The Utica Comets return home for a crucial intra-divisional match-up against rivals, Syracuse Crunch, after a disappointing four-game “road trip” around the North Division that saw them pick up a single win.
The Comets had a wild one in their last outing when they came back from four one-goal deficits to force overtime against the Laval Rocket. Comets will need to show that same compete-level tonight if they plan on kicking this losing streak to the curb and return to their winnings ways.
Many issues are plaguing this team right now. Firstly, the goaltending has been steadily falling off a cliff since the start of the season. During this past run of 7 games, the only win the Comets picked up was due to the shutout performance of Di Pietro.
Asking a rookie netminder to put on shutout performances every night to give them a chance is not going to cut it. That starts with the defence of the team. The Comets aren’t a big team, especially without the likes of Justin Bailey, Zack MacEwen, or Vinny Arseneau. But someone on the back-end or at forward needs to step up and start playing the body on their checks. Too often, this team relegates themselves to waving their stick in front of their opponent as if it’s the only solution to zone-entry and net-front-drive prevention.
The Comets opponents face virtually no adversity when entering the Comets zone, and for a team coached by a former AHL defenseman/goon. It’s quite shocking that their defensive system seems devoid of physicality. I’m not saying the team needs to be headhunting opponents who enter their zone, but they need to do a little bit more than just stand still while allowing their opponents to wade into high-danger scoring positions.
And believe me, the above streamable isn’t a one-off thing, every Comets d-man freezes up in their end. It is a big reason why they sit 12th in the league for the most shots allowed on goal. Too much sitting and watching. A team that’s on track to be in the Calder playoffs cannot have this be their thing. Clean it up!
All that being said, let’s get into the Comets starting lineup, and cross our fingers that they pick up a much-needed two-points against a tough division rival.
THE STARTING LINEUP
|Baertschi (#47)||Camper (#19)||Boucher (#24)|
|Perron (#27)||Jasek (#9)||Gadjovich (#21)|
|Goldobin (#77)||Stevens (#16)||Lind (#13)|
|Stevenson (#26)||Bancks (#34)||LeBlanc (#3)|
|Sautner (#6)||Rafferty (#25)|
|Juolevi (#48)||Chatfield (#5)|
|Blujus (#8)||Teves (#4)|
|Michael Di Pietro|
|Wacey Hamilton (foot)||Vincent Arseneau (done for the season)|
|Richard Bachman||David Pope||Tanner Sorenson|
With Guillaume Brisebois up with the Canucks, Trent Cull has re-inserted Josh Teves into the lineup alongside Dylan Blujus. Teves last saw game action on January 25th against Belleville.
The team also sent Mitch Eliot and Seamus Malone down to the Kalamazoo Wings, so I wonder how they’ll be handling the 2nd powerplay unit, which had been featuring Eliot as the point-man alongside Olli Juolevi.
Comets in Blue
- John Stevens (#16) registers the first shot for Utica after Kole Lind (#13) leads the break out of the Comets zone. Nikolay Goldobin (#77) looks to be attempting a dump-in, but it goes off the stick of Ben Thomas, to the benefit of Stevens who picks up the puck for a shot
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) blocks a shot, then the sea’s part for an Alex Barre-Boulet shot on goal
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 1-0 Crunch: Not a great start for the Comets, as they lose the first defensive-zone faceoff and give up the opening goal. Play starts with Daniel Walcott picking up the puck from the circle before beating Carter Camper (#19) around the end-boards. Walcott whips a pass to center on his wraparound, and it deflects off the skate of Boris Katchouk out to Taylor Raddysh, who beats Di Pietro glove side.
- Jonah Gadjovich (#21) carries into the Crunch’ zone, eventually leading to a scoring chance for Francis Perron (#27) off of a Jalen Chatfield (#5) shot on goal
- Comets struggling to break out of their end, that is until Olli Juolevi (#48) gets off a wicked no-look reversal off the endboards right onto the tape of Jalen Chatfield’s (#5) stick, who pass to John Stevens (#16) for the exit
- Josh Teves in the defensive zone appears to take a high-stick to the eye, but it gets missed by the refs
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-1 Tie: Comets overcoming their fifth one-goal deficit in two games as Carter Camper gets a wrister over the glove of Wedgewood to tie things at one apiece. Play starts with Sven Baertschi (#47) dispossessing Ben Thomas at the Comets blue line, before handing off to Reid Boucher (#24) for the Comets zone-entry. Boucher drops off for Camper, who scores his seventh of the year.
- Dennis Yan turns on the jets for a wraparound after the Comets lose another defensive-zone faceoff. MDP makes the initial stop, then drops for a sprawling glove save on Otto Somppi’s rebound attempt
- Josh Teves (#4) with a rising shot that goes off of the glass and back into the crease of Wedgewood’s net, almost leading to a scoring chance, unfortunately, Syracuse clears
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 2-1 Crunch: Well, Teves time out of the Trent Cull Doghouse lasted less than five minutes. I say that, assuming Cull will be furious over this goal-against, in which Teves (#4) throws away the puck to Ross Colton behind the net of Di Pietro while avoiding a forechecking Alex Barre-Boulet. The gaffe directly leads to a Matthieu Joseph one-timer, which, once again, puts the Comets down by a goal.
- Dannick Martel coasts down the right-wing uncontested by Ashton Sautner (#6) for a backhander on Di Pietro
- Just under 7.5 minutes played and Di Pietro’s faced his 8th shot
- Solid shift from Sven Baertschi (#47) as he evades several Crunch defenders to try set the Comets up inside the offensive-zone. After gaining space, he attempts a saucer feed to Ashton Sautner (#6), but Sautner loses the puck in his feet, forcing the Comets to reset against a forechecking Syracuse. Baertschi gets back into the d-zone and eventually clears the puck out to allow the Comets a change
- Dyson Stevenson (#26) wades in on Wedgewood for a backhander, and then classic Comets crease chaos erupts
- Comets facing down the relentless pressure of the Crunch. Dannick Martel once again completely ignores Ashton Sautner (#6) during a wraparound attempt. Not a good period for Sautner, thus far
- Taylor Raddysh takes a hooking penalty while forechecking in the Comets zone; Comets off to their first powerplay of the game
- 1st peeper: Rafferty, Lind, Boucher, Camper, Baertschi
- Comets powerplay has been awful at re-gaining the zone after losing it, so Sven Baertschi (#47) takes a different approach and absolutely rifles the puck from the Comets end of the rink, haha
- Kole Lind (#13) with a between-the-legs feed to the crease of Wedgewoods net
- Cal Foote gets called for slashing, and during the delayed-penalty on the powerplay, Kole Lind (#13) has a huge scoring-chance denied by Wedgewood
- Cull calls a timeout to strategize for the 5-on-3 powerplay
- Comets face down a 2-on-1 on their 5-on-3 powerplay…yes, you read that right. No shot attempt arises, but yeesh guys, for real?
- Amazingly, the 5-on-3 ends with zero shots-on-goal. Brogan Rafferty (#25) threads a beautiful pass to Nikolay Goldobin (#77) on the doorstep, but once again, Wedgewood makes a huge blocker save.
- Raddysh leaves the penalty box and the Comets resume to a standard 5-on-4 powerplay
- GOAL – UTICA – 2-2 Tie: The Comets love coming back from one-goal deficits apparently, as they finally capitalize on the powerplay after a shot from Olli Juolevi (#48) redirects off the skate of Jonah Gadjovich (#21), trickling past the goal line. Great movement from Juolevi on this play, and great presence of mind from Gadjovich (#21) to spin at the last second to redirect the puck. A greasy goal, but a good one to tie the game again.
- Syracuse almost regains the lead after a lucky bounce off the skate of Dyson Stevenson (#26) allows the Crunches Otto Somppi to center for Jimmy Huntington. Fortunately, the pass from Somppi is out of Huntington’s reach
- Ashton Sautner gets called for hooking, and the Comets are off to their first penalty kill of the game
- Comets PK does a great job to deny the Crunch any shots on goal — Syracuse holds the League’s 8th-best powerplay, so an excellent look for, what has been, a brutally bad penalty-kill as of late.
- Josh Teves (#4) breaks up the cross-ice feed, preventing a Dennis Yan one-timer attempt
- Ashton Sautner (#6) with a brutally dumb pass at the Comets half wall, that nearly results in a goal for Syracuse’s Boris Katchouk. Sautner attempted to throw a pass to the front of the net, with a forechecking Crunch player right in front of him.
- Syracuse with quick puck movement to find Boris Katchouk behind the Comets defence. Jalen Chatfield (#5) caught too far up in the neutral territory, so Olli Juolevi (#48) steps up to take on Katchouk. Fortunately, Chatfield recovers to steal Katchouk’s backhand pass and send a breakout feed to Sven Baertschi (#47)
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 3-2 Crunch: Oof, Comets once again down by one, after Peter Abbandonato and the Crunch quickly move into the Comets zone for a shot on Di Pietro. MDP makes the initial stop, but he doesn’t control the rebound, allowing Abbandonato to follow up for an easy tap-in goal. Ashton Sautner (#6) once again caught playing, “stand still and wave my stick at someone and hope everything goes alright.”
- Time winds down on a crazy first. Comets hold the Crunch to just two shots over the final 12 minutes of play, and go even on shots-on-goal, with 11 apiece.
The score at the end of the 1st period: 3-2 Syracuse
Sigh… another crazy one. Crazy-bad period of hockey from Ashton Sautner and the majority of the defensemen. Problems I addressed earlier in the pre-amble appear to remain unchanged, or unaddressed by the coaching staff. No clue how they find this style of “defence” acceptable.
- Crunch with three shot attempts in the first 30 seconds of the period
- Is Boucher worried about the possible stick-shortage crisis? Shocked he didn’t try to rifle a shot here
- Olli Juolevi (#48) narrowly beats Dannick Martel to force the icing call
- Sven Baertschi (#47) with smooth skates to move the puck up ice into the Crunch’ zone. Bae drops off for Carter Camper (#19), then ties up his defender to provide a screen for Camper’s shot on goal
- Olli Juolevi gets dinged for holding, and the Comets are off to their second-straight penalty kill
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-3 Tie: Lukas Jasek (#9) with his second shorthanded tally of the year to erase the Comets eighth one-goal deficit in the past two games! Stefan LeBlanc (#3) starts the sequence off by picking off an errant Syracuse pass, before sending Jasek on a solo drive up ice. Jasek’s first shot gets fumbled by Wedgewood, and on the rebound, Jasek manages to bat it into the net. Great effort from Jasek to tie things early
- Reid Boucher (#24) leads a shorthanded drive alongside Sven Baertschi (#47), but Alexander Volkov ties up Baertschi, preventing a scoring chance
- Comets kill off the Juolevi penalty and return to 5-on-5
- Less than a minute after the Juolevi penalty is over, John Stevens gets called for tripping, and the Comets return to their third straight penalty kill
- Early clear for Utica forces the Crunch to reset from their end
- Comets kill off the penalty after the Crunch spend too much time cycling the puck without any shot attempts. Solid effort to go three for three on the kill tonight
- Matthieu Joseph gets called for this knee on Nikolay Goldobin (#77)
- Comets pull Di Pietro for the extra attacker, Dylan Blujus (#8) rifles a shot on Wedgewood as the Comets control heavily for several more dangerous shot-attempts during the extended period of 6-on-5
- 1st peeper out to start
- lol, Sven Baertschi (#47) fakes with the slapper dump-in zone-entry that he tried earlier
- Camper changes off for Lukas Jasek; no one else changes. interesting
- Lind (#13) gets dumped on the doorstep of Wedgewood’s net, but the loose puck springs out to Baertschi (#47). Baertschi attempts to drive on goal, but loses possession of the puck. Jasek (#9) picks up the puck from the slot and rips a shot off the shoulder of Wedgewood
- Comets 1st powerplay unit controlling heavily inside the Crunch zone! Brogan Rafferty (#25) with a solid effort to maintain the zone after Syracuse attempts a clear. Rafferty’s effort pays off as the Comets relentlessly pressure to generate several scoring chances. Lol at Lind sailing the puck over the net and raging
- 1st peeper was out for the entire two-minutes, except for Jasek, who subbed on for Camper. Crazy control displayed by the powerplay
- Jasek (#9) still on the ice, with a fantastic effort along the left wall to strip the puck and set up Dyson Stevenson (#26) behind the Crunch defence for a shot on goal
- Utica with a long shift for the fourth line, possibly to let the 1st peeper unit recover from their exhausting powerplay effort; Dyson Stevenson and Carter Bancks out on the ice for nearly a minute and a half chewing minutes for the team
- Camper (#19) with the moves in the offensive zone to set up Baertschi (#47), who attempts a deke of his own, only to lose control of the puck on his backhand attempt
- I’m realizing now that the overwhelming majority of women in the crowd are wearing the same gray Carhartt toque; very strange now that I’ve pointed it out, it’s all I can see
- Sven Baertschi (#47) with a cross-ice feed to a deep Jalen Chatfield (#5) who moves the puck into the offensive zone before hitting the brakes along the half wall for a slap pass towards the net for Reid Boucher (#24)
- A shot from Olli Juolevi (#48) goes up high and gets lost by the Comets, giving Taylor Raddysh a breakaway into the Comets zone. Di Pietro comes up huge with the save to keep thing knotted at three
- A hard forechecking effort from the fourth line results in a scoring chance for Brogan Rafferty (#25) after his shot gets tipped just wide of the goal by Carter Bancks (#34)
- Time winds down with an offensive zone faceoff for Utica, as they close out the period edging Syracuse in shots, eleven to seven.
The score at the end of the 2nd period: 3-3 Tie
This is turning into a literal repeat of the Laval game; total back-and-forth game, that is exciting, but also kind of painful because you’re mostly waiting for the next tiebreaker goal for Syracuse. VERY dominant period from Utica, however, as their play at 5-on-5 and on the powerplay was infinitely cleaner than it was during the opening stanza.
- John Stevens (#16) with a massive scoring chance denied on the goal line by Syracuse’s, Dennis Yan!
- alternate angle showing how clutch Yan’s save was
- What is this game even? Mathieu Joseph rips a shot on goal that goes off BOTH posts and out
- Jonah Gadjovich (#21) with a stinging shot off the leg of Dennis Yan
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 4-3 Crunch: Do the Comets hate having leads or something? After losing yet another defensive zone faceoff, Syracuse moves the puck into the slot where a rebound goes out to Dannick Martel, who one-hands a pass around Carter Camper (#19) onto the tape of Taylor Raddysh who rifles one five-hole on Di Pietro.
- Sidenote, the Comets have been atrocious in the circle tonight. Once again, they find themselves facing a one-goal deficit
- Reid Boucher (#24) called offside and he is NOT happy
- Kole Lind (#13) drives towards the net of Wedgewood, and draws a hooking penalty on Logan Roe, giving the Comets their fourth powerplay of the night
- Comets spend a bit of time with the 6-on-5, but it isn’t nearly as dominant as the last time they had the man-advantage
- 2nd peeper out to start: Jasek, Juolevi, Sautner, Gadjovich, Goldobin
- Syracuse with a shorthanded rush, fortunately, Mathieu Joseph fans on his shot attempt
- Juolevi (#48) playing deep again, almost resulting in another goal for the Comets
- Juolevi (#48), from behind the net of Wedgewood sets up Nikolay Goldobin (#77) for the one-timer
- 2nd peeper plays out the entire two-minute powerplay! Strongk shift from Juolevi
- GOAL – UTICA – 4-4 Tie: I’m feeling a bit of deja vu here, Reid Boucher (#24) with the game-tying goal in the third period. Fantastic centring feed from John Stevens (#16) to Boucher on this one. Now please, don’t give up another lead!
- A lot of end-to-end play, but both teams are playing much more conservatively
- Sven Baertschi (#47) goes between the legs to get around a Syracuse defender for a shot on goal
- Comets are doing well to move the puck into the Crunch’ zone, but Syracuse doing well at suppressing shots on net.
- Time winds down with both teams exchanging dump-ins and a few blocked shot-attempts each, but like the Laval game on Wednesday, this one’s heading to overtime
The score at the end of the 3rd period: 4-4 Tie
So it’s a LITERAL repeat of the Laval game, haha. When I spoke earlier about showing the same kind of compete level, I didn’t literally mean, give up four leads in one game and force OT!
- First trio: Sautner, Jasek Baertschi
- Wedgewood throws the puck away onto the stick of Kole Lind, but the trio of Lind, Goldobin and Rafferty cannot get a shot off
- MDP with the save on Mathieu Joseph after Joseph rips past Chatfield (#5)
- John Stevens (#16) trips up on a breakaway try, allowing Dannick Martel a breakaway opportunity the other way. Boucher (#24) then throws the puck away, allowing a second opportunity for Martel on Di Pietro
- Jasek, Baertschi and Rafferty rolled out for another shift
- Wow, Ben Thomas runs into Kole Lind at the Comets blue line, and the Comets will end OT with a 4-on-3 powerplay
- Baertschi, Boucher, Lind, Rafferty out for Utica
- WOW, Scott Wedgewood with a disgusting save on Kole Lind (#13) to push this one to a shootout
The score at the end of the Overtime: 4-4 Tie
Couldn’t make it happen in OT despite an absolutely incredible chance for Kole Lind late in the extra session. This one goes to a shootout!
- Mathieu Joseph – saved
- Nikolay Goldobin – saved
- Taylor Raddysh – saved
- Francis Perron – scores: Perron with the Pettersson after almost losing control of the puck. What a beauty.
- Alex Barre-Boulet – scores
- Reid Boucher – SCORES!: Boucher cuts left to right and baits Wedgewood to sprawl with two pump fakes before backhanding the game-winner from the goal-line.
Final Score: 5-4 Utica Comets
|1st||SYR||Taylor Raddysh||Boris Katchouk||Daniel Walcott||5v5|
|1st||UTI||Carter Camper||Reid Boucher||Sven Baertschi||5v5|
|1st||SYR||Mathieu Joseph||Ross Colton||—||5v5|
|1st||UTI||Jonah Gadjovich||Olli Juolevi||Ashton Sautner||PPG|
|2nd||UTI||Lukas Jasek||Stefan LeBlanc||—||SHG|
|3rd||SYR||Taylor Raddysh||Danick Martel||Boris Katchouk||5v5|
|3rd||UTI||Reid Boucher||John Stevens||—||5v5|
- my tracking, Mitch Eliot has been a net-positive for shot-attempt differential at 5-on-5; every other Comets defenseman is running in the negatives. I’m not sure if the Comets coaches are preaching a physical defensive effort or not, but if they are, they aren’t getting it anyways, so give Eliot a longer look.
- Another solid game from John Stevens tonight. Really solid pick up from Ryan Johnson as Stevens has been crucial to the teams PK in the wake of Wacey Hamilton’s injury (even though, yes, the PK hasn’t been that good), but it has been good with Stevens on the ice. Beautiful pass that led to the game-tying goal and the Comets pbp booth rewarded him with the third-star honour for his efforts tonight, so good on him for making an impact.
- Really impressive game from Olli Juolevi who was dynamite in the offensive zone and was rarely making unforced errors in the defensive zone. Had a few of those “Stand-still and wave stick” blunders, but relative to Ashton Sautner, they were minor.
- Speaking of which, I cannot believe how bad of a first two periods Ashton Sautner was having. To the point where I want to revisit this game during my stats-tracking and try to see if Sautner was getting benched in the third period, or saw his TOI dip. Through the first forty minutes of play, Sautner was a complete net-negative on the ice, he has been relatively passable defensively this season, but this game was a bit of an eye-opener. I might have to revisit some of the older games and re-evaluate.
- Lukas Jasek had a very strong game as well, and not just because of the shorthanded tally. He was strong along the boards and was creating a lot of great scoring opportunities for his linemates whenever he was on the ice. It might be one of the first games in a while where he was a net-positive in shot attempt differential.
- Lind and Boucher looked pretty frustrated through much of the game, and I think that’s because they were being hard-matched by Syracuse’s top line of Volkov, Boulet and Raddysh. Boucher was given zero space to work tonight, but he still managed to lead the team with four shots on goal.
- Once again, goal-scoring was spread throughout the lineup and helped the Comets rally back multiple times to earn some much-needed points. Extra shoutout to Dyson Stevenson, Stefan LeBlanc and Carter Bancks for their suffocating forechecking efforts tonight that kept hammering the Crunch into their zone.
- Sven Baertschi had a phenomenal game too, he ended the game with one assist, but he arguably should have had more. It seemed as though Scott Wedgewood turned on his A++ game whenever Baertschi was creating offence in the Crunch zone. Tough game for Baertschi akin to Boucher and Lind, as the Syracuse team was ALL over him and barely giving him an inch to work. Fortunately, for the Comets, it didn’t matter how little room Baertschi was given; his outstanding skating drove offensive play for his linemates tonight. Given my comments, last game, wondering whether he was checked out or just sick, I think tonight’s game answered those questions. Baertschi is all in for this team, and he was dynamite for them every second he was on the ice.
- Tough game for Di Pietro, but he’s young and will learn. His rebound control does need work, however, as Syracuse was given multiple secondary scoring chances off weak redirections of his.
- Quieter night for Goldobin. That’s it. That’s the tweet.
Comets Three Stars
- Sven Baertschi
- Reid Boucher
- Lukas Jasek
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets return next Wednesday when they take on the visiting Laval Crunch in a rematch of their recent road game. Could it be possible that we get another 5-4 extra-time game? Check out next weeks Comets Harvest to find out!