The Utica Comets are in Laval, Quebec tonight following a disappointing start to their February, with that 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Monsters on the road.
The Comets start in 2020 has been a weird one. After a five-game win streak vaulted them to the top spot in the North Division, the Comets floundered with five losses in six games that rapidly dropped them into third place.
Tonight’s opponents, the Laval Rocket, have had an equally frustrating start to 2020, but are nipping at the Comets heels in the fourth-place spot with 50 points to the Comets 56.
A win tonight over Laval will give the Comets a healthy distance from that fourth and final Calder playoff spot. Depending on the result of the Rochester Americans and Cleveland Monsters match-up (also happening tonight), the Comets could place themselves into a tie for second with Rochester with a win here on the road.
So there are some stakes to tonight’s matchup. Not Kobe Beef level, but certainly Costco or higher level of stakes.
(yes, I am hungry)
Not joining the Comets for the foreseeable future is the fourth-line, crushing winger, Vincent Arseneau. Two weeks after a concussion received in a fight against the Hartford Wolf Pack’s, Mason Geertsen, Arseneau’s season is done after having undergone a pretty serious hip surgery. According to the Utica-OD’s, Ben Birnell, this was an ongoing hip-injury and not related to the fight.
Arseneau ends his season 15th on the Comets for points, and eight on the team in goals scored. The Comets will miss Arseneau’s physical presence, with Zack MacEwen with Vancouver, and lingering injuries sustained to Dyson Stevenson and Jonah Gadjovich, there isn’t a strong physical presence to the Comets forward group moving forward without him.
Godspeed, in your recovery, French freight train.
Also, not joining the Comets on this trip to Laval is Nikolay Goldobin, who is apparently out dealing with the flu.
Fortunately, the team has Reid Boucher, Dyson Stevenson, and Jonah Gadjovich returning to the lineup, a welcome relief to the team who was missing their key trigger-man and net-front muscle over the last stretch.
With all that in mind, let’s get into the Comets final road game of this five-game roadie and peep the starting lineup!
THE STARTING LINEUP
|Baertschi (#47)||Camper (#19)||Boucher (#24)|
|Perron (#27)||Jasek (#9)||Gadjovich (#21)|
|Lind (#13)||Stevens (#16)||Pope (#11)|
|Stevenson (#26)||Bancks (#34)||LeBlanc (#3)|
|Sautner (#6)||Rafferty (#25)|
|Juolevi (#48)||Chatfield (#5)|
|Brisebois (#55)||Blujus (#8)|
|Michael Di Pietro|
|Wacey Hamilton (foot)||Vincent Arseneau (done for the season)||Nikolay Goldobin (ill)|
|Richard Bachman||Josh Teves||Mitch Eliot||Seamus Malone||Tanner Sorenson|
Comets in White
- Early scoring chance for Laval after Charles Hudon backhands the puck into the Comets zone. Hudon’s dump-in goes off Carter Camper’s (#19) stick and out of the reach of Olli Juolevi (#48), which allows Jake Evans to race in behind the defence for a close-range shot on Di Pietro
- Another scoring chance for Laval early. This one after Brogan Rafferty (#25) fails to get enough power behind his clearing attempt. Rafferty chases Riley Barber into the half-wall following a rebound, Barber centers for Phil Varone, and despite missing the original pass to Varone, Lukas Jasek (#9), catches the rebound and launches the puck out of the Comets zone
- Not a great start to the game for Jasek, as he gets dinged for hooking as he chases Varone out of the Comets zone following a Laval re-entry off Jasek’s previous clear
- 1st PK Group: Bancks, Stevens, Juolevi, Chatfield
- GOAL – LAVAL – 1-0 Rocket: Brutal start to the game for Utica, as the penalty-kill starts with Carter Bancks (#34) taking a stinger to the arm right off the opening shot. Xavier Ouellet passes over to Charles Hudon on the right-wing, and he rips a literal Rocket past Di Pietro to put Laval on the board.
- I forgot Montreal sent Kotkaniemi down to the AHL squad
- Hudon has a hysterical scoreline right now by the way: 21 goals, 25 points. Not a “team” guy, I guess, haha
- Laurent Dauphin sticks out the knee on Sven Baertschi (#47) and trips him hard in neutral territory. Brogan Rafferty (#25) gives him a shove but withdraws so Utica can press with the delayed penalty
- aaaaaand Ashton Sautner dumps the puck in — brilliant
- 1st Peeper: Lind, Camper, Boucher, Rafferty, Baertschi
- Good effort from Kole Lind (#13) to keep the puck in the Laval zone
- Missed one-timer from Brogan Rafferty (#25) followed by Reid Boucher (#24) centring for Kole Lind (#13), who takes just a bit too long to shoot, allowing Laval to steal the puck for a clearance
- 2nd Peeper rolls out: Brisebois, Jasek, Gadjovich, Perron, Juolevi
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-1 Tie: Comets with the 100% shooting percentage after Francis Perron (#27) scores on the powerplay to tie the game at one apiece! Guillaume Brisebois (#55) starts off holding at the blue line before handing off to Lukas Jasek (#9). Jasek finds Jonah Gadjovich (#21), who curls in front for a backhand pass to Perron, who slips the game-tying goal underneath the pads of Michael McNiven.
- Jonah Gadjovich (#21) continues his strong start with a drive down the left-wing to get around Josh Brook for a shot on goal. Gadjovich chases his rebound and turns for a centring feed to Dyson Stevenson (#26), who registers his first shot on goal since December 11th
- Guillaume Brisebois (#55) with a pretty painful giveaway that leads to a Xavier Ouellet slap shot that goes off the glove of Di Pietro
- Brisebois (#55), having learned nothing, attempts a no-look backhander along the boards that again results in another shot on goal for Laval
- Jalen Chatfield (#5) overhandles on the Rocket’s blue line, prompting an odd-man rush the other way. Olli Juolevi (#48) blocks the initial shot from Kotkaniemi, a follow-up blast from Josh Brook goes off the pad’s of Di Pietro
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) casually cuts through the entire Laval Rocket squad and nearly banks the puck off the back of Michael McNiven’s skate into the net
- Kole Lind (#13) pounces on a loose puck in the offensive zone and quickly wheels around the left circle for a backhander on McNiven
- Chatfield (#5) picks off a feed to the doorstep of Di Pietro’s net, but sends his rink wide feed just out of the reach of Sven Baertschi (#47), allowing the Rocket to re-enter with pressure
- Di Pietro with the flashy save
- Comets lose a defensive-zone faceoff, and Xavier Ouellet rips a shot that deflects off the body of Stefan LeBlanc (#3) and off of the inside of the post of Di Pietro’s net
- Olli Juolevi (#48) takes a high hit from Yannick Veilleux, and Dyson Stevenson (#26) steps in to defend his teammate
- Stevenson and Veilleux pick up five-minute majors for fighting, but nothing else gets issued
- Comets getting hemmed into their zone by the pressure of the Laval Rocket. The play culminates with Sven Baertschi (#47) sticking his leg out on Charles Hudon, taking a tripping penalty in the process
- John Stevens (#16) and Carter Bancks (#34) pressure while on the penalty kill, forcing McNiven to glove down the puck
- Bancks and Stevens lose the offensive zone draw but manage to break up a couple breakout passes, delaying their powerplay set up
- GOAL – LAVAL – 2-1 Rocket: Charles Hudon with the absolute laser of a wrist shot for his second of the night.
- Comets PK has gone 0/4 in their last four times spent shorthanded
- More extended pressure by Laval inside the Comets zone
- Comets finally enter the Laval zone for some pressure. First, Francis Perron (#27) has a shot blocked, but he picks up his rebound for a shot that goes up and around McNiven to Jonah Gadjovich (#21), who backhands the puck towards the wide-open net. Amazingly, Cale Fleury dives into the net and blocks the sure-goal.
- Reid Boucher (#24) sets up Olli Juolevi (#48) for a bomb off the stick of McNiven
- Sven Baertschi (#47) enters the Laval zone before dropping off for Jalen Chatfield (#5), who rips a shot into the glove of McNiven at the buzzer
The score at the end of the 1st period: 2-1 Laval
Pretty brutal period as the Rocket immediately gets to work pressuring the Comets inside their zone. Comets appeared to have no answer to the Rocket’s stifling offensive pressure. There was simply way too much standing around flat-footed for my liking, have to hope they were just caught off-guard by the Rocket’s blistering start, and they come out a bit more prepared in the second. Laval concluded the period outshooting the Comets 16 to 11.
- Jalen Chatfield picks off an early stretch feed that forces Laval back into their zone
- Di Pietro with a save on Gustav Olofsson, while a tied up Olli Juolevi (#48) takes a late cross-check to the lower back from Jake Evans
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) calmly spins in the offensive zone to avoid the check of a Rocket defender and sets up Lukas Jasek (#9) with a cross-ice feed. Jasek is so blown away by the move that he freezes, and stares at the puck before shooting on a stretched out McNiven
- Laval plays a sped-up house version of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more offended before
- Solid pressure from the Comets through the opening three minutes of play but despite their efforts, they haven’t generated many shots
- Rafferty (#25) wheels around the end boards before tipping the puck to Ashton Sautner (#6) for a shot towards the net that gets blocked
- Francis Perron (#27) takes a hit from Gustav Olofsson and Jonah Gadjovich (#21) steps in to defend his linemate, but Olofsson doesn’t bite
- Laval spends less than one minute inside the Comets zone and they register two shots on goal, and five shot attempts. They are exposing the Comets for their lacklustre puck-clearing efforts and doing so much more with their time in the zone, by comparison
- Jonah Gadjovich (#21) sets up Jasek (#9) from behind the net, but he’s tied up, he then sets up Jalen Chatfield (#5) for a shot-attempt from the blue line
- John Stevens (#16) retrieves the puck off an offensive zone faceoff and drops back for Brogan Rafferty (#25). Rafferty quickly passes to Kole Lind (#13) at the left circle while Stevens circles to the high-slot for the one-timer feed from Lind.
- Laval gets caught for a delay of game penalty, sending the COmets to the powerplay
- 1st Peeper: Lind, Baertschi, Boucher, Rafferty, Camper
- 1st unit can’t maintain puck possession on four consecutive zone-entries, so Cull rolls out the second unit to try and get something going
- 2nd peeper: Perron, Gadjovich, Jasek, Juolevi, Brisebois
- GOAL – UTICA – 2-2 Tie: Breezebahhhhhhhhhhh! The Comets powerplay scores its ninth goal in its last 19 tries after Guillaume Brisebois (#55) rips a shot that tips off the leg of a Laval defender and over the glove side of McNiven.
- Kole Lind (#13) with the moves in the Rocket’s zone, as he spins along the left half-wall to get around Cale Fleury before cutting to the net. Lind opts to set up John Stevens (#16) for the one-timer feed on the doorstep, but Stevens misses on the pass. Lind follows the play and gets off a shot-attempt that goes off the leg of a Laval defender
- Laval’s Alex Alain catches a clearing attempt at neutral ice and chips the puck into the Comets zone, Olli Juolevi (#48) gets beaten to the puck, but ties up Alain along the end-boards and around the net of Di Pietro while Laval attempts to set up a scoring chance
- Sven Baertschi (#47) ties up with two Laval players before passing to Dylan Blujus (#8) along the blue line. Blujus finds Carter Camper (#19) along the left circle, and Camper spins for a backhand to Reid Boucher (#24) on the doorstep. Boucher elects not to shoot, but the Comets come away from the play with their third powerplay opportunity of the game
- Cull rolls out the second unit first, as the first unit was out for some time on the preceding play: Juolevi, Brisebois, Jasek, Gadjovich, Perron
- 2nd unit loses possession, giving Laval a shorthanded chance. Olli Juolevi (#48) backchecks and spins to get a stick on the shot of Alex Alain to send it wide of the goal
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) has his jersey blatantly grabbed and pulled at by the forechecking Rocket player right in front of the ref, but amazingly, no call
- GOAL – LAVAL – 3-2 Rocket: The Comets give up their league-leading, thirteenth, shorthanded tally. Brutal play that starts with Carter Camper (#19) fanning on a pass from behind the net of McNiven, eventually leading to a steal by Karl Alzner and an eventual goal from Jake Evans to regain the Rocket’s lead. Di Pietro beat for the third time on his glove side.
- Stefan LeBlanc (#3) backhands a feed to Dyson Stevenson (#26), but Leblanc’s pass is behind him
- Strong shift from the fourth-line as they hold the Rocket into their end through the entirety of their time on ice
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-3 Tie: Just like that, John Stevens (#16) scores his fifth of the year — the first goal of this game at 5-on-5 — to tie the game once again for the Comets! Play starts with a cross-ice feed to Stefan LeBlanc (#3) from Ashton Sautner (#6). LeBlanc ties up his check along the boards at neutral ice, allowing Stevens to pick the puck up and race down the left wing for a snipe over the glove side of McNiven.
- Comets lose the offensive zone faceoff, but Dylan Blujus (#8) steps up at center to deny the Laval zone-entry setup. Comets then dump the puck in and force the Rocket to reset several times on their breakout attempt
- Comets thoroughly controlling the action to close out the period
The score at the end of the 2nd period: 3-3 Tie
A very messy but competitive second period as the Comets rattle off 13 shots to the Rockets’ seven. Hard to fault them too badly on that shorthanded goal, to be honest, there really should have been a 5-on-3 penalty after that blatant jersey holding behind the net of Di Pietro on Rafferty. Regardless, fantastic battle from the Comets being shown to overcome three leads. Every line so far has shown some solid control and playmaking in the offensive zone, with the exception (ironically) of the Comets first-line of Boucher, Baertschi, and Camper.
- Olli Juolevi (#48) attempts to clear the zone, but his shot redirects off the skate of Kole Lind (#13) and onto the stick of Laurent Dauphin. A spinning Jalen Chatfield (#5) knocks the puck off Dauphin’s stick, preventing what could have been a disastrous scoring chance
- Comets lose a defensive zone faceoff, and Brogan Rafferty (#25) fails to get enough steam under his clearing attempt. Charles Hudon rips a slapshot from the blue line, but Di Pietro gets his glove on it
- Carter Bancks takes a high-sticking penalty and the Comets are off to their third penalty-kill of the game
- GOAL – LAVAL – 4-3 Rocket: OOf, the Comets PK rocking an impressive 0% kill-rate as some fortuitous bounces result in Jake Evans picking up his second goal of the game. It looks like one-timer from the blue line from Xavier Ouellet bounced off the body of Di Pietro, and out off of the body of Evans — through MDP’s five-hole. Comets once-again trailing and forced to make the comeback effort
- GOAL – UTICA – 4-4 Tie: Wow, the in-rink announcer hasn’t even finished listing the players contributing to the tiebreaker goal from Laval, before Reid Boucher (#24) bombs a one-timer past McNiven to tie the game at four apiece. Comets have missed that one-timer from Boucher quite considerably. Shame it’s taken 45 minutes for him to be able to use it effectively this game.
- Guillaume Brisebois (#55) attempts to find an open Sven Baertschi (#47) for the one-timer, but his pass is broken up by the Laval defence
- Laval’s Josh Brook takes an interference penalty with thirteen minutes remaining in the game, huge chance to gain their first lead of the game
- 1st peeper immediately loses possession in the Rocket’s zone and are forced to reset from their end
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) with the one-timer through traffic on the powerplay
- 2nd unit attempting a tic-tac-toe play, but Lukas Jasek (#9) gets checked during his one-timer attempt, allowing for an easy save for McNiven
- 2nd unit gets one more kick at the can before a shot from Olli Juolevi gets cleared down the ice
- Jasek (#9) gives away the puck inside the offensive zone, and the Rockets get a couple scoring chances off of an odd-man rush after Jalen Chatfield (#5) gets caught flat-footed at the Laval blue line. MDP with a couple of clutch saves to prevent a fifth tiebreaker goal from Laval
- David Pope (#11) battles along the Rockets end boards to free the puck. Kole Lind (#13) chases the puck down and spins for a pass to Dylan Blujus (#8) at the blue line. John Stevens (#16) attempts a tip on Blujus shot, but it goes off the body of a Laval defender, Stevens recovers for a second shot, but he doesn’t get much power behind it
- At the front of the net of McNiven, Gadjovich (#21) attempts to tip a shot from Dyson Stevenson (#26), followed by a stinging one-timer from Dylan Blujus (#8) into the body of Laurent Dauphin
- Dyson Stevenson (#26) misses a pinch inside the Rocket’s zone, and Laval gets a four-on-two rush the other way from it! Jake Evans cross-ice feed gets mishandled by Xavier Ouellet, and the Comets get a freebie
- Kevin Lynch breaks up the break-in from Kevin Lynch
- Reid Boucher (#24) sticks down a breakout pass at the Laval blue line, then backhands a pass to Sven Baertschi (#47). Baertschi hits the breaks to set up a shot attempt, but the puck gets poked off of his stick
- Jalen Chatfield (#5) politely letting Kotkaniemi rip a shot towards the net of Di Pietro
- The classic “Comets crease chaos” as the scrambling Comets struggle to find and clear the puck from MDP’s net
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) attempts to go for a twirl, but loses the puck to Charles Hudon, eventually leading to a shot on goal from Xavier Ouellet
- Laval pouring on the pressure in the final couple minutes of this one. Comets turning into giveaway machines
The score at the end of the 3rd period: 4-4 Tie
Well, they eke one point out of this very messy hockey game. Great battle from the squad to force overtime, but it’s quite clear that after that game-tying goal, the Comets started to fade. The Rocket closed out the period looking like the team that started the game, as they repeatedly capitalized on the Comets puck-handling errors. Comets registered just two shots on goal in the final ten minutes of action, one from Dyson Stevenson and another from David Pope.
- Boucher, Jasek, Sautner start
- Laval with the two-on-one after Reid Boucher (#24) leads a rush with Lukas Jasek (#9), but MDP makes the stop on Ouellet
- GOAL – LAVAL – 5-4 Rocket: Continued from the above, Ouellet resets on the opposite side of the net after fishing the puck from Ashton Sautner’s (#6) skates and drives hard on the goal uncontested. Lukas Jasek (#9) attempts to block the puck, but the poke check from MDP gives the puck back to him, and he goes five-hole to seal it for Laval.
Final Score: 5-4 Laval Rocket
|1st||LAV||Charles Hudon||Xavier Ouellet||Jesperi Kotkaniemi||PPG|
|1st||UTI||Francis Perron||Jonah Gadjovich||Lukas Jasek||PPG|
|1st||LAV||Charles Hudon||Jesperi Kotkaniemi||Xavier Ouellet||PPG|
|2nd||UTI||Guillaume Brisebois||Lukas Jasek||Olli Juolevi||PPG|
|2nd||LAV||Jake Evans||Karl Alzner||Josh Brook||SHG|
|2nd||UTI||John Stevens||Stefan LeBlanc||Ashton Sautner||5v5|
|3rd||LAV||Jake Evans||Xavier Ouellet||Jesperi Kotkaniemi||PPG|
|3rd||UTI||Reid Boucher||Carter Camper||Sven Baertschi||5v5|
|OT||LAV||Xavier Ouellet||Charles Hudon||Jake Evans||3v3|
- The Comets are going to be choked that they didn’t get two points out of this one, they had tremendous battle to get themselves back in this game after being sooooo out of it to start. Coach needs to have a long discussion with this team about taking stupid penalties that accomplish nothing. Like Jasek taking a hooking penalty while his opponent is retreating into the defensive zone. Dumb penalty. Sven Baertschi sticking his leg out after already having dispossessed a player in the defensive zone. Dumb penalty. Discipline and a weak-AF penalty-kill is what cost them every piece of momentum they generated for themselves.
- Just last game I was writing about how unnoticeable Brogan Rafferty’s game was against the Cleveland Monsters. Here he was tonight putting on a skating and puck-movement clinic against the Laval Rocket. His transition game is just so smooth, but again, those brutal giveaways and unforced errors that keep popping up make me think that a coach like Travis Green could never trust him. For every one of those beautiful end-to-end rushes of his, there are two or three giveaways in the defensive zone.
- The team got back Reid Boucher in the lineup, but to be honest, he was a complete non-factor through the majority of tonight’s action against the Rocket. The chemistry between Camper, Baertschi, and Boucher just did not seem to be there at all tonight. Boucher still managed a team-high six shots on goal, but there was a noticeable lack of punch from his shot-attempts.
- While on the subject of the first line being very “meh.” Sven Baertschi has just two points in his last nine games for the Comets. Been very surprised at how little he’s contributed in 2020 thus far. Yes, he missed five games with illness/injury, but for a player of his calibre, it is strange seeing him be a non-factor for this team when it comes to goalscoring.
- completely. unbiased. stars. selections.
- Laval Rocket had six players combine for points on their four goals tonight. Utica had 11 players combine for points on three goals. So, safe to say, Utica won the battle of depth scoring!
- Shout out to Stefan LeBlanc, who picked up an assist and was a +1 on the night despite playing as a forward on the fourth-line. I can’t imagine that D-men are chomping at the bit to play off-role in the AHL. LeBlanc has been serviceable in a position he has no business playing. I’m glad that he’s been able to pick up points. It is outrageous that a pro sports organization does not, or can not afford to carry the number of players necessary to field a competent roster on a nightly basis, but instead resorts to playing it’s depth defensemen off-role as consistently as they have.
- Solid game from John Stevens, he was a machine in the faceoff dot and created a lot of shot opportunities for his defensemen with his ability to retrieve pucks off of even lost draws. Wicked shot on that 2-2 tying goal as well! I’ve been pleasantly surprised at his contributions to the team thus far
Comets Three Stars
- John Stevens
- Stefan LeBlanc
- Jonah Gadjovich
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets ended their four-game road-trip with a pretty dismal 1W-2L-1OTL record. Fortunately, for the Comets, they forgo their usual weekend doubleheader, and instead, they return Saturday for a pivotal division matchup against the Syracuse Crunch.