The Comets are back in action tonight as they hit the road to take on the Division-leading Belleville Senators.
The Senators have been running train on the division as of late, having gone 8-1-1-0 in their last ten matchups exclusively against North Division teams. This run of dominance has given the Sens an eight-point lead over the second-place Rochester Americans.
I think I said it last time, but the Comets are slowly but surely losing their grip on a Calder Playoff berth. The team has spent their February playing against opponents who are struggling at the bottom of the North Division.
Certainly, the Comets recent run has been a bad look for head coach Trent Cull, who has legit NHL-level talent at his disposal. The Comets have failed time and time again to come up with a counter to the fast and physical gameplay that opponents have thrown against them.
Through this rough patch, one of the major bright spots has been the goaltending performance of Michael Di Pietro, as his last five starts have seen him face down an average of 34 shots per night. The standard save-percentage and goals-against-average goalie stats * aren’t* that flattering. However, when you watch the Comets play, you get a sense that the majority of the shots that Di Pietro is facing on a nightly basis are high-danger shots from high-percentage scoring areas. I read a quote that Cull had praised the defensive efforts of his team lately, and I almost fell out of my chair. Without Di Pietro playing out of his mind, this team is likely a bottom feeder.
Relating to the play of Michael Di Pietro, Trent Cull had this to say in an interview with Cory Hergott from Canucks Army.
I think that ever since Christmas… that he’s kinda been settling in through January and now we don’t have a lot of games here in February, but he’s been playing really well… and you know what, the team has been playing well in front of him as well.
I know a coach is never going to say his team has been playing like doody, but, oh boy, the stats don’t lie. This team has been something bad in 2020.
Two of the Comets wins this year came from games in which the Comets were out-attempted by 20+! A testament to the impeccable play of Di Pietro.
The big worry here is, are the Comets a sleeping giant in a momentary lull, or has the division figured out the Comets and they’re now the lone paper tiger in a division full of predators?
Tonight would be a great game to prove doubters wrong and re-instill a sense of faith in the Fanclub. The Ottawa Senators called up Josh Norris, leaving the Belleville Senators without their #1 center.
THE STARTING LINEUP
|Baertschi (#47)||Camper (#19)||Boucher (#24)|
|Bailey (#95)||Stevens (#16)||Lind (#13)|
|Goldobin (#77||Jasek (#9)||Bancks (#34)|
|Stevenson (#26)||Malone (#17)||LeBlanc (#3)|
|Rafferty (#25)||Brisebois (#55)|
|Blujus (#8)||Chatfield (#5)|
|Petgrave (#22)||Eliot (#52)|
|Michael Di Pietro|
|Wacey Hamilton (foot)||Vincent Arseneau (done for the season)||Ashton Sautner (arm)||Francis Perron (undisclosed)||Olli Juolevi (ill)||Jonah Gadjovich (undisclosed)||David Pope (undisclosed)|
|Josh Teves||Matt McLeod|
Juolevi was listed as an illness scratch last game, and now an upper-body-injury this game. Totally normal.
Due to the outrageous number of injuries, the Comets signed Brampton Beast forward, Matt McLeod, to a PTO.
Teves getting scratched for Petgrave is genuinely hysterical. Teves hasn’t been perfect, but denying him ice-time isn’t going to make him better.
Comets in White
- Cameras not white-balanced to start, which is always a treat for your corneas!
- 18:34 and Di Pietro faces the first shot of the game
- Di Pietro with a pad save on former Comet, Michael Carcone after the Comets lose control in the offensive zone
- John Stevens (#16) picks off an Erik Brannstrom clearing attempt, then cuts to the net of Joey Daccord for a backhander
- Carter Camper (#19) forces a turnover inside the offensive zone that allows Reid Boucher (#24) to get off a shot on goal
- Carter Bancks (#34) sends a pass that redirects onto the tape of Nikolay Goldobin (#77). Goldy drives to the goal but opts for a fancy drop pass between the legs to no one
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 Comets: Comets fourth-line opens the scoring with a backhander from the slot by Seamus Malone (#17). Play starts in the Comets d-zone with Stefan LeBlanc (#3) moving the puck up to Dyson Stevenson (#26), who plays chip-and-chase. LeBlanc follows the play and picks off a weak clearing attempt from Johnathan Aspirot to center for Malone, who nets his fourth of the year!
- Comets open the scoring in a game for the first time since February 1st
- Comets finally getting shots off from the slot, as Brogan Rafferty (#25) moves down the right-wing into the offensive zone to set up John Stevens (#16) for a shot attempt
- Erik Brannstrom stiff-arms Mitch Eliot (#52) to the ice
- Stefan LeBlanc (#3) picks off a pass in the Comets d-zone then moves the puck up ice where he races past Filip Chlapik for a shot on Daccord
- Carter Bancks (#34) gets pressured by two Sens, who strip Bancks of the puck leading to a shot off the post from Filip Chlapik
- Parker Kelly takes a stiff chop to the upper body from Dylan Blujus (#8) as he crashes the net of Di Pietro, and fellow #47, Sven Baertschi (#47), checks in on him
- Clean puck movement from the Comets first line to get into the offensive zone. Unfortunately, a pass from Boucher (#24) forces the Comets out
- Belleville gets an odd-man rush the other way, but Michael Carcone fires his shot off Di Pietro’s shoulder
- Seamus Malone (#17) with speed to move the puck up ice into the offensive zone, only to collide with Dyson Stevenson (#26) upon entry
- Legendary hockey name, Chris Clapperton, collides with Di Pietro and Goldobin (of all people) takes offence to the aggressive challenge
- GOAL – BELLEVILLE – 1-1 Tie: Oof, a brutal giveaway from Lukas Jasek (#9), directly results in the game-tying goal from Belleville’s Joe LaBate. It appeared as though Jasek tried to fish the puck out to Brogan Rafferty (#25) from a board battle, but instead sent it off the leg of Carcone and out to Rudolfs Balcers. Comets almost recovered on the ensuing shot from Max Lajoie, but some unfavourable bounces see this game tied
- Filip Chlapik putting the moves on Camper (#19) and Baertschi (#47) on the way to a shot-attempt from Michael Carcone
- GOAL – UTICA – 2-1 Comets: Comets regain the lead off a dirty goal from Carter Camper (#19). Play starts with Brogan Rafferty (#25) going rink wide to Sven Baertschi (#47) for the zone-entry. The Sens almost clear were it not for Guillaume Brisebois (#55) hitting the stick of Drake Batherson, which pushes the puck up to Reid Boucher (#24). Boucher finds Camper in behind the Sens defence, and he patiently baits Daccord to sprawl before wristing one top cheese.
- Seamus Malone (#17) blocks a shot attempt from Joe LaBate which allows the Comets fourth-line to rush up into the offensive zone where Malone sets up a trailing Jalen Chatfield (#5) at the doorstep for a shot on goal
- Really strong showing this period from the Comets fourth-line. Excellent effort to block shots and transition the puck up ice for bursts of offence
- Big yikes, Alex Formenton chases Justin Bailey (#95) into the Sens end boards, and spins with a high-elbow, clipping Bailey in the dome. Bailey goes down to the ice hard, and Formenton picks up a five-minute major.
- Zero clue what Formenton was thinking on this play
- 1st peeper: Rafferty, Lind, Baertschi, Goldobin, Boucher
- A shot by Brogan Rafferty (#25) gets tipped on goal by Sven Baertschi (#47), but Daccord makes the easy save on the trickling puck
- Jordan Szwarz pressures shorthanded to close out the period
The score at the end of the 1st period: 2-1 Comets
Despite the shot totals being even at 13 apiece, I have to say Utica looked like the stronger team. The fourth-line especially was putting in tonnes of work for the Comets! The Goldobin/Jasek/Bancks line doesn’t look great, as they’ve been on the ice for several brutal giveaways that directly resulted in shots on goal for Belleville. In Jasek’s case, the one brutal giveaway led to the game-tying goal. Regardless, Comets start the second period with four minutes remaining on the powerplay due to the elbowing major from Formenton. It’s not the best way to generate momentum, I’m sure, but a big moment to start for the Comets in the second.
- Bailey is back out on the ice to start the second period! A good sign for the big man!
GOAL – UTICA – 3-1 Comets: Who else? but Justin Bailey (# 95) to capitalize on the five-minute major and double the Comets lead with a tap-in at the doorstep of Daccords net. Nikolay Goldobin (#77) starts with a pass to Sven Baertschi (#47) in the high slot. Bae’s shot goes off the body of Daccord out to Bailey (#95), who reaches around the outstretched right-pad of Daccord. Bailey jaws the bench of Belleville for the feel-good goal of the game!
- 2nd peeper: Petgrave, Lind, Jasek, Eliot, Camper
- Petgrave crashes on a Jasek one-timer but Daccord is all over the puck
- 1st unit back out on the ice, but an errant pass from Goldobin forces the Comets to reset at neutral-ice
- Bailey (#95) attempts to wheel through neutral ice but gives the puck up to Joe LaBate, who attempts a drive on goal of his own. Brogan Rafferty (#25) steps in to dispossess LaBate and regain control for the Comets
- GOAL – BELLEVILLE – 3-2 Comets: Comets powerplay units looking a little tired, as the second unit gets caught way too far up in the offensive zone without possession. Belleville sends Filip Chlapik in on a two-on-one against Mitch Eliot (#52), who tries to lay down to block the pass to Rudolfs Balcers. Unfortunately, the pass is good, and Balcers rips a one-timer over Di Pietro to put the Sens back within one.
- That was the Comets league-leading 14th shorthanded goal-against, and the Senators league-leading 16th shorthanded goal-for!
- Comets five-minute powerplay ends, and the fourth-line gets an extended look to give the peepers a break
- Breakaway opportunity for Filip Chlapik after the Comets make an offensive play while the defensemen make a line-change. Di Pietro comes up huge with the paddle-save
- GOAL – UTICA – 4-2 Comets: Justin Bailey (#95) absolutely flexing on the Senators with his wheels, as he catches a Lukas Jasek (#9) rink wide clearance to score his 26th goal of the season.
- Bit of a scrum outside the net of Di Pietro, and both Chris Clapperton and Dyson Stevenson (#26) pick up roughing minors
- After the Bailey jawing at the bench, I think the refs are worried about retaliatory shit happening, as the net-front scrum was nothing out of the ordinary
- Game at 4-on-4 for the next two minutes
- Not a fun sequence for Guillaume Brisebois (#55), as he has a prime one-timer opportunity blocked, then after heading to bench for a replacement twig, he picks up a minor penalty for holding on Alex Formenton’s breakaway drive. Slick centring pass from Brogan Rafferty (#25) to Brisebois to start
- 1st Peeker: Chatfield, Blujus, and Stevens
- Dylan Blujus (#8) with two huge shot-blocks on the PK
- John Stevens (#16) with a fantastic effort to kill time off the Brisebois penalty, leading to shot-attempt from Stefan LeBlanc (#3)
- Stefan LeBlanc (#3) whiffs on the clearance of a chip-pass by Michael Carcone to Alex Formenton. Formenton cuts to the net of Di Pietro, where he sprawls for the stop. Carcone follows the play and, with a wide-open net, wrists his shot into the body of the sprawled out Di Pietro
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) turns on the power-forward switch for a drive on Daccord, but he muffins his shot-attempt
- Brogan Rafferty ( #25) picks up the loose puck in the neutral-zone to move the puck up into the offensive-zone where the Comets utilize quick puck movement to generate a shot on goal from Reid Boucher (#24)
- Comets caught out on an incredibly long shift struggling to change as the Senators control the puck in their end
- GOAL – BELLEVILLE – 4-3 Comets: The relentless pressure of Belleville finally pays off as Darren Archibald carries the puck from neutral-ice down the left wing for a whistling wrister over the glove-side of Di Pietro to put the Sens back within one.
- Mitch Eliot (#52), once again, forced into heroics to break up a two-on-one opportunity
- Belleville with some significant momentum in the latter half of this period
- Nikolay Goldobin (#77) puts the moves on the entire Belleville squad to move the puck end-to-end, before going through the legs to Lukas Jasek (#9) for a shot on goal
- Comets with a bit of a rally in the final minute, culminating in Sven Baertschi (#47) whistling a shot just wide of the goal at the buzzer
The score at the end of the 2nd period: 4-3 Comets
The Comets had a slow down in the middle chunk of the second period but began to regain their footing later on. I’m just saying that a few players on the Comets appear to be putting on a lot of flash in their end-to-end rushes. Maybe, its an effort to get noticed before the trade deadline? Or they’re trying their hardest to convince GMJB that Wayne Simmonds isn’t the answer to this teams concerns heading towards a playoff berth. Comets need to do their best staying out of the penalty box and prevent the Sens from generating any momentum. Not sure a one-goal lead will be enough to put this one away against the divisions best team.
- Reid Boucher (#24) takes a ridiculously dangerous slash to the back of the head from Jordan Szwarz after a brief tie-up
- Peeper jumbled to start: Petgrave, Eliot, Lind, Camper, Jasek
- 2nd peeper group loses the zone, and they effectively kill a minute off the powerplay with keep away. Tragic powerplay
- 1st peeper rolls out and begins cycling, but they fail to find any shooting lanes. Belleville clears and the Comets reset at 5-on-5
- Petgrave with a dangerous pass to the high-slot. Fortunately, the Comets control the puck and move the puck up to neutral-territory
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) backchecking to stop Joe LaBate’s shot-attempt off a drive towards the net of Di Pietro. Justin Bailey (#95) with a shot-block for good measure
- Comets are doing an admirable job stifling the Senators offense. Comets playing to defend the lead, resulting in some not very exciting hockey
- Seamus Malone (#17) with a nice deke to get around Rudolfs Balcers in the d-zone to dump the puck into the Senators end
- Belleville’s, Jordan Murray with a golden one-timer opportunity, but he stalls too long on his shot, allowing Di Pietro to set up, and then the ultimate dick-punch; he rips his shot completely wide of the net
- GOAL – UTICA – 5-3 Comets: Number 13 scores number 13 on the year with a gorgeous breakaway backhander to regain the two-goal lead. John Stevens (#16) slips a pass through two Belleville defenders to find Lind (#13) in behind the defence for the dirty backhand goal past Daccord.
- Sven Baertschi (#47) speeds past Max Lajoie then dekes to the backhand for a shot on Daccord
- Comets to the powerplay off a slashing minor from Vitaly Abramov
- Jack Dougherty takes a delay of game penalty after sending the puck over the glass and the Comets get to work with an extended 5-on-3 powerplay
- Peeper: Lind, Boucher, Rafferty, Goldobin, Baertschi
- GOAL – UTICA – 6-3 Comets: Baertschi notches his third point of the night off a blistering one-timer from the doorstep off a great feed from Nikolay Goldobin (#77). Comets running away with this one and the already whisper-quiet CAA Arena gets just a bit quieter.
- Comets with time left on the 5-on-4 powerplay
- Powerplay ends but the Comets are in the drivers seat on this one
- The Lindstigator mucking things up in the final minute of the game, and Joe LaBate and Dyson Stevenson (#26) get into a “scrap”
- Lukas Jasek serves Stevenson’s two-minute minor for roughing and the Senators have a 5-on-4 powerplay to close out the game
- Comets penalty killers clear twice and the Sens are content to let the time wind down on this one
Final Score: 6-3 Utica Comets
|1st||UTI||Seamus Malone||Stefan LeBlanc||—||5v5|
|1st||BEL||Joe LaBate||Michael Carcone||Jonathan Aspirot||5v5|
|1st||UTI||Carter Camper||Reid Boucher||Sven Baertschi||5v5|
|2nd||UTI||Justin Bailey||Sven Baertschi||Nikolay Goldobin||PPG|
|2nd||BEL||Rudolfs Balcers||Filip Chlapik||Hubert Labrie||SHG|
|2nd||UTI||Justin Bailey||Lukas Jasek||—||5v5|
|2nd||BEL||Darren Archibald||Erik Brannstrom||—||5v5|
|3rd||UTI||Kole Lind||John Stevens||Justin Bailey||5v5|
|3rd||UTI||Sven Baertschi||Nikolay Goldobin||Brogan Rafferty||PPG|
- Well, I said the Comets needed to make a statement if they wanted to re-instill some faith in the fanbase. Tonight was a great example of what this club can accomplish if they are competing hard for the puck on every shift. Everyone and their mums were competing for loose pucks! Rarely tonight did the Comets get scored on out of a lack of compete or effort, but rather bad giveaways or poor line changes. Overall, tonight was a very impressive defensive effort through and through; one of their best against arguably the best team in the AHL’s eastern conference
- Great games from Stefan LeBlanc and Seamus Malone tonight who were forechecking aggressively and creating scoring chances on every shift! I think I praised LeBlanc before on his effort playing off-role, and I have to re-iterate that statement again. He records another assist tonight, and it was well deserved. Surely the season has not been easy for him, but he’s been a stud no matter which position he’s played for the team.
- Happy to see Kole Lind notch a goal and break his slump. I was starting to get genuinely worried that my piece for Pass-it-to-Bulis jinxed him for good. Lind’s goal tonight was his first since January 18th. Ironically, that was also the last time the Comets had a six-goal effort! While he didn’t have many of the subtle plays that end up on the highlight streamables, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t without effort. He was doing everything he could to get pucks into the offensive zone. Belleville was, however, playing quite physical whenever Lind was on the ice, negating a lot of what he was trying to accomplish.
- John Stevens with another strong game; been pleasantly surprised with his contributions to this team as a penalty-killer and a puck distributor at 5-on-5. Despite the Comets rather brutal 2020, Stevens has posted one of the better shot-share numbers, as the team (through February) controlled 5-on-5 shot-attempts 3.1% more with him on the ice rather than off.
- Eleven players combined for points tonight against the best team in the conference! Not bad for a team that had just one regulation win in February.
- Sven Baertschi was fantastic, any GM who follows the Comets Harvest (and there are multitudes of high-ranking executives who follow) I would definitely give up your 3rd-ranked prospect and a first for him at 50% retained. He’s an absolute stud. Just rewatch that streamable of him checking on his fellow #47! I mean come on! Who doesn’t want a guy like that on their roster? *looks towards GMJB*
- Justin Bailey with an ok return to the Comets with his two-goal, one assist performance.
- Nice to see Brogan Rafferty alongside Guillaume Brisebois again, think those two complement each other quite nicely.
Comets Three Stars
- Sven Baertschi
- Justin Bailey
- Stefan LeBlanc
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets get another break in the action when they return from another five-day break on Wednesday, February 26th, for another critical tilt against the Rochester Americans. Unfortunately, the Comets can’t ride the potential wave of momentum off this huge win in Belleville, but thems the breaks!