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

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