COMETS HARVEST: Utica Comets Exorcise Some Demons

Fresh off of back-to-back losses against Providence and Syracuse, the Utica Comets return to action for a home game against the Binghamton Devils.

For those unaware, there is much discussion in upstate New York surrounding the crumbling relationship between the New Jersey Devils and their current affiliate Binghamton.

Special shoutout to former CanucksArmy Comets contributor Cory Hergott for mining this little nugget of gold.

It would appear as though Robert Esche, the Comets president, is posturing in case the Canucks opt out of the remainder of their six-year deal.

As reported by the Province’s Patrick Johnston, the current deal between Utica and Vancouver was signed after the 2018-19 season and included an opt-out clause that allowed the Canucks to explore moving their farm team to a different location after the 2020-21 season.

Something to watch out for in the coming weeks as the AHL does have a board of governors meeting soon.

Vancouver would have to table a move of their farm team to another location and be accepted by the board of governors before the New Jersey Devils farm team could transfer from Binghamton to Utica.

Utica has a bit of a rocky history with the New Jersey Devils ownership and their previous AHL farm team, the Utica Devils (original, I know).

The Adirondack Bank Center has always been a rowdy barn whenever I recap games. This season’s games are certainly missing the charm of the boisterous Utica faithful. So hopefully, if New Jersey does takeover, they show the Utica faithful a bit more respect than they did the last time they were in town.

Whether it’s Vancouver or New Jersey, one team is getting one helluva fanbase out of this.

If it’s New Jersey? Promise the city of Utica that you won’t fuck them over like you did the last time!

And if it’s Vancouver? Please promise you’ll find a way to keep the Utica Comets logo and branding for wherever they move to next.

DO SOMETHING

The Comets have unsurprisingly hit a wall in their return from their COVID layoff.

Pre-COVID layoff, the Comets were 6-2-0-1 with a +93 shot-attempt differential at 5v5!

Post-COVID layoff, the Comets are 2-4-0-0 with a +23 shot-attempt differential at 5v5.

They’re trying to fight through a tough stretch, but the schedule, fatigue, and a depleted defence-core are playing against them.

With Jack Rathbone recalled by Vancouver, the Comets have only one defenceman with a positive 5v5 goal-differential; Jett Woo.

Jett Woo has been a very reliable defenceman for the Comets at 5v5, but his current partner, Josh Wesley, is not an AHL defender; a massive downgrade on what Rathbone brought to the table.

For that reason, tonight, the person that needs to do something is…

Mitch Eliot!

Eliot has put up solid underlying metrics on a pair with Josh Teves. He has a massive one-timer shot from the point, but he’s struggled mightily to hit the net.

Among all Comets skaters, Eliot has the fifth-worst on-net percentage. Just 18 of his 44 shot attempts across all situations have hit the net.

Without Jack Rathbone in the lineup, the Comets have zero players with a heavy shot on the blueline after Eliot.

Tyler Tucker is not an answer, nor is Reinke, Teves, or Wesley; Maybe Jett Woo can be that guy, but he hasn’t shown he can unleash clappers the way Eliot can.

I would like to see Eliot get a spot as a shooter on the powerplay to try and get him on the board. He needs a confidence boost so the Comets can get something from their blueliners down the stretch here.

STARTING ROSTER

  • I’m digging the look of this first line if they can get going. Maybe Gadjovich sparks Lockwood’s offensive instincts a bit.
  • D pairings are a massive yikes for me. When Teves/Eliot is your best pair at controlling shot attempts, you’re in trouble.
  • Bärtschi and Arseneau confirmed as being unfit to play, so I’ve moved them into the IR section.
  • Kudos to the Utica Observer-Dispatches Ben Birnell for notifying me that Shawn Cameron is on a contract with the Blues, not on an AHL PTO.

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

GAME 16:

1st period:

PK1 – Kaspick, Lockwood, Tucker, Wesley

  • Kaspick wins the draw and chases down a rink-wide dump-in, scaring goaltender Mareks Mitens into leaving his net and playing the puck up into the neutral zone.
    • Good pressure from Kaspick

PK1 – Stevens Brothers, Teves, Eliot

  • Devils are struggling to set up in the Comets zone. Comets kill off the first minute of the double-minor without facing much action.
  • PK clears the zone then Hofer makes a big stop with his body

PK3 – Jasek, McKenzie, Woo, Reinke

2nd period:

PP2 – Focht, McGing, McKenzie, Woo, John Stevens

  • Comets lose the faceoff and then ice the puck. PP2 not off to a great start.
  • Comets break in off of a Woo bank-pass off the endboards. Good control displayed by him along the blueline
  • PP2 forced out to reset, and PP1 comes out

PP1 – Jasek, Anas, Reinke, Gadjovich, Nolan Stevens

 

  • With one second left in the period, Gadjovich runs into Mitens. Again, no fight ensues. However, the game has been quite chippy thus far.
  • Comets finish the period, having been outshot eleven to nine.

3rd period:

PP1 – Reinke, Anas, Jasek, Gadjovich, Nolan Stevens

  • GOAL – UTICA – 2-0 COMETSMitch Reinke (#28) makes it two-nil for Utica with a wicked wrister from the point. Lukas Jasek (#9) hands off from the slot and runs a sneaky bit of interference while Reinke walks the line for his shot. Reinke picks up his second of the year.

 

  • Tyler Tucker gets issued a holding minor less than forty seconds after the Reinke goal, and the Comets are off to their fourth PK of the game.
  • Comets penalty killers are stifling the Devils offence generation very well on this powerplay opportunity.
    • Devils with one shot-attempt that sails wide of the net.
  • Tough break for Utica as John Stevens gets called for hooking at the end of a long shift while trying to clear the zone.
    • Comets facing a brief 5-on-3 opportunity
  • Joel Hofer with two massive saves after the 5-on-3 faceoff draw.
  • Tucker leaves the box just as Binghamton fumbles the puck along the goal line and have to reset
  • GOAL – UTICA – 3-0 COMETS: What a way to score your first professional goal! Will Lockwood (#10) take a bow! While pressuring the Devils in the neutral zone, Lockwood forces a giveaway to Mitch Reinke (#28), who sends Lockwood in behind the Devils defence for the breakaway. Lockwood dekes forehand backhand on Mitens for a beauty to make it three-zip.

 

  • With time still remaining on the John Stevens penalty, Curtis McKenzie gets called for goaltender interference, and he absolutely LOSES IT on the refs, haha.
    • Broadcast calls out Mitens for the flop.
    • Comets to a 5-on-3 kill
  • Tanner Kaspick with two massive diving clearing efforts to kill the 5-on-3 as John Stevens steps out of the box.
  • Another fantastic PK for the Comets
    • They hold the Binghamton Devils to three shots total across four minutes of PK time.
  • Another solid shift from Will Lockwood. Binghamton rifles the puck from center-ice on Hofer in frustration at how this one turned out.
  • Binghamton pulls Mitens for the extra attacked with three minutes to go in the third.
  • Gadjovich is defending the 6-on-5 and has an empty-net opportunity but takes the unselfish play for the pass. Unfortunately, the pass is nowhere where it needed to be.
  • Comets frustrating the Devils by keeping them inside the neutral zone
  • With three seconds left in the period, Jett Woo takes a high-sticking penalty.
  • Tanner Kaspick wins the final faceoff on the 6-on-4, and Joel Hofer records his first professional shutout. Brilliant performance from him after some early fumbling.
  • Comets finish the game getting outshot 41-to-18 but up on the scorecard 3-zip.

RESULT:

UTICA COMETS DEFEATS BINGHAMTON 3-0

SCORESHEET:

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • An incredible effort from Joel Hofer tonight to pick up his first pro-shutout. He certainly didn’t make it look easy as there were quite a few misplay blunders behind the net that gave Binghamton dangerous scoring opportunities. Twas no easy task, stopping 40 of 40; quite the game to pick as your first shutout!
  • Will Lockwood with a fantastic game for Utica tonight. Dominant on the forecheck, even if he had a few offensive blunders. He came up big for the team on the penalty kill and was rewarded with his first pro-goal for his efforts.
  • Speaking of “rewarded for your efforts,” another Comets penalty killer who had himself a game was Tanner Kaspick. Tremendous effort on the PK to stifle the Devils’ offence. Kaspick threw his body on every loose puck to clear the zone on the penalty kill. Eventually, he got rewarded with that layup opportunity from Ethan Keppen for his first of the season.
  • Ethan Keppen looked okay tonight! His skating stride is a bit ugly, but he manages to get around the ice rather quickly for a guy his size. Great play on the Kaspick goal for his first pro point. He could be a force for Utica’s bottom-six if he can use his speed to create rush chances for his line.
  • Mitch Eliot and Josh Teves were solid tonight. I loved that one backchecking effort of theirs after the miscue with Lockwood in the offensive zone. You know these two were on the outs with the coaching staff last season for their adventuring and their half-hearted defensive play. While there are still many kinks to figure out, their efforts have been way more noticeable this season. As a penalty-killing duo, they’ve been very effective, having stepped up considerably in the wake of Juolevi/Chatfield graduating to the NHL.
  • A tough game for the Lukas Jasek line. Generally didn’t notice them at all in either zone. Jasek’s shot still remains problematic. Tonight wasn’t the first time he’s had golden one-timer chances from the slot that sailed wide of the goal.
  • Gadjovich looked pretty good tonight. Maybe the first time I’ve noticed his off-puck activity. With elite puck distributors, Gadjovich opts into an opportunistic sniper role. Guys like Sam Anas do a lot of the puck retrieval grunt-work while Gadj sets up shop at the front of the net for rebounds. Tonight, he made a concerted effort to be more involved in the grunt-work to be a set-up man for Lockwood/Stevens, moving away from being simply a stationary trigger-man. Overall, it was a great role-pivot from him tonight. Though he didn’t end up on the scoresheet, his net-front presence was definitely a big factor in the Reinke goal.
  • Tyler Tucker mystifies me. He’s a massive guy, who doesn’t really throw his body around that much, throws an outrageous amount of volume towards the net, though he never seems outwardly dominant with his shot. He kills penalties, skates fast, and has all the attributes that a coach loves. But he’s so frustrating to watch when he coasts in the defensive zone or throws blind backhand passes to no one. He should arguably have much more to show with his physical toolkit but just seems to be a guy who can eat lots of minutes without doing much in either end. He and Jett Woo had very little chemistry. Though the little chemistry they did show was better than anything the Woo/Wesley pairing showed.
  • Mitch Reinke had himself a great game. Solid on the PK, scores a powerplay goal, minute-eater, pretty much everything you want from a top-pairing AHL defender.
  • Comets powerplay without Bärtschi, Lind, and now Rathbone lacks serious firepower. It is hard to really fault the Comets on this as they really don’t have many elite options to build a better first-powerplay unit. I still think Eliot should get a look as a forward one-timer specialist, but creativity might be outside the scope of what’s expected from the coaching staff this season. Exhaustion is going to settle in really quick, if it hasn’t already, with some of these players playing big 5v5 minutes, powerplay minutes, and shorthanded time.
    • Powerplay and PK: Stevens Bro’s, Jasek, Woo, Reinke, McKenzie
    • Powerplay only: Anas, Gadjovich, Focht, Bärtschi, Jackson
    • PK only: Lockwood, Kaspick, Wesley, Eliot, Teves, Tucker
    • None: Arseneau, Cameron, Keppen, McGing
      • Arseneau is what he is, but he has a good shot. I’d give him a look on PP2 with Eliot.
      • Keppen is a big body who arguably could get a look as a net-front guy
      • Cameron has fantastic wheels and should arguably be on the PK, same with McGing
  • The above point is just to say that there are shooters not being used for the powerplay and grinders with speed who aren’t being used on the PK. With thirteen games remaining in the schedule, no Calder playoffs, and no player returns in sight, it makes sense for the coaches to “get weird with it.” For Trent Cull, you might as well see what gold you can mine out of this group. Especially with reports of an ownership group that is content with spending very low on their next coach. A coach that might not even need NHL experience to qualify for the position.

 

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Joel Hofer
  2. Tanner Kaspick
  3. Will Lockwood

HM: Mitch Reinke, Ethan Keppen

Next Up on the Docket

The Comets are back in action this Friday when they visit the Rochester Americans; 7 PM EST/4 PM PST.

In theory, I should be good to recap that one! But last week, I overworked myself to exhaustion trying to squeeze the tracking of five games around three evenings, so I might bail and opt to recap the Sunday game against Syracuse instead.

Plugs

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for your daily dose of memes, sarcasm, stats, and both Comets and Canucks gameday clips!

You can also catch me on Podcast format with Lachlan Irvine at the Creasecast! Please give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!

And if you’re more of a visual person! You can check out the Youtube channel, where we upload all of our podcasts in video form!

Cheers for tuning in, and I’ll catch you all this Friday or Sunday, OR BOTH!? Probably neither, I’m very tired.

Or am I?!

Yes.

COMETS HARVEST: Woo-Gang Ain’t Nuttin To F**k Wit

– Utica Comets Post-Game Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

After posting last night’s recap, I stayed up until midnight recording a deadline recap episode of the CreaseCast podcast. Check it out!

After a 5:30 AM  wakeup, safe to say I’m feeling pretty exhausted.

Thus, this will probably be a lowkey game recap that relies a lot on gifs to summarize my thoughts instead of words.

Comets run it back against the Syracuse Crunch tonight, with both teams running the same lineups.

DO SOMETHING

Still keep shaking off those cobwebs, boys!

STARTING ROSTER

  • The only switch-up in tonight’s lineup is the starting netminders.
    • Starting his first game of the season for Utica is Evan Fitzpatrick.
    • Starting for Syracuse is Spencer Martin, the soon-to-be brother-in-law of Jonah Gadjovich!

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

GAME 13:

1st period:

2nd period:

  • So the Comets and Crunch will play the remaining 2:30 of the first period before the officials roll the clock over and the goalies switch sides.
  • Antoine Morand picks up a roughing minor penalty with less than 50 seconds remaining in the “first period.”

PP1 – Bärtschi, Anas, Gadjovich, Jasek Reinke

  • Comets are forced out of the offensive zone and end up facing off a high-danger scoring chance from the Crunch’s penalty-killers. Not a great start
  • PP1 generates nothing as the first-period session expires
    • PP2 takes the second-period faceoff

PP2 – McKenzie, McGing, Focht, Rathbone, N. Stevens

  • GOAL – UTICA – 1-1 TIE: The Comets rookie powerplay group tie the game at once apiece off some crisp passing plays between Carson Focht (#19), Jack Rathbone (#3), and Nolan Stevens (#17). Spencer Martin kicks out a Rathbone point-shot right onto the tape of Stevens stick. Stevens buries the puck under Martin’s blocker side. Great set up from the Comets young forwards and an excellent finish from Stevens.

PK1 – Kaspick, Lockwood, Woo, Tucker

  • PK1 kept in their end for a solid minute, but they deny any shot attempts by the Crunch. Great work by them to keep the Crunch to the perimeter looking for outlets.

PK2 – Stevens Bro’s, Eliot, Wesley

PK3 – Jasek and McKenzie sub on for the Stevens Bro’s

  • A scrambly moment in the crease of Martin’s net, and he gets up shaking his head after the whistle.
    • Being put to work in tonight’s matchup is Spencer Martin
  • Comets are just completely pouring on the offence in this period. Syracuse looks entirely out of sorts with the long change.
    • Syracuse then gets caught with too many men on the ice. Comets to their third powerplay of the game
  • PP1 starts for this powerplay
  • Gadjovich (#21) screening well to allow Anas (#7) to put a shot off Martin’s glove.
  • PP1 is caving the Crunch on this powerplay. Crunch players look completely gassed trying to clear the zone.
    • Syracuse’s first PK group finally dump the puck and change personnel with less than thirty left on the powerplay.
  • Spencer Martin “loses” his helmet and takes his precious time putting it back on. Brilliant play to buy his team some reset time.
  • PP2 gives up a shorthanded rush to the Crunch before time expires on the powerplay. Tremendous pressure despite the lack of scoring on this one.
  • Tyler Tucker gets into a shoving match with Gabe Fortier after Fortier gets a little too close to Fitzpatrick off of a save.
  • Sean Day rips a shot that echoes off of Fitzpatrick’s goalpost
    • Shots heavily favour Utica, but that bomb almost undid a ton of work put into this period by the Comets
  • Focht (#19) with a solid defensive effort to break up a two-on-one play.
  • Grigori Denisenko puts his crossovers to work to race around Rathbone (#3) for a wraparound attempt on Fitzpatrick.
  • Time winds down on the period, and the Comets are legitimately crushing Syracuse in shots on goal.

  • Syracuse had a couple of good looks late in the period. Comets hopefully won’t try to sit back with the one-goal lead.

3rd period:

PK1 – Stevens Bro’s, Tucker, Reinke

  • Nolan Stevens with a good shot block to force the Crunch out into the neutral zone for a reset
  • Lockwood and Kaspick step on for the Stevens Bro’s
  • Katchouk claps iron! Close call for the Comets!
  • Comets kill Woo’s penalty, and we’re back at 5v5 with less than six minutes remaining in the game
  • 2:38 left, and a giveaway from Mitch Eliot in the d-zone prompts Syracuse to pull Martin for the extra attacker
  • Tyler Tucker attempts to hit the empty net but ices the puck
  • Josh Wesley (#24), without his stick, ties up his man at the front of the net to deny a prime scoring chance for Syracuse. Comets just barely miss the empty net.
  • GOAL – SYRACUSE – 3-2 COMETS: With less than fifty seconds remaining in the game, the Crunch’s Boris Katchouk rifles a shot, bar down, past an exhausted Tyler Tucker (#2) and over the shoulder of Evan Fitzpatrick.
  • Crunch pull Martin after winning the faceoff draw
  • Comets put out Rathbone and Woo to close the game out and do a great job tying the puck up along the wall.
  • Syracuse put themselves offsides on an entry attempt. The final faceoff at center-ice is mostly a formality as there is only one second left on the clock.
  • Comets dominate in back to back outings
  • The Final shot totals 40 to 18, favouring Utica.

RESULT:

Utica Comets def. Syracuse 3-2

SCORESHEET:

 

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • Watered down forward, defence, and goalie talent aside, it is quite impressive that this Comets team has come back from a month-long layoff with two dominant games in a row. Especially considering these past two games followed two very concerning games in a row over the weekend. Doubling an opponent in shots on goals is hard when fully healthy, let alone in back-to-backs after missing a month of play due to COVID-19—really impressed by the resiliency of this group these past two games. I might have to lift my moratorium on the DO SOMETHING section of my game recaps; the rust appears to have been shooketh away.
April 13th, 2021 SOG
April 14th, 2021 SOG

  • Lukas Jasek and Sven Bärtschi looked great together tonight. Jasek’s play reminds me of Bärtschi, though the difference in their shot quality and their overall utility as players remain the separator.
  • Jack Rathbone was flexing all night on every shift. He led the Comets in shots on goal with seven total.
  • This is blowing my mind.

  • Quiet night from Will Lockwood again. Two nights in a row with zero shots on goal. I’m still hesitant with my critique as none of us know the extent of COVID’s impact on this Comets roster.
  • Carson Focht with another solid effort tonight. Crisp passing on display whenever he was in the offensive zone and even displayed solid defensive chops on the few times when he was tasked with playing D. Which honestly wasn’t often tonight at the Comets thoroughly dominated the Crunch in all facets of the game.
  • I wonder if the Comets would get more out of Mitch Eliot if they put him on PP2 as a one-timer option. He has the second-best slapshot among blueliners (second to Rathbone) and is one of the team’s only high-volume shooters. If the Comets re-jigged their powerplay units so that Eliot could slide in as, essentially, a forward to take one-timers, then I think they might get more use out of him than as just a 3rd pairing penalty killer.
  • Overall, impressive work rate from this young Comets group. They didn’t get rattled by that late goal from Syracuse, and kudos to the coaching staff for trusting the rookies, Woo and Rathbone, to shut down that final minute of play for the team. Good stuff. You love to see it.
  • Really pulling for this kid. Hope his goal tonight opens the floodgates!

 

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Jett Woo
  2. Lukas Jasek
  3. Evan Fitzpatrick

HM: Sven Bärtschi, Nolan Stevens, and Evan Fitzpatrick

Next Up on the Docket

The Comets will be back in action this Friday when they take on the Providence Bruins at 3 PM EDT.

I won’t be recapping this one because I have a full-time job. But Check out Chris Faber on Twitter, as he’ll likely have gifs of all the goals!

Plugs

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for your daily dose of memes, sarcasm, stats, and both Comets and Canucks gameday clips!

You can also catch me on Podcast format with Lachlan Irvine at the Creasecast! Please give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!

And if you’re more of a visual person! You can check out the Youtube channel, where we upload all of our podcasts in video form!

Hope everyone enjoyed this recap. Unfortunately, the next one won’t be coming until this Monday when I cover yet another game against the Syracuse Crunch.

COMETS HARVEST: Multi-Point Madness!

The Comets are two days removed from a tough return-to-action this past weekend—a weekend in which they picked up losses to both the Rochester Americans and the Syracuse Crunch.

On Friday, against the Amerks, the Comets dominated play for most of the first two periods. Unfortunately, evaporating energy levels led to some poor defensive coverage, allowing the Amerks to surge past the Comets for a 4-2 regulation victory.

On Saturday, against the Crunch, the Comets honestly had nothing to offer. They were lethargic and slow from the get-go. With rookie netminder Joel Hofer between the pipes, the Comets gave up the game’s opening goal within the first thirty seconds and not once afterwards did they appear “in it.”

The Saturday game might be an omen of things to come, a team coming off a lengthy COVID-outbreak layoff asked to play a ridiculously condensed schedule to satisfy… something?

Utica Comets Schedule

I mean, seriously? What is the impetus for this? Did the league really deem it essential to squeeze a game on the 13th? A Sunday game on the 25th? Maybe the two games squeezed into their existing April schedule doesn’t look that bad. But then you factor in what they did to their May schedule it looks quite ridiculous.

Utica Comets May 2021 Schedule

From April 9th to April 25th, the Comets play nine games in 17 days.

From April 29th until May 14th, they play ten games in 17 days. Why?

Who thought that May Schedule was a good idea?! Five games in seven days?

I was pulling my hair out, trying to understand why the league deemed this necessary.

Right now, there might be in-division “playoffs,” a.k.a more of the Comets playing Syracuse or Rochester.

These aren’t the legitimate Calder Cup Playoffs. The stakes aren’t nearly as high as they’ve been in non-COVID years.

So who is asking for 19 games in the next 36 days?

 

A team like the Utica Comets, who had to shut their operations down for an entire month due to a COVID outbreak should not be playing a schedule this overloaded.

The lingering effects of their COVID layoff played a significant role in the team’s last weekend performances and for all we know, might factor into tonight’s as well.

Utica begins their second double-header in six nights tonight against the same team that dominated them this past Saturday.

Fingers crossed that some of the layoff rust has been shaken off thoroughly. Otherwise, I fear for what the rest of this season will look like.

A ‘rest of the season’ that demands a whole lot without much in return.

 

DO SOMETHING

No “do something” for anyone on this team until it looks like they can play a full 60 without being completely gassed.

 

STARTING ROSTER

  • Joel Hofer starts the second game in a row for the Comets
  • The lineup essentially unchanged, except Mitch Eliot slides back into the lineup for Josh Teves.
  • The Syracuse Crunch called up Alex Barre-Boulet and Mitchell Stephens prior to the NHL trade deadline which means the Comets avoid playing them in tonight’s action. Though Syracuse still has a deep roster full of speedy players, the absences of ABB and Stephens will be quite noticeable.

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

 

GAME 12:

1st period:

  • Live stream not working, good stuff.
  • Sven Bärtschi takes a high-sticking minor penalty TWELVE seconds into the game, and the Comets are off to an early PK
  • Comets kill the penalty, but the Crunch completely pin the Comets into their zone.

PK1 – Jasek, Kaspick, Wesley, Eliot

  • Twenty seconds left in the PK and Mitch Eliot finally clears the zone for the Comets to change.

PK2 – Tucker, Woo, McKenzie, Lockwood

  • Comets kill the PK but don’t push the puck out into the neutral zone until 16:42 of the first period. Syracuse is just smothering Utica early.
  • Oh god, this game is getting ugly… Crunch back into the Comets zone pressuring along the boards, and John Stevens takes a hooking penalty as the Comets desperately try to regain possession. Second PK less than five minutes into the game

PK1 – Nolan Stevens, Eliot, Wesley, Kaspick

  • Syracuse just playing on fast forward while the Comets watch
  • Lukas Jasek is able to hop on for Nolan Stevens, Jett Woo, and Tucker hop on for the d-pairing.
    • Hofer gloves down the puck, allowing Kaspick to change finally
  • Comets kill the Stevens penalty – Rathbone out for his first shift of the game, haha.
  • Syracuse’s Henry Bowlby gets dinged for hooking after the Comets finally manage to enter the Crunch’s zone. Comets with their first powerplay of the game

PP1 – Anas, Bärtschi, Gadjovich, Jasek, Reinke

PP1 – Bärtschi, Jasek, Gadjovich, Anas, Reinke

PP2 – McKenzie, Focht, N. Stevens, McGing, Rathbone

PK1 – Jasek, McKenzie, Eliot, Wesley

2nd period:

PP2 – Rathbone, McGing, Focht, McKenzie, Nolan Stevens

  • PP2 loses the faceoff draw and struggle to break into the Crunch’s zone
  • The refs actively hate 5v5 hockey or some shit
  • Refs call a hooking penalty against Taylor Raddysh. Comets get their fourth extended 5-on-3 powerplay in three games.
  • Crunch clear the puck, and the 5-on-3 generates nothing
  • Gabe Fortier blocks a shot by Sam Anas, and the Comets have to reset from their zone
  • GOAL – UTICA – 1-1 Tie: Despite close to ten minutes of powerplay time in the first thirty minutes of play, the Comets finally get on the boards! Curtis McKenzie (#81) ties the game at one apiece after having a shot-attempt deflected above the Crunch’s net and behind the goal line. Dmitry Semykin attempts to clear McKenzie’s deflected shot, but it floats between his legs. McKenzie hooks the puck past a scrambling Sam Montembeault, who had zero clues as to where the puck was coming from.

PP1 – Jasek, Gadjovich, Bärtschi, Anas, Reinke

  • GOAL – UTICA – 2-1 Comets: LOL, Sam Anas (#7) finds Jonah Gadjovich (#21) in his sweet spot, and the Comets somehow go from getting blown out in the opening of this game to carrying a one-goal lead with less than two minutes to go in the second period. Comets 2/6 on the powerplay tonight and destroying the Crunch in shots on goal; 20 to 1 so far.

3rd period:

  • Early pressure from the Comets in the opening minute
  • GOAL – UTICA – 3-1 Comets: Jonah Gadjovich with his second of the night! Sam Anas (#7) is the real hero on this goal as he singlehandedly draws in the entire Syracuse team towards his center-ice dangles. The puck trickles out to the left-wing for Gadjovich (#21) to sink his team-leading eleventh goal of the season.

 

  • GOAL – UTICA – 4-1 Comets: Well, to quote the great poets Smashmouth, “they don’t stop comin’, and they don’t stop comin’.” Sven Bärtschi unloads an absolutely filthy top-shelf snipe past Montembeault off of an offensive zone faceoff draw. Lukas Jasek and Curtis McKenzie likely pick up assists on the play. Gorgeous snipe.

PP1 – Reinke, Anas, Bärtschi, Gadjovich, Jasek

  • An appropriate eyebrow raises from Tyler Tucker (#2)
  • Crunch pressuring through the final two minutes, but the Comets are doing well to keep their shots to the outside.
  • The Comets overcome a sloppy first period of play and ultimately dominate the Syracuse Crunch over the remaining forty minutes. Impressive comeback effort from a very young club.
  • Comets absolutely destroy the Crunch over the final two periods, outshooting them 38 to 11 over forty minutes.
    • Joel Hofer gets his first professional win

RESULT:

Utica Comets def. Syracuse Crunch 5-1

SCORESHEET:

 

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • I was convinced this game would be another complete write-off after that opening period. The team came out looking completely flat. They didn’t touch the puck once, and they were chasing play endlessly. I put the timestamps in the game recap for a reason because it was truly remarkable how much time the Comets spent trapped in their d-zone.
  • Nonetheless, this was a really encouraging sign that the team may have shaken off the cobwebs of a month-long layoff. The team was buzzing in the second and third periods. No doubt, thanks to some fortunate penalty calling by the referees, but that’s out of their hands.
  • Tanner Kaspick spent most of his night on a line with ECHL PTO Shawn Cameron and blues rookie prospect Hugh McGing, yet managed to make himself useful to the entire team. Kaspick drew two penalties for the Comets and played an integral role as a first unit penalty killer.
    • The PK went 6/6 tonight, completely shutting the Crunch’s offence out.
    • The powerplay ended up going 2/9
  • Curtis McKenzie had himself a game and a half, one goal and one assist on NINE shots on goal! McKenzie has been a very useful “all-situations” player for Trent Cull. He isn’t the fastest, but he’s great at stealing pucks at 5v5 and shorthanded. His PK unit with his brother Nolan is pretty fun to watch. Also very neat that Nolan assisted on Curtis’ goal tonight. Really solid game from him.
  • Sam Anas showed why he’s an elite AHL player and why he’s likely not earning himself NHL minutes. A creative puck distributor with fantastic wheels, Anas picked up two primary assists tonight to give him ten total on the season. However, like many undersized forwards, Anas’ problem is his ability to be knocked off the puck. During the opening period, Anas was constantly being stripped of the puck by the Crunch. Anas eventually got his feet beneath him in tonight’s game, and generally, he remains an elite quad-A AHL player. Still, it’s impossible to deny that his propensity to get knocked off pucks isn’t what keeps him from reaching that next level. I think he could still get a look as a niche powerplay specialist fourth-liner (a la Gagner), but I highly doubt a team like the St. Louis Blues are the team to try that out. Overall, terrible first period and glaring turnover issues aside. He played well.
  • Jonah Gadjovich played okay. He had two goals, yes, but can you honestly look at the tape and tell me he was the driver of the bus on either? The powerplay tally was him standing still at the front of the net, and the second one was the result of Sam Anas drawing an entire defensive group towards him. Gadjovich has a knack for being in the right place at the right time to score. That’s an excellent skill to have, especially at the AHL level, where positioning matters almost as much as speed.
  • Speaking of speed, Gadjovich’s skating, for me, will be what holds him out of legitimate NHL call-up consideration. This season his skating has looked ok, but the difference between Gadjovich’s wheels and even a Zack MacEwen is a large chasm. And Canucks fans know just how much MacEwen has struggled to find his footing this season. Right now, Gadjovich is a net-front goal-scoring specialist. I don’t know if that’s even remotely close enough to warrant NHL ice time.
    • Again, still a great game from him tonight! But there’s a lot of attributes in Gadjovich’s game that need proof of concept.
  • Jack Rathbone was fantastic at both ends of the ice, and his skating remains an impressive separator. His ability to skate backwards faster than some skate forwards is quite something. He wasn’t at his best in the weekend back-to-back, but tonight was a massive return to form from him. I still don’t understand keeping him on PP2 as PP1 legitimately only has one shooting threat in Gadjovich. Bärtschi, Anas, Jasek, and Reinke are puck movers/distributors. They’re not snipers. They need someone like Rathbone, who can launch bombs on goal from the blue line.
    • Too bad the Canucks didn’t call him up before the TDL. I would’ve liked to see what he could do in the Canucks meaningless 19-in-30 stretch.
  • Joel Hofer played a great game tonight. He might have stolen the starter role from Jake Kielly with his play tonight. He legitimately kept the team alive in that brutal first period with timely saves.
  • Will Lockwood hasn’t shown much at 5v5 since the Comets return, though he has been an effective penalty killer for the Comets. His play at 5v5 leaves a lot to be desired. Nonchalant is how I would describe his play at 5v5 over the past three games. And for someone whose upside is. “Tyler Motte, but younger,” I’d like to see way more activity from him at evens to back up his strong shorthanded play.
  • Carson Focht had a solid game. I still want to see some more confidence in his offensive play, but Saturday’s game and tonight were positive signs that he’s figuring things out.
  • Jett Woo was a bit quiet tonight but was solid on the PK.
  • Sven Bärtschi was great. It’s too bad we don’t live in a timeline where the team doesn’t give up on him just to sign the same player with even worse health concerns to the same deal. Oh well, some team is probably going to get him on a bargain contract next season.
  • Also, refs baybee, what is u doin?

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Joel Hofer
  2. Jack Rathbone
  3. Sven Bärtschi

HM: Tanner Kaspick, Curtis McKenzie, Jonah Gadjovich

Next Up on the Docket

The Comets are back at it against Syracuse tomorrow at 7 PM EST/4 PM PST.

Plugs

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for your daily dose of memes, sarcasm, stats, and both Comets and Canucks gameday clips!

You can also catch me on Podcast format with Lachlan Irvine at the Creasecast! Please give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!

And if you’re more of a visual person! You can check out the Youtube channel, where we upload all of our podcasts in video form!

COMETS HARVEST: First Blood Part 2

A quick turnaround for the Utica Comets as they return to action for the first time in a month with a back-to-back.

I’m not sure what the impetus was to jamming the Comets schedule with games?

Including last night’s game against Rochester, the Comets are in the midst of a four-in-six stretch; they play eleven games 22 days through April.

There are still no concrete plans to host Calder Playoffs as of today; Therefore, the Comets, Amerks, and Crunch are mostly playing to stay fresh for their NHL squads and get reps in.

With that context in mind, what is the sense in getting the Comets playing three games in five nights?

Let me re-phrase: Why is the league forcing three games in five nights on a team that is just returning from a month-long layoff due to COVID?

There are no playoffs! There’s absolutely no need to have the Comets playing a schedule this dense after a COVID outbreak.

Anyways, tonight’s opponent for tonight, and the next three games, is the Syracuse Crunch, a team coming off of a four-game series against the Rochester Americans.

In that series, the Crunch dominated the Amerks, winning three of four.

  • 2016 2nd rounder, Boris Katchouk, picked up three goals and four assists
  • 2015 2nd rounder, Mitchell Stephens, picked up one goal and four assists in three games since joining off of Tampa’s IR
  • The AHL’s leading scorer from last year, Alex Barre-Boulet, had one goal in each of the four games

The Lightning’s roster situation has allowed their farm team to load their top-six with talent.

The Crunch come into tonight’s matchup on three nights rest.

Like last night’s game, not expecting much from the Comets.

They dominated the first two periods against the Amerks but fumbled on defensive coverage at very inopportune moments that gave the Amerks the win.

They definitely deserved a better result for their efforts.

Let’s see how they do on tired legs in their first back-to-back in over a month!

DO SOMETHING

Again, no pressure on anyone! These first couple of games here are about the players finding their legs and getting back up to game speed!

STARTING ROSTER

 

  • Joel Hofer gets the start between the pipes! His first start since March 8th, 2020!
  • Mitch Eliot slides off of that pairing with Josh Teves — likely because of this read on the game-winning goal against Rochester.
    • Besides the above gaffe, I thought Eliot looked strong. Stronger than Tyler Tucker, who was responsible for this baffling read.
    • Sliding in for Eliot is Josh Wesley, son of former Carolina Hurricane Glen Wesley, who looks suspiciously identical to head coach Trent Cull.
*x-files music intensifies*
  • Comets Harvest favourite, Vincent Arseneau, gets back into the lineup
  • Other than that, the lineup remains unchanged

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

GAME 11:

1st period:

PP1 – Bärtschi, Jasek, Anas, Gadjovich, Reinke

PP2 – McGing, Woo, Focht, McKenzie, Nolan Stevens

 2nd period:

  • Cull starts the Lockwood, Focht, Stevens line, recognizing that they are one of the few lines operating with some jump in their step tonight.
  • An early penalty was called against Boris Katchouk for high-sticking. Comets to another powerplay!

PP1 – Jasek, Anas, Bärtschi, Gadjovich, Reinke

  • Will Lockwood gets dinged for tripping shortly after Rathbone’s goal, and the Comets are off to their first PK of the night.

PK1 – John and Nolan Stevens, Teves, Wesley

  • Comets win the draw and force the Crunch out to the neutral zone for a reset.
    • Comets clear twice more to force the Crunch to reset from their zone
  • Jett Woo (#22) gets called for hooking while on the PK, and Syracuse gets a 52-second 5-on-3 powerplay

PK2 – Tucker, Reinke, John Stevens

PP2 – Rathbone, Focht, McGing, McKenzie, Nolan Stevens

  • McGing and McKenzie collide with each other off the faceoff, and the Crunch easily clear, forcing the Comets to reset from the neutral zone
    • PP2 then put themselves offside on their entry, and PP1 comes out to replace a very weak 30-second effort
  • Reinke (#28) throws the puck away to Boris Katchouk while trying to break the puck out 
  • OOF, just atrocious powerplay for Utica
    • zero shots on goal
  • Josh Wesley cruises down the right-wing for a shot into the chest of Montembeault.
    • I will say this, Montembeault makes every save look very difficult.
  • Barre-Boulet snaps a shot off the post while being pressured by Jett Woo. Kids shot is deadly.
  • With less than twenty to go in the period, Will Lockwood draws a slash against Odeen Tufto to put the Comets on their fifth powerplay.
  • Sam Anas with a wrister that deflects off a foot and over the net. Syracuse clears the puck as time expires.
    • Comets will start the third period with a minute and forty-seven seconds left on the powerplay.
  • Comets generated just six shots on goal through the middle frame.
    • The team just looks absolutely gassed. Josh Teves looks winded every time he’s on the ice.

3rd period:

  • Rathbone still not getting PP1 time, which is baffling to me. Rathbone hasn’t stood out by any stretch in this game at 5v5. He is surely way more dynamic and valuable to your first powerplay group than he is on a powerplay featuring *checks notes* Curtis McKenzie, Nolan Stevens, and Hugh McGing.
  • Jasek with a point-blank opportunity that gets blockered aside by Montembeault
  • Wow, Sam Anas drives towards the net, and the refs call a trip against Noah Juulsen.
    • Comets get their second 5-on-3 of the game, third in two games. Have yet to score on any of them.

PP1 – Anas, Bärtschi, Gadjovich, Jasek, Reinke

PK1 – Kaspick, Lockwood, Tucker, Woo

  • Comets clear, and Kaspick ties the puck along the end boards in the Crunch’s zone.
  • The Stevens brothers step on for Kaspick/Lockwood and play give-and-go while shorthanded to generate a shot.
  • Jasek picks off a pass in the d-zone and rifles it down the ice as McGing hops out of the box. Good kill.
  • Jasek, Anas, and Gadjovich out as a trio; they pressure in the offensive zone for a bit but don’t generate much
  • GOAL – SYRACUSE – 5-1 Crunch: Jeez…look at how exhausted this Comets team is. Josh Wesley (#24) accidentally backhands the puck right to Mitchell Stephens, who gives Josh Teves (#4) the ole dipsy-doo before setting up Boris Katchouk for his seventh of the year.
  • Vinny Arseneau is apparently back on the ice for a shift? He looked in a bad way when he left the ice not ten minutes ago?
    • I am very curious about what happened in the last ten minutes that convinced the medical staff to let Arseneau back on the ice.
  • Jett Woo (#22) gives Luke Witkowski a hard shove to the number from behind, and Witkowski goes hard into the boards. He leaves the ice under his own power, but that did not look pleasant. 
  • Crunch pressuring late. Comets content just to clear the zone and kill off the clock
  • Tough loss against a fresher and faster opponent.

RESULT:

Syracuse Crunch Def. Utica 5-1

SCORESHEET:

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • I said in the preamble that the result didn’t matter. It was just about getting up to game speed. This was ugly. And through no fault of the Comets, really. The league should be ashamed of themselves for scheduling back-to-backs immediately, for a team recovering from a month-layoff due to COVID-19. Despicable. There are literally no stakes in the AHL season, and there are hardly even fans in the buildings. There was absolutely no need to have the Comets playing back to back.
    • Further to the above, the league dropped the news that the Canucks will resume their season on April 16th with a 19-in-30 schedule. What the actual fuck is that? After watching this game, I don’t even want to think about what the Canucks are about to go through. Is it even worth playing?
  • Props to Joel Hofer, he did what he could, and most of the time, looked pretty stable in net. The Comets just had absolutely nothing to match the Crunch’s speed.
  • Jack Rathbone’s goal was pretty nice, but otherwise, he was pretty invisible at 5v5.
  • Outside of his pretty dicey hit on Witkowski, Jett Woo played probably the best out of all the Comets defenders. He displayed some decent speed late in the game, and overall I really liked his defensive play.
  • Gadjovich looked very slow tonight, as did the fourth line, Wesley, Reinke, and Josh Teves. Oh, man… Josh Teves looked absolutely gassed from the first period. He just had no legs under him whatsoever.
  • Carson Focht had a much better game tonight than he did on Friday. Had some decent wheels on him tonight, good passing, good entries and playmaking attempts. Spent most of his game in the offensive zone trying to set up with Stevens and Lockwood until the wheels came off in the early part of the second period.
  • The gameplay was ugly, but these guys are coming off a month layoff into the stupidest schedule imaginable. I can’t really make any judgements on their gameplay since everyone was on the same playing field.
  • Get Reinke off PP1 if it isn’t a mandate from the Blues that he has to be there.
  • Wear a mask
  • Stay safe, everybody.

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Joel Hofer
  2. Jett Woo
  3. Sam Anas

Next Up on the Docket

The Comets run it back against the Crunch this upcoming Tuesday and Wednesday night! It will be a jam-packed schedule, and for some reason, I’ll be tasking myself with tracking four games of data between now and then… My poor wife, haha.

Plugs

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for your daily dose of memes, sarcasm, stats, and both Comets and Canucks gameday clips!

You can also catch me on Podcast format with Lachlan Irvine at the Creasecast! Please give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!

And if you’re more of a visual person! You can check out the Youtube channel, where we upload all of our podcasts in video form!

Cheers for tuning in, and I’ll see you all Tuesday, April 13th, for post-NHL-trade-deadline AHL action!

COMETS HARVEST: The Return…

Nah, it hasn’t been that long, but it has been 30 days exactly since the last time the Utica Comets took the ice to face off against an opponent.

Yes, the Comets will finally crack the ten-game marker of their season.

Their last opponent and, conveniently, opponents tonight, the Rochester Americans, have played five times since losing in the Comets’ shootout on March 10th.

That game is where most assume that the Comets contracted COVID-19 from a positive player on the Amerks.

Since returning from their COVID layoff, the Amerks have won once in five outings.

The Comets will undoubtedly have some rust on their blades tonight, so I’m personally not expecting much of anything.

On top of the layoff, there were many roster additions/subtractions due to the ongoing COVID outbreak on the Vancouver Canucks.

  • Kole Lind was recalled to the Canucks Taxi Squad after completing the rehab of his broken nose
  • Sam Anas was returned to the AHL after a lengthy stint, so the Comets top six will be a bit of a net-neutral trade with Lind’s departure
  • Dakota Joshua, Jon Gillies, Steven Santini, and Nathan Walker all remain on the taxi squad of a depleted St. Louis Blues team
  • Shawn Cameron was added on a PTO from the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits (elite logo btw)
  • Ethan Keppen was added to the team on an Amateur Tryout contract
    •  Keppen has not played since March 11th last year
      • In his D+1 year, Keppen rocked a rather unimpressive 0.66 points-per-game on a Flint Firebirds team that was second in their division before the season was shut down.
    • I remember Keppen looking perfectly average in a pre-season game last year!

The lack of a bonafide starting goaltender, the team’s lengthy break, and any lingering health effects from COVID-19; all likely combine tonight for a tough return-to-play.

Again, health and safety come first, so let’s all cross our fingers that they come away from tonight’s action unscathed!

DO SOMETHING

No one is obligated to do anything.

They just have to try their best! And hopefully there won’t be any lingering effects from COVID-19.

STARTING ROSTER

G10lineup

  • I wonder how the Blues feel about two of their prospects (McGing and Wesley) getting benched for an AHL PTO, signed by the Comets in Shawn Cameron?
  • Interesting that Joel Hofer immediately gets backup duty
  • Like the composition of the top-six. Though this lineup further cements how desperate the Comets are for goal scorers. Gadjovich the only bonafide goal scorer of this bunch.

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

GAME 10:

1st period:

PK1 – Kaspick, McKenzie, Teves, Eliot

PK2 – Nolan and John Stevens, Tucker, Woo

2nd period:

PK1 – Kaspick, John Stevens, Tucker, Woo

PP1 – Gadjovich, Anas, Jasek, Bärtschi , McKenzie, Reinke

  • Oh wow, Brandon Biro takes a slashing penalty less than 25 seconds into the Comets powerplay. Comets now with a minute and a half long 5-on-3.

PP1 – Reinke, Bärtschi , Gadjovich, Rathbone, Anas

PP2 – Teves (yes, Teves), Jasek, Nolan Stevens, McKenzie, Eliot

PK1 – John Stevens, Woo, Tucker, Lockwood

3rd period:

  • Early pressure favouring the Comets
  • Kielly caught cheating heavily on one side, again. Amerks can’t capitalize.
  • Amerks starting to turn the pressure on as the Comets are beginning to look a little late on each play
    • Comets playing like they’re defending a one-goal lead. Bit odd. Surely exhaustion factoring in heavily this period.
  • Michael Mersch picks up a holding penalty, and the Comets are heading to the powerplay with less than fifteen to go in the game

PP1 – Reinke, Jasek, Bärtschi, Gadjovich, Anas

  • Still not sure why Rathbone isn’t getting PP1 duty
  • Comets powerplay not generating much of anything

PP2 – Cameron, Focht, Rathbone, McKenzie, Nolan Stevens

PP1 – Reinke, Anas, Bärtschi, Jasek, Gadjovich

PP2 – Rathbone, Focht, McKenzie, Anas, Nolan Stevens

RESULT:

Rochester Americans Defeat Utica 4-2 in Regulation

SCORESHEET:

scoresheet

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • Considering the above and the fact that some of these guys were playing their first game in over 30 days. And I’d say tonight wasn’t a bad showing at all. The Comets badly outshot the Amerks in the first two periods, and only when their lethargy caught up with them did they give up goals.
  • Hard to really get into any thorough analysis or critique of the Comets game, to be honest. It really isn’t fair to a team that was waylaid by a global pandemic for the last month.
    • The tape-to-tape passes weren’t there? COVID layoff.
    • The goaltending was not sharp by any stretch! COVID layoff.
    • The powerplay was not effective! COVID layoff.
  • I liked what I saw from Josh Teves and Mitch Eliot for the most part. Really dominant in the offensive zone and effective on the Comets PK together. Eliot was hunting for a goal in the first two periods, but exhaustion hit him as the game progressed (as it did most Comets players).
  • Gadjovich displayed some decent skating here and there, but nothing game-changing
  • Sam Anas, by comparison, was wheeling and dealing all over the ice tonight. For a guy who hasn’t played a game since February 18th, I thought he had great pep in his step!
  • Will Lockwood looked solid on the PK but was largely unnoticeable at 5v5. His line with Focht and Nolan Stevens just got crushed in possession at evens. The shot-metrics might not even be against them as the Amerks really did nothing with the possession they did have, but these three couldn’t string a pass to save their lives. That line was constantly chasing play in the d-zone and the neutral zone. It wasn’t pretty. But, I don’t expect this to stick. Once they shake off the rust these three will be back to looking decent enough. Tonight just wasn’t their night.
  • Jett Woo looked stable. He still really needs to work on his shot though. Couple times he had golden opportunities walking down the wing only to throw a shot into the chest of Luukkonen.
  • Bärtschi looked good, and his passing was easily the best of the bunch; his ability to transition the puck up ice with tips through his legs, the bank passes off the boards, threading passes through defencemen to his linemates… he was crisp. Unsurprisingly. It probably wasn’t an easy game for him knowing the Canucks signed an equivalent contract to Tanner Pearson not 24 hours earlier. A deal that will probably age about as well as Bärtschi’s deal did.

  • Something for Canucks fans to look forward to! Ethan Keppen likely wont suit up in Saturdays action, barring injuries to anyone from tonight’s action. Still, we could be seeing him in some games as soon as this upcoming Tuesday!

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Sam Anas
  2. Sven Bärtschi
  3. Jonah Gadjovich

HM: Jett Woo

Next Up on the Docket

Pending any delays due to an overabundance of COVID-19 caution, the Utica Comets will be back in action tomorrow at 7 PM EST/4 PM PST against the Syracuse Crunch!

Plugs

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for your daily dose of memes, sarcasm, stats, and both Comets and Canucks gameday clips!

You can also catch me on Podcast format with Lachlan Irvine at the Creasecast! Give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!

And if you’re more of a visual person! You can check out the Youtube channel, where we upload all of our podcasts in video form!

Cheers for tuning in, and we’ll see you tomorrow night!

COMETS HARVEST: ROCHE5TER @ UTICA

Admirable Bone-to-pick:

So was everyone going to keep watching me pump out charts with the wrong season listed for the entire year without saying anything!?

This entire time, I had been posting charts dated 2019-20?!?!

“Why didn’t anyone tell me!? I’ve been making an idiot out of myself!”

 

THE SEASON IS A FLAT CIRCLE:

The Comets are back in action this week for their first 3-in-4 of the season!

And I bet you anything that you could guess who their opponents are!

.

.

.

Did you guess one of the Rochester Americans or the Syracuse Crunch!?

‘Cause if you did? You got it!

 

The carousel of playing the same teams over and over again, as though time were a flat circle, continues.

They don’t play someone other than Syracuse or Binghamton until April 3rd when they take on the Providence Bruins.

It is almost exclusively Syracuse/Rochester for the entire season.

It’s a really… really unfortunate schedule.

I have to throw asterisks on all the stats I’m keeping this season by saying, “oh yeah, these shot-control rates came from playing the same 40-50 players for 90% of the season.”

But, because the Comets Harvest cares about the little things and the little developments, we persevere.

Tonight, the Comets, sans Jon Gillies AND Kole Lind, will look to avenge last week’s loss. A tall order for a young group.

Lind took a high-stick at the tail-end of last Wednesday’s game that split his face open pretty good. That infraction put the Comets on an extended 5-on-3 powerplay where Jack Rathbone picked up his first goal of the season.

The powerplay was absolutely atrocious for the Comets last Wednesday. Picking up just that one goal from Rathbone in eight opportunities. I’m not sure how much better it will look tonight without Kole Lind in the Boucher spot either.

Ironically, at 5v5, the Comets controlled play exceedingly well. Their volume approach generated a PLUS-38 shot-attempt differential at 5v5.

Unfortunately, their goaltending was not up to snuff.

Jon Gillies has been Solid for the Comets this season, but the two goals he allowed last Wednesday weren’t great.

The first was a point shot was the only one you couldn’t fault him on. Screened by three skaters and tipped in the middle to go high over his glove side. The dude had no idea a shot was even coming.

The second was a backbreaker. Can’t be allowing squeakers like this while on the man-advantage.

The third was just Gillies looking completely lost in his crease and allowing Rochester an easy tap-in goal. No need to swim. Just plant.

The Comets will be starting either Jake Kielly or one of the Blues rookies, Joel Hofer or Evan Fitzpatrick.

A fact that segues nicely into a major issue currently making the rounds in the Canuck-o-sphere thanks to Kevin Woodley and his appearance on the latest Vancast.

DI PIETRO NEEDS GAMES!

The Canucks goaltending agreement with St. Louis has currently seen Jon Gillies take on the lion’s share of starts.

Gillies is a 27-year-old AHL tweener who is a prime 3rd string candidate for St. Louis.

Jake Kielly is 24-years-old likely an ECHL-AHL tweener who doesn’t really factor into the Canucks short-term or long-term plans.

Evan Fitzpatrick is 23-years-old on the end of his ELC after putting up abysmal numbers in the ECHL. He’s basically there for a place to practice at this rate.

Arturs Silovs is a waiver-exempt, soon-to-be 20-year-old who has only been given a single game with the Manitoba Moose while on a loan-agreement with the Jets. He likely returns to the Barrie Colts when the OHL resumes, but that isn’t a guarantee.

Michael Di Pietro is a waiver-exempt 21-year-old who is burning the final year of his ELC sitting on the practice squad, earning time with Ian Clark (who may leave at the end of his contract), and practicing with the taxi-squad.

This is unacceptable. The Comets play nine games over the next 22 days. How the Canucks couldn’t call-up Silovs to the taxi-squad to send Di Pietro down for game-action is beyond me.

The Comets don’t have an AHL goalie on them right now!

They could’ve made this switch weeks ago!

DO IT NOW! Get the kid playing games!

He was so good for the Comets last season; he put the team on his back on most nights! You can’t waste this year.

DO SOMETHING:

Blues contracted player, Curtis McKenzie, gets tonight’s honour of being the Harvest’s do something player!

McKenzie is a minute-munching second/third-line forward playing alongside Carson Focht and Nolan Stevens. Despite their impressive two-way play and overall control, I’d expect more substantial offence generation for someone with McKenzie’s takeaway rates. He isn’t the fastest skater, but he’s adept at picking off passes and stripping pucks while forechecking. The offence that follows that solid forechecking pressure has been underwhelming.

It’s especially bizarre to see someone preventing goals and shot-attempts at 5v5 at his rate, without contributing a lick of goals. Just two on-ice goals-for at 5v5 in six games played for McKenzie.

McKenzie has the fourth-worst goals-for rates (per-60) of any Comets player. While he’s done excellent at preventing goals against, absolutely nothing is happening for production.

I’m still questioning why Cull has chosen McKenzie for PP1 — I can only assume it is apart of the Canucks deal with the Blues as part of sharing an affiliate.

But frankly, McKenzie brings nothing to the powerplay. Even with PP1 minutes, there is a considerable lack of goals scored (per-60) on the powerplay with McKenzie on the ice.

Need him to step up his offensive game.

He was a 42 point player for the Chicago Wolves last season and is just two seasons removed from a 25 goal campaign with the Texas Stars.

Hopefully, that starts tonight in the absence of the Comets first-line center, Kole Lind.

STARTING ROSTER

 

  • Once again, the lineup blender leaves us with a bunch of trios who’ve spend absolutely zero time together at 5v5, haha.
  • I have been saying it all year, “put Gadjovich on the top-line because they need a goalscorer to make it work.” Hopefully, they can!
  • Fortunately, the team gets Hugh McGing and John Stevens back from IR. Otherwise, they would be playing with a 9F/7D roster…which truly would’ve been something!
  • Also, the Stevens brothers on a line together <3
  • Looks like Josh Wesley will play this game as a forward instead of rotating in as the seventh defenceman.

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

GAME 9:

1st period:

PP1: Baertschi, Rathbone, Gadjovich, Jasek, Reinke

  • Love the composition of this powerplay unit; a bit safe with Reinke/Rathbone on the back-end, but I love seeing Baertschi and Jasek out with Rathbone and Gadjovich. That’s a powerplay unit that, with time, can do some damage.
  • PP1 Gets a one-timer from Jasek, but Amerks sweep the puck out of the zone, Comets 2nd powerplay unit hops over the boards

PP2: Woo, Focht, McGing, McKenzie, Nolan Stevens

PK1: McKenzie, J. Stevens, Tucker, Woo

PK2: Lockwood, Kaspick, Teves, Reinke

2nd period:

PP1: Jasek, Rathbone, Reinke, Baertschi, Gadjovich

PP2: Focht, Woo, McGing, McKenzie, N. Stevens

PK1: Jasek, Tucker, Woo, J. Stevens

  • [GOAL-ROCHESTER- 2-1 Comets] A mere twenty seconds into the penalty kill, and the Comets lead is cut down by one. Brett Murray with a gorgeous saucer-pass to Jack Quinn for a sharp-angle goal over Kielly. Tough break for the Comets, who were absolutely dominating the period thus far.
  • Mitch Eliot with another point-shot clapper on Luukkonen. The guy is hunting for that first goal of the season.
  • Casey Fitzgerald with a slow one-timer from the point that narrowly goes wide of Kielly’s net.
  • Teves really showing off his skating tonight with his holds along the offensive-zone blue line.
  • Lockwood takes a high-sticking infraction, and the Comets head to their third PK of the night.

PK1: Kaspick ,Teves, Jasek, Eliot

3rd period:

PP1: Gadjovich, Jasek, Baertschi, Rathbone, Reinke

PK1: Kaspick, Teves, Eliot, J. Stevens

  • Time winds down after PK1 clears the zone.
  • Comets will spend the first minute and 18 seconds shorthanded, 3v4.

Overtime:

 

Shootout:

RESULT:

Comets win in the shootout: 3-2

SCORESHEET:

 

 

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • Jonah Gadjovich looked great on the first-line. No hyperbole or praise for dramatic effect. Gadjovich looked fast, displayed great hands, hockey IQ, and two-way play. Was one of his best two-way games he’s played all season. He did not look out of place on the Comets first-line with Baertschi and Jasek. His forechecking presence was badly needed. Jasek is a great option at picking off passes after they’re released, but Gadjovich’s physical forecheck made those players make risky outlet passes for the taking. Happy for the guy. A lot of people wrote him off after the last two seasons. Even now, I still have reservations due to his skating. But tonight was a fantastic step in the right direction. Proving he can skate and play with the first-line against top-competition and not look out of place is a good look for the big man from Whitby.
  • Gadjovich ended the night with seven shots on goal and now leads the AHL in goals. Not too shabby!
  • I don’t think Lind will be out for too much longer. Should he return, I think Gadjovich may have earned himself an extended look on the Comets top line. Maybe the center will be different; maybe it will be Jasek, maybe it will be Lind. It’s tough to say. But I don’t think we’ve seen the last of ‘Top-Sixjovich.’ I think he displayed a lot of the qualities necessary to being a top-line forward at the AHL level. He was good. Impressively good. He might just be the goalscoring punch at 5v5 that this top-six has been in desperate need of this season.
  • Lukas Jasek had a really great game at 5v5. He was stripping the puck off of Amerks left, right and center. He was missing shots and holding the puck a bit too much for my liking on the powerplay. But 5v5 is where the game matters most. And he excelled on that top-line with Gadjovich and Baertschi. I actually thought he and Gadjovich had better chemistry than Jasek and Baertschi had as a pair. Kind of how I’ve been saying all year that the first-line needs a shooter. That’s what I think Jasek needs. Someone to go to the slot and redirect his passes or tip his shot-attempts. I was very intrigued by the speed that Jasek was displaying on the Comets PK and at 5v5 on those forced turnovers. Legitimately looked like an NHL’er out there at times.
  • Jack Rathbone was about as quiet as Rathbone gets. AKA, he didn’t score any points. He was still a lot of flash and panache whenever he held the puck, but the Amerks were honing in on him whenever he started to put in work along the blue line. They were wise to his attempts at cutting down the wings to set up cross-ice passes for his shooters. The one time where he really went for it, the Amerks took a blatant tripping penalty to avoid the set-play. Was absolutely the best part about the Comets’ first powerplay unit. His bomb from anywhere on the ice is something to behold. NHL players don’t really clump like they do in the AHL; AHL PKs tend to get very panicky, resulting in a cluster-ball of 4-5 players in the way of a primary shooter. When Rathbone has that shooting lane, it is like an absolute laser beam firing off. I still don’t know how Luukkonen made that one safe from on his ass. Rath’s shot is absolute money.
  • Speaking of the powerplay, I liked the reinvigorated look with Rathbone on the blue line, though I would prefer to see someone like Will Lockwood out instead of Mitch Reinke. Reinke doesn’t bring much to the powerplay, frankly, and he doesn’t have the speed to backcheck on those shorthanded rush opportunities. Give me Will Lockwood out there all day to backcheck like a madman and create zone-entries for PP1. Speed kills, and even if his hands can’t keep up with his feet, the net positive of having someone like Lockwood fighting for rebounds on the powerplay is huge.
  • Speaking of which, I thought Lockwood played a great game. Really think his speed will earn him a shot in the NHL even if the production isn’t there. The dude can wheel, and if he can translate his penalty killing to the NHL, he’ll be found money for the Canucks next season.
  • Another solid night for Josh Teves and Mitch Eliot in limited minutes. Teves’ speed is certainly above-average AHL, borderline NHL, quality. Just tends to dish the puck or lose the puck at the most inopportune moments. Eliot has an absolute bomb of a shot, and you can tell he’s searching for that first goal of the season. He had to settle for a primary assist on that Gadjovich goal, but a goal is bound to come from him soon—dude claps.
  • Liked the look of the Stevens’ brothers line with Curtis McKenzie. With last-change, Trent Cull got them out against the veteran/big-boy hockey line of JS Dea, Andrew Ogilvie, and Remi Elie; and they absolutely dominated them in shot-attempts. The brothers had a couple good breakaway opportunities, but I think they peeled off of the opportunities because neither wanted the other to have a scoring edge over the other. Fair.
  • I don’t really like to talk about reffing in the game thoughts section because it makes the Harvest sound way too Homer-ish. But the reffing tonight was atrocious. Several blatant missed icings completely tilted the ice in favour of the Amerks. Plus, the non-tripping call on Jasek that led to the game-tying goal was pathetic. Refs have to be better than they were tonight in Utica. To hell with game-management. A team like the Comets, dominating a team for 2 minutes straight in the offensive-zone, shouldn’t have icing waved off simply because the Amerks have the long-change to go through.
  • Kielly was okay tonight. He made some clutch stops, but he got caught flailing around his crease for some reason on several attempts. The Jasek non-call on the game-tying goal aside. It was a weak goal to allow. Fortunately, Kielly has found a niche as a shootout god as he picks up his second shootout win for the Comets.
  • Jett Woo was completely fine.
  • Sven Baertschi was solid as usual.
  • Carson Focht was dominant in his shifts, even if the points didn’t come. His fourth-line with Robby Jackson and Josh Wesley had no business being as dominant as it was when it came to controlling shot-attempts and suppressing attempts-against.
  • Hugh McGing had a big night in his return from IR — Four shots, the opening goal, and a shootout goal! Big contribution on a night that needed guys to step up in the absence of so many key players.

 

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Jonah Gadjovich
  2. Lukas Jasek
  3. Mitch Eliot

HM: Josh Teves

Next Up on the Docket

Comets are back up this weekend for a double-header against, you guessed it! The Amerks and the Crunch!

Plugs

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for your daily dose of memes, sarcasm, stats, and both Comets and Canucks gameday clips!

You can also catch me on Podcast format with Lachlan Irvine at the Creasecast! Give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!

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COMETS HARVEST: The AHL is a Flat Circle

The Rath of Bone

It was quite the weekend debut for Rack Jathbone!

Four points in two games, with three of the four coming at 5v5.

I mean, what more can I say. Besides his actual offensive production, the guy has NHL speed and skating, vision, and defensive play.

There were times in Friday’s game where the Comets loaded-up first line of Baertschi, Lind, and Jasek would establish their cycle in the offensive zone then work for two minutes straight, hammering away with shots and attempts.

That green bar was Friday. They registered a PLUS THIRTY-SIX SHOT-ATTEMPT DIFFERENTIAL AT 5v5 against Rochester.

It was absolute carnage.

Yes, in two games, Rathbone was a net-positive every time he touched the ice except when sharing the ice with Curtis McKenzie, Nolan Stevens, and Carson Focht (which I’ll get into later)

He looked a bit tired in his first back-to-back of the year, so tonight will be interesting to see how he recovers!

Jack Rathbone’s share of ice-time using on-ice shot-attempt data as a proxy

Rathbone spent most of his time matched with Jett Woo as his partner while being deployed alongside the Comets top-line.

* Eye-test stands to reason that whenever Lind, Baertschi, and Jasek are on the ice together at 5v5, they are on against the other team’s top lines.

The fact that Rathbone is already being trusted on the ice with top-line matchup deployment is great. Even better, he managed to run-up a shot-attempt differential ranging from +5 to +15, with Lind/Bae/Jasek likely playing against a talent level that is close at or above that fivesome’s playing field.

Other takeaways from Rathbone’s early-metrics:

  • against middle-six competition with Gadjovich and Lockwood, Rathbone managed a 5v5 shot-attempt ratio of 15-to-2 with Gadjovich, and 11-to-2 with Lockwood
  • If you’re big on PDO — Rathbone is running a second-place PDO of 105%.
    • First belongs to fellow debutant Robby Jackson and his 150% PDO, LOL.

Again, it’s still super early, and it’s reckless to takeaway too much from a two-game sample-size.

But man, he looked good.

And, alongside Höglander, is one of the few bright spots in a forgettable Canucks season.

DO SOMETHING

Today’s do something definitely belongs to Carson Focht. He’s been trusted with two veteran players in Nolan Stevens and Curtis McKenzie but has struggled with acting as a distributor to them.

Carson Focht Player-Card After 7GP

He’s running good underlying metrics at 5v5; however, he’s struggled mightily at scoring since his goal in the third game of the season.

He does many little things right; he has the right linemates to facilitate offence through, so CometsHarvest is hoping for him to do something tonight.

 

Tonight’s opponent is the Rochester Americans, who are coming into tonight’s matchup off a 4-3 loss to the Syracuse Crunch this past Monday.

For the first time this season, the Comets will be the rested-team coming into the match-up.

STARTING ROSTER

  • Comets management really haven’t found a 12th forward on a PTO to give them a full lineup? K.
  • Those shot-attempt differentials on the Comets first-line and the Rathbone/Woo pairing

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

GAME 8:

1st period:

  • Comets win the opening draw, and Rathbone immediately sends the Focht line into the offensive zone to recover.
  • Kole Lind steps on for a shift between Gadjovich and Lockwood; very interesting to see how this plays out.
  • [GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 Comets] Well, that got answered pretty quick! On their first shift together, Kole Lind (#13) leads the zone entry before handing it off to Will Lockwood (#10). Lockwood wheels down the left wing for a shot on Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who doesn’t control the rebound. The bouncing puck goes off the dome of an Amerk defender, and Jonah Gadjovich (#21), as he tends to do, is there at the net-front to bat in the rebound for his seventh of the season.

2nd period:

PP1: Lind, McKenzie, Baertschi, Reinke, Nolan Stevens

PP2: Gadjovich, Jasek, Jackson, Focht, Rathbone

PK1: Lockwood, Kaspick, Woo, Tucker

  • Lockwood takes away a loose rebound and generates a shorthanded rush but elects to dump-and-change

PK2: Jasek, Teves, Eliot, N. Stevens

PP1: Reinke, Lind, Baertschi, McKenzie, N. Stevens

3rd period:

  • Comets with 3:30 remaining on the powerplay to try and even things up
  • Lockwood was rewarded for his offensive efforts tonight, and they put him on the powerplay with Rathbone, Jasek, Gadjovich, and Woo.
  • Oof, Lockwood gets tied up in a puck-battle and gets called for holding. Comets to 4v4
  • Cull rolls out Baertschi, Kaspick, Woo, Rathbone for 4v4. Bit of an odd forward pairing
  • Comets ice the puck with one-minute remaining in the 4v4
  • Comets playing this like it’s a penalty-kill; just consistently hemmed in their zone on the 4v4. Tough look.
  • Woo (#22) with a breakaway that ends about as bad as a breakaway opportunity in a one-goal game can go.
  • Lockwood out of the box with less than twenty to go on the Fitzgerald double-minor powerplay
  • The comets really doing nothing with the puck.
  • Remi Elie takes a tripping penalty with less than three remaining in the period as the Comets try to enter the zone.
  • Gillies gets pulled for the 6v4
  • Reinke, Rathbone, Jasek, Baertschi, Gadjovich, McKenzie out for the extra man
  • Struggling to find a shooting lane
  • Baertschi with a one-timer
  • [GOAL – ROCHESTER – 4-2 Americans] Baertschi (#47) with the best opportunity on the man-advantage. Jasek’s (#9) cross-ice sauce goes over Baertschi’s stick, and Mattias Samuelsson sends a rink-wide pass into the Comets zone for Remi Elie as he leaves the box. Elie waits out Rathbone’s (#3) defensive effort to set up Arttu Ruotsalainen with the empty-netter. Tough break.
  • A couple of shot-attempts to close out the game, but this one’s over.
  • Comets outshoot the Amerks 33 to 23, but a brutal powerplay and poor goaltending are their downfall in this one.

RESULT:

COMETS LOSE 4-2 IN REGULATION

SCORESHEET:

 

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • Tough game to watch, to be completely honest. Comets generated a boatload of attempts, but at the end of the day, Luukkonen was the better goaltender.
  • There were a lot of good takeaways from tonight! Among other things, the penalty kill was successful, Gadjovich picked up another 5v5 goal, Rathbone scored his first pro-goal, Lockwood notches an assist and registers seven shots on goal. But it’s odd when all those things combine for a 33-shot performance that is more frustrating than anything. Have the Canucks made me incapable of appreciating little-victories? I really can’t say
    • but the answer is yes
  • Comets’ powerplay needs an overhaul. One for eight on the night is not good enough for a team with their offensive talent. Rathbone has to be on PP1 after tonight. They need someone with a point shot, and so does PP2. Reinke is fine. But I don’t get this coaching staff’s obsession with putting him out on PP1. He’s not even the 2nd best D-option for generating offence. I’m sure it has something to do with the agreement with the Blues or something. But man, he just doesn’t move the needle at the point. Get Jett Woo some time on the powerplay. Hell, give time to the youth who can actually create offence with their skating.
    • PP1: Rathbone, Baertschi, Lind, Gadjovich, Lockwood
    • PP2: Reinke, Woo, Jasek, Focht, Stevens
  • Kind of surprised that a team being constructed by two NHL teams can’t field a roster enough for twelve forwards and six defencemen. I don’t know if the third-period fatigue is entirely related to the lack of able-bodied forwards. But, surely, it doesn’t help the team to be constantly mixing lines every shift.
Game 8: 3rd Period Shot-Chart
  • Again, really solid effort from the Comets in terms of controlling shot-attempts, but against a big team like Rochester, they need to find ways to use their skating to open up shooting lanes in the slot. When they faced the deficit in the third period, the Amerks had zero problems holding the Comets shooters to the outside. As Canucks fans, we are familiar with how ineffective point-shots can be.
  • He still hasn’t found a way onto the scoresheet, but I love how effective Jett Woo’s game is. Simple, yet effective. Good timing on his offensive and defensive pinches. Had a couple great looks tonight with shots on net
  • Tough break for Will Lockwood, who finished his night with one assist and seven shots on goal. The kid was a workhorse on the forecheck and finally stapling together the offensive aspect of his aggressive forechecking game. Hopefully, he gets another considerable look on the Comets powerplay. As stated earlier, the Comets really need players with mobility and aggression on that first unit to create space and fight for loose pucks. Lockwood ticks those boxes, and I think trusting him in a powerplay role would benefit his game considerably.
  • RE: the above, I feel like the Comets coaches told all of their forwards and D to be more relentless with shots. Instead of making the perfect play, just take the shot. Carson Focht and Josh Wesley were the only Comets to go without recording a shot on Luukkonen.
  • Jack Rathbone is legit.
  • Jonah Gadjovich’s skating might keep him from ever being an NHL’er. Jack Quinn made him look foolish on the one shift where they were matched with each other. But man, the dude is carrying this team at 5v5 with goalscoring. It’s unreal to think where this Comets team would be at 5v5 without Gadjovich’s production. The dude gets the job done, somehow.
  • Sadly the DO SOMETHING reverse-curse didn’t work on Focht. He was largely unnoticeable in all areas of the ice. Had a couple good looks when reunited with Gadjovich/Lockwood, but with Stevens/McKenzie, nothing happens.
  • Lind had a pretty solid game — was good in the faceoff dot and zone entries. Sucks he got that cut on the bridge of his nose. The Comets really could’ve used him on the 5v3 and prolonged 5v4.
  • Josh Teves with another quiet but stable night on the Comets third pair. Might have worked himself back in Cull’s favour with his speed on the Comets penalty kill. Still has moments where his hands can’t catch up with his feet, and he loses the puck accordingly, but he’s been solid since returning to the lineup.
  • Sign a PTO and get Reinke off of PP1. Ryan Johnson and his coaching staff have seven days to accomplish this.
  • I have spoken.

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Will Lockwood
  2. Jack Rathbone
  3. Jett Woo

Next Up on the Docket

Comets get a seven-day break between action; they return next Wednesday against, you guessed it, the Rochester Americans.

Plugs

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for your daily dose of memes, sarcasm, stats, and both Comets and Canucks gameday clips!

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Cheers for tuning in, and the Harvest will see you all back here next Wednesday!

COMETS HARVEST: Apocalypse Crunch: Redux

Fresh off their absolute destruction of the Rochester Americans, the Utica Comets are back at it again in dem white vans as they hit the road for an away game against the Syracuse Crunch!

The Comets have split the season series with the Crunch, 1-1-0-0, with both teams trading blowout victories. The Crunch are currently winning the goal-differential battle, having outscored the Comets eight to six.

The last time these two met on the heel of a back-to-back, the Comets controlled shot-attempts adequately at 5v5 — out-attempting the Crunch by +10 over 60 minutes of action.

In that game, the wheels came off at the start after the Comets gave up a shorthanded goal on their first powerplay of the night.

Discipline hasn’t been the Comets’ strong suit this season, but who can fault them? A group loaded with as many rookies as they are is bound to take penalties as they climatize to AHL hockey. They’re currently third in the league for the most times spent shorthanded while running the 24th ranked penalty-kill.

Jonah Gadjovibes

Just want to send some praise over to everyone’s favourite elderly man-child, Jonah Gadjovich, for his production to start this season.

Gadj’s three-point night last night against Rochester leapfrogged him to a tie with recently called-up Sam Anas for first on the team in scoring.

Personally, I don’t think anyone expected that.

There are some asterisks involved in that he’s a three-year AHL veteran playing on a third-line in fairly sheltered minutes that don’t require him to be an elite two-way player. Right now, he’s got Will Lockwood and Carson Focht doing most of the defensive play, breakouts, and passing, while he’s usually the dump & chase, retrieval, board-battle, and net-front guy.

I still have doubts about his defensive play and skating, but he’s been a completely reliable goal-scoring forward at the AHL level. Especially at 5v5.

I mean, look at that chart! Gadjovich currently has points on 35% of the Comets 5v5 goals. He has double the 5v5 goals than the next goalscorer, John Stevens, who picked up two in last night’s game.

I genuinely wonder if the line-blender will benefit Gadjovich and if Cull will look to slide him with Baertschi and Lind to try and get something out of those two distributors?

At the very least, it’s a promising start and fantastic production from one of the Canucks forgotten prospects.

I don’t think he’s knocking on the door for NHL time this season, but hell, anything’s possible with this dumpster fire of a team.

If he can just get passable skating consistently, maybe that call-up conversation starts happening. Until then, however, we can appreciate him for being the only consistent source of 5v5 production to this team.

Jack Rathbone

You really have to wonder why the Canucks didn’t give Jack Rathbone at least one game to see what he could do.

Absolutely loved everything I saw from Rathbone in his first game of the season.

DO SOMETHING

Kole Lind.

He needs to start shooting pucks, stop being fancy, and just throw shots on the net. He has a great one-timer and wrister; he needs to use it. He’s currently earned one 5v5 point in his last five games while being on-ice for only three goals at 5v5 all season.

I know the first-line matchups are tough… but I need to see something at evens from Lind.

STARTING ROSTER

Game 7 Lineup vs. Syracuse
  • Looks like John Stevens remains out with injury; he left after the Comets early PK in the third period against Rochester and did not return.
  • LOL, Hugh McGing had a pretty unremarkable game for Utica last night, but even with John Stevens out, the coach elects to go with seven D rather and play ‘line blender all night rather than play him. What a condemnation.

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

GAME 7:

1st period:

  • Comets pushed into their zone for the first 45 seconds — Kielly gloves the first shot of the night.
  • Josh Teves attempts to send Jonah Gadjovich behind the defence with a rebound off the end boards, but Gadj doesn’t have the speed to beat out the icing. Fun idea though
  • [GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 Comets] Eh wadaya say, it’s Vinny Fackin’ Arseneau ova ‘ere! Lukas Jasek (#9) wins the d-zone faceoff to Jett Woo (#22), who hands off to Jack Rathbone (#3) for the breakout pass. Arseneau (#18) picks up the pass in the neutral zone and casually walks in for a wrister that beats Sam Montembeault’s glove side. I can’t believe the Comets pbp guy said Arseneau doesn’t have hands. Smh. Arseneau picks up his second goal in as many nights.

PP1: Lind, Baertschi, McKenzie, Reinke, N. Stevens

  • Comets PP1 struggling to set up in the offensive zone. Eventually, they put themselves offside, and PP2 comes out.

PP2: Jackson, Focht, Gadjovich, Rathbone, Jasek

PP1: Lind, Baertschi, McKenzie, Reinke, N. Stevens

PK1: Lockwood, Kaspick, Tucker, Reinke

PK2: Jasek, McKenzie, Teves, Eliot

  • Wow, the Woo penalty ends, and moments later, Mitch Eliot takes a boarding penalty to put the Comets back onto the PK. Trent Cull won’t like that from his d-man

PK1: Tucker, Reinke, Kaspick, N. Stevens

  • Crunch spend opening 40 queuing up for a shooting lane. Eventually, Kielly gloves down a weak shot that was going wide. PK1 changes off

PK2: Jasek, Woo, Lockwood, Teves

2nd period:

PK1: Kaspick, Eliot, Teves, Lockwood

PP1: Lind, Baertschi, Reinke, McKenzie, N. Stevens

3rd period:

  • Comets start the third period with a very minor twelve-second powerplay.
    • And they lose the faceoff draw, killing any powerplay set-up hopes.
  • What a baffling play. Tyler Tucker gets hit in the face with a high-stick…at the exact same time, Carson Focht with an errant stick to a Syracuse player’s face.
    • Focht heads to the box for high-sticking… the Crunch player did not lol.

PK1: Kaspick, McKenzie, Tucker Reinke,

  • Kaspick with an easy clear to kill off thirty seconds of the Focht penalty

PK2: Jasek, Woo, Teves, N. Stevens

PK1: McKenzie, Kaspick, Tucker, Reinke

  • A big block from Tucker early that springs the Comets ahead for a shorthanded chance
    • PK1 plays the puck around all corners of the ice to wind down the clock.
    • Crunch then put themselves offside on a zone-entry

PK2: Lockwood, Jasek, Teves, Woo

PK1: Jasek, Kaspick, Tucker, Reinke

RESULT:

Comets defeat Crunch 4-2 in regulation.

SCORESHEET:

GAME THOUGHTS:

  • Really solid effort against a well-rested Syracuse team. The Syracuse Crunch have a litany of issues: Lack of depth, messy d-core, suspect goaltending. Given last night’s third-period annihilation, I expected even the shallowest of teams to put up a tough fight. And they did. The Comets looked exhausted when they weren’t able to clear their zone effectively. A lot of shifts were spent hemmed into their zone in the latter half of this game.
  • Comets again took six minor penalties tonight. Their PK groups were outstanding. Blocking shots, keeping the Crunch to the perimeter. The PK was one of the few times where the Crunch weren’t able to set up effectively.
  • The decision to roll with seven defencemen and eleven forwards paid off tonight. Liked many looks that the forward trios gave in the early goings of tonight’s game. Though, due to exhaustion, they became a bit stale as the game progressed. Comets have done a good job of generating momentum for themselves. Last night, it was crucial shot-blocking from the Comets young d-core on the penalty kill. Tonight, it was the lethal goalscoring prowess of fourth-liner Vincent Arseneau that motivated the troops. Arseneau’s early goal in the first seemed to wake the Comets up a bit in the first half of the period. They ended up shooting themselves in the foot in the second half with back-to-back penalties from Jett Woo and Mitch Eliot.
Game 7 Shot Chart versus Syracuse
  • The third period was a display of clutch shot and pass blocking through the slot. Crunch still got their looks, but the Comets skaters really held the Crunch to the outside. Crunch had just one or two shots from the slot. Really great work directing traffic to the outside for shots. That extra space really helped Kielly to make clean glove saves.
  • Speaking of which, Kielly was fantastic tonight! Those few shots from close to the net were unreal stops from him. Rebound control still needs work. Probably handed the Crunch a few extra opportunities than were necessary. He isn’t very active around the net either. Rarely leaves to play the puck. Montembeault, on the other hand, was constantly out of his net trying to play the puck. That activity resulted in that second Arseneau goal that really put the Comets over. I’ll take safe and reliable over whatever it was that Montembeault was trying to accomplish tonight. Great win for Kielly. Colour me impressed!
  • Jonah Gadjovich didn’t end up on the scorecard, but I thought he had a fantastic game. Skating looked great. Forechecking resulted in some unruly stretches of pressure for the Comets, good hits, good shots on goal. Loved what I saw from him tonight on nearly every shift. Would love to see him get a look with Baertschi and Lind.
  • Kole Lind still didn’t find the net at 5v5, but two points are two points. Was his usual self; flashy, aggressive, good skates, but I liked how much more willing he was to throw shots on the net. He finished the night with four shots on goal, tying the aforementioned Gadjovich and Sven Baertschi for the most on the team.
  • Jett Woo might be salvaging his stock pretty considerably here with the way he’s played in Utica to start the year. Solid skates, good passes, love his willingness to hop in and contribute offence. He and Rathbone have been dynamite in two games. Pleasantly surprised with his utility in all areas of the ice, his willingness to hit, fight, and work on every shift.
  • Will Lockwood, not on the scoreboard but another solid night of little things. Hope he can start being more confident in generating offence on his own. He has the raw tools to do it. Several times his forechecking presence forced the Crunch into losing possession of the puck, but he was reluctant to trust himself in stealing said puck to generate chances. He’s easily a top-3 skater on the team; coaching needs to let him fly and encourage him to trust his instincts. Obi-Wan style.
  • Carson Focht looked good early, faded a bit as the game progressed. Wasn’t really noticeable late.
  • Tyler Tucker continues to be a complete 50/50 player. Either he’s blocking shots, stealing pucks, or poking the puck off of his opponent’s sticks. Or, he’s icing the puck, turning over the puck inside the d-zone, or getting lost in his coverage. It’s bizarre. Not Canucks problem, though, lol.
  • Josh Teves with another solid game even if he didn’t end up on the scoreboard. Like his speed on the penalty-kill.
  • Jack Rathbone is legitimately smurfing in the AHL. I cannot believe the Canucks spent half the season sheltering Olli Juolevi when they could’ve had Rathbone on the ice. I don’t mean to poo-poo Juolevi, but Rathbone’s skating is just miles ahead of Juolevi’s. Should’ve given him at least one game. He’s currently at four points in two games played.
  • Jasek with another solid night playing up and down the lineup. He had a long minute-something shift on the PK, took one shift off, then was back out with Baertschi and Lind as they dominated the offensive zone with control and shot-attempts. Kid’s a workhorse and might be useful to the Canucks should they ever sort out their cap-issues and utilize what they’ve produced internally versus what they’ve acquired through free-agency.

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Vincent Arseneau
  2. Jake Kielly
  3. Jonah Gadjovich

HM: Jett Woo, Lukas Jasek

Next Up on the Docket

The Comets have zero regards for my schedule as they get right back to it with a rematch against Rochester this upcoming Wednesday!

Plugs

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for your daily dose of memes, sarcasm, stats, and both Comets and Canucks gameday clips!

You can also catch me on Podcast format with Lachlan Irvine at the Creasecast! Give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!

And if you’re more of a visual person! You can check out the Youtube channel, where we upload all of our podcasts in video form!

Cheers for tuning in, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

COMETS HARVEST: Utica Space Minerals vs. the Rochester Citizens of the USA

Damn, Utica! Back at it again with dem back-to-backs!

I glowed about this young Comets teams’ 5v5 play in my latest prospect update; Just a few days later, the Comets saw departures of several key figures to the St. Louis Blues.

St. Louis Blues Current Taxi Squad as of 02/26/2021

The Blues are facing a brutal run of injury luck as of late. Carl Gunnarsson is out due to knee surgery, Ivan Barbashyev is out for six-weeks, plus the absences of Tyler Bozak, Colton Parayko, Vlad Tarasenko, Robert Thomas, and Jaden Schwartz.

Yeah, yikes.

As such, the Blues called up several key contributors to the Comets; and thus, their first real test as a rookie group begins.

  • Dakota Joshua has proven himself as an effective penalty-killer with fantastic wheels and a great motor. Kind of like a more defensively oriented version of Justin Bailey. Offensive chops haven’t stood out, but his one goal was an absolute beauty created from hard work and skating. The Comets PK will really miss him.
  • Sam Anas is a lethal powerplay phenom. At 5v5, he and his linemates have struggled, as I’ve written about considerably. The powerplay offence is booming with him on the ice, but that three-distributor first-line has struggled in toughs at 5v5 to produce and outshoot their opposition. Comets will struggle to find a fit on that first-line with him gone.

  • Steven Santini is the Comets premiere minute-munching defenceman on a pairing with rookie Tyler Tucker. Without him, the most experienced D-man on the Comets is Mitch Reinke, who’s been an effective 2nd-pairing player but carried only 46 games of AHL experience into this season. Might see Jett Woo on his proper right-side, especially with Jack Rathbone joining the Comets for tonight’s action! It’ll be a very inexperienced bunch but might look better because guys are in their comfortable positions.
  • Lastly, Nathan Walker jumped from middling AHL success with the Comets straight into the Blues active roster. He looked ok in limited viewings, but I haven’t found him to be that impressive. Those two holes in the top-six will be challenging for Trent Cull and company to fill adequately.

 

Cherish It

Just want to slide this in here again to remember the good times we had with this rookie team. You know, just in case the season goes south from here.

Everyone’s favourite East-coast tire-fire, the Buffalo Sabres, called up quite a few players from the Rochester Americans lately, so maybe the Comets Youth Group will fare much better than I think.

The lingering misery of that Mike Smith shutout has pushed me to be even more of a fatalist/cynic regarding how the Comets will perform tonight.

However, because I’ve already dealt with a fair share of bad news lately, I want to fight against that pull to the dark side!

Instead, I want to remain as hopeful as possible during these trying times!

Tonight’s Amerks squad is without Rasmus Asplund, Casey Fitzgerald, and Jacob Bryson. That’s the ‘Merks first-line center and their number one d-pairing.

Comets won’t be alone in their battle against depth issues tonight.

The last time these two met, the Comets narrowly won the 5v5 control battle. Unfortunately, a late penalty from rookie Carson Focht gave the Amerks a late powerplay tying-goal to force a shootout.

Given that Rochester was coming off of a week-long break, and the Comets were on the heels of a back-to-back. The shootout loss was completely forgivable.

Rookies make mistakes, and all things considered, they were playing way above expected given their last back-to-back ended in a blowout 6-1 loss to Syracuse (their opponent for tomorrow).

DO SOMETHING

Tonight’s do something belongs to Will Lockwood.

Despite his very favourable shot-control metrics at 5v5, there’s just been such a lack of offence generation that it’s almost painful watching him play.

He has NHL skating, plays hard, fights for loose pucks, and steals pucks off of opponents. But nothing offensive ever gets generated for all his efforts.

Need to see him do something with all of the little things that he excels at. Especially tonight, where he’ll likely see himself in the Comets top-six for a considerable amount of ice-time.

BEST SCOOP

STARTING ROSTER

  • Looks like Cull is looking to just completely load up the first line and trusting Focht with two decent two-way players in McKenzie/Stevens
  • These guys have been pinned to each other so often that the forward groups have barely any recorded on-ice shot-attempts with each other during the first five games.
  • It should be an interesting night as we watch them try to cobble together some chemistry.
  • JettBone hype

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

GAME 6:

1st period:

PK1: Teves, Kaspick, Eliot, J. Stevens

  • PK1 with a great job to rim the puck out of the zone and keep the Amerks in the neutral zone

PK2: N. Stevens, Curtis McKenzie, Woo, Tucker

  • Amerks spending a ton of time cycling but not generating any shots. Amerks blow the zone for themselves, and PK2 changes.
  • Great early PK from the Comets
  • Oof, Tanner Kaspick (#26), after two solid PK shifts, waves Will Lockwood (#10) to hop over the boards. Lockwood hops over the boards way too early and plays the puck.
    • Comets immediately back onto the PK for ‘too many men.’

PK1: Jasek, J. Stevens, Tucker, Woo

2nd period:

PK1: Reinke, Kaspick, Woo, J. Stevens

PP1: Reinke, Lind, N. Stevens, Baertschi, McKenzie

  • Veteran heavy powerplay unit, but I think I’d have Rathbone out there no matter what
  • Shorthanded chance against powerplay one gets deflected out of play by Gillies.

PP2: Rathbone, Focht, Jasek, McGing, Gadjovich

PP1: Lind, McKenzie, Reinke, Baertschi, N. Stevens

  • Lind loses the draw, and the Comets have to reset
  • Comets put themselves offside and again have to reset
  • PP1 just struggling to break into the zone. Finally, they do with 9:35 left in the second period.
  • Great speed by Focht (#19) for the powerplay zone-entry
  • Powerplay opportunity ends, and then Rathbone ices the puck.
  • Dangerous giveaway from Jasek. Fortunately, the Amerks veteran line whiff on their one-timer chance.
  • [GOAL – UTICA – 2-1 Comets] Powerplays? Who needs ’em! Lockwood (#10) and the third-line capitalize again for the Comets with a quick bang-bang play behind the Amerks goal-line to set up John Stevens (#16) for his second of the night! A great forechecking presence from this line forces the Amerks into a bunch of egregious turnovers behind their net.

PK1: Jasek, Kaspick, Teves, Eliot

  • Jasek (#9) gloves down a puck and leads a shorthanded drive for him and Tanner Kaspick (#26)
  • McKenzie, N. Stevens hop on and generate another shorthanded chance — Reinke and Woo hop on to replace Teves/Eliot
  • Comets young PK groups close out the period with another clear
  • Comets close the period heavily, leading in shots fourteen to seven
  • A great second half from them despite the late PK

3rd period:

  • Comets start the opening 18 seconds on the penalty kill.
  • Right before a d-zone whistle, the refs blow the whistle to allow the Comets’ lone goalscorer from tonight, John Stevens, to leave the ice under his own power. Tough loss to the Comets to start the period. Not sure what that was about.
  • Wow, Gadjovich gets called for a hold while battling along the boards for the puck in the offensive zone. Horrendously soft call. Both teams seem to be in disbelief.

PK1: Lockwood, Kaspick, Teves, Eliot

PK2: Jasek, McKenzie, Woo, Tucker

  • The lines getting mixed and matched because of John Stevens’ absence; Jasek back playing center for the Comets as he takes a spin with Arseneau and McGing, haha. What a combo
    • The line gets a shift, and they spend it all in the offensive zone dominating with chances, haha.
  • [GOAL – UTICA – 4-2 Comets] Wow. What a turnaround! Nolan Stevens (#17) threads a pass to the blue line to Josh Teves (#4), who settles the puck before wristing a shot past a screened Luukkonen for his first career AHL goal. Good for Teves after a brutal run of luck in his pro-career. Great job by McKenzie (#81) screening Luukkonen on that play. Luukkonen had zero clue where that shot came from.

RESULT:

Comets annihilate Amerks 7-2

SCORESHEET:

 

Game Thoughts:

  • Wow, what a turnaround from this very inexperienced Comets group. The first period started out fantastic for them, just laying on the pressure and shots; then they take back-to-back penalties and spend the next twenty minutes trying to regain a semblance of momentum. The Steven Fogarty goal to tie it up late in the second didn’t phase them at all, and they came out in the third firing on all cylinders. I really think those back-to-back blocks from McKenzie and Woo pumped up the team to start stringing together some meaningful 5v5 offence.
  • Tonight was an absolute 5v5 clinic! Comets scored Six of their seven goals at evens in rapid-fire fashion. Complete domination of an opponent that looked completely out of sorts after failing to generate anything on the powerplay. Outside of the lone goal early in the second, the Comets penalty kill looked fantastic. Impressively so because it was held together by players who’ve struggled to find a place in this lineup; Teves and Kaspick, in particular, had fantastic games tonight for Utica at evens and shorthanded.
  • Speaking of Teves, I thought he looked great tonight. His skating, in particular, makes him such a good option for the penalty kill. I can’t even fault him too much on that hooking penalty that resulted in the lone powerplay goal-against. It was soft. Like, incredibly soft. Kudos to Trent Cull for not punishing Teves by limiting his ice time thereafter. And Kudos to Teves for finally putting a leash on his own adventuring in the offensive zone. By keeping himself outside of the circles, he provided way more utility with his shot attempts. By that, I mean, when he skates past the hash-marks for shot attempts that sail wide, the Comets have to put in extra-effort to backcheck now that they’re four-deep into the offensive zone. If he misses the net on his shot attempts, but he and his d-partner are still along the blue line, there isn’t nearly as much risk. He was safe, and that’s exactly what this d-core needed in the absence of Steven Santini. After all the time he’s spent riding the pine, it was nice to see him earn his first AHL goal. It’s been a tough road for him to make his game work, and tonight he did it. Hopefully, he can remain consistent and continue to play this refined game.
  • I’m going to go out on a limb and say my DO SOMETHING section this season is revolutionizing player-development! Every time I pick a guy, they go out and have an incredible game that night. Last week, although he didn’t end up on the scoreboard, Kole Lind had one of his best two-way games of the season and looked his most comfortable as a center. Tonight, it was Will Lockwood, who arguably had two solid assists on goals were it not for a phantom tip by Jonah Gadjovich for his lone assist of the night. Lockwood was great! Did everything I hoped to see of him in the pre-amble. He used his aggression, skating, and edgework to wheel in the offensive zone and create shot-attempts. And not just shot-attempts but dangerous shot-attempts! I was thoroughly impressed by his work rate at evens and while shorthanded. Like Teves previously, hopefully, he can maintain a semblance of consistency with this kind of play. The Lockwood of tonight would be found money for the Canucks if he can generate shot-assists as frequently as he was tonight.
  • It’s weird, but John Stevens left this game at the perfect time. After scoring two goals to keep the Comets in it when they were at their relative-worst. Steven’s absence forced Cull and company to completely re-jig their line combinations. And each combination worked incredibly well. Practically every line was hemming the Amerks into the offensive-zone through their relentless forechecking pressure and shot-control. A lot of that kudos goes to the players for their work-rate and effort-levels tonight, but kudos to the coaches for making it work through the final 16 minutes.
  • Tyler Tucker struggled away from Steven Santini; he got exposed a bit on several defensive plays. Had multiple plays where he had fantastic takeaways only to ice the puck and put the Comets at a disadvantage. Reinke is an okay d-partner, but he’s a compliment player, not a driver. Kind of like Reinke/Teves in the early parts of this season, they both need someone more effective to make them not stand out with their errors. Unfortunately, Reinke has proven ineffective with Teves, so the Comets are a bit stuck hoping that Tucker/Reinke can put it together on their own. The most that can be said about the Canucks d-prospects tonight is they were absolute difference-makers for the team tonight.
  • Jett Woo had a tonne of shots on net and looked effective all night. He and Rathbone controlling the blue line as effectively as they were was mouth-watering. Loved to see him sticking up for Rathbone after that one hit.
  • Jack Rathbone is smurfing in the AHL. I can’t believe the Canucks are this dogshit and didn’t even consider giving him a game to see what he can do. His skating is easily the best on the team. Three assists in one game are no joke. He looked so god damn good tonight like a seasoned pro. He had one moment where he was caught flat-footed skating backwards, but he made up for it by playing the body. And fortunately, the Amerks offence looked like garbage all night at evens. Kind of a shame he wasn’t sent down earlier. Didn’t know how badly Canucks nation needed JettBone in their life.
  • Jonah Gadjovich had a great game! His three points tonight place him in a tie for first with Sam Anas among Comets scorers with seven points overall. His skating is still a yikes at times, but he can occasionally display great wheels to chase down pucks. I wonder if he slides up permanently alongside Lind and Baertschi as that lines goalscorer. He’s an underrated shot from the circle’s and a solid net-front guy when he gets there; Relentless on rebounds. Could be a decent fit if the coaching staff didn’t like Lind/Baertschi/Jasek as a trio.
  • I thought the Lind, Baertschi, Jasek trio were dynamic and fun as hell to watch. For my money’s worth, That opening ten minutes of the game was unbelievable from them. That first shift saw them pin the Amerks into the d-zone for a full minute and a half. Of course, you want them to capitalize on the o-zone time, but you have to love the demoralizing effect their pressure causes. Worth another look I think, but it’s good to know after a game like tonight that the Comets have options with their forwards.
  • Carson Focht had a quiet night on the scoreboard, but he looked great on that two-way punch line with Nolan Stevens and Curtis McKenzie. Had a few good looks and chances.
    • Nolan Stevens played great, once again, the Blues prospect finishes his night with two assists, five shots on goal and a +2 in the always useful plus/minus stat.
    • Curtis McKenzie finished the night with one assist and zero shots but as stated earlier, his role at the net-front were the reason why both Teves and Baertschi’s goals went in.
  • Thought Mitch Eliot looked really solid in both ends of the ice
  • A couple of times, the Comets looked lost trying to break out of their end, but when they managed to regain possession, they were slick in quickly moving the puck up-ice to generate chances of their own. Amerks are solid at the cycle game and maintaining the zone, but incredibly opportunistic and picky/choosy with their shooting lanes, to a fault.
  • Blues prospect Hugh McGing finished the night as the only player with a negative plus/minus and you kind of have to laugh at that given the final result.
  • Arseneau is always a blast to watch. Total cannonball player with a bomb of a shot; I don’t care what that commentator says, Arseneau has hands that aren’t just for fighting. Finished the night with a wicked goal, four shots, and four PIM’s. Solid night for the journeyman!
  • Powerplay truly needs work. Needs to be overhauled entirely as far as I’m concerned. PP1 just doesn’t have a real shooter option. PP2 is the real prize; it’s young and inexperienced, but Gadjovich, Jasek, Focht, and now Rathbone are a great mix to produce offence. If anything I would just remix the two to get a mixture of both shooters and playmakers.
    • PP1: Lind, Baertschi, Rathbone, Gadjovich, Lockwood
    • PP2: Focht, Jasek, Nolan Stevens, McKenzie, Eliot
  • RE the above: I don’t think Reinke is anything special on the powerplay, so get Rathbone playing there instead. Eliot has a bomb of a shot and if Reinke really is the Comets guy for the powerplay, then make Eliot/Reinke your PP2 duo and take out one of Nolan Stevens or Curtis McKenzie.

COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS

  1. Jack Rathbone
  2. Jonah Gadjovich
  3. Will Lockwood

HM: Jett Woo, Sven Baertschi, and John Stevens

Next Up on the Docket

The Comets back at it tomorrow afternoon against the Syracuse Crunch, who, once again, get the favourable opportunity of playing the Comets on the heels of a back-to-back.

he-cant-keep-getting-away-with-it.gif

As I wrote earlier, the Comets got demolished six-to-one the last time the Comets had to close a back-to-back against Syracuse.

However, despite their result, the Comets Youth Group impressed in their last back-to-back outing against a well-rested Rochester squad!

Barring more call-ups by the Blues, let’s remain positive that this group at the very least shows well regardless of the result!

 

Plugs

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for your daily dose of memes, sarcasm, stats, and both Comets and Canucks gameday clips!

You can also catch me on Podcast format with Lachlan Irvine at the Creasecast! Give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!

And if you’re more of a visual person! You can check out the Youtube channel, where we upload all of our podcasts in video form!

Cheers for tuning in, and I’ll catch you tomorrow night for the back-to-back closer redux against Syracuse.

Jumping to Conclusions: An Early Dive into the Stats of the Canucks AHL Prospects!

They’ve only played five games.

There’s been a sandwiching effect on the talent-level, AHL-wide, due to the advent of Taxi-Squads. Including the Utica Comets, there has been significant evaporation of top-level players, plus a thrust/influx of lesser and inexperienced talent up and into the bottom and middle of AHL lineups.

Maybe, they are too young to know they shouldn’t be doing this well?

Logically, it’s too early to get into a statistical dive into the Canucks AHL prospects.

But, given the current state and discourse surrounding the Vancouver Canucks, this writer figures some praise based on early sample sizes is appropriate for a pick-me-up.

Fans could use some good news for once.

 

The Talent Sammich

Alright, it’s important to flesh out one of those asterisks to the stats I’m about to dish out on the Canucks young guns!

Because of the flat-cap and the advent of ‘Taxi Squads,’ many AHL Teams saw 1/3rd, or more, of their top-six forwards get promoted to Taxi-Squad duty — or move on elsewhere in their pro-careers (KHL, Swiss leagues etc.)

Take Tampa Bay/Syracuse, for example:

2019-20 Syracuse Crunch Top-10 Scorers

Of the Syracuse Crunch’s top-10 scorers from 2019-20, five of them currently find themselves part of the NHL/Taxi-Squad rotation. Barre-Boulet was just called up today and is playing in his first career NHL game

That evaporation of their Top-six, including Cory Conacher and Danick Martel’s departures, means that players like Taylor Raddysh are the veteran on a line with rookies Gabe Fortier and Cole Schwindt as the top line. 

So while it’s all good and grand that the Canucks young guns are posting great shot-control metrics and genuinely looking very good. We have to couch some of that praise with the reminder that some aren’t exactly playing against bonafide AHL competition.

Especially in regards to those in the bottom-six, the young guns are facing off against a lot of young, inexperienced rookies and tweeners, who might otherwise be floating in the ECHL during a normal season.

New Roles For the Not-Kids

2019-20 Utica Comets Top-10 Scorers

For some of the relatively more-established Canucks prospects, the evaporation of talent has opened up the door for them to cement themselves as fixtures in the Comets top-six.

The Canucks lost most of their top-six to the KHL and the Taxi-Squad, allowing players like Lind and Jasek to see themselves thrust into important positions as the Comets premiere top centers.

Kole Lind went from second-line winger alongside Justin Bailey and insert-center-here into a first-line center role alongside Sam Anas and Sven Baertschi.

Lukas Jasek went from third-line center getting caved-in by shot-attempt now finds himself as the Comets second-line matchup centerman alongside Nolan Stevens and Curtis McKenzie. And thriving (more on that later).

Jonah Gadjovich, however, went from being a fourth-line powerplay specialist to a third-line powerplay specialist.

Lind and Jasek have adapted well to their new roles. Lind is obviously learning and developing on the fly with his new position, but each game of his as the team’s top center has yielded positive results, even if not reflected on the scoreboard.

Comets 5v5 Play

Who is this team? and what have they done to the Utica Comets of last season?

For perspective, it took the Utica Comets nine games to control shot-attempts at 5v5 five times. This year’s young gun squad has done it in five straight.

By this point last season, the Comets were rocking a negative-30 shot-attempt differential at 5v5. They were undefeated in that stretch, but they were punished heavily for their overly aggressive offensive style as the season progressed and regression started settling in.

In a beautiful piece of contrast, the Comets this year are rocking a plus-30 shot-attempt differential at 5v5.

We love to see it.

Kudos have to go to the players and coaching staff for really dialling back on the overly-aggressive four-man drives on goal for results. They’re utilizing a much safer play style, wherein the 3rd forward into the zone stays high in the slot or high along the boards. Gone are the days of all three forwards and one D pinching up past the circles to “power-forward” their way to the net for shots and rebound-attempts.

Props must also be given to their aggressive forecheck work. Usually, led by two forwards in the neutral zone, the Comets have net significant offensive zone control-time through their pressure and takeaways. The speed brought to the Comets bottom-six by players like Focht, Lockwood, Joshua, and McGing seems to be giving opposing teams fits in this season’s early goings.

For a group with as many rookies as it does, these are all positives moving forward as this group develops!

Little Things

We really love to see it, folks.

Jasek, Lind, Woo and Focht in the Top-10 for combined shot-attempts and shot-assists.

PLAYERS

  1. Kole Lind
  2. Lukas Jasek
  3. Jett Woo
  4. Mitch Eliot
  5. Jonah Gadjovich
  6. Carson Focht
  7. Will Lockwood
  8. Josh Teves
  9. Sven Baertschi

 

Kole Lind

Kole Lind Player Card After 5 GP

Mr. Lind has had a mildly difficult adjustment to his new role as the Comets first-line center, but, despite his team-worst shot-attempt differential at 5v5, there are many positives to take away from his first five games.

Firstly, his engagement in the play is top-notch. Lind is currently leading the Comets in takeaways at 5v5. I’ve loved his efforts on backchecking into the d-zone to break up setups and cycles. While he’s struggled with giveaways of his own (usually off of overly-creative playmaking in the offensive-zone), there is an overall net-positive with Lind on the ice at 5v5.

Last season, he was primarily the set-up man for Justin Bailey, whereas this season, he and his linemates Anas and Baertschi are struggling to find out who’s the set-up man and who are the triggermen. This lack of identity has resulted in many pretty passing plays that don’t result in shots on goal. Or passing plays that have taken one pass too many before a shot is taken. Usually resulting in easy saves for goaltenders who’ve had that extra second to set up.

Lind’s shot has taken another step this year. It’s looked quite lethal. He’s effectively slid into that Reid Boucher one-timer spot on the Comets powerplay and looked great there. He’s tied with Gadjovich for team-lead in goals scored. With three notches on the powerplay.

As the first-line develops a stronger identity with their roles, Lind will start to flourish. He’s doing so many little things correctly while rocking a 99.6% PDO. Odds are that he’s due for some better puck-luck at 5v5. Trust the Process, Mr. Lind… Baertschi and Anas are no Justin Bailey, but surely an NHL talent, a Quad-A talent, and Lind can find a way to produce effectively at 5v5 regularly.

Lukas Jasek

Lukas Jasek Player Card After 5 GP

The CometsHarvest when we see Lukas Jasek thriving in his position as a two-way matchup center, PP2 bumper, and PK player:

Jasek has been fantastic to start the season. Probably one of the most “NHL ready” prospects the Canucks have in the AHL right now. Solid two-way foundation, tenacious in board battles, highly underrated distributor, great hand-eye, the only problem being a weak shot.

Jasek has found a way to be productive in every situation he’s been placed in. He’s tied for the team lead in shorthanded points, second in total points, second in primary shot-assists, first in primary-shot assists at 5v5, and tied for second in all-situations takeaways.

Most importantly, after five games, Jasek leads the Comets with a 5v5 shot-attempt differential of +32.

Comets Harvest readers will remember that Jasek had the unsavoury honour of leading the Comets with a team-worst negative-173 5v5 shot-attempt differential last season.

Jasek’s impressive 5v5 metrics this season aren’t just a product of teammate quality either. Jasek’s two most common linemates, Curtis McKenzie and Nolan Stevens, have posted lesser 5v5 shot-attempt differentials away from Jasek than with Jasek. And this is while also posting a below-average shooting percentage. Jasek could conceivably start getting some better puck luck in the offensive-zone at 5v5 and really start distancing himself from the pack for being the best two-way forward in the Comets lineup in all metrics that I’ve been tracking.

Liking how his season has unfolded! Hoping he can string together some more goals-for at 5v5 to really punch up that player-card. He’s easily a top-3 forward right now on the team for his utility and all-situations offence, but some more production at 5v5 will really put him over.

Jett Woo

Jett Woo Player Card After 5 GP

Everyones favourite prospect-name has been having an excellent debut season with the Comets. He’s been a reliable second-pairing defensive defenseman. However, the offensive side of his game has really been MIA thus far.

For most of this season, Woo has found himself on the left side of the ice, so I do wonder if that’s playing into his giveaways, errors, and lack of dynamic offence? Woo leads the defence in giveaways at 5v5 and tied with Lind for the team lead in giveaways overall.

Woo currently leads the Comets defence in 5v5 primary shot-assists but has only found himself on-ice for a single 5v5 tally. The Comets have the second-lowest shooting percentage with Woo on the ice at 5v5. The Comets also post one of their best on-ice save percentages with Woo on the ice at 5v5.

Due to the Comets’ lack of depth on defence, Woo has found himself thrust into a very prominent PK role, again, on his off-side. The team’s PK suppression rate isn’t too hot with him on the ice while shorthanded. I think he could prove to be an effective penalty killer. He’s physical and knows where to pick his spots for breakout passes. However, he looks off on his off-side.

For now, I’ll place more emphasis on his impact at 5v5 over special teams. Currently, I think he’s looked like a solid defensive defenseman. His lack of production shouldn’t cause anyone to panic just yet.

Hell, Jalen Chatfield’s AHL production left a lot to be desired. Yet, after less than 10 games played in the NHL, Canucks fans had a fever and what they need was more Chatfield. Woo is still incredibly green in his pro-career and will pick up the offensive side as he comes along.

His skating hasn’t looked out of place, and I think if he were able to slide back to his natural side on the right, he might look more comfortable offensively and defensively. Maybe the addition of Jack Rathbone on the left side will help improve that. Those two could be a great compliment to each other and give the Comets second-pairing a much better dynamic than the one it currently has with Woo/Reinke.

Mitch Eliot

Mitch Eliot Player Card After 5 GP

Mitchell Eliot.

Mitch Eliot for short.

‘Mitchy the kid’ for City Slickers fans.

He’s been solid!

Trent Cull has his reservations about using an offensively minded defenseman on his third-pairing. As such, defencemen like Tyler Tucker and Steven Santini wind up eating most minutes during games due to Cull’s reluctance to trust his third pair.

Eliot has a net-positive in the giveaways/takeaways side of the game but isn’t much of a distributor. He’s purely a “queue me up for a one-timer” type of defenceman. He’s currently rocking a +16 shot-attempt differential at 5v5.

Like Woo before him, I have to wonder if playing on his off-side is impacting his offensive game and defensive play?

Much was made about Jalen Chatfields “fine” offensive stats from last season. It was funny that no one ever brought up how Eliot had more points than him in half as many games.

Skating has looked ok so far in four games played. Though, at times there have been some races to the puck that have been dicier than they ought to have been.

For a couple of games, I’d like to see Cull deploying the Canucks D-prospects on their proper sides on the right and try the Blues prospects on their left. Just switch it up a bit.

It can’t hurt to try and see what kind of offence they can get out of them, especially in a mean-nothing season with no Calder Cup implications to season results.

Eliot has solid underlying metrics to back up his play, so it would stand to reason that Cull takes the reigns off of him a bit and see what he can do for this club that only has one goal and one primary-assist from its defence so far this season.

 

Jonah Gadjovich

Jonah Gadjovich Player Card After 5 GP

Jonah continues to be a viable goalscoring threat for the Comets at 5v5. With a knack for the net-front and scoring greasy goals, it looks like nothing has really changed for Jonah when it comes to coming in clutch for his team at 5v5.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the only thing that hasn’t changed since last year. His skating is still plodding, clunky, and slow. He makes it work for him, but you can’t trust him on backchecks or two-way play in any stretch due to his inability to retreat with pace.

The Canucks certainly have a potent goalscorer who plays the tough “fighter” role well enough. Outside of that, he isn’t much of a distributor, nor is he creative enough with the puck in the offensive zone. He has just five primary shot-assists while remaining neutral in the takeaways/giveaways department with two apiece.

I was hoping to see him get some looks on the penalty-kill to see if there could be some utility to get out of the big-bodied forward. Unfortunately, right now, he looks to be mostly a goal-scoring powerplay specialist who is mostly reliant on the distribution and playmaking of his linemates.

His underlying metrics against lesser-quality competition are fantastic. But for someone who’s into his third AHL season, I’d have hoped to see him competing for something a bit more difficult.

I was really quite surprised to see how low his shot-assist totals were. I’ve often praised Gadjovich’s underrated set-up game, but we haven’t seen much of those set-ups result in meaningful shots in five games.

Again, it’s still early in the season, so I’m hoping to see a lot more from him as the season progresses.

Carson Focht

Carson Focht Player Card After 5 GP

Queue up the white-guy-blinking.gif for the early results on Carson Focht!

I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t expecting much from the overager who saw a points regression in his D+3 season.

Focht has been quite a surprise for the Utica Comets! Added a serious two-way punch and immediate impact to that third-line with Gadjovich and fellow rookie Will Lockwood.

Away from them on powerplay time, and even in brief looks in the top-six with Jasek, Anas, Baertschi and company, he’s looked solid.

Have liked his tenacity on pucks, his involvement in play to steal possession and just in general, his skating. He’s looked just as good on his edges as any other forward in the Comets top-six.

His productivity on the ice has led to him posting the second-best shot-attempt differential at 5v5 with a +22.

Also, he’s tied for third in 5v5 shot-attempts and tied for first on the team in shots on goal with fourteen.

Personally, I would like to see Cull and staff go back to Focht as a penalty-killer for the exact same reasons that I want Höglander to get PK time in the NHL. I dig his skating and drive to get on the puck-possessor.

Overall, it’s been an auspicious start for the rookie! Been thoroughly impressed with his play despite his lack of discipline. In the last two games, Focht has picked up three minor-penalties. One of which led to the game-tying goal that led to their shootout loss to Rochester.

He’s still young and will figure things out. And given how much he’s appeared to figure out already. I like the direction he’s headed so far.

Have got to love that he’s only in year 1 of a 3-year ELC. Very promising stuff from the young rookie! Even if at the end of the day, he’s only fourth-line depth! Cheap depth is good depth!

Will Lockwood

Will Lockwood Player Card After 5 GP

Lockwood has had an interesting run with the Comets so far this season. I’m still not quite sure what to make of him.

His skating is tops, his edgework is clean, hits, and he isn’t afraid to dig deep in board battles. But something is missing.

It isn’t floating, but it’s this weird middle-ground area of doing just enough of the little-things to yield positive results, but not enough to yield a tangible 5v5 offence.

Currently, Lockwood is rocking the second-lowest PDO of any Utica Comet with 93.6%. Only Tanner Kaspick has a lower PDO, an 83.3% PDO picked up in just one game.

Not only are the Comets not getting a good on-ice save percentage with Lockwood on the ice at 5v5, but their shooting-rates are also incredibly low despite posting decent shot-control metrics.

Given his line’s control-rates with him on the ice, I’d like to see him invest more into his own shooting. Currently, he’s only contributed six shot-attempts to the 53 total shot-attempts taken with him on the ice at 5v5.

To quote the great Matthew McConaughey, “alright alright alright.”

Wait, that’s not it.

“You gotta bump those numbers up. Those are rookie numbers.”

For his limited ice-time at 5v5, he shouldn’t be rocking the first 5v5 goal-differential on the team this early in the game. He’s got to start using his skating to find shooting lanes and start throwing pucks on net. He has the little things down when it comes to the tenacity and the work-rate to earn possession of the puck, but he’s got to start doing something with it.

I’m sure the Canucks will take a cheap Eriksson, but being a no-offence forward in the AHL doesn’t earn you too many cups of coffee with the NHL club looking to add some punch to its bottom-six.

Josh Teves

Josh Teves Player Card After 5 GP

I said it already on the CreaseCast with Lachlan Irvine, but Josh Teves getting paid $700,000 of Francesco Aquilini’s money to ride-pine in Utica is very cool and good.

Terrific skater and volume shooter — but oh man, he and Mitch Reinke were an absolutely disastrous combination for the blue line.

Teves has been a healthy scratch the past three games, and it wasn’t unjust. Teves managed six giveaways in two games played and a 5v5 shot-attempt differential of negative-6.

Again, that’s very impressive considering how few minutes he’s played and the fact that the Comets have posted positive shot-attempt differentials in every single game they’ve played this season so far.

It’s kind of funny because Teves was literally only one of two natural left-shot defencemen coming to the Comets from both the Canucks and the Blues. And despite that absolute gimme, he’s still managed to play his way to the press box.

And I don’t even think he’s that bad. He just doesn’t play physically enough nor contribute enough meaningful offence to justify his adventures in the offensive zone. If he used his skating to just be a point-shot defenceman who played conservatively, he’d be a huge boost to the team. But it’s just not his playstyle.

He’s one of three Comets players to have all negative scores on his team-relative metrics. Tanner Kaspick has the most egregious card due to such a brutal one-game sample size in which he got crushed. Vincent Arseneau is the other, who, like Kaspick, only has a small sample size to work with and got crushed in both games he played.

Sven Baertschi

Sven Baertschi Player Card After 5 GP

He’s not a prospect.

He’s just Bae.

He’s such a little trooper. 

Also, big surprise the NHL’er has the highest GF/60 relative metric on the Comets.

 

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

Well, folks, there are still 27 games left to go in the Comets season — plenty of data to suss out!

The St. Louis Blues have called up Nathan Walker and Dakota Joshua to the Taxi Squad, which could mean some internal promotions of prospects to the top-six!

The underlying metrics are promising, and I’m looking forward to revisiting this in 5 games or, better yet, at the sixteen-game mark (the midway point of the season).

Either way, I hope you enjoyed this little eye-test/analytics dive into the early-showings of the Canucks prospects currently playing for the Comets!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for your daily dose of memes, sarcasm, stats, and both Comets and Canucks gameday clips!

You can also catch me on Podcast format with Lachlan Irvine at the Creasecast! Give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!

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Next Comets Harvest gameday recap is coming this Friday/Saturday, as Utica takes on Rochester and Syracuse, again, in back-to-back weekend action!