What’s up Canucks Nation, time for a quick turnaround as the Comets hit the road to take on the Atlantic Divisions, last-place, Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
The Phantoms are coming off back-to-back 4-2 losses to division rivals, the Charlotte Checkers, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
The Phantoms play incredibly dull hockey, having racked up the league’s lowest goals-for in 31 games played, with 73 total. Good for 2.35 goals per game. They’ve also allowed the 11th fewest goals in the league with 87. But with a powerplay and penalty kill that ranks in the bottom-four in both departments, it’s safe to say that the Phantoms haven’t quite figured out a way to make boring hockey work for them.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum sit out Utica Comets, who rank 3rd in the AHL in goals-for per-game, with a staggering 117 goals scored across 32 games played. A rate that works out to 3.66 goals-for per game for the Farm. As for special teams, the Comets have the 4th ranked powerplay in the league, and the 15th ranked penalty-kill in the league.
At one point, the Comets penalty-kill was tops in the AHL, but losing PK staples such as Olli Juolevi and Jalen Chatfield for extended periods has hurt their place in the special-teams standings.
In theory, the Comets should come out of tonight’s intra-conference matchup with two points. The Phantoms have had an atrocious season, and the Utica Comets have proved that they can hang with the best in the league, even when down by three-goals after the opening period.
I posit, “In Theory,” because this is the same Comets team that blew a double-header a few weeks ago to division bottom-feeders, the Binghamton Devils and Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
During this December stretch, the farm has done admirably at picking up points, but they have rarely been games where they’ve thoroughly dominated their opponents at 5-on-5. By my tracking estimates, just three times this month have the Comets controlled shot-attempts at even-strength.
Last night’s comeback attempt against Hershey was a great “character building” effort. More importantly, the game was a fantastic sign of the compete level of this team when up against the wall. At times this season, the Comets have looked incredibly lethargic or appeared to be skating-by on the goal-scoring and play-driving abilities of their Quad-A all-stars that litter throughout the lineup.
After the first-line got shutdown so thoroughly by the Bears, it took a spectacular performance from Justin Bailey and the bottom-six contingent to make that comeback happen. Although the result didn’t go their way, hopefully, it was a confidence builder, and the squad can earn a couple more points in the second last game of 2019 against a relatively weak opponent.
Some pretty crazy line rushes during warmup that might make that job a little difficult, so let’s take a look at the starting lineup and get into tonight’s matchup.
THE STARTING LINEUP
|Baertschi (#47)||Hamilton (#36)||Boucher (#24)|
|Goldobin (#77)||Jasek (#9)||Lind (#13)|
|Arseneau (#18)||Malone (#17)||Bailey (#95)|
|Sorenson (#74)||Bancks (#34)||LeBlanc (#3)|
|Brisebois (#55)||Rafferty (#25)|
|Juolevi (#48)||Sautner (#6)|
|Blujus (#8)||Chatfield (#5)|
|Michael Di Pietro|
|Francis Perron (eye)||Jonah Gadjovich (ill)||Dyson Stevenson (fight related)|
What is it with the Utica Comets and getting their faces fucked? Also looks like the claim that the Comets had no injuries during the last game was wrong, as Dyson Stevenson still remains injured from his massive tilt with Ben Harpur against Toronto on December 11th.
|Richard Bachman||Josh Teves||Carter Camper||Mitch Eliot|
So, no injury or illness diagnosis for Carter Camper? I can’t imagine he’s a healthy-scratch though, given the Comets dearth of centers. Looks like the team has Stefan LeBlanc slotting in as a winger to fill up the roster. Comets play by play man Joe Roberts states that Carter Camper was scratched due to the “veteran” limit.
So to get this straight, Trent Cull is scratching the only AHL center who can actually distribute the puck, for his penalty-killing “expert” Wacey Hamilton? JFC, what a joke if that’s true.
Camper has four goals and seventeen assists in 24 games played this season with the Comets.
Hamilton has two goals and thirteen assists in his last 38 games played with the Comets.
Baffling, if that’s true
Remind me again, what was the point of signing a bunch of ECHL PTO’s if they don’t ever plan on having more than two healthy forwards available in reserve to battle for spots?
Genuinely don’t understand splitting up the Lind, Jasek, and Bailey line. They’ve been solid together as of late.
Now you have an ultra-soft line of Jasek, Goldobin, and Lind? No way that line sticks through the full 60.walked back, haha
Comets in White
- Bancks, Arseneau, and Bailey get the opening draw, off the strength of their efforts against Hershey
- Comets playing through the aftermath of the Phantoms outrageous smoke-machine residue. Looks like the legendary Fog game
- Lot of puck chasing through the opening two minutes, zero shot-attempts
- Kole Lind takes a tripping penalty off a defensive zone draw and the Comets are off to an early penalty-kill
- Chatfield, Blujus, Hamilton and Bancks out for the Comets PK
- PK expert Hamilton loses the draw and Lehigh generates a shot-attempt
- Reid Boucher comes out on the PK and breaks up the Phantoms carry-in attempts twice to negate any powerplay chances
- PK killed off Boucher’s efforts to keep the Phantoms out of the zone
- David Kase steps in from the left wall for a shot but hits the outside of the net
- Comets makeshift fourth-line of Sorenson, Malone and LeBlanc come onto the ice and spend their brief time together tying up the Phantoms in their end before quickly changing off
- oh good, camera feed failed, that will make stats tracking fun later lol
- Nikolay Goldobin (#77) attempts to sauce a pass to Lukas Jasek (#9) on the doorstep, but it gets blocked by a Phantom. Jalen Chatfield (#5) then steps in for a blast and it goes off a Phantom player
- ten minutes down, and there have been three shots on goal….THREE
- A lot of this happening tonight. Just shuffling the puck around the boards
- Nikolay Goldobin (#77) attempts to carry through neutral ice but gets stripped of the puck. Olli Juolevi (#48) recovers for him and dumps the puck into the Phantoms end boards
- MDP’ THIRD shot faced of the evening, and it’s a long bomb from the blue line from Lehigh’s Mark Friedman
- Carter Bancks (#34) goes rink wide to Tanner Sorenson (#74), who enters the Phantom’s zone before curling the puck back to Jalen Chatfield (#5) for a blast on JF Berube
- Phantoms enter the Comets zone for a shot wide of the goal, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such lifeless hockey played in the offensive zone from a home-team before. Truly, zero effort being displayed
- Carsen Twarynski wheels around Lukas Jasek (#9) for a blast on MDP that gets kicked off the right pad into the boards
- Jasek (#9) cuts through center for the zone entry and almost gets dispossessed, but recovers to feed Kole Lind (#13) with a pass along the Phantoms goal line. Lind plays give-and-go with Nikolay Goldobin (#77) before Goldy gives back to Olli Juolevi (#48). Juolevi launches a bomb on JF Berube from the blue line and Lind mucks it up around the crease
- I remarked earlier that this Jasek, Goldy, Lind, line would be too soft for the Phantoms, but the Phantoms play such dead, disengaged, lifeless hockey, that I have to run my statement back because honestly, they should have no problem punishing the Phantoms if THIS is the best they’ve got
- Comets win an offensive-zone draw, and Ashton Sautner (#6) attempts a shot from the point. Phantoms recover and spring Carsen Twarynski on a breakaway, but he can’t catch the puck in time to get a shot off
- Vincent Arseneau (#18) forechecking behind the Phantoms goal line, where he finds Brogan Rafferty (#25) with a pass at the point, where Rafferty steps in for a slapshot off Berube’s blocker
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 Comets: Comets break up the monotony with a fantastic tic-tac-toe play started by Olli Juolevi (#48) in the defensive zone. Juolevi gets the puck off a d-zone draw and moves through two Phantoms players to move the puck up to neutral-ice. Lukas Jasek (#9) carries along the right wall before passing off to Juolevi at center, while Kole Lind (#13) cuts towards the net. Juolevi gets a picture-perfect pass to Lind who gets the redirect goal over the glove side of Berube. Fantastic quick play from the Comets young guns.
- Sven Baertschi (#47) plays the puck off the Phantoms half-wall to himself before saucing a beautiful pass to Dylan Blujus (#8) on the line. Blujus rips a shot on Berube, where a minor amount of chaos ensues off the rebound
- Olli Juolevi (#48) with a decent play breakup in the defensive zone behind the net of Di Pietro as time winds down on the period
The score at the end of the 1st period: 1-0 Comets
Have to feel bad for the Phantoms fanbase in Allentown, because holy shit that was atrociously boring hockey. I mean, look at this shot map on the period, four shots only, with one being an inconsequential dump-in shot from center? Comets playing to their opponents level a bit, and getting caught playing “ring the puck around the boards.” Which, as a stats-tracker, is amazing for me, but as an appreciator of hockey, it’s absolutely dreadful to watch. Hopefully, the Comets turn on the jets in the second and light this team up, because the Phantoms legitimately don’t look like they’re trying.
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) sends a shot on net, and Kole Lind (#13) attempts the last second tip
- Jasek/Lind/Goldy gain the Phantoms zone at 19:44 and pressure with four shot attempts over the next 30 seconds before a deflection forces a stoppage in play
- Really have to walk back that “won’t last 60 minutes” guess haha
- Phantoms finally generate a decent scoring opportunity, but Dylan Blujus (#8) and Reid Boucher (#24) do a great job tying up their checks to prevent any shot-attempts. Mark Friedman with a painful-looking self-check as he dives to a knee to take a shot on a loose puck as he collides into the back of Jalen Chatfield (#5)
- Max Willman attempts to carry the puck for a drive on Di Pietro’s net, but Guillaume Brisebois (#55) muscles him hard into the backside of the goal and down onto the ice, preventing a shot
- Lind (#13) attempts a pass from behind the goal line, through traffic, to Goldobin (#77) in the bottom of the Phantoms right circle, but it gets picked off. Lind recovers with a takeaway I the defensive zone and begins a play set up with his line in the offensive zone moments later
- Wacey Hamilton (#36) finds Vincent Arseneau (#18) behind the Phantoms defense, but he can’t control for a shot on goal
- Ashton Sautner (#6) with a seriously dicey move under pressure through the crease of Di Pietro’s net
- Couple things to digest here, Kole Lind (#13) and Lukas Jasek (#9) combining for some clean puck movement through neutral territory into the Phantoms zone. Phantoms get a rush the other way after forcing the Comets offside, and Guillaume Brisebois (#55) dives to his stomach to break up the two-on-one play
- Going the other way, Lukas Jasek (#9) gets a two-on-one with Nikolay Goldobin (#77) but puts his wrister off the glove of Berube
- GOAL – LEHIGH VALLEY – 1-1 Tie: Oof, Olli Juolevi (#48) with some atrocious puck handling under pressure that directly leads to the game-tying goal from the Phantoms Kurtis Gabriel. Juolevi attempts a deke around Steven Swavely, only to then panic under pressure and bungles his pass-back to his d-partner, Ashton Sautner (#6). Swavely picks up the puck and quickly centers for Matthew Strome. Di Pietro makes the initial save on Strome but Kurtis Gabriel swoops in to cash in on the rebound with a backhander
- what an awful goal horn by the way
- GOAL – LEHIGH VALLEY – 2-1 Phantoms: 29 seconds later, and the Phantoms have got themselves a one-goal lead. Play starts with a routine dump-and-chase from Maksim Suhsko. Sushko picks up his dump-in along the left wall and turns for a pass to Gerry Fitzgerald in the high-slot for the quick wrister past Di Pietro.
- That’s two goals on ten shots from Lehigh Valley. Little concerning
- Undeterred by the back-to-back goals the 9-13-77 line pressures hard again inside the Phantoms zone off the ensuing faceoff draw.
- Kole Lind (#13) holds the puck inside the Phantoms zone with a perfect pass to Nikolay Goldobin (#77), who channels his Sedinery for a through-the-legs shot that goes wide of the goal
- GOAL – UTICA- 2-2 Tie: After missing the last 13 games with a facial injury, Wacey Hamilton (#36) ties the game at two with a brilliant tap-in goal from the doorstep off another Olli Juolevi (# 48) cross-ice feed. Comets continued pressuring off the Goldobin chance and it pays off as Juolevi pump-fakes on the slapshot, as he waited for Hamilton to get into position for the tap-in. Brilliant slap pass from Juolevi to tie the game at two.
- Fantastic way to make up for his earlier blunder on the game-tying goal from Lehigh
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) playing agro in the Phantoms zone as he centers for Vinny Arseneau (#18) from behind the goal line, only for Berube to make the save
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-2 Comets: Justin Bailey picks up his eleventh goal of the season as he, once again, puts the team on his back to complete the Comets comeback. Bailey capitalizes on a bungled wraparound attempt from the Phantoms and drives end-to-end around a Phantoms defender for a five-hole shot on Berube that trickles into the net. Fantastic solo effort to break the tie
- Interesting, Guillaume Brisebois has his helmet ripped off by Pascal Laberge in a board battle and the refs assess a penalty for playing the puck without a helmet. Trent Cull loses it on the refs and eventually they assess roughing minors to both Laberge and Brisebois to compensate
- Second period will close with 4-on-4 hockey
- Comets with a quick play set up as Brogan Rafferty (#25) quickly move the puck up-ice to Reid Boucher (#24), who then sets up a speeding Wacey Hamilton (#36) for a shot on Berube from inside Berube’s crease
- Wow, Olli Juolevi (#48) takes a blatant holding penalty in front of the ref, and the entire Comets team stops playing hockey. As a centering pass gets ripped over to Tyler Wotherspoon who rips one past Di Pietro at the buzzer
- Refs confer and determine that the puck did indeed pass the line after the buzzer had sounded. Comets dodge a bullet but will start the final frame on a 4-on-3 PK
The score at the end of the 2nd period: 3-2 Comets
Comets almost let the game get away from them, but they pulled it together and started pressuring hard in the back-half of the game. Lehigh doing a much better job at getting their shots on net; Comets missing on many of their attempts. Shots tied overall now at 14 apiece. Good battle-back from the Comets in their back-to-back efforts this weekend. Albeit, they probably shouldn’t have put themselves in a position to “battle back” against this blatantly weak, Phantoms squad. Fingers crossed they don’t let the game slip away from them in the third. The waning seconds of that period weren’t exactly encouraging.
- Sautner, Blujus, and Hamilton out for the PK
- Comets kill off both the Brisebois and Juolevi penalties, and the game is back to 5-on-5
- Oh boy, the Comets are looking flatter than Stanley through the first five minutes of the third period. Held to zero shots on goal, and might have actually spent less than 10 seconds total in the Phantoms zone with possession of the puck
- 13:20 into the third period and the Comets get their first shot attempt on Berube
- Tanner Sorenson (#74) records the Comets first shot on goal this period, with a floater from the blue line
- Goldobin draws a trip off an offensive zone draw, and the Comets powerplay gets to work with eleven minutes remaining
- Cull loads up on the first powerplay group and sends out: Boucher, Goldobin, Rafferty, Baertschi, and Lind
- Goldobin (#77) and Baertschi (#47) relay the puck to Boucher (#24) in the right circle for a shot on goal
- The 1st unit fails to establish a cycle and after a third failed zone-entry the second unit gets shipped out
- Bailey, Arseneau, Juolevi, Brisebois, and Jasek out for the Comets in the final 30 seconds of the powerplay
- Lukas Jasek (#9) attempts to carry the puck into the Phantoms zone, but loses possession of the puck, forcing the Comets to reset
- Wilcox leaves the box and the Comets finish their first powerplay of the night with just two shots on goal
- lol, Ashton Sautner (#6) tries to move the puck around the ref and gets crushed by Kurtis Gabriel for his efforts. Phantoms get a scoring chance off the check and a furious Sautner breaks his stick in front of the ref
- MDP with a save on Max Willman who joins the Phantoms rush off the bench
- Reid Boucher (#24) chases the puck behind the net of Berube and takes a high elbow for his efforts. Comets back to the powerplay with seven remaining
- Rafferty (#25) to Boucher (#24) for a one-timer rocket on the powerplay
- 1st unit comes off for the second and the second unit gets three shot-attempts in their very limited window before a stoppage in play
- Sushko outraces Sautner (#6) to beat out the icing and the Phantoms get a shot on goal from his efforts
- Jalen Chatfield (#5) draws a hooking penalty against German Rubtsov, and the Comets will get themselves a late powerplay in the finale 3:25 of the game
- Cull elects to roll out Baertschi, Boucher, Lind, Brisebois and Rafferty for the powerplay. Really just trying anything to try and jumpstart this powerplay which has been brutal all night
- Phantoms pick off a weak backhand pass from Kole Lind (#13) and turn it into a shorthanded chance against Di Pietro
- For the defensive zone draw, Cull sends out, Bailey, Goldobin, Hamilton, Sautner, and Juolevi. Guess he’s not even trying to score he’s just content to hold the lead
- Sven Baertschi (#47) with a wrister on Berube from in tight after a give-and-go play with Lukas Jasek (#9)
- one minute remaining and the phantoms pull Berube for the extra-attacker
- GOAL – UTICA – 4-2 Comets: Phantoms lose control of the puck along the Comets half wall and Sven Baertschi (#47) picks it up and works around two Phantom players to work the puck into the empty-net. Fantastic effort from Baertschi to seal this one for the Comets.
Final Score: 4-2 Utica Comets
|1st||UTI||Kole Lind||Olli Juolevi||Lukas Jasek||5v5|
|2nd||LV||Kurtis Gabriel||Matthew Strome||Steven Swavely||5v5|
|2nd||LV||Gerry Fitzgerald||Maksim Sushko||Carsen Twarynski||5v5|
|2nd||UTI||Wacey Hamilton||Olli Juolevi||Reid Boucher||5v5|
- Gonna make these takeaways quick because I want to see Pettersson attempt a Hoglander against the Kings
- Incredibly dull first period, and an incredibly weak third. Have to wonder if the four-hour bus ride in from Utica played into the lethargy displayed in tonights effort. The team’s lackadaisical play made this game way closer than it ever should have been. Twelve of the Phantoms 24 shots on net were from outside of the circles and had zero chance of getting past Di Pietro. Where they fell apart was the lack of aggression to thwart the Phantoms from cutting towards the slot for shot-attempts. Eight of the Phantom’s most dangerous attempts occurred in a teeny square outside the crease of Di Pietro’s net and is where both goals were scored.
- Kind of like “Palpatine using the force to clout everyone’s judgement” as an end-all justification for why everyone is a moron in the prequels. Chalking up the weak effort to exhaustion of last night’s comeback effort is the case for tonight’s takeaways as well. Could probably go in on a few players for looking disengaged throughout, but given the injuries and the commute into Allentown, I’ll let it slide. They got the two points and overtake the Toronto Marlies for second in the North Division.
Comets Three Stars
- Justin Bailey
- Olli Juolevi
- Lukas Jasek
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets return Tuesday night for an afternoon game to close out 2019. Their opponents are none other than the division-leading, Rochester Americans. The Amerks are coming off a shutout loss to the division-worst, Binghamton Devils, and now sit just two points ahead of the Comets with 44 points and a 0.710 points-percentage. Big opportunity for the Comets to close out 2019 with a win that ties them for first in the division.
If you want more Comets coverage from yours truly, you can now find MORE of my writing at thesinbin.net