Merry Christmas Canucks Nation, it’s been a while since we checked in on the Farm with the Comets Harvest!
As you all know, I was selected as the fourth fellow for the Botchford Project and that, coupled with my many Holiday obligations, took me away from my usual Comets coverage.
My day as a Botchford Fellow was a whirlwind, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. Beyond the crash-course in Canucks-media activities, it was a fantastic learning opportunity where I was able to meet plenty of staples to Canucks media who welcomed me with open arms.
That doesn’t even account for the fantastic people within the Canucks organization who did everything they could to allow me to get everything I needed for my piece.
Although interviewing players is a completely foreign concept to me, I’m stoked that this experience allowed me to spread my wings and give’er a whirl. Hopefully, I didn’t embarrass myself too much in front of the guys who graciously offered up their time to me! I think my inexperience may have resulted in me not getting all the right information that I was looking for. But, nonetheless, I’m proud of what I put together, and hopefully, it reads well.
Huge thanks to everyone on this subreddit, on twitter, discord, Hfboards, anywhere really, who sent encouraging words to me throughout this process! Truth be told, it was a very bittersweet experience, knowing why I was there at all. I paid a visit to the Botchford bench beforehand and asked the legend himself to send some luck my way for the night. Outside of goofing on my interviews a bit, the day ended up going my way, the 19th.
Oh, and the Canucks are now 3-and-0 since my visit.
Oh, right, the Comets! The Comets are riding a three-game win streak after an up-and-down month that has seen the Comets ride a December record of 5-wins, 3-losses, and two shootout-losses.
Coming into tonight’s matchup, the Farm team sits 3rd in the North Division with 39 points and a 0.629 points-earning-percentage. Their opponent tonight, the Washington Capitals farm-team, Hershey Bears, sit similarily third in the Atlantic Division, with 37 points and a 0.617 points-earning-percentage.
The last time the Comets played the Bears, the team was bailed out by a phenomenal goaltending performance from Michael Di Pietro. During the match, the Comets dragged a 1-1 game to the shootout after giving up an astonishing 72 shot-attempts at even-strength to their 36. MDP ended the game with a 0.974 save percentage and a 0.92 goals-against-average.
The Bears are coming into tonight’s matchup riding an eight-game win streak, having gone undefeated through the entirety of December.
On the Comets side, tonight is the return of Michael Di Pietro to the starting lineup, as well as PK specialist Jalen Chatfield. The team’s PK suffered in Chatfield’s recent absence, as they killed off just 9 of their past 13 times spent short-handed. Amongst Culls penalty-kill staples, Chatfield leads the Comets with the highest powerplay suppression percentage, at 95.6% with him on the ice.
Apparently, this is the first time all season where no one on the Comets lineup is listed on IR prior to tonight’s festivities! Let’s get into tonight’s starting lineup!
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)||Sautner (#6)|
|Brisebois (#55)||Rafferty (#25)|
|Blujus (#8)||Chatfield (#5)|
|Michael Di Pietro|
|Richard Bachman||Dyson Stevenson||Mitch Eliot||Wacey Hamilton||Josh Teves||Stefan LeBlanc|
The Comets sent David Pope back down to the Kalamazoo Wings, just in time for their weekend wearing their flying skate jersey!
Comets in Blue
- Hershey’s Joe Snively takes a little tumble
- Vitek Vanecek (the best name in hockey) in net for da Bears in tonight’s contest
- Comets controlling through the opening three minutes with puck handling, but haven’t set up any meaningful offence just yet
- Riley Sutter comes down the left-wing for the Bears and gets the games’ best look for a shot on goal, but Brogan Rafferty (#25) gets a tip on his blast that deflects the puck, wide of the net
- Joe Snively rips a one-timer wide of the net from the high-slot, then Dylan Blujus (#8) pokes a rebound attempt away from Mike Sgarbossa
- Olli Juolevi (#48) has a rink wide feed picked off, leading to a three-man rush into the Comets end. Ashton Sautner (#6) backchecks to disrupt the odd-man rush, while Juolevi ties up Liam O’Brien before Di Pietro gloves down the loose puck
- Guillaume Brisebois (#55) with a diving effort to hold the offensive zone, then follows with a step-in one-timer blast that rips off the goalpost
- GOAL – HERSHEY – 1-0 Bears: Wow, defensive zone draw for the Bears after a tv timeout, and Mike Sgarbossa wins the draw perfectly to Garret Pilon who whips a wrister past Di Pietro’s blocker side. Joe Snively (#21) runs a lowkey interference route on Sven Baertschi (#47), who sees Pilon getting the pass. But, Baertschi can’t get the position to disrupt the shot, and the Comets are down by 1 with plenty of time remaining.
- GOAL – HERSHEY – 2-0 Bears: uh oh…two goals for Garrett Pilon in eleven seconds. Seamus Malone (#17) starts the sequence by failing on his neutral-zone pass to Olli Juolevi (#48). Mike Sgarbossa picks off the loose puck as Malone falls to the ice trying to dispossess of him. Juolevi faces down the 2-on-1 and completely misses the poke-check on Sgarbossa as he goes rink wide to Pilon, who rifles a wrist shot top corner on Di Pietro.
- Shame, Comets were doing pretty well in their own end to start this game, but two back to back blunders means the Comets are going to be up against it all night
- Comets pressuring in the Bears end, as Lukas Jasek (#9) picks up a loose puck along the left wall and centers for Francis Perron (#27). Perron’s shot ricochets off a skate out to Jalen Chatfield (#5), who rips a shot from the bottom of the circle that goes off the crossbar and wide
- GOAL – HERSHEY – 3-0 Bears: Bears playing Grinch tonight in Utica as they rattle off their third goal in less than two minutes to give themselves a staggering three-goal lead before the first half of the opening period. Brian Pinho starts it with a carry-in before cutting towards the center and dropping off for Axel Jonsson-Fjallby. Fjallby rips a shot from the point that goes off the glove of Di Pietro and out to Cody Clark, who bats in the rebound. Lukas Jasek (#9) with a brutal “disconnected controller” approach on his backcheck.
- Comets coaches ask for a review of the Chatfield shot that went off the crossbar, and during the review, they pull Di Pietro. His night is toast. Three goals on nine shots
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-1 Bears: Comets fourth-line showing some signs of life for this team, as Jonah Gadjovich (#21) chips the puck through neutral ice up to Vincent Arseneau (#18), who walks down the right-wing for a wrister past Vanecek. Gadjovich picks up his second assist of the season, while Arseneau’s seventh goal of the season ties him with Gadj and Jasek for fifth amongst Comets goal-scoring.
- Nikolay Goldobin (#77) drops off for Francis Perron (#27) in the high-slot, but Perron gets tied up by the Bears defenders and can’t get a shot off. Perron battles though, to eventually pass between his legs to Brogan Rafferty (#25), who gets a weak backhand shot off the pads of Vanecek
- GOAL – HERSHEY – 4-1 Bears: Some atrocious coverage in the Comets end results in Mike Sgarbossa picking up his third assist of the game as he enters the Comets zone off a Tyler Lewington pass, and draws the entire Comets squad to him in the high-slot. Sgarbossa backhands a pass to Joe Snively, who casually walks down the right wall uncontested, where he uncorks a laser over the left shoulder of McIntyre for his first of the night.
- Vincent Arseneau (#18) with a big hit on Tyler Lewington
- Ashton Sautner (#6) muscles Liam O’Brien to the ice along the Comets half wall, then Olli Juolevi (#48) gives away the puck to Matt Moulson in the high-slot. Fortunately, Moulson’s centering pass is out of reach for Phillippe Maillet
- Kole Lind chases the puck down into the Bears end, then draws a tripping penalty on the Bears, Tyler Lewington
- Comets powerplay ranks third in the AHL – they’ll need to fire on all cylinders tonight if they plan on battling back into this game
- 1st peeper: Lind, Baertschi, Bailey, Rafferty, Boucher
- No shot, but great display of rapid puck movement from the 1st peeper to retain possession in the Bears zone
- Brett Leason with a shorthanded chance with half a second remaining after Axel Jonsson-Fjallby muscles Justin Bailey off the puck in Bears end
The score at the end of the 1st period: 4-1 Bears
They looked ok through the first 6 minutes, but oh boy did they fall apart through that middle chunk of the period. Comets end the period having been outshot by the Bears 13 to 6. Comets rang two shots off the bar, but those were the only real dangerous shots they had. Remaining forty minutes are going to be tough for this squad if they can’t find a way to hit the net.
- Comets start the second with less than a minute of powerplay time but register zero shots on goal
- Not much going through the opening three minutes of action – lot of neutral-ice turnovers
- Delayed penalty against the Bears, Reid Boucher (#24) finds Nikolay Goldobin (#77) with a rink wide pass, but Vanecek makes the shoulder save on Goldy’s corner shot wrister
- 2nd peeper starts: Camper, Perron, Gadjovich, Juolevi, Goldobin
- 2nd unit forced to reset, but Goldobin leads the entry before handing off to Camper for a shot that deflects high into the netting
- Olli Juolevi (#48) with a blast from the point that rebounds out to Francis Perron (#27), who curls with a backhand pass to Carter Camper (#19) on the doorstep. Campers backhander gets robbed by Vanecek, who glides post to post for the clutch powerplay save
- the amount of shots sent wide of the goal is deeply upsetting me
- Malone has been bumped off the first line by the way and replaced by Carter Bancks
- A goal gets quickly waved off as the Refs say that a pass from Sven Baertschi went off Boucher’s hand and into the net
- Boucher lobbies that it went off his stick and not the glove, but the refs don’t have enough evidence to prove his point, and the game remains 4-to-1
- off the ensuing draw, Zane McIntyre almost gives the Comets a four-goal lead after his clearance attempt gets picked off by the Bears forecheckers
- GOAL – UTICA – 4-2 Bears: The Comets fourth-line once again making effective usage of their time, as the hard forechecking efforts of Jonah Gadjovich (#21) and Vincent Arseneau (#18) results in a tip-in goal from Seamus Malone (#17) that cuts the Bears lead to two. Arseneau and Gadjovich start it off by helping out Malone behind the Bears goal line to eventually push the puck out to Olli Juolevi (#48) along the left wall. Juolevi winds up for a blast through the high-slot that gets tipped by Malone through Vanecek’s five-hole. Solid effort to keep the Comets in it
- Justin Bailey (#95) with a fantastic effort to draw a penalty and wheel around the Bears to set up for a scoring chance
- Comets to the powerplay off of Erik Burdoerfer’s holding penalty
- Reid Boucher (#24) with another beautiful rink wide feed; this one goes to Sven Baertschi (#47) who’s shot goes off the body of Vitek Vanecek, where the play is then blown dead a bit prematurely by the referees
- Reid Boucher (#24) with another rink wide pass! And Vitek Vanecek makes an unreal stretch save to stop Kole Lind’s (#13) one-timer attempt
- Comets coming alive this period, bounces and shots aren’t going their way, but they are throwing everything they can at the Bears to try and erase the lead
- Comets second unit throwing anything and everything they can at the net to try and put themselves within 1
- Comets repeatedly looking for that diagonal one-timer feed to catch Vanecek off on his post-to-post movement
- Comets attempt a rush with a speeding Guillaume Brisebois (#55), but play is ruled offside
- Kody Clark absolutely crushes Jalen Chatfield (#5) along the Comets halfwall
- Sven Baertschi (#47) – bottom left of the streamable – catches Alex Alexeyev with an elbow up high. Then behind the goal line a massive scrum ensues between Chatfield and Clark after the earlier hit
- Comets to the penalty-kill for the first time tonight against the league’s fourth-worst powerplay
- Blujus, Sautner, Boucher and Bancks out first on the PK
- Pad save from McIntyre, and Sautner clears to allow the Comets forward pair to change off
- Jasek and Goldobin come out to replace Bancks and Boucher
- Dylan Blujus (#8) drops to his knees to block the shooting lane and then clears
The score at the end of the 2nd period: 4-2 Bears
Way better period from the Comets, Bears caught on the backfoot through the majority of the second period. The entirety of the action took place in the Bears end or through neutral ice. Comets outshot the Bears eleven to six through the middle frame and certainly out-attempted them as well. Will be interesting tracking this one after the fact as the Comets have had a complete inverse performance in the second period.
- Comets start the period with 54 seconds remaining on the Baertschi elbowing penalty
- Jonah Gadjovich had a solid rush where he had three shot attempts blocked before batting a puck out of mid-air to try and set up Arseneau at the net
- Stream stuttering at this precise moment, but first-line almost cuts the Bears lead to one after a Boucher shot on goal gets stopped at the goal-line by a Bears defender as Carter Bancks took a whack at the rebound. Amazing it didn’t go in
- GOAL – UTICA – 4-3 Bears: Reid Boucher’s (#24) rink wide feeds finally pays off as Olli Juolevi (#48) leads the rush through neutral-ice before handing off to Boucher (#24) and cutting towards the net. Boucher finds Carter Camper (#19) racing down the right-wing and dishes a perfect tape-to-tape pass. Camper wrists the puck over the glove side of Vanecek, and the Comets find themselves within one with plenty of time to spare
- GOAL – UTICA – 4-4 Tie: Wooooooooow, the Comets make it three-straight goals to tie it up with fourteen minutes remaining in the third. What. A. comeback. Play begins behind the Comets goal, as Ashton Sautner (#6) plays the puck up to Justin Bailey (#95), who gives off to Lukas Jasek (#9) along the Comets right-circle. Jasek turns on the jets and races through neutral-ice before sending a dipping shot in on Vanecek from outside the Bears right (left?)-circle.
- Pretty lucky goal, but can’t complain about the bounces finally going the Comets way
- Fantastic display of puck handling through traffic from Nikolay Goldobin (#77) in the Bears zone
- Juolevi’s (#48) lack of skating speed nearly results in a tiebreaker goal from the Bears, after Juolevi gets beaten to the puck in the Comets end
- McIntyre makes the save that Di Pietro couldn’t make earlier in the game
- Liam O’Brien catches Carter Bancks with a high-stick, and the Comets are off to the powerplay
- GOAL – HERSHEY – 5-4 Bears: An absolutely bonkers games, gets even crazier, as Brogan Rafferty (#25) rips a one-timer from the point that deflects up into the face of Kole Lind. And onto the stick of Axel Jonsson-Fjallby. Every Comet stops playing hockey essentially as Lind goes down to the ice in a heap. Baertschi attempts to back-check, but Fjallby sets up Brian Pinho for the tip-in goal to regain the lead. An atrocious sequence of events
- Lind heads down the tunnel to get stitched up
- Wow, Comets luck continues to be just absolute trash this game. Francis Perron trying to control the puck along the right-wall, takes a high-stick under the visor right in the eye. Hate to see a player writhing in pain on the ice
- Perron heads down the tunnel, and the Comets bench gets shorter and shorter by the minute
- Reid Boucher’s (#24) pass gets picked off by a Bears defender, and Liam O’Brien gets the takeaway as he leaves the box. McIntyre makes the huge one-on-one stop to keep the Bears lead at one
- GOAL – UTICA – 5-5 Comets: Justin Bailey (#95) with a phenomenal effort for the Comets to get the game tied at five apiece. Bailey starts it off from behind the Comets goal line as he fights off a Bears attacker to wheel end-to-end into Hershey’s zone. Bailey utilizes his speed to cut around a Hershey defender to set up Lukas Jasek (#9) for the tap-in goal over the left shoulder of Vanecek
- Juolevi (#48) with a shot block on Joe Snively
- Nikolay Goldobin draws a tripping penalty on Liam O’Brien and the Comets will get a two-minute powerplay in the final 2:38 of play
- Comets powerplay gets a couple shots off, but most are wide of the net
- time winds down and after being down 4-1 in the opening period, the Comets are taking this one to overtime
The score at the end of the 3rd period: 5-5 Tie
An absolutely fantastic comeback effort from the Utica Comets after 60 minutes of play, erasing two three-goal leads and a late one-goal lead off a brutal non-call after a player injury. Could’ve seen the team collapse on that shorthanded goal, but I think the non-call on the high-stick to Perron gave the team some extra fire to close this one out in front of the home crowd. At the very least, they’ll be getting one-point out of this terrific effort.
- Lind back on the bench to start overtime with some stitches on the chin
- Jasek, Goldobin, Brisebois start
- Baertschi, Boucher and Rafferty out next after the puck gets cycled around the Comets end through the first minute
- Camper Bailey Sautner third out for the defensive zone draw
- Bears get a rush into the Comets zone, and Carter Camper (#19) gets called for hooking on Jonsson-Fjallby
- Bears pull Vanecek for the extra-attacker, and after getting a touch on the puck, the Comets will spend two of the remaining three minutes shorthanded
- Bancks, Chatfield, Juolevi the penalty-killers for Utica
- GOAL – HERSHEY – 6-5 Bears: Mike Sgarbossa wins it for the Bears in overtime with a rifling one-timer under the glove-side of McIntyre. Chatfield gets caught spinning as he chases Sgarbossa’s pass to Bobby Nardella, and loses position to block Sgarbossa’s blast. Unfortunate end to an otherwise exciting comeback effort from the Comets.
Final Score: 6-5 Hershey Bears
|1st||HER||Garret Pilon||Mike Sgarbossa||—||5v5|
|1st||HER||Garret Pilon||Mike Sgarbossa||—||5v5|
|1st||HER||Kody Clark||Axel Jonsson-Fjallby||Brian Pinho||5v5|
|1st||UTI||Vincent Arseneau||Jonah Gadjovich||Carter Bancks||5v5|
|1st||HER||Joe Snively||Mike Sgarbossa||Tyler Lewington||5v5|
|2nd||UTI||Seamus Malone||Olli Juolevi||Vincent Arseneau||5v5|
|3rd||UTI||Carter Camper||Reid Boucher||Olli Juolevi||5v5|
|3rd||UTI||Lukas Jasek||Justin Bailey||Kole Lind||5v5|
|3rd||HER||Brian Pinho||Axel Jonsson-Fjallby||—||SHG|
|3rd||UTI||Lukas Jasek||Justin Bailey||—||5v5|
|OT||HER||Mike Sgarbossa||Bobby* Nardella||Garret Pilon||PPG|
- Olli Juolevi was on the ice for seven of the first seven goals scored tonight. Defensively, he’s a complete liability whenever that puck is out of his reach. When there is a loose puck sitting out of arms reach of Juolevi and an opponent is racing for it, I tense up. History has shown that unless Juolevi’s linemates make the extra effort to recover on the loose puck, then there is likely a scoring chance going the other way. Offensively, the guy is dynamite from the point. His shot is crisp and almost always finds its way towards the net. Even someone as reliable as Ashton Sautner can’t make up for Juolevi’s skating deficiencies, however. I don’t know if I could single-out Juolevi on any of those goals-against as the first three were the result of pretty poor puck tracking and rebound control from MDP. Still, those odd-man rushes generated by Juolevi’s lack of skate speed will not allow him to succeed at the NHL level, let alone at the AHL level.
- Fantastic battle from the Comets to rally back after a brutal opening period. Too bad they couldn’t generate anything on the powerplay. Five powerplay opportunities with nothing to show for it is a bad look for any team. Let alone a team with Reid Boucher, Nikolay Goldobin and Sven Baertschi on it.
- Nikolay Goldobin had a fantastic game, even if he didn’t wind up on the scoresheet. He led the team in shots on goal and was displaying some excellent puck handling all throughout. Unfortunate he couldn’t capitalize on any of his chances, nor could his linemates with him on the ice. Liked his battle overall, interesting to see him getting significant penalty-kill time for Cull tonight. He’s been used sparingly on the PK in previous games, but that was usually due to injuries. Tonight, the team had practically all of their main PK staples, and Goldobin was still on the second shift out for the Baertschi-elbowing PK.
- Justin Bailey has quietly racked up five goals and five assists through eleven games this month. Tonight he was utilizing his speed effectively, using his speed to get around the defense and set-up his linemates at center-ice on numerous occasions. More of this! Less of the “skate circles around the offensive zone, before lobbing a weak shot off the back of the net.
- Pretty brutal night for Reid Boucher and Sven Baertschi on that first line. Couldn’t get the bounces to go their way in the first, with both guys ending their night with the worst goal-differentials on the team. Not for lack of trying, however, as both seemed to struggle to find the right shooting lanes. But the Bears hard-matched their line with the speedy trio of Snively, Pilon and Sgarbossa. The one time the Boucher-Baertschi-Malone trio were not getting hard-matched, they scored, with the Carter Camper goal that brought the team within one. As fast as Seamus Malone can be for that line, he simply can’t match the physicality of other teams’ first-line players. Carter Bancks, despite his effectiveness as a fourth-line center, might actually be a better fit for them moving forward. Malone will do much better not having to physically match his opponents when he’s got guys like Gadjovich and Arseneau carrying the physical load for him
- Outside of the overtime winner, I thought Chatfield had a really good game. He and Blujus were a much better pairing than Chatfield/Juolevi has ever been. I like his game way more in that shutdown, minute-eater role with Blujus than in that “puck-moving/offensive-defenseman” role, alongside Juolevi.
- Lukas Jasek had a solid second half of the game, after a brutal display of defensive coverage on the Bears’ third straight goal in the first period. At one point, Jasek was put out there with Goldobin, and the two looked very lethargic together. I know the two hang out a lot outside of team events, but on-ice tonight the two looked flat. The two last played consistently on a line together back on November 1st against the Providence Bruins. Back when Jasek centered Baertschi and Goldobin, the team had won eight games straight. In their brief time together tonight, they looked like they’d never played together before. I enjoyed the Euro line back in October, so I hope tonight’s rather “meh” display from the two doesn’t void any chance of that trio reuniting in the future. Happy to see Jasek pick up two goals tonight, he’s had a rough season when it comes to controlling shot-attempts at even-strength. He could use the bounces going his way moving forward. Also, move him back to the wing.
- The Gadjonaissance continues with a strong showing on the fourth-line tonight. Started a fair number of shifts with defensive zone faceoffs and turned them into scoring chances the other way. His assist tonight gives him 9 points in 18 games played in very limited minutes. By my estimation, Gadjovich logs around 11 minutes per night, glad to see him make use of his limited time and be a difference-maker for the team.
Comets Three Stars
- Justin Bailey
- Lukas Jasek
- Vincent Arseneau
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets return tomorrow night when they hit the road to face off against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Phantoms currently sit dead last in the Atlantic Division with 29 points and have had a brutal December stretch, having picked up wins in just three of their last nine games. The Phantoms sit with the worst penalty-killing-percentage in the Atlantic Division and are barely surviving with the second-worst powerplay-percentage. Comets have a good chance against a weak team. But as the Comets showed against Bridgeport and Binghamton two-weeks ago, easy-wins aren’t always guaranteed.