This time last year, the Vancouver Canucks made a blockbuster trade, 1-for-1, Erik Gudbranson for Tanner Pearson.
This trade-deadline, the Canucks dealt Zane McIntyre for Louis Domingue, while calling up Jake Kielly from the Kalamazoo Wings.
McIntyre had a great start to the season as a backup, winning 6 of his first ten starts.
Unfortunately, the Comets’ aggressive offensive-game and lack of detail-oriented defensive play coincided with McIntyre’s plateauing gameplay.
Honestly, full-credit to Jim Benning for getting Domingue for McIntyre straight-up, especially considering the goaltending fiasco last season when Demko was injured. In that ordeal, they spent a pick and blew a contract slot on Marek Mazanec and Michael Leighton. Here they acquired a player with objectively, better stats, playing on worse teams than McIntyre.
Domingue might not see AHL action for quite some time, so for now, Jake Kielly will slide into the backup role down the stretch while the Comets push to retain their Calder playoff spot.
I can’t speak to how the Kalamazoo Wings play hockey, but Kielly’s numbers are quite unimpressive. The Wings themselves are dead-last in the western conference with 48 points in 54 games played. Kielly holds the third-highest goals-against-average in the ECHL and the eleventh lowest save-percentage. So I think it’s safe to say that the Comets will be leaning heavily on Di Pietro heading into a very tough March schedule for the Comets.
The Comets, fortunately, are coming off an impressive 6-3 win against the Belleville Senators. Tonight, they take on the surging Rochester Americans; an opponent the Comets just took on last Wednesday, where the lazy effort of the Comets resulted in a 3-2 loss.
The Amerks and Comets at one point in the season were neck-and-neck, competing for the second and first spot in the division. The Comets weak 2020 performances have seen the Belleville Senators vault into the uncontested first-place position, with the Amerks leapfrogging the Comets into second-place with a five-point lead.
According to the Utica-OD’s Ben Birnell, the Comets had nearly a full roster of formerly IR-players present at Monday’s practice, except for Vinny Arseneau. A plethora of healthy bodies and the momentum of an impressive win over Belleville could be all that it takes to push this Comets team to make a significant run.
The giant asterisk, however, is that this is the same team that currently holds a 48.4% Corsi-For at 5-on-5 while being outshot in 33 of their 54 games.
Di Pietro is still young and learning, and depending on how the Comets play over this upcoming stretch, that workload could become overwhelming. The team has to play like they did against Belleville, a game in which they did get outshot, but, a game where they collectively did much better at limiting the number of high-danger shot-attempts and scoring chances faced by their goalie.
Fingers crossed the team can ride that wave of momentum and make it two in a row tonight here in Rochester!
THE STARTING LINEUP
|Baertschi (#47)||Camper (#19)||Boucher (#24)|
|Lind (#13)||Stevens (#16)||Bailey (#95)|
|Goldobin (#77)||Jasek (#9)||Bancks (#34)|
|LeBlanc (#3)||Malone (#17)||Stevenson (#26)|
|Brisebois (#55)||Rafferty (#25)|
|Juolevi (#48)||Sautner (#6)|
|Blujus (#8)||Chatfield (#5)|
|Michael Di Pietro|
|David Pope (undisclosed)||Vincent Arseneau (season done)||Jonah Gadjovich (ill)||Francis Perron (head)||Wacey Hamilton (foot)||Tyler Graovac (foot)|
|Josh Teves||Matt Petgrave||Mitch Eliot|
Quite a few bodies technically listed as healthy-scratches, but team says (according to Ben Birnell of the Utica Observer-Dispatch) they want to get the guys returning from lengthy layoffs some ample practice time before getting into games.
Comets in White
- One minute deep and Andrew Hammond flips the puck over the glass on a clearing attempt, giving the Comets a very early powerplay
- 1st peeper: Boucher, Bailey, Baertschi, Goldobin, Rafferty
- 1st peeper forced out several times, chewing away 40 seconds of time off the man-advantage
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 Comets: Brogan Rafferty (#25) puts the Comets on the board with a long blast from the point that gets past a heavily screened Andrew Hammond. Rafferty’s seventh goal of the year breaks a ten-game goalless drought! Not a bad streamable to start things off for the Comets!
- Comets hemmed in their zone off the ensuing faceoff draw, but keep the Amerks to a single shot-against
- Eric Cornel gets around an attacking Lukas Jasek (#9) for a shot into the crux of the right elbow of Di Pietro
- Along the Comets half wall, Jalen Chatfield (#5) backhands a pass out to John Stevens (#16) who turns the puck over for a dangerous shot in the slot
- Seamus Malone (#17) with a fantastic effort to transition the puck up ice into the offensive zone off of a Comets defensive zone draw
- Stefan LeBlanc (#3) continues off Malone’s effort with an aggressive forecheck to dispossess Casey Mittelstadt, denying the Amerks a clean break out attempt through neutral
- Stefan LeBlanc and Seamus Malone were instrumental in setting a tempo for the Comets in their game against Belleville. I’m glad to see them carrying that effort and energy level into tonight’s action
- A quick three-man rush led by Reid Boucher (#24) gets disrupted by Lawrence Pilut with a steal of Boucher’s centring pass. Guillaume Brisebois (#55) defends the two-on-one aptly, while Di Pietro still ends up having to stop an awkward floater shot on goal
- Jalen Chatfield (#5) with a pass-attempt to John Stevens (#16) that gets stolen and turned into a scoring chance for Rochester after Casey Mittelstadt drives to the net with a centring feed that awkwardly goes off the body of C.J. Smith and into the pads of Di Pietro
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) sets up on the blue line while Olli Juolevi (#48) moves down to the Amerks goal line to set up Sven Baertschi (#47), but it turns into an odd-man rush for Rochester. Juolevi displaying some legit wheels to backcheck into the Comets zone
- Jalen Chatfield (#5) gets sent to the box for high-sticking minor to put the Comets on the penalty kill, despite the perpetrator clearly being Dylan Blujus (#8)
- 1st peeker: Blujus, Sautner, Stevens, Bailey
- Comets win the draw, back to Sautner, who sends it rink wide to force the Amerks to reset
- MDP makes a stop on the PK — Currently getting outshot 10-to-1
- Comets kill the “Chatfield” penalty, but they’re forced into icing the puck when the Amerks pressure gets a little too much for them
- Comets looking like the Canucks did in the first ten minutes of the Habs game — very out of sorts — Amerks skating circles around the team right now
- 4:30 left in the period and Goldobin records the comets second shot on goal of the game
- Zach Redmond with a golden scoring opportunity, only to rip a one-timer up into the protective netting
- Comets fourth-line with Chatfield and Blujus caught out on an extended shift after failing to move the puck safely out of the zone. Di Pietro eventually gets a glove stop on a weak shot that fortunately, allows them to change
- GOAL – ROCHESTER – 1-1 Tie: Rochester’s relentless forward pressure finally pays off, as C.J. Smith gets a cross-ice feed over to Casey Mittelstadt who goes high blocker side on Di Pietro to even things at one apiece. A Comets scoring chance preceded the game-tying goal, but the Comets first-line of Boucher, Baertschi, and Camper were nowhere to be found on the backcheck after their scoring try.
- Periods final minute closes with a couple long shot-attempts from Rochester, but Comets content to chew time on the clock
- Now that’s a shot map!
The score at the end of the 1st period: 1-1 Tie
Rochester was picking the Comets apart with their puck control and speed through the majority of that period. Despite their early lead and early aggression on the puck, the relentless pressure of the Amerks offence seemed to cause them to wilt a bit under pressure. The powerplay try off the Chatfield minor-penalty gave the Amerks serious momentum through the back-half of the period. The Comets can’t ever be in a place where they are getting out-shot 14-to-2.
- The Amerks are playing exactly as they did in the first period through the opening minute. Not a good sign for the Comets
- Another brutally long shift for the Comets fourth-line as they get pinned into their end
- Two huge shot-blocks from Sautner and Stevenson to relieve pressure on Di Pietro
- Dyson Stevenson rips a puck rink wide onto the pads of Hammond to record the teams third shot on goal
- GOAL – UTICA – 2-1 Comets: Lmao, Sven Baertschi (#47) gets in a floater past Hammond on the Comets fourth shot of the game, maintaining the teams 50% shooting percentage! Dylan Blujus (#8) starts it with a pretty standard clear through neutral that goes off the boards and right onto the tape of Baertschi’s stick. You
- In true Copmets fashion, they’ve broken the Amerks spirits with their 50% shooting percentage on four shots, and are reeling back heavily off their offensive pressure
- Jalen Chatfield (#5) comes away from a puck battle in the d-zone with the puck and sends Seamus Malone (#17) up-ice to battle through several Amerk players to register the Comets seventh shot on goal
- Sven Baertschi (#47) battling to steal the puck in the offensive zone before peeling to the slot for a tip-attempt on a shot from Olli Juolevi (#48)
- MDP with 17 saves on 18 shots with ten minutes remaining in the second
- Comets forward pressure slowing late in the second as Rochester regains their footing
- Brutal coverage display from Jalen Chatfield (#5) and Dylan Blujus (#8) that directly results in a dangerous scoring chance as C.J. Smith sets up Remi Elie on the doorstep for a tap-in goal. MDP makes the initial stop, then pounces on the loose puck to allow the Comets a change during a TV timeout
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) engages power-forward mode
- Reid Boucher (#24) hops over the boards and joins Carter Camper (#19) on a drive towards the net. Camper takes a shot that redirects off of the skate of an Amerk defender and out to Boucher, who gets a quick wrister into the pads of Hammond
- Oh cool, Kole Lind (#13) gets murdered after getting caught with his head down at center ice
- No penalty on the play and Trent Cull is raging at the refs from the bench
- Chatfield and Blujus leave Remi Elie unattended in the slot, forcing Di Pietro into making an insane glove stop to retain the Comets lead
- Comets get a freebie, as Jacob Bryson has his stick break on a one-timer attempt as time expires on the period
The score at the end of the 2nd period: 2-1 Comets
Comets are barely hanging onto a lead here after 40 minutes of play. The Comets did better at generating scoring chances and legitimate shots on goal, but they’re also allowing a disgusting amount of high-danger shot attempts from high-percentage scoring areas.
Lind left the ice under his own strength but had a bloodied up mouth, not sure if he returns to the game. Hopefully, he does, though, as the Comets could use someone with his tenacity on the puck in the final frame.
- Kole Lind is on the bench to start the third, so that’s a positive!
- Kole Lind (#13) wheels around the Amerks endboards before handing off to Justin Bailey (#95) for a turning shot off the shoulder of Hammond
- Goldy with a wraparound attempt but Hammond makes the save
- Dyson Stevenson takes a rather soft cross-checking minor-penalty to send the Comets to their second penalty kill of the game
- Casey Mittelstadt and Rasmus Asplund are each taking turns skating end-to-end to style on the Comets
- Amerks intentionally touch the puck after getting caught offside, giving the Comets an offensive zone draw while shorthanded
- Jacob Bryson wheels end-to-end before handing off to Remi Elie for the rinkwide feed to C.J. Smith. Di Pietro makes the save with time nearly expired on the Stevenson penalty
- Stevenson penalty expires
- Lawrence Pilut runs interference on Sven Baertschi (#47) and just like that the Comets are off to their second powerplay
- 1st peeper: Rafferty, Goldobin, Boucher, Baertschi, Bailey
- Bailey drives through the center for a shot-attempt but he rips his shot wide of the net, forcing the first peeper to reset from their zone
- Second unit hops over the boards: Lind, Juolevi, Camper, Jasek, Brisebois
- Juolevi (#48) sets up Jasek (#9) in the high-slot for the redirect shot on goal
- Time expires on the powerplay
- Sean Malone takes a slashing minor less than two minutes after the expiry of the Pilut penalty — Comets back to the powerplay
- Unintentional scoring chance for Justin Bailey (#95) after his centring feed from the Amerks goal line deflects backwards toward the net of Hammond
- Nikolay Goldobin (#77) mishandles on the powerplay, giving Andrew Oglevie a dangerous scoring chance for the Amerks while shorthanded
- Casey Mittelstadt wheels to get past Brisebois (#55) to a loose puck, but Di Pietro races out of the crease to beat him for the clearance. Di Pietro’s clearing attempt, however, goes backwards off the leg of Brisebois and just barely off the outside of the goalpost
- Ashton Sautner (#6) with a painful shot-block
- Lukas Jasek gets dinged for slashing and the Comets special teams get back to work on the PK
- Comets 1st peeker clears after the Amerks pressure for 45 seconds
- Carter Bancks (#34) and John Stevens (#16) pressuring the Amerks shorthanded to kill time on Jasek’s penalty
- Jasek penalty expires, and the game returns to 5-on-5
- Comets are doing well at keeping the Amerks to the outside on their shot-attempts. Most blocked or wide of the net
- Reid Boucher (#24) with a picture-perfect bank pass off the end boards to Carter Camper (#19) behind the Amerks defence, only for Camper to send his shot wide of the goal
- Kole Lind (#13) attempts a steal, but it’s stolen right back by the Amerks
- Amerks pull Hammond for the extra attacker
- Baertschi (#47) gets blatantly tripped in front of the ref while driving towards the empty net, but no call!
- Didn’t Ehlers get a hat trick off of something like this happening, once?
- GOAL – ROCHESTER – 2-2 Tie: 28 seconds left in the game, and Scott Wilson capitalizes on a blocked shot to tie the game at two. I bet you anything Trent Cull is fucking livid at that non-call on the Baertschi trip earlier. If that automatic empty-netter gets tallied, this game doesn’t go to overtime. Brutal chain of events for the Comets
The score at the end of the 3rd period: 2-2 Tie
Frustrating way to close this one out, but the Comets will get another five minutes to win this one against a tough opponent.
- Comets controlling well in the opening two minutes of overtime
- MDP with a big shoulder save on Andrew Oglevie to keep the Comets in it
- Carter Camper (#19) one-timer denied by Hammond
- Kole Lind caught out on a long shift
- MDP with a save from an awkward angle on Rasmus Asplund
- 15 seconds left and the Comets have an offensive zone faceoff — Trent Cull calls a timeout
The score at the end of Overtime: 2-2 Tie
Couldn’t get it done with the extra five, so it’ll come down to everybody’s favourite skills competition!
- Taylor Leier — save
- Brogan Rafferty — OFF THE POST
- Andrew Oglevie — miss
- Justin Bailey — miss
- Casey Mittelstadt — miss
- Reid Boucher — miss
- Sean Malone — save
- Kole Lind — save
- Lawrence Pilut — save
- Sven Baertschi — GOAL
- Fans are pissed thinking that Baertschi skated backwards on the shootout attempt — Comets leave the ice and so do the refs, haha. The Amerks sit on the bench mystified
Final Score: 3-2 Utica Comets Shootout Win
|1st||UTI||Brogan Rafferty||Nikolay Goldobin||Reid Boucher||PPG|
|1st||ROC||Casey Mittelstadt||C.J. Smith||Andrew Hammond||5v5|
|2nd||UTI||Sven Baertschi||Dylan Blujus||—||5v5|
|3rd||ROC||Scott Wilson||C.J. Smith||Andrew Oglevie||6v5|
- It wasn’t easy, but the Comets came away with two big points against a tough division rival, even if it should’ve ended at the 20-minute marker of the third period.
- Mikey with 34 saves on 36 shots-on-goal, a tremendous showing from him in the back-half of the third period and in the shootout to secure the win for his team.
- I don’t remember if I’ve said it, but the Jasek, Bancks, and Goldobin combination is just awful. The three just have zero chemistry. Jasek and Goldobin might have something, but as a trio, they just have no sense of identity or purpose. Are they a scoring line? Are they a matchup line? A checking line? The trio just kind of skate around while relentlessly fanning on drop passes ad nauseam, or until they get hemmed into the defensive zone before Di Pietro gets scored on, or makes a save to allow them to change.
- The Blujus/Chatfield pairing was atrocious through the majority of action Wednesday night. Between the high number of failed break-out passes onto the tape of Amerk players, the failed coverage in the slot and down-low, and the general unreliability at 5-on-5 to transition the puck; they were the teams worst pairing nearly every shift. On most nights, Blujus and Chatfield are a reliable penalty-killing duo and are the Comets’ more reliable physical defensive pairing. Tonight, however, both were poor in their areas of strength, and even worse in their areas of weakness. Usually, this kind of game would lead to players like Teves/Eliot/LeBlanc earning ice-time. However, it’s quite clear that Cull has no use for Teves, nor the trust (yet) in Eliot to play over either of #5 or #8.
- CTRL C+V my musings on Stefan LeBlanc and Seamus Malone from last week’s game
- Despite remaining off the scoresheet, it was a strong return game for Olli Juolevi tonight. I might be replaying that backcheck streamable in my head over and over, but he was making solid defensive plays on top of his usual crisp cross-ice passes all night.
- Rafferty and Brisebois, too, had solid games overall! Rafferty hopefully regains some confidence in his offence with tonight’s opening goal
- Comets did okay holding their lead in the third, but their defensive “strategy” still escapes me. Simply way too much standing around while allowing opponents to cycle and fire shots off at will.
- Considering their coach is a former AHL defenceman, I just figured, by now, there’d be better defensive structure from the team that doesn’t solely depend on the goaltender bailing them out. The team’s up-tempo aggressive, offensive instincts usually means a lot of offensive rushes and scoring chances, but also a lot of giveaways and not a lot of time spent actually holding onto the puck. Too often, the Comets throw the puck up ice with a pass, regardless of how likely it is that the pass will be successful. Whoever it is on the coaching staff has to figure out by now that it’s okay for the team to slow things down.
Comets Three Stars
- Michael Di Pietro
- Sven Baertschi
- Olli Juolevi
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets turnaround is much better this week, as they return this weekend to the Adirondack Bank Center for a homestand double-header that starts with the Toronto Marlies on Friday, followed by Jesperi Kotkaniemi and the Laval Rocket on Saturday.
Also, leap year this year, so Saturday is February 29th! How neat is that?!