the second empty-netter for Syracuse.
- Syracuse picks up a high-flip in the neutral zone, and Peter Abbandonato races down the right-wing for a shot on DiPietro.
- Lockwood turns on the jets to beat out the icing call for Utica
- Anas (#7) finds Bärtschi behind the Crunch’s defence with a high-flip, and Bäe nearly wins it in the dying seconds of the game on the breakaway.
- A wild third period comes to a close, with Utica edging Syracuse in shots on goal 15 to 14
- After 60 minutes of play, both teams finish tied in shots on goal 33 to 33
1st trio: Bärtschi, Woo, John Stevens
- Woo (#22) nearly ends it in the first fifteen seconds with a breakaway chance!
- GOAL – UTICA – 5-4 COMETS: Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Jett Woo (#22) finishes a 42 second OT shift with a defensive move to strip Taylor Raddysh of the puck, race end-to-end, deke out Spencer Martin, and WIN IT in overtime for Utica! Comets snap a two-game losing streak on the backs of three straight goals from defencemen!
Utica Comets defeat Syracuse 5-4 in Overtime
- 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
- Tyler Tucker
- Will Lockwood
- 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.
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