I’m going to preface this pre-amble with, “I don’t actually want this to happen.”
But how funny would it be if the Utica Comets dropped four straight losses after winning their first eight to start the year?
After getting off to the best start in franchise history, the Comets have seen their lead over the North Division disappear faster than the Vancouver summer weather. As it stands, the Comets sit in third place with sixteen points in eleven games played. After getting nothing out of their last three games, they now only have a three-win disparity between themselves and the seventh-ranked Binghamton Devils.
After the first two losses, the team could easily count their blessings that they had stockpiled a decent amount of wins early to carry them through rough patches. Unfortunately, they’re losing grip on the season at a rapid pace. The Wednesday loss to Binghamton was not pretty in the slightest. The Comets were out-shot by a two-to-one margin while playing selfish, individualistic hockey. The coaching staff had their work cut out for them coming out of the Binghamton match. Several players on the Comets, prospects and veterans need a wake-up call because the selfish hockey isn’t what led the team to eight straight victories. The lessons about teamwork that should have been learned while NHL-caliber players were still in the lineup, apparently did not stick. Hopefully tonight in front of the Utica faithful, the Comets young core stops trying to go it alone and come together to try and end the losing streak.
Again though, truly hilarious if the Comets went winless in November. For comedy’s sake, I can support the team playing terribly if that is the result.
The next step to a winless November is against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a battle between Dunder-Mifflin branches. The Comet’s first match with the Penguins was arguably their most impressive. After getting dominated by the Penguins, in which they gave up three unanswered goals. The Comets then rallied late to force overtime, where the Comets won with an overtime goal from Lukas Jasek. That improbable victory came off the back of Sven Baertschi’s brilliant playmaking. Without Boucher, Baertschi, or Camper, this could be another repeat of that domination.
However, Thomas Drance, as well as a bunch of Vancouver Canucks management folks, are at the game tonight. So perhaps the pressure of the big club’s presence motivates them into getting those offensive juices flowing to prevent that sort of thing from happening!
THE STARTING LINEUP
|Goldobin (#77)||Graovac (#44)||Lind (#13)|
|Bailey (#95)||Hamilton (#36)||MacEwen (#15)|
|Bancks (#34)||Jasek (#9)||Perron (#27)|
|Arseneau (#18)||Taylor (#14)||Stevenson (#26)|
|Juolevi (#48)||Sautner (#6)|
|Brisebois (#55)||Rafferty (#25)|
|Teves (#4)||Eliot (#52)|
Once again, Cull tosses his lines into a blender. Not a fan of the constant line shuffling, because eventually, the team will have to develop chemistry on their own. Hard to do that when it’s changed every single game.
Not sure why Seamus Malone is being subbed out for a career ECH’er. Malone had himself a brutal summer, he missed out on all of his training and both Canuck and Comet pre-season training camps, due to a mangled, broken arm. Considering he played half of his games last season on the wing. Malone’s done admirably in a 3rd/4th line capacity without any preparation.
I actually wish Perron was back playing with Arseneau again. Arseneau has honest to god been one of the teams better forwards this season, especially during this losing streak. His skating is solid, and his positioning is sound, he gives away the puck no more or less than his Comet compatriots. Given the kind of work that big Vinny and Franky Pepperoni (Perron) put in on the fourth line earlier this season, I would hope the team could reunite the duo. I have to believe that reuniting both while allotting them more ice-time would be beneficial to the team as a whole. At least, get Arseneau on the powerplay unit. He’s got a sneaky good bomb of a shot and can win board battles, which is something that cannot be said about the majority of this Comets lineup.
Still not vibing the Bailey/MacEwen pairing on a line. Both Bailey and MacEwen like to play 1v5 hockey. Neither has really shown any form of chemistry with the other.
The team is without Boucher, Camper, and Gadjovich for another game. Genuinely have to be concerned about Gadjovich’s health at this point. After looking solid through the team’s first few games, Gadjovich picked up an upper-body injury and has yet to play since. Tonight will be Gadj’s ninth game on the sidelines and puts him at 23 total games missed due to injury in his brief Comets career.
RE: INJURY REPORT
|Jonah Gadjovich(upper-body)||Reid Boucher (knee)||Carter Camper (upper-body)|
|Stefan LeBlanc||Richard Bachman||Stefan LeBlanc||Seamus Malone||Dylan Blujus (family matter)|
Comets in Blue
- Impeccable Movember stache’ from Big Vinny
- Comets get the puck into the Penguins zone, but they lose the zone as Zack MacEwen takes a stick to the face behind the play. Comets off to a very early powerplay
- The penalty in question as Zack takes a stick to his MacAdams apple
- 1st powerplay group: Lind, Perron, Eliot, Bailey, Brisebois
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 Comets: Well, that’s certainly a way to start the game! Kole Lind (#13) steps in for Francis Perron (#27 )to take the offensive zone draw, wins it back to Mitch Eliot (#52), who rifles a shot into the pads of Dustin Tokarski. The Penguins Macoy Erkamps attempts to clear the rebound but flips it over Tokarski and into the back of the net. Eliot pots his first career AHL goal in the most Canuck way possible.
- Oof, long wrister from the blue line goes off the chest of Rafferty and almost under Di Pietro’s pads. Would’ve been two back-to-back unlucky goals
- Justin Bailey (#95) showing off his speed as he races to the Penguins end-boards to catch a dump-in. Bailey then sets up Wacey Hamilton (#36) for a scoring chance before a scrum ensues. Somehow, MacEwen is the only person to take a penalty after the scrum.
- Comets to the PK: Bancks, Hamilton, Juolevi, Sautner up first
- First group rings the puck around the boards to clear the zone – Bancks then forces a turnover pushing the Penguins to reset
- Olli Juolevi (#48) and Tyler Graovac (#44) combine to give the Comets a shorthanded rush with Lukas Jasek (#9). Jasek (#9) cruises down the right-wing and then gets a short wrister off the pads of Tokarski. The rebound gives the Penguins a three-on-one the other way
- Ashton Sautner (#6) bails out his teammates as he breaks up the Penguins three-on-one scoring chance with a well-placed stick
- MacEwen roughing penalty killed off, game returns to even-strength
- Ooh baby, Brogan Rafferty (#25) joins the offensive as he wraps around the Pens net for a centering pass, but the pass goes off a skate, and the Comets are forced out to center.
- The Pens Adam Johnson blows past Juolevi (#48) for a huge scoring chance on Di Pietro, but Mikey makes the save.
- Not sure if Juolevi missed planting his left skate, or what the hell that was, but the kid just got burned hard in his end despite having the angle and everything to prevent Johnson’s rush. Hopefully, the Penguins don’t pick up on that, or he’s going to be fodder for the remaining 40 minutes
- Wacey Hamilton takes a tripping penalty after the fourth line gains the offensive zone. Comets are back onto the PK
- Comets continue to let their opponents hammer their goalie with shots from the high slot. Fortunately, MDP comes up huge with a save on the PK
- Penguins run into Di Pietro twice on their powerplay. Sautner gives an exasperated look to the refs after the second straight instance
- Comets kill off the remained of the Hamilton penalty, and the game returns to even-strength
- Second time in as many games where I’ve seen Rafferty (#25) seem caught flat-footed by a player crashing down the wing on him. Have to wonder if his left-right tracking will hold him back from taking the next step to the NHL. I like his game, but if you can’t see a guy coming down on you from the wing at the AHL level, what’s it going to be like at the NHL level?
- Nikolay Goldobin (#77) from the left wall gets a beauty cross-ice feed to Ashton Sautner (#6), but his shot goes off the chest of Tokarski
- Jake Lucchini receives a saucer pass behind a sliding Josh Teves (#4) but whiffs on his shot. Comets lose sight of the puck, but MDP stands strong as Lucchini gets a follow-up try.
- The 6′ 170 pound Josh Teves (#4) with a great physical play to knock the 6’5″ 210 pound Anthony Angello off the puck in the Comets end. Teves follows it up by laying the stick down to force the Penguins into making a bad cross-ice pass, losing them the zone
- MDP with another huge save on a point-blank blast from the Penguins
- Penguins thriving in the high slot and the bottom of the circles, as the Comets continue to let the Pens wingers set up shop without any pushback
- Juolevi with a bouncing shot from the blue line on Tokarski but its an easy save
- Carter Bancks with an impressive shift in the offensive zone, culminating in a blast from Ashton Sautner. Sautner’s shot, unfortunately, goes off the body of a Penguins defender, losing the Comets the zone
Score at the end of the First Period: 1-0 Comets
Despite the early goal from Mitch Eliot, this was a period marked by key saves from Michael Di Pietro. Penguin’s repeatedly peppering MDP with shots from point-blank range while the Comets collective stands idly by. Surely the Canucks management staff recognizes the lack of physicality from this Comets lineup, despite the size of so many players. Not a whole lot of it being used against this Penguins team tonight. Comets outshot twelve to eight after twenty minutes of action. I’m surprised to see the Comets had eight. After that opening goal, it felt like the majority of the period was spent in the Comets end.
- MDP with an early save on a weak Penguins shot to start the second
- Nikolay Goldobin (#77) gets a decent shift in the Penguins end, as he stick handles through three Penguin players and draws a tripping penalty
- Comets 1st Peeper: Bailey, Lind, Eliot, Brisebois, Perron
- a near-tragic turnover as Eliot (#52) turns for a breakout only to lose an edge. He turns the puck over to Jack Lucchini who, fortunately, once again sends his shot off the right pad of MDP
- Comets 2nd Peeper: Goldobin, MacEwen, Graovac, Rafferty, Juolevi
- Interesting that Cull has chosen to utilize two D on both peeper units
- Teves (#4) with a risky pinch in the Penguins end but races back to the Comets end in time to break-up the Pens odd-man rush
- Dyson Stevenson attempts to lead a zone-entry for the Comets but gets his stick blatantly held by a Penguins player. No call from the ref’s
- No worries, as Dyson Stevenson (#26) gets a rink-wide saucer pass to Vinny Arseneau (#18) whos in behind the Penguins defense
- an impressive shift from Zack MacEwen (#15), first as he sets-up both Arseneau (#18) and Juolevi (#48) with one-timer attempts. Then finishes the shift off with a third set-up for Justin Bailey (#95), who’s one-timer gets deflected wide of the net.
- That shift was more like the MacEwen I’ve grown accustomed to. Too bad his teammates couldn’t do much with his passes
- Lind (#13) from the goal-line passes back to Goldobin in the high-slot, but Goldy doesn’t think the Comets should score, so he passes to Brisebois (#55) instead. Brise promptly agrees and shoots it into the glove of Tokarski
- Rafferty (#25) gets away with a slash, and then Sherriff Arseneau steps in to prevent any yee-hawing
- Graovac finds Goldobin with a rink-wide pass, but there’s just not enough steam for Goldy to get a breakaway. Goldy then gets hauled to the ice, but again, no call
- Teves (#4) wisely avoids the Comets taking a too-man-men penalty and throws a spinorama on his pass when he eventually tags up
- Rafferty (#25) from the blue line cuts around two Penguins to create space for a set up to Wacey Hamilton (#36). Hamilton, unfortunately, whiffs on the shot attempt
- Justin Taylor (#14) with an odd-man-rush with Vinny Arseneau (#18). Taylor takes the shot, but it goes off the right pad of Tokarski
- Kole Lind with some aggressive forechecking in the Penguins end. Lind (#13) manages to get the puck away from the board battle and is about to set-up Mitch Eliot (#52) for a one-timer before refs blow play dead
- Sautner and Aggozzino caught up in a scrum on the Penguins blue line. Both take delay-of-game minor penalties
- Unfortunate turn of events, as Eliot had all the space in the world for a one-timer. Could’ve been his second of the night
- MDP almost evens things out after he leaves the net to play the puck off the boards behind his net
- Tyler Graovac (#44) with some big-boy dangles to draw a penalty. Graovac’s draw opens the Comets up to some great pressure from Lind (#13) and Eliot (#52). Also, in this streamable, Goldy with the “player-has-disconnected” move and Mitch Eliot BADLY trying to get his second point of the night.
- Comets 1st Peeper: MacEwen, Goldobin, Graovac, Juolevi, Rafferty
- huge powerplay scoring opportunity after a Rafferty (#25) shot through traffic. Goldy crashing the net got me feeling some kind of way
- 2nd Peeper Unit: Bailey, Brisebois, Eliot, Lind, Perron,
- Mitch Eliot (#52) with a one-timer blast from the left circle
The Score at the end of the 2nd period: 1-0 Comets
Certainly, a more competitive period than the first, as Comets hold steady with eight shots to the Penguins nine. Still letting the Penguins walk into shooting lanes uncontested for blasts on goal, but they’re at the very least doing better setting up plays in the Penguins end. Loving the play of Mitch Eliot tonight, he’s got solid speed and is stepping up at the right moments to provide offense. Good to see from the rookie. Teves is having himself a good night. Even though he’s had a couple moments of putting himself out of position, he’s shown great hustle to recover with his backchecking. Lind had a good period as well, shame about that Sautner penalty that ruined his best shift in several games.
- Lind with the moves to lead the breakout and zone entry for the Comets. Finishes off his play with a set-up for Nikolay Goldobin (#77) but he times the shot wrong
- The Lind of last year would’ve broke his own ankles 3 or 4 times trying to attempt a breakout like that
- An unholy amount of missed one-timers by the Comets tonight. This one after Josh Teves (#4) steps up along the left wall to pick up the puck for a cross-ice feed to Carter Bancks (#34)
- Lukas Jasek (#9) pressures behind the Penguins net, forcing a giveaway to Dyson Stevenson (#26). Stevenson takes the less-selfish option of dropping back for Vinny Arseneau (#18), but it’s between Arseneaus legs, so they cant capitalize on the chance
- Fourth line pressuring hard with several blasts from the blue line, all get bodied down, or aside by the Penguins defenders
- Andrew Aggozzino muscles past Olli Juolevi (#48) for a shot on Di Pietro, but Juolevi hauls Aggozzino down and into Di Pietro
- MDP eventually gets up and appears okay. Aggozzino takes a goaltender interference penalty while somehow Josh Teves takes one for hooking?
- Game goes to two-minutes of four-on-four hockey, and I still have no clue how Teves picks up a hooking minor here? He’s literally on the bench for this entire sequence
- Zack MacEwen (#15) capitalizes on a bad Penguins pass for a breakaway drive. MacEwen elects to take the unselfish drop-pass play to a tied-up Ashton Sautner (#6) who fails to get a touch on the pass
- Tyler Graovac (#44) with a slick saucer pass to Brogan Rafferty (#25). Rafferty quietly snuck past the entire Penguins team for a drive to the net of Tokarski to catch Graovacs pass for a tip-in.
- Mitch Eliot (#52) calmly handling the puck behind Di Pietro while under pressure by two Penguin players
- Francis Perron (#27) forces a turnover, leading to a spinning pass through center from Lukas Jasek (#9) at the Penguins blue line
- Rafferty ( #25) loses control of the puck along the Comets end-boards, leading to another point-blank save from Di Pietro
- Lind leads a rush down the right-wing, but his one-timer feed goes off the body of Graovac. One-timer feeds have not been on-point tonight
- Things slowing down heavily through the middle chunk of the third period
- Josh Teves (#4) ties up with the Penguins Kevin Czuczman, getting called for holding, putting the Pens on a late powerplay
- MDP with a post-to-post save on the powerplay
- GOAL – WBS – 1-1 Tie: Wilkes-Barre ties it up after a blast from Zach Trotman knuckles through traffic over the right pad of Di Pietro.
- Di Pietro deserved better on that one, he’s been playing lights out tonight the goal-against is hardly indicative to how great he’s been playing tonight
- GOAL – WBS – 2-1 Penguins: Huge yikes. The Comets lose a defensive zone faceoff to the Penguins, and a shot from Zach Trotman gets tipped by Jordy Bellerive at the last second to give the Penguins the lead.
- Two goals in 40 seconds for the Penguins after the Comets are caught sleeping
- Anthony Angello walks uncontested down the right-wing for a blast off the shoulder of Di Pietro.
- Comets coming undone, as they start to set up pressure in the Penguins end only for Wacey Hamilton to pick up a roughing minor alongside the Penguins Zach Trotman
- Comets pull the Di Pietro for the extra man
- Goldobin (#77) with a casual breakout and drive into the Penguins zone for a shot off the body of Tokarski
- MacEwen takes a goaltender interference penalty for bumping Tokarski
- No penalty issued to Macoy Erkamps for the egregious slash to MacEwen’s Achilles as he was skating his way to the box
- Comets on the PK for the final two minutes and they’re playing completely defeated.
- time winds down and they blow it at home for their fourth straight loss
Final Score: 2-1 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Comets outshot in the finale frame ten-to-seven, 31 to 23 overall. I don’t think I can say they took their foot off the gas because they didn’t play like their foot was ever on it. More like, they put the keys in the ignition, turned the car on to warm it up, then went back inside to make breakfast, forgot the car was on, and eventually the battery died. Another game where the forward’s effort levels are all over the map, chemistry is toast, and the Comets only look semi-competitive due to the efforts of their goaltender. Shouldn’t be describing this many Comets games as pathetic, but what other adjective could be used to describe the way they blew this one?
|1st||Utica||Mitch Eliot||Kole Lind||—||PPG|
|3rd||WBS||Zach Trotman||Joseph Blandisi||—||PPG|
|3rd||WBS||Jordy Bellerive||Zach Trotman||Jake Lucchini||5V5|
- Beyond the point of making excuses. This team sucks. Some serious competitive fire lacking from the team’s top-nine
- Considering the number of big guys on the team, I’m consistently shocked at how many shots they give up from the bottom of the circles or the slot. There is zero physicality from the team away from the boards that prevents teams from creating chances. It is essentially open season for opposing wingers to just park around the net and hammer one-timers from point-blank.
- Speaking of which, Michael Di Pietro had himself a spectacular night. The AHL doesn’t track high-danger scoring chances, just shots, and goals. But if they did, I’m confident that about 60 to 75% of the shots he faced tonight would have been considered high-danger scoring chances. The guy was a monster for the Comets tonight. Once again, the last line of defense for the Comets is left high and dry
- Getting a bit tiresome watch selfish hockey players fail repeatedly trying to 1v5 their opponents. It speaks volumes of the team’s chemistry and timing that 95% of their cross-ice one-timer passes were whiffed on. It was as if there was no communication between the forward lines, all game, as no one had a clue what their linemates were planning to do.
- The exception to the above would be the offensive play from Brogan Rafferty and Mitch Eliot. Both created tonnes of space for their forwards to work with, only for the forward groups to bungle the opportunities. Rafferty and Eliot combined for seven shots on goal tonight. In fact! Tonight, the defense combined for thirteen of the teams 23 shots on goal. To paraphrase Tortorella, “good for (them), but not for us.”
- Congrats to Mitch Eliot for his first AHL “goal.” Although it was a complete freebie. Game is probably the Comets third shutout loss in four games had Erkamps not decided to try and clear it towards his goalie
- Comets fourth-liners once again provide the best forechecking and scoring pressure from the forward groups. Still hoping the Perron, Arseneau, and Stevenson combo gets reunited. Dyson Stevenson and Arseneau had themselves a solid game from both a defensive and offensive standpoint. Get them a center who “gets” them, like Perron, and let them put in work. The other lines right now are just so soft on the puck. The few times where players like MacEwen, or Bailey, or Lind weren’t soft, was when the team looked, it’s most dominant. They can’t keep playing like the puck is just going to magically wind up on their sticks through no action of their own.
- Heading into tomorrow’s game on the road against Binghamton (again). I would hope that Cull leaves the lines the same just to let some chemistry build. There were some glimpses here and there tonight, let it grow! I can park my desire for the 18-27-26 line if it means no other excessive line changes.
- Josh Teves was pretty hot and cold tonight. He had some good plays, and he had some bad ones. The holding penalty that late in the game was pretty soft. Especially considering the number of holds the Penguins were getting away with earlier in the game. Overall, I do like what Teves brings to the table. For a smaller guy, he’s fast, and he plays big, he doesn’t shy away from the physicality, which can’t be said about many others on the team. He’s dialed back on his tendencies to go on skating trips around the rink. I get his intentions as he tries to create space for his team. However, he could stand to be more efficient with his energy. Currently, he uses his speed to skate laps around his opponents, which looks good but does little to open up the ice. Skate fast enough to lure them in, while not getting caught. Not; skate so fast your opponent stands still to watch you accomplish nothing.
- Zack MacEwen had the best shift of his season tonight. It came in the second period. And that was about it. Just re-read my thoughts from the team’s last game. Just not sure what’s going on with his game, as it’s just fallen off a cliff.
- Tyler Graovac did look better tonight, but weirdly enough he’s only a good distributor when passing back to the defenders. Have yet to see him truly combine for a good play with his linemates.
- Was Jim Benning in town for this one? Will he be in town at all? I wonder what the excuses would be for the team at this point? Boucher and Camper being out will certainly hinder any team. But the team is playing like they all answered a craigslist ad to come out and play beer-league hockey. I’m still waiting on the chemistry to form in the absence of Baertschi, Boucher, and Camper from the lineup. The management group couldn’t possibly have been counting on those three to appear in all 76 Comets games, could they have? If they did, what does that say about the prospect group they’ve put together on the farm? With one NHL’er and one quad-A goal-scorer, they’re an offensive dynamo, but without them, they’re a dumpster fire? Two more games in three days for this group to figure out what they are.
- At least the team didn’t try and play dump-and-chase hockey all night
Comets Three Stars
- Michael Di Pietro
- Mitch Eliot
- Brogan Rafferty
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets return tomorrow night when they face off against the Binghamton Devils as they attempt to
make it five straight losses end the losing streak before things go completely off the rails (if they weren’t already).
If you want a more condensed version of Comets recaps, you can now find MORE of my writing at thesinbin.net