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

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