The stakes have never been higher…
Last night, the Rochester Americans defeated the Syracuse Crunch via the shootout to give themselves a one-point advantage over the Comets for the second-place standing in the North Division.
Nipping at the Comets heels are the surging Toronto Marlies, who are on a four-game win streak and sit only four points back in the 4th and final spot for the Calder Playoffs. Not too far past them is the Syracuse Crunch, who are five points back in the fifth-place spot, while riding a point streak of six games.
So yeah, safe to say the Comets need to put some consistent performances together that aren’t wholly dependant on their rookie netminder bailing them out.
Last Friday’s pathetic performance against the Syracuse Crunch is unacceptable for a team that is 24 games away from the conclusion of the regular season. The team should have ironed out the kinks of their game by now. The North Division is ramping up its competitiveness down the stretch; the Comets are dead-last in the division alongside the Laval Rocket for having picked up the least amount of points in their past ten outings.
Given that the Comets are still without some of their key players, I can forgive the sloppy, uncharacteristically chemistry-less hockey. Against a team playing the end of a back-to-back weekend, the Comets need to show well here.
I staunchly refuse to pinpoint any struggling players or guys coming into Sunday’s matinee lineup, because I completely jinxed Ferland in my preamble last game, and that’s a power I am just not yet ready to wield.
Apologies if this preamble is completely incoherent; I was up ’til 4 AM last night catching up on stats-tracking! One period and one game (excluding today’s) left to go, and I’ll be all caught up! Once its all input into my nerd-spreadsheets, I will return to dropping juicy shot-share factoids about this confounding farm team!
THE STARTING LINEUP
|Baertschi (#47)||Camper (#19)||Boucher (#24)|
|Goldobin (#77)||Jasek (#9)||Lind (#13)|
|Gadjovich (#21)||Stevens (#16)||Bancks (#34)|
|Stevenson (#26)||Malone (#17)||LeBlanc (#3)|
|Petgrave (#22)||Rafferty (#25)|
|Chatfield (#5)||Blujus (#8)|
|Teves (#4)||Eliot (#52)|
|Michael Di Pietro|
|Wacey Hamilton (foot)||Vincent Arseneau (done for the season)||Ashton Sautner (arm)||Francis Perron (undisclosed)||Olli Juolevi (ill)|
Juolevi getting scratched is certainly going to lead to calm and collected reactions
That Rafferty/Petgrave pairing is going to get murdered if they’re together the entire night. Petgrave is a giveaway machine, and Rafferty often plays quite far up into the offensive zone. Not to mention, for a big guy, Petgrave’s physicality is non-existent.
After a brief two-game stint with the KWings, Josh Teves returns to the Comets starting lineup. Hopefully, Teves regained a bit of confidence as he managed to pick up one goal and one assist during his popover to Michigan.
Bizarre to me that the Comets aren’t utilizing Stefan LeBlanc as a defender. Petgrave’s listed position is F/D, so play him marginally on the fourth line, why piss away Stefan LeBlanc’s skill with minimal minutes for some ECHL PTO who’s skill is, “he’s big.” As a matter of fact, keep David Pope in the lineup at forward and just keep Petgrave out entirely. This way, you give your team the best competitive advantage possible? Does left-side/right-side really matter to this Comets team that will continuously play Sautner on his offside?
Took Ferland out of the active rotation, as per Rick Dhaliwal, Ferland’s conditioning stint is over, and he’ll be returning to Vancouver for evaluation.
Comets in the White
- Rochester with decent pressure in the opening minute of play — one shot one goal and two other shot-attempts blocked by Dylan Blujus
- GOAL – ROCHESTER – 1-0 Amerks: Remi Elie opens the scoring early with a weak shot from a sprawling position that goes through the five-hole of Michael Di Pietro. Sure enough, Rafferty and Petgrave pairing on the ice for the goal-against. Rafferty, a sitting duck, is late to react to Elie positioning to get the shot off, while Petgrave stands still in the crease screening Di Pietro; not a good look fellahs!
- 16:07 remaining in the first and the Comets record their first shot on goal!
- Remi Elie skates past Rafferty (#25), then he muscles Petgrave (#22) down to the ice to move in tight on Di Pietro for a shot
- Comets getting caved in by shot-attempts once again
- Rochester’s’ Brett Murray takes a high-sticking penalty, and the Comets are off to the powerplay
- 1st peeper: Lind, Goldobin, Baertschi, Boucher, Rafferty
- Goldobin (#77) gets shoved to the ice hard by William Borgen
- Goldobin (#77) gains the zone for the Comets powerplay, then hands off to Sven Baertschi (#47) for a shot on goal
- 2nd peeper: Eliot, Jasek, Camper, Gadjovich, Petgrave rolled out, but they only have about eight seconds to gain the zone before the penalty to Murray expires
- Dyson Stevenson (#26) blocks the hard blast of Brandon Hickey with the inside of his forearm
- GOAL – ROCHESTER – 2-0 Amerks: An impressive effort from Scott Wilson to evade the defense of Mitch Eliot (#52) leads to Eric Cornel making this a two-nothing game for Rochester. Bad look from Kole Lind (#13) on this play as he gets one stick lift, but fails to move his feet to stick with Cornel’s second effort. Tough night for Di Pietro again as the Comets continue to give up defending those second chances.
- Comets struggling with the physicality of Kevin Porter, as he takes a run at Josh Teves (#4), and Seamus Malone (#17)
- Dyson Stevenson (#26) follows Porter to the Amerks end of the rink and tries to goad him into a fight, but Porter doesn’t budge
- Brief lull of action where both teams playing keep away around the end boards
- Seamus Malone (#17) gets around Kevin Porter for a tight-angle shot on goal
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) with a quick wrister into the glove of Luukkonen
- Rafferty easily has been the most active shooter for the Comets this period, tonnes of activity from him on the blue line through the first twenty minutes
- Goldobin (#77) spins along the left wall to set up Matt Petgrave (#22) for an absolute bomb of a one-timer
- Sven Baertschi (#47) avoids certain death at the Amerk’s blue line
- Since the Eric Cornel goal, the Comets have rattled off seven straight shots on goal
- Carter Bancks (#34) takes a stick to the face but manages to dump the puck into the Amerks zone. Jonah Gadjovich (#21) chases after the loose puck and drills a turning slapshot that deflects off the stick of a Rochester defender
- Rochester throws away a perfect three-on-one opportunity
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) attempts to catch a Rochester dump-in, but it goes off his stick and out to Matt Petgrave (#22), who tries to clear, only for the puck to wind up on the stick of Kevin Porter who launches a shot into the chest of Di Pietro
- Rochester pulls the goalie for the offensive zone draw with one-second remaining in the period, and Joe Roberts on the mic with the great call
The score at the end of the 1st period: 2-0 Rochester
It was a pretty brutal start for the Comets, as they give up two early goals while looking uncoordinated, sloppy, and lazy in their defensive efforts. Comets forward groups, once again, have no answer to a physical team who forces them to the outside — the top six, in particular, seems like they have no answer than to hope their opponent goofs on their coverage. Brogan Rafferty leads all Comets players with shots (and shot-attempts, I’m sure) with Jonah Gadjovich leading all forwards with two shots on goal (and shot-attempts, I’m sure of that as well). Good battle back in the latter half of the period, but they need to start putting more effort into their skating to create space for themselves because the Amerks aren’t giving them an inch so far.
- GOAL – ROCHESTER – 3-0 Amerks: Brogan Rafferty (#25) and Matt Petgrave (#22) caught out on a long shift; after Petgrave steps away from the crease to challenge? Block? Jean-Sebastien Dea, at the right-circle, JS Dea, capitalizes on the open space and sets up Taylor Leier with an easy tap-in goal.
- That has to be the end of this Rafferty/Petgrave pairing, move Leblanc back to D and float Petgrave as a forward
- Comets attempting to move into Rochester’s zone to set up for shots, but they generate nothing
- Stefan LeBlanc (#3) picks up a holding penalty, and the Comets penalty kill goes to work
- Taylor Leier misses a golden tap-in opportunity on the Amerks powerplay
- Reid Boucher chases down a breakaway pass then gets checked headfirst into the boards and he’s pissed at the non-call
- Lukas Jasek sends Nikolay Goldobin into the Rochester zone with a rink wide feed, and then Goldobin draws a holding penalty on Brandon Hickey to put the Comets on their second powerplay of the game
- 1st peeper: Lind, Rafferty, Baertschi, Goldobin, Boucher
- Comets immediately lose the zone and reset from their end
- 1st peeper re-enters and immediately have to reset again
- Amerks broadcast breaking the 180° rule; a basic filmmaking principle
- ten minutes down and this period has seen four shots on goal so far. Having been up until 4 AM last night tracking games, I’d be lying if I said this game wasn’t acting perfectly as an Ambien replacement
- Comets pressure for a few shot attempts that wind up getting blocked
- Rochester answers the Comets pressure with a backhander that rattles off the inside of the post
- These are the kinds of shots the Comets are generating btw, low-danger, high-percentage-save, shots
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-1 Amerks: What is this feeling? Joy? It’s been so long! Sven Baertschi (#47) with a long end-to-end shift culminating in a great forechecking effort that strips Lawrence Pilut of the puck and sets up John Stevens (#16) for a backhand goal over Luukkonen’s glove side.
- Mikey facing a high number of rebound chances tonight. Fortunately, on this one, the Amerks skate into themselves, preventing anything too dangerous
- Sven Baertschi (#47) continuing his strong period with a shot on goal through traffic, giving Brogan Rafferty (#25) a solid scoring chance on the rebound
- Stefan LeBlanc (#3) chases down the dump-in from Dyson Stevenson (#26), cuts around a Rochester defender and drives towards Luukkonen for a shot off his pads
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) breaks up an Amerks zone-entry and sends Lukas Jasek (#9) in on a breakaway, where he gets off two chances on Luukkonen before the Amerks defence crashes on him to prevent any more
- Jasek (#9) loses the offensive zone draw, but Goldobin (#77) retrieves to set him up for a shot on goal and a follow-up drive on goal for the rebound
- Sven Baertschi (#47) with the moves to gain the zone for Utica where he drives hard to the net for a tip-attempt on a shot from Carter Bancks (#34)
- Baertschi immediately takes an interference penalty with 34 seconds remaining in the second
The score at the end of the 2nd period: 3-1 Amerks
Certainly a more competitive period from the Comets; they do, however, have a big hole to climb out of over the final twenty minutes of action. Comets did outshoot the Amerks ten to seven in the second, and now lead the game in shots on goal 21 to 17. Lukas Jasek and Sven Baertschi (penalty aside) had strong performances in the second period and were responsible for many of the Comets scoring chances. More of that fellahs!
- Comets starting the period on a 1:30 PK
- Sven Baertschi (#47) gets a breakaway feed after leaving the penalty box, but his backhander goes off the body of Luukkonen
- Di Pietro goes down to a sprawl a little too early when facing down a long shot from Zach Redmond. Fortunately for the Comets, MDP get a freebie as Brett Murray wrists the puck off of the goal post
- Lukas Jasek comes incredibly close to getting called for tripping; Ref puts whistle to his mouth but elects to avoid calling the penalty
- Reid Boucher (#24) on a breakaway pulling a very Canuck move, with the drop pass to no one
- Jasek (#9) with a decent slip at center-ice to set up Kole Lind (#13) for the zone entry. Lind subsequently throws a pass into the skates of Jasek; giving away the puck and forcing the Comets out of the zone
- Matt Petgrave (#22) steps up in the offensive zone for two shot-attempts, but they’re blocked, allowing Rochester to spring forward with a two-on-none opportunity. Fortunately, a centring feed from Jacob Bryson is out of the reach of Remi Elie, denying the Amerks a huge scoring opportunity
- haha, funny scene as Dylan Blujus (#8) wrists a shot off the pads of Luukkonen; Carter Camper (#19) attempts a rebound but gets shoved down to the ice by an Amerk defender
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-2 Amerks: Once again, the Comets make things interesting in a game they have no business making interesting. Comets young guns cycling the puck around the end boards of the Amerks zone before Jalen Chatfield (#5) sets up Nikolay Goldobin (#77) in the slot with a tap-in feed. Nice puck movement from the Comets to create space, and good effort from Goldobin to get around his man for the redirect on goal.
- Reid Boucher takes a high-sticking minor twenty seconds after Goldy’s goal, and the Comets are off to their third PK of the night
- Goldobin (#77) takes a holding penalty while forechecking shorthanded, and the Comets will now be at a two-man disadvantage
- Rochester choking on this 5-on-3 powerplay missed two tap-in opportunities from the crease before Reid Boucher leaves the box to join the defence
- Time expires on the Jasek penalty; great kill for the Comets with less than five minutes remaining to try and even things up
- Rasmus Asplund breaks Jalen Chatfield’s (#5) ankles. Fortunately, Matt Petgrave (#22) charges in to push Asplund off a shot attempt
- Comets ice the puck with 1:05 remaining, preventing them from pulling Di Pietro for the extra attacker — Rochester pressing the attack to hem the Comets into their zone
- Di Pietro finally free with 40 seconds left
- Nikolay Goldobin (#77) threads a pass through two Amerk defenders to Sven Baertschi (#47), who rips a shot off the left pad of Luukkonen. Carter Camper (#19) crashes in for the rebound and gets absolutely stoned by the Luuko’s glove!
- Somewhere in that crowd, they’re cheering LUUUUUUUUUU
- The Amerks defence pressures the Comets out of the zone with five seconds remaining and a long bomb from Camper (#19) at the center-line closes this one out
Final Score: 3-2 Rochester Americans
|1st||ROC||Remi Elie||William Borgen||Casey Mittelstadt||5v5|
|1st||ROC||Eric Cornel||Scott Wilson||—||5v5|
|2nd||ROC||Taylor Leier||Jean-Sebastien Dea||Zach Remond||5v5|
|2nd||UTI||John Stevens||Sven Baertschi||—||5v5|
|3rd||UTI||Nikolay Goldobin||Jalen Chatfield||Dylan Blujus||5v5|
- The Comets were physically outmatched by the superior team in Rochester, and their inability to suppress high-quality shots from dangerous areas of the ice spelled their demise.
- Going to be a Monday of scoreboard watching for the Comets coaching staff as a pivotal matchup between Toronto and Binghamton could see the Marlies within one point of the Comets third-place position. Another key matchup between Syracuse and Belleville could result in the Crunch closing the gap on Utica’s precipitous grasp of a Calder playoff spot.
- Per the above, Toronto has three games in hand on Utica — Belleville and Rochester have one game in hand. Now is certainly not the time to be slumping or hitting cold streaks.
- Lukas Jasek looked much more involved in the play during tonight’s action, was skating much harder than I’m used to seeing him, and looked more eager to hound on loose pucks for secondary shot attempts. With his new role at center, he’s often been timid with chasing down loose pucks; tonight was a return of the 2018-19 Jasek who was a beast at winning board battles and moving the puck towards the opponent’s net.
- Sven Baertschi was a stud tonight; he was the difference-maker during every shift he skated. Played physical when he needed to, was forechecking and backchecking hard on some very long shifts. The interference call was unfortunate, but fortunately, the PK group bailed him out. I still think he’s an NHL’er, and given that Bailey is likely on his way back to the Comets, I wouldn’t mind seeing him get another shot, now that Boeser is likely out for some time. The majority of Canuck Nation and I are over the Schaller experiment.
- Baertschi, Jasek, and Rafferty tied with four recorded shots on goal tonight. Reid Boucher with a highly uncharacteristic, single shot on net tonight.
- Goldobin had way fewer giveaways than usual and showed great compete on the goal to put the Comets within one.
- Kole Lind has just three assists in his last eleven games — Once I’ve input all of my tracking data, we can examine just what the hell has been going on with the Utica Comets through this 2020 stretch of hockey
- I already said it, but I have to double down on this point. Put Stefan LeBlanc on defence if you have two guys out with injuries. He is a completely safe, reliable option on any pairing who plays with a physical edge on almost every shift. I don’t believe that Brogan Rafferty carries enough experience to be bailing out an ECHL PTO who overextends in the offensive zone as much as Rafferty does. Petgrave has an absolute bomb of a one-timer, so stick him on the right-wing alongside Stevenson and Bancks, and maybe they can get something going. Asset management from this farm club is just so confounding over simple stuff like this. Cull already shortens his bench when he’s facing a deficit or when he’s in the third period. So what do the Comets lose with Petgrave riding the pine as a forward?
- Sidenote, despite Lukas Jasek’s pretty abysmal shot-differential numbers, I do appreciate that he’s tied for second on the team with Brogan Rafferty in the always fun to discuss stat, plus/minus, with a +17.
Comets Three Stars
- Michael Di Pietro
- Lukas Jasek
- Sven Baertschi
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets light February schedule continues, as they get a nice five-day break before another road matchup, this time, against the North Division’s team-to-beat, Belleville Senators.