The Last Comets Harvest: The one versus the Rochester Americans

Excuse me while I wax poetic here.

In November of 2018, I had a scheduling change at work that would completely alter the next few years of my life.

I was home by 3:30 PM every single day and needed something to fill the void before my wife got home from work.

Enter the Utica Comets!

For the last two and a half years, I’ve devoted most of my spare time to clipping, recapping, tracking, and reviewing AHL games for a team on the other side of the continent.

It’s been a long journey since that first Farmies post on Reddit.

Little did I know that this hobby would end up with me covering an NHL game live in Rogers Arena.

Nor did I realize the kinds of doors that would open for me over the next few years.

Just a dude, vibing, watching an atrocious AHL team bench their prospects in favour of AHL grinders for the purposes of “development.”

The first clip I made of Utica Comets hockey was Tanner MacMaster channelling his inner Elias Pettersson and teeing up a slapshot from point-blank range down the left-wing.

I wonder what will be the last?

This season has been bizarre, from the mix of St. Louis Blues and Vancouver prospects, the COVID shutdown that lasted an entire month, and the fact that the games never had any stakes due to there being no playoff format this season.

It is no doubt disappointing to have this truncated season be the one that closes the Canucks/Comets near-decade-long affiliation. The Utica faithful ought to have had a full barn to say their goodbyes.

For me, it’s been a fun ride covering the Utica Comets for Canucks fans! I can’t wait for Abbotsford to enter the fold, and I can cover games live.

With all of my revisitation of the past out of the way, let’s look ahead to tonight’s final game against the Rochester Americans that closes out the Canucks longest-serving AHL affiliation.

DO SOMETHING

Today’s ‘do something’ belongs to Sven Bärtschi, who will finish a tumultuous run with the Canucks organization in Rochester.

Bärtschi hasn’t had much puck luck over the past eight games, so it would be great for him to finish his time in Canucks blue and green with some points.

STARTING ROSTER

  • The Comets’ final lineup as the affiliate of Vancouver is the same as it has been for most of this season, with Ethan Keppen being the lone substitution for Trent Cull.
  • 19-year-old rookie, Will Cranley, makes his pro debut between the pipes for Utica
  • The Amerks play their third game in three nights to close their season, and they will be doing so without Dalton Smith, who received a one-game suspension for his sucker punch on Utica’s Vincent Arseneau during their Friday game.
    • In theory, this game should be a pretty lowkey affair.

Don’t feel like reading? Click here for spoilers!!

GAME 28:

1st period:

PP2 – McGing, Alexandrov, McKenzie, Focht, Woo

PP1 – Anas, Bärtschi, Jasek, John and Nolan Stevens

PK1 – Tucker, Wesley, Jasek, John Stevens

PK2 – Teves, Eliot, McGing, McKenzie

2nd period:

  • Comets open the second period with twenty seconds spent shorthanded

PK1 – Jasek, Tucker, Wesley, John Stevens

PK1 – Wesley, Woo, John and Nolan Stevens

  • Rochester is forced to reset from their zone after a shot attempt wrings around the glass and out of play.
  • Rochester ices the puck attempting a zone entry; the Comets PK continues to have success.
  • McKenzie brute-forces the puck out of the d-zone as Tucker leaves the box
    • Comets PK has allowed only two goals over their last twenty penalty kills. A 90% kill-rate which would make it the AHL’s best penalty kill
  • Period winds down with the Comets outshot eight to six over twenty minutes.

3rd period:

PP1 – Anas, Jasek, Bärtschi, John and Nolan Stevens

PK1 – Jasek, John Stevens, Wesley, Woo

  • Comets quickly dump the puck after the faceoff, and Rochester spends the first minute of their powerplay attempting to re-enter the zone.

PK2 – McKenzie, Nolan Stevens, Teves, Eliot

RESULT:

Rochester def. Utica 2-1

SCORESHEET:

 

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • The first clip of Utica Comets hockey was a teed-up slapshot from a player no longer in the Canucks/Comets system. The last one, an incredible backchecking effort from a player not in the Canucks/Comets system.

  • The number of turnovers by the Comets during this game was too damn high.
  • LMAO, the Comets play-by-play man, Jason Shaya, has such utter contempt for in-arena DJs. He’s been popping off over the past couple of games, and I very much appreciate it. I will be tuning in to future AHL games where he is the pbp guy. He provided some much-needed comedy over the last few games that were devoid of on-ice entertainment.

  • Comets fans can blame Ben Birnell of the Utica Observer-Dispatch for jinxing the Comets in their final game as Vancouver’s affiliate. It took a penalty shot, so it wasn’t quite a shutout, but it sure did feel like it. The Comets spent 60 minutes struggling to generate anything remotely dangerous.
    • Comets were thirty-six seconds away from being shut out for the first time this season. Anas bless.
  • Just like last game, there is nothing to take away from tonight’s action. Until Dylan Blujus’ opening goal, the Comets dominated the Americans with sustained pressure in the offensive zone. Unfortunately, after Blujus’ goal, the wheels fell off for Utica. Michael Houser didn’t even look particularly good tonight. Houser was struggling with rebound control, holding pucks in the glove, staying upright in his crease; By all accounts, the Comets should have scored at evens or on one of their two powerplays, but the bounces weren’t going their way tonight.
  • The top-six combined for a total of eight shots on goal while the defence combined for twelve.

  • Bärtschi was unceremoniously deemed “not good enough” for the NHL by Benning and Green before the 2019-20 season. In the previous season, Bärtschi dealt with post-concussion symptoms while still producing fourteen points in 26 games, the eighth-best points-per-game rate on the team. The Canucks then signed Michael Ferland to be that top-six replacement for Bärtschi, above value with an extra year added to the term. Despite Ferland’s admission, he had health concerns following concussion issues of his own during the 2018-19 season. After essentially telling the entire league that Bärtschi’s contract made him impossible to trade and tanking his value, Bärtschi went to work for Utica. In his first season with the Comets since 2014-15, Bärtschi posted thirteen goals and thirty-three assists for slightly above a point-per-game pace. This season, the production hasn’t come for him as much. It hasn’t come for many members of the Utica Comets. Of the 31 skaters who dressed for the Comets this season, only two players produced at a point-per-game pace, with only one player above a point-per-game in Jack Rathbone. As an observer, it’s been tough watching the Canucks roll out the sea of Granlund while Bärtschi, a proven producer at the NHL level, toiled in the minors making less money than the man they signed to replace him. Even though he had zero reasons to opt into playing this season for a team that turned their backs on him, he did, and he played admirably. Sven provided his usual highlight-reel playmaking ability and sage mentorship to a very young and rookie-laden Comets team in an otherwise meaningless season of AHL hockey. It wasn’t the way anyone expected the final years of his contract to go, but he made the most out of it.
  • It is tough to say what the Canucks brass will take away from this season. A tumultuous offseason lies ahead of the Canucks. Between the expansion draft, the entry draft, and re-signings galore, the Canucks will need to construct both a credible NHL team but a brand new AHL team as well!
    • Jett Woo had his struggles but ended up being a pretty credible 2nd pairing defenceman, mostly while playing with fellow rookies Jack Rathbone or Nathan Staios.
    • Lukas Jasek proved himself once more as a utility forward who can consistently produce at 5v5.
    • Josh Teves proved that he can still wheel and make smart decisions with the puck in both ends while still being prone to turnovers.
    • Mitch Eliot struggled to produce this season, his shot is still one of his best attributes, but outside of it, there isn’t much noteworthy about his game.
    • Carson Focht struggled down the stretch to produce, but he displayed a decent two-way game and an impressive shot.
    • Will Lockwood proved that he has NHL wheels and utility as an effective penalty killer, but whether that translates to the NHL remains to be seen.
    • Jack Rathbone is an NHLer. He won’t gain much from playing in the AHL.
    • Ethan Keppen is a big body with ok skating, but his game is a complete work in progress. Did he do enough to earn an ELC?
    • Jonah Gadjovich proved he could score, but as Canucks fans will find out in Sunday’s action against Calgary, will he even be able to keep up?
    • Kole Lind had a rather unspectacular start to the season, then found himself the beneficiary of a quarantine loophole when he had his nose broken. He’s been whatever at the NHL level over the past few games, but so has everyone on the Canucks. Am I spending an expansion draft protection spot on him after this season? I don’t know; his first step isn’t that great at the AHL level and hasn’t been impressive at the NHL level either. Lind has played much better defensively in the NHL than the AHL ironically, but he looks to be another blade in the Plains of Highmore than an effective top-six contributor.
    • Guillaume Brisebois played for the Comets a bit, and he was fine.
  • Once I’ve finished tracking the final two games of the Comets season, I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how the Canucks prospects fared overall in their shot-share metrics.

  • It’s been a blast covering hockey taking place 4700-kilometres away; shoutout to Ben Birnell, Scoop and the boys at KROCK radio, former pbp man Joe Roberts, Michael E. Lehr, and so many more for being supportive and lending me a helping hand over the past few years.

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Will Cranley
  2. Sam Anas
  3. No one

HM: Will Cranley again

Plugs

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Cheers for tuning into this season, and I’ll see everyone for my year-end recapper as we turn our heads towards next season with the to-be-named Abbotsford AHL squad!

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