Feels like we are in a state of Deja Vu. The Comets are back for another double-header weekend where they, once again, take on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers!
The Comets and the Sound Tigers have played three of their four-game series just in the past seven days. With their fourth and final match of the season not taking place until the final stretch of the season, on April 4th.
Despite the Sound Tigers status as the fifth-worst team in the league, they’ve actually fared quite well against the Comets over their previous two meetings.
The first meeting, last Friday, saw the Comets barely eke out a point. After getting dominated in shot-attempts at even-strength, 57 to 43, the Comets managed a late goal from Reid Boucher to force OT, and then the shootout. Total shot-attempts across all strength-situations favored the Sound Tigers 84 to 60.
Their second matchup was much more favorable to the Comets, as they picked up a 6-3 regulation win on the road. Four straight unanswered goals in the third period led the Comets to victory. The game itself saw dominant offensive performances from Kole Lind and Brogan Rafferty.
The pair’s offensive dominance over the Sound Tigers and the Comets overall end-results have masked some terrifying underlying numbers for the Utica Comets season. Comets have just one game, this December, where they’ve controlled shot-attempts at even-strength. Ironically, that CORSI-positive game was their 5-3 loss to Toronto.
In 26 games this season, the Comets have controlled even-strength shot-attempts just ten times. When taking away game-state factors, and just examining raw shot-attempts in all-situations, the Comets have out-shot their opponents nine times out of 26 games.
This strategy worked great to start the season when Michael Di Pietro and Zane McIntyre were playing fantastic hockey. But now that the AHL’s grueling schedule has begun to settle in. Suddenly the Comets rope-a-dope playstyle has started to bite them more often than not.
Consistency is something that I’ve desired from the Utica Comets through their November slump and this rough December patch. Let’s hope they can cap off this grueling six-games-in-nine-nights with some much-needed points.
With all the crushing realism aside, let’s get into tonight’s starting lineup and see how the Comets do in tonight’s rubber-match!
THE STARTING LINEUP
|Baertschi (#47)||Malone (#17)||Boucher (#24)|
|Goldobin (#77)||Camper (#19)||Perron (#27)|
|Bailey (#95)||Jasek (#9)||Lind (#13)|
|Gadjovich (#21)||Bancks (#34)||Arseneau (#18)|
|Juolevi (#48)||Chatfield (#5)|
|Sautner (#6)||Rafferty (#25)|
|Teves (#4)||Blujus (#8)|
Jalen Chatfield managed to get into Utica in time for tonight’s matchup. He replaces Guillaume Brisebois, who gets an opportunity to sit in the penalty box and cash that sweet, juicy, NHL paycheque.
Also returning to tonight’s lineup is Dylan Blujus, who’d missed the previous five games with injury.
RE: INJURY REPORT
|Wacey Hamilton (faceeeeeee)||Dyson Stevenson (injured)|
|Stefan LeBlanc||David Pope||Mitch Eliot|
David Pope, seconds after pulling into Kalamazoo, MI, was recalled for his second stint with the AHL club. Stefan LeBlanc slides out as the result of Blujus return.
Comets in White
- Nikolay Goldobin (#77) enters the Sound Tigers zone and tries to get a little flashy with a turn, loses possession, but recovers and cuts through center for a shooting lane but loses the puck for the second time
- Ashton Sautner and the end boards don’t mix. Here, he plays the puck with a backhand pass while bracing for a check from behind. His check, however, slips on the way, and his body weight comes crashing down on the back of Sautner’s left leg.
- Commentator didn’t mention the collision, so I can only assume he was able to get to the bench
- Josh Teves (#4) attempts to play the puck off the left wall up to Justin Bailey (#95), but it’s picked off by the Sound Tigers. Nick Schilkey walks down the right-wing and gets an uncontested shot on McIntyre
- Communication on-ice needs to improve for this club. How is no one taking Schilkey, man-on, in that situation? Rafferty already had the middle covered?
- So it’s going to be one of those nights again, eh? Comets flip the puck out of their end where a Sound Tiger catches it beyond the blue line. Puck gets dropped well past the blue line and gets shot into the glove of McIntyre. McIntyre holds the puck in his glove for four to five seconds, in full view of the referee, but no whistle.
- Vinny Arseneau (#18), in his first game after back-to-back scratches, almost murders a Sound Tiger in the neutral-zone with a hit
- Seamus Malone (#17) doing his best to improve the Comets shot-attempt differential, as he cuts around the Sound Tigers defense for a shot from the high-slot
- Josh Teves (#4) attempts to clear the Comets zone with a backhander up the right-wall to Kole Lind (#13). Nick Schilkey charges Lind for the takeaway, but Lind evades with a slick move for a breakout pass to Lukas Jasek (#9)
- Jonah Gadjovich (#21) tips the puck into the Tigers’ end and chases. Vinny Arseneau (#18) joins in to recover the dump-in and gets the puck back to Gadjovich for a centering pass to Carter Bancks (#34). Tigers repel the chance and generate a rush the other way, only for Oliver Wahlstrom to goof on a pass which loses his team control
- Brogan Rafferty (#25)carries into the Tigers’ zone before dropping off to a streaming Francis Perron (#27). From the left-wing, Perron rips a cross-ice feed to Reid Boucher (#24) on the doorstep, but a sliding Tigers’ defenseman breaks up the play
- Long streamable that shows just how the Comets allow the Sound Tigers to wade in for shot-attempts, completely uncontested.
- Comets get caught on a bad change and head to the penalty-kill for too many men on the ice.
- At least it was a legitimate too-many-men penalty, unlike Wednesday’s phantom too-many-men call that somehow occurred during a stoppage in play
- 1st peeker: Jasek, Bancks, Chatfield, Sautner
- Comets are doing well to suppress the league-worst powerplay. Sound Tigers sit dead-last with an 8.8% success rate
- GOAL – BRIDGEPORT – 1-0 Sound Tigers: Well, if that isn’t Karma, I don’t know what is. Literally, as I finished typing the previous bullet, the Sound Tigers open the games scoring with a one-timer goal from Travis St. Denis. Tigers’ Otto Koivula starts with a pass to Nick Schilkey on the doorstep of McIntyre’s crease. Dylan Blujus (#8) spins to check, but he misses Schilkey’s instant drop-pass to St. Denis. St. Denis’s one-timer rips under McIntyre’s blocker side. Oops, my bad guys.
- Ashton Sautner (#6) boxes out Jeff Kubiak behind the Comets goal line before having to deal with Colin McDonald, who comes to aid Kubiak. Carter Camper (#19) skates in to help but inadvertently redirects the loose puck to Kiefer Bellows at the front of the net. Fortunately, Brogan Rafferty (#25) gets a stick in the lane to block Bellows shot
- Kole Lind walks down the right-wing for a shot attempt but sends the puck out of play
- Off the ensuing offensive-zone draw, Seamus Malone (#17) takes a tripping penalty and the Comets are back to the penalty-kill
- For safety’s sake, I won’t comment
- Sound Tigers with a close-call on their second powerplay, as a rebound off of McIntyre’s right-pad lands right in front of Nick Schilkey. Jalen Chatfield (#5), fortunately, recovers and then attempts to clear
- Reid Boucher (#24) leads a shorthanded rush with Justin Bailey (#95) in which they both get off clean shot-attempts on Jared Coreau
- Comets kill the PK, but can’t get out of their end
- After a long shift, Lukas Jasek (#9) catches a rebound off the glass and carries the puck out to center-ice, before one-handing the puck into the Sound Tigers end
- GOAL – BRIDGEPORT – 2-0 Sound Tigers: An ugly goal for the Sound Tigers makes it two-zip with plenty of time left to play. Play starts in the Tigers’ zone, but the Tigers quickly play relay-race as they transition into the Comets’ end. Colin McDonald attempts a centering pass from the right-wing, but it goes off the skate of Brogan Rafferty (#25) to his teammate, Kyle Burroughs. Burroughs fakes the shot but sends a pass to John Stevens, who taps the puck through McIntyre’s five-hole.
- Lukas Jasek (#9) attempts to reset from the Comets zone but faces pressure from several Sound Tigers’. Jasek manages to thread a pass to Kole Lind (#13), who drives into the Tigers’ zone before drawing a hooking penalty to give the Comets their first powerplay of the game
- 1st peeper: Baertschi, Lind, Rafferty, Bailey, Boucher
- GOAL – BRIDGEPORT – 3-0 Sound Tigers: Oof, the Comets give up a shorty, and this game is falling off the rails. Brogan Rafferty (#25) starts with the puck in the neutral-zone before dropping off for Reid Boucher (#24), who zips a pass to a speedy Sven Baertschi (#47). Baertschi has the pass bounce off his stick right onto the stick of John Stevens. Stevens is in behind the entire Comets lineup and quickly walks in for a no-shot five-hole goal to make it three-straight for Bridgeport
- 2nd peeper comes out after the 1st gets nothing going
- Olli Juolevi (#48) with a blast on Coreau through traffic
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-1 Sound Tigers: Comets finally get on the board off of Reid Boucher’s 19th goal of the season. Brogan Rafferty (#25) starts it off from the Comet’s zone with a pass up to Boucher. Boucher then zips a cross-ice feed to Sven Baertschi (#47), who carries-in along the right wall. Just when there isn’t enough space remaining, Baertschi gets a tape-to-tape backhand pass to Boucher on the doorstep that puts the Comets within two.
- Final ten of the opening frame, and Nikolay Goldobin leads an entry before going rink wide to Carter Camper. Camper’s shot gets blocked and time expires
The score at the end of the 1st period: 3-1 Sound Tigers
Comets, according to the AHL’s ‘Game Center,’ come out of that period even on the shot differential. Comets looked a step behind through much of the first period. The Comets lone goal came from quick puck movement. The Sound Tigers first two goals came from rapid puck movement. At some point, they need to stop playing chess with the puck and start playing checkers. Keep it simple, and move the puck faster into shooting lanes. For every shot the Sound Tigers registered on goal, there are at least two preceding shot-attempts that get blocked or miss the net. Because the Comets don’t defend the body or challenge their opponents, the Tigers can afford to continue the high-volume approach that has drowned the Comets on so many occasions this season.
- Carter Camper (#19) loses possession in the Tigers’ zone, and Tom Kuhnackl sends a pass up to Travis St. Denis, who gets behind the Comets defense for a shot off the bar
- Comets with a couple shots on goal, but nothing too dangerous
- Vinny Arseneau (#18) with two massive hits along the Sound Tigers end-boards
- Arseneau takes charging and boarding minors, as well as an unsportsmanlike conduct game-misconduct
- Comets to an extended penalty-kill
- Zane McIntyre goes post-to-post to rob Andrew Ladd on the one-timer from the doorstep
- Comets kill off the four-minute double-minor, holding the Sound Tigers to just four shots on net
- First-line gets a quick play setup by Sven Baertschi (#47) and Reid Boucher (#24). Boucher sets up Seamus Malone (#17) from behind the Tigers’ goal line, but Malone gets cross-checked hard to the ice.
- Comets head to the powerplay with nine left in the period
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) goofs on his drop pass while on the powerplay, allowing Jeff Kubiak to steal for a shorthanded shot on goal
- 2nd peeper comes out as the first cant gain the zone for a setup
- Jonah Gadjovich (#21) carries down the left-wing and attempts to drop off for Olli Juolevi (#48), but Mason Jobst steals. Jobst drives towards the net, but he loses possession of the puck just as a backchecking Francis Perron (#27) gets to him
- Reid Boucher (#24) lays a shoulder check then gets around his check for a couple chances from the crease
- Kole Lind attempts to chase down an Ollie Juolevi iced puck but gets hauled down in the process. Sebastian Aho heads to the box for holding, and the Comets get their third powerplay of the game
- Good pressure from the Comets on this powerplay, Boucher with three chances before a whistle stops play
- 2nd Unit comes out and gets some decent pressure going
- Shots on goal just too far out to be considered dangerous
- GOAL – BRIDGEPORT – 4-1 Sound Tigers: Oof, Kiefer Bellows just clowned Ashton Sautner (#6) to regain the Tigers three-goal lead. Play starts after the Comets lose an offensive zone draw, where Seth Helgeson plays the puck around the boards to Sebastian Aho as he leaves the penalty box. Aho chips the puck around Jalen Chatfield (#5) to center-ice, where Sautner gets a touch on Aho’s pass. Kiefer Bellows comes crashing in to pick up the loose puck and race around Sautner for a drive on goal as he waits out McIntyre for the tally.
- Comets lose another offensive zone draw, this time the puck gets played over Olli Juolevis (#48) stick on the blue line. Jeff Kubiak gets himself a breakaway opportunity, but he fans on his shot when he attempts to go backhand on McIntyre. Juolevi avoids taking a penalty, so I guess that’s a plus?
The score at the end of the 2nd period: 4-1 Sound Tigers
Despite outshooting the Sound Tigers ten to seven, the Comets look woefully out of their depth as they struggle time and time again to shut down the offensive of this struggling Atlantic Division rival. Not much to say really, first-line cant complete a pass, second-line has been invisible, third line’s shots on goal just haven’t been effective, with the fourth-line being the only one not getting dunked on every shift.
- Early glove save from Zane McIntyre on Kyle Burroughs
- Good early aggression from the Comets as they spent the opening five minutes pressuring the Tigers’ in their end
- Josh Teves (#4) draws a cross-check from Kiefer Bellows to put the Comets on their fourth powerplay
- Comets 1st peeper doing well to cycle, but getting the puck to Boucher is getting all too predictable for this Sound Tigers squad
- 2nd group comes out
- GOAL – UTICA – 4-2 Sound Tigers: Jonah Gadjovich cuts the Sound Tigers lead to two with a fantastic wrist-shot over the glove side of Jared Coreau. Play starts at center-ice with the Comets quickly moving the puck to the left-wing for Gadjovich (#21). Gadj quickly powers down the left wall before rifling a shot top-corner. Gadjovich picks up his sixth goal of the year on the play
- Comets first and second lines doing well to gain the Tigers’ zone, but they don’t seem capable of working their way towards the net for higher-percentage scoring chances. Most of the teams’ shots on goals have come from far outside the half-circles
- Perron, Goldobin, and Perron combine for the team’s most dangerous chance of the period thus far as they get a couple shots on Coreau from in-tight around the crease.
- Kieffer Bellows continues to menace the Utica Comets, as Colin McDonald sets him up for a one-timer chance from McIntyre’s crease.
- Nikolay Goldobin (#77) steals the puck in the Tigers’ offensive zone and sets up Jonah Gadjovich (#21) for a shot-attempt
- Oliver Wahlstrom takes a tripping penalty with less than four minutes remaining in the game, could be interesting
- Comets pull McIntyre for the six-man powerplay advantage
- Wow, they need to stop handing off to Baertschi (#47) on the powerplay. For the third/fourth time tonight, Reid Boucher (#24) hands off to Sven Baertschi for the carry-in, and he immediately loses the puck to John Stevens. Amazingly, Stevens whiffs on the empty-net opportunity
- Stevens gets a second empty-netter opportunity seconds later when Brogan Rafferty (#25) flubs on a drop-pass behind the Comets goal line
- GOAL – UTICA – 4-3 Sound Tigers: Comets make it interesting late, as Carter Camper (#19) rifles a shot over the right shoulder of Coreau to bring the team within one. Lukas Jasek (#9) starts it off with a zone-entry, before handing off to Camper on the right-wing. Camper skates ahead a bit before uncorking an absolute bomb to give the Comets their second straight powerplay goal.
- Comets pull McIntyre to get the extra-man
- Lind, Boucher, Baertschi, Bailey, Goldobin, and Rafferty out for the Comets
- Comets six-man group stuck along the outer walls, struggling to get shots through traffic and on net.
- Reid Boucher (#24) with a one-timer blast in the final five seconds of the game that could’ve been the difference-maker. Jared Coreau gets to his left post in time to stop Boucher’s attempt to tie the game
- Clock winds down and this ones over
- Good rally by the Comets to make things interesting in the final frame, but it was too-little-too-late
Final Score: 4-3 Bridgeport Sound Tigers
|1st||BRI||Travis St. Denis||Nick Schilkey||Otto Koivula||ppg|
|1st||BRI||John Stevens||Kyle Burroughs||Colin McDonald||5v5|
|1st||UTI||Reid Boucher||Sven Baertschi||Brogan Rafferty||5v5|
|2nd||BRI||Kieffer Bellows||Sebastian Aho||Seth Helgeson||5v5|
|3rd||UTI||Jonah Gadjovich||Nikolay Goldobin||Carter Camper||ppg|
|3rd||UTI||Carter Camper||Lukas Jasek||Francis Perron||ppg|
- Disappointing effort from the Utica Comets again as they lose to an inferior opponent at home for the umpteenth time
- Comets closed out the game edging the Sound Tigers in shots-on-goal, 34 to 23. Unfortunately, the majority of those shots were simply non-threatening. Size and strength isn’t a strong suit of this team, but speed is. They need to be using their speed to drive to better shooting lanes. Too often, this team stands still and waits for openings. The high-volume approach at the AHL level can make up for sloppy defense and so-so goaltending. A calculated approach at the AHL level can not make up for sloppy defense and so-so goaltending. They need to be producing so much more than they are.
- Look at this grapppppppppppph
- Every time I do it makes me laugh
- I drew black lines at the top of the circles to highlight the difference in shots-on-goal between the two teams. Utica registered seven shots on goal, one of which made it past Coreau. Five of those shots came from Reid Boucher.
- The Sound Tigers registered eleven shots-on-goal from below the marks indicated. Four of which resulted in goals-against.
- It’s not like the Sound Tigers are some marvelous defensive team either, they have the third-most goals allowed in the league FFS! They are in a league of their own when it comes to goal-differential, as they are the league-worst at -32. MINUS, 32.
- Tonight’s loss puts the Comets in a precarious tie with the Laval Rocket, who lose-out only due to their number of games played. Just four points separate them from the 7th ranked Cleveland Monsters. These two losses against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers could haunt them come April.
- I don’t even want to discuss the players. They were spectacularly mediocre.
Comets Three Stars
- Jonah Gadjovich
- Reid Boucher
- Carter Camper
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets are back at it tomorrow when they take on the Binghamton Devils. I will be at my works Christmas Party, so I probably won’t get a recap out until Sunday night. Maybe later, depending on how many drink tickets they give out this year!
If you want more Comets coverage from yours truly, you can now find MORE of my writing at thesinbin.net