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!
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.
- 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!!
- Syracuse gets caught playing too heavy inside the Comets zone, and John Stevens (#16) quickly works the puck out to Sven Bärtschi (#47) and Mitch Eliot (#52) for a two-on-one opportunity
- Bärtschi’s pass to Eliot is just out of Eliot’s reach, but a good early chance for the Comets.
- Nolan Stevens (#17) with a very J.T. Miller-like blind backhand giveaway to Jimmy Huntington, whose shot gets deflected wide by rookie d-man Nathan Staios (#45)
- Sam Anas (#7) with a great play at the Comets blueline to strip the puck and generate a rush through center-ice. Anas cuts through traffic and draws a tripping penalty against Chase Priskie to put the Comets onto the first powerplay of the night!
PP1 – Jasek, Anas, Bärtschi, Stevens’ brothers
- Taylor Raddysh strips the puck out of the offensive zone faceoff scrum and generates a dangerous shorthanded chance for him and Otto Somppi.
- Joel Hofer faces the first high-danger chance of the game
- The Comets’ put themselves offside on their follow-up entry attempt, so PP2 hops over the boards to take over.
PP2 – McKenzie, McGing, Focht, Alexandrov, Woo
- PP2 generates some excellent chances, but Syracuse does well to stop any shots from getting through to Spencer Martin.
- Nikita Alexandrov (#41) pressures Andres Borgman on a drive down the right-wing into the offensive zone, and Borgman pivots towards the front of the Syracuse net.
- Lukas Jasek (#9) nearly given a freebie shot on goal
- After Borgman’s near-freebie, he then ices the puck, but Joel Hofer leaves his net to play the puck for some reason.
- Bit of a rookie mistake as the Comets could’ve had an offensive zone faceoff.
- Nathan Staios (#45) displaying good puck protection skills as he curls through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone for a rush.
- Alexandrov (#41) is battling for puck possession off the offensive zone faceoff scrum. Alexandrov plays the puck around the Crunch’s end boards, then heads to the net for a glorious one-timer opportunity set up by Stevens (#17).
- Joel Hofer with a slick post-to-post save
- Jasek (#9) protects the puck along the left wall in the offensive zone before saucing a pass over to Mitch Eliot (#52) for the shot on goal.
- Arseneau (#18) proves he’s a changed man post-suspension by annihilating Nikita Pavlychev with a hit from behind.
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.
- 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.
- Great pressure from the Comets in the opening three minutes of play
- Antoine Morand trips up Josh Teves in the Comets defensive zone, and the Comets head to their second powerplay
- Bärtschi winds up for a massive clapper
- Anas (#7) wrists a shot around Curtis McKenzie (#81) and off the crossbar
- Powerplay ends, followed by Hofer making his second incredible post-to-post save.
- After an offensive zone faceoff, Teves (#4) exchanges with Jasek (#9), then cuts towards the goal and dekes to the backhand for a shot that goes off the post
- The Comets are pressuring the Crunch in their zone relentlessly through ten minutes of action this period.
- Shawn Cameron (#15) barely misses Alexandrov’s (#41) breakaway pass but recovers with a great setup for Carson Focht (#19) and his one-timer.
- Alexandrov (#41) patiently evades the Crunch’s defence and waits out Spencer Martin for a scoring chance, but Martin recovers to make a huge save.
- Hugh McGing (#14) turns on the jets to negate the icing
- Spencer Martin with three massive point-blank saves on Jasek (#9) and Alexandrov (#41).
- Cole Koepke battles Tyler Tucker (#2) in the neutral zone before going head-first into the boards hard.
- Koepke manages to get up under his own power and get to the bench
- Devante Stephens rips a shot that ricochets off Hofer’s goalpost and over the glass
- Comets fourth line dominating the Crunch in their zone
- Declan McDonnell tries to relieve the pressure for his team but ends up sending the puck over the glass
- Comets to their third powerplay of the evening
- Utica’s five-forward powerplay unit moves the puck very well, but they are struggling to find clear shooting lanes with their movement.
- Despite the impressive powerplay control, the Comets can’t capitalize, and they end the second period dominating in shots on goal, twelve to six.
- A glorious two-on-one scoring chance comes for Syracuse within the opening thirty seconds of the period. Fortunately, Taylor Raddysh flubs on his one-timer opportunity.
- Mitch Eliot (#52) misses a hold along the Crunch’s blueline, giving Peter Abandonatto a breakaway opportunity. Joel Hofer comes way outside of his net to beat Abandonatto to the puck and regain for Utica.
- 44 minutes into the game and Syracuse generates their first bit of sustained pressure at the end of a long shift for the Comets fourth line
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 COMETS: The shutout streak comes to an end for Spencer Martin, thanks to a gorgeous top-corner snipe from Nolan Stevens (#17). Comets with a great setup off the faceoff draw, as Jasek (#9) wins the draw right back to Stevens while Alexandrov (#41) runs a screening route. Martin has no clue where Stevens shot is coming from, and Stevens picks up his first 5v5 goal since April 16th.
- Hofer is trying to stay busy this period as he gives away the puck through center-ice and immediately faces a shot attempt. A very 4D chess maneuver from the young rookie who is trying to stay busy.
- John Stevens (#16) comically looks off a wide-open Nathan Staios (#45) while attempting to break the puck out of the Comets’ d-zone.
- Taylor Raddysh blocks one of Tyler Tucker’s (#2) Alex Edler-like shots to the shinguards and generates a breakaway opportunity for himself. Fortunately, he whiffs his shot wide of the net.
- Jett Woo (#22) makes a quick, decisive action to pinch inside the Comets blueline that steals the puck away from Peter Abandonatto. Woo stifles the Crunch’s zone entry and chips the puck up-ice to allow the Comets to change while Syracuse resets from the neutral zone.
- Tanner Kaspick (#26) generates a dangerous two-on-one chance for Utica after Cal Foote fails on his risky pinch at the Comets blueline. Kaspick floats a centering pass over to McGing (#14) on the left-wing, but he misses the shot attempt.
- Immediately after the previous play, McGing makes a great hold at the Syracuse blue line that leads to Curtis McKenzie (#81) having a goal waved off, followed by Spencer Martin going full-Arseneau.
- Martin picks up a roughing penalty for the punches after the whistle, sending the Comets to their fourth powerplay of the evening.
- Haha, the rage-king himself, Curtis McKenzie, takes a two-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and a game misconduct for raging at the refs between whistles.
- Jimmy Huntington serves Martins penalty, and Focht serves McKenzie’s
- Game heads to 4-on-4 for two minutes
- Nevermind, Syracuse pulls the goalie for the extra attacker
- GOAL – UTICA – 2-0 COMETS: Syracuse looks a bit like Ron Burgundy after jumping into the bear pit. Joel Hofer plays the puck up the boards to Lukas Jasek (#9), who fishes the puck out to Alexandrov, who goes end to end for the empty-netter.
- Jett Woo (#22) skates headfirst into a shoulder and somehow comes out of it unscathed.
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-0 COMETS: Nolan Stevens scores his second of the night off a brilliant pass from Tyler Tucker (#2). Tucker carries the puck through the neutral territory and wide around Andreas Borgman before bobbling behind the net. Tucker recovers quickly, however, and sneakily backhands a pass to Nolan Stevens for the tap-in. Brilliant little heads-up play from Tucker to extend the Comets lead.
- A late chance for Syracuse after Woo (#22) gets muscled to the ice inside the d-zone. Gabe Fortier attempts a centering pass from the goal line, but Hofer does well to deflect the pass.
- Ha, Andreas Borgman gets dinged for holding Shawn Cameron as Cameron attempts a zone entry, then Cameron takes a holding penalty for hauling Borgman to the ice while he’s falling.
- The game will finish with a 44-second 4-on-4
- Lucas Carlson with a late blast on Hofer followed by a rebound chance from Ryan Lohin in the dying milliseconds of the game.
Utica def. Syracuse 3-0
- 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
- Joel Hofer
- Lukas Jasek
- 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!
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