In a battle between mediocre North Division teams playing roller-coaster hockey in 2020, the Utica Comets face off with the Toronto Marlies in another inter-divisional matchup.
I say roller-coaster because both teams have had brief moments of domination. Toronto’s 7-6 comeback win against Belleville or Utica’s 6-3 win over Hartford being the primary example of both sides looking top-tier. They’ve also shared similar moments this year where they looked god-awful, primary examples being Toronto’s 8-2 loss to the Syracuse Crunch and Utica’s 4-0 loss to Belleville.
Toronto is rocking an 8-12-1-1 record through 2020 for a 0.41 points-percentage
Utica is rocking a truly mediocre 10-10-0-1 record through 2020 for a 0.500 points-percentage
What does it all mean?
In the AHL? Literally nothing! Teams are up and down the standings, all the time. For AHL squads, it’s about those momentary runs that they go on that help float them to playoffs down the stretch, especially when bodies start disappearing due to call-ups, or due to injuries.
The Comets phenomenal 8-0 run in October has allowed them to struggle in 2020 without the risk of falling too far down the standings.
The Comets also have the benefit of games-in-hand on several of the teams chomping at their third-place playoffs spot.
I’m currently in the midst of tracking Wednesday’s overtime win against the Rochester Americans, but I stopped before the third-period because it was getting too painful to keep up.
On the Comets’ ability to generate shot-attempts at 5-on-5, the Marlies, fortunately, are one of the few teams that the Comets have managed to hold a positive shot-differential over.
On the season, the Comets have outscored the Marlies 13 to 12 and out-attempted them at 5-on-5, 116 to 103.
So with history on their side, let’s hope the Comets can give Mikey a break on the back-end and win another two-points before a brutal March schedule kicks off!
THE STARTING LINEUP
|Baertschi (#47)||Camper (#19)||Boucher (#24)|
|Bailey (#95)||Hamilton (#36)||Lind (#13)|
|Goldobin (#77)||Stevens (#16)||Perron (#27)|
|Gadjovich (#21)||Malone (#17)||Stevenson (#26)|
|Juolevi (#48)||Rafferty (#25)|
|Brisebois (#55)||Sautner (#6)|
|Blujus (#8)||Chatfield (#5)|
|Michael Di Pietro|
|David Pope (upper-body)||Vincent Arseneau (season done)||Tyler Graovac (foot)||Carter Bancks (undisclosed)||Lukas Jasek (undisclosed)|
|Matt Petgrave||Stefan LeBlanc|
Quite a few bodies back in the lineup after long stints on IR
Francis Perron missed the last five games after taking a puck to the dome in practice.
Jonah Gadjovich returns after two games.
But the big return is Wacey Hamilton returning after missing the last 16 games with a foot/ankle injury.
Not sure I like him with Lind/Bailey as I personally think John Stevens has been a great fit with those two.
Also, I have to amend my Wednesday’s lineup as I had Brise listed with Rafferty — though they did spend some time on the ice together, it was mostly he and Juolevi as a pairing when things weren’t broken up by PP/PK time.
I also thought that LeBlanc’s strong play as a forward ought to have earned him some ice time on the third D-pairing. Blujus/Chatfield were pretty brutal Wednesday against the Amerks, so I don’t think it would be out of the question to see LeBlanc playing in his natural position after several strong games off-role.
Comets in their home blues
- Comets peppering the Marlies with early pressure in the opening minute, more shot-attempts in this minute than in the first two-periods against Rochester
- Yegor Korshkov receives a cross-ice pass and then rattles a shot off the crossbar
- Joseph Woll nearly overplays the puck outside of the trapezoid behind the goal line, allowing the Perron/Goldy/Stevens line to pressure
- Francis Perron (#27) forces a turnover in the Marlies end to allow John Stevens (#16) a centering pass to Nikolay Goldobin (#77) who registers a shot into the body of Joseph Woll
- Joseph Woll badly mishandles the puck at the side of the net, and Jonah Gadjovich (#21) nearly opens the scoring off of the blunder
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 Comets: Wow, what a complete effort from Wacey Hamilton (#36) to net the opening goal in his first game back! Hamilton starts the play with a clearance around the Comets endboards that hops past Justin Bailey (#95) and onto the stick of a Marlies player. Kole Lind (#13) shows great tenacity to strip the puck off the Marlies player and regain possession. Hamilton races up ice, and Lind finds him with the rink wide feed for Hamilton’s fourth of the year.
- Couple quality stick placements from the Comets to deny the Marlies shots on goal
- OK, I take back everything I said about the Hamilton fit with Lind and Bailey. Here they are cycling the puck perfectly to allow Justin Bailey (#95) a couple one-timer shots on goal
- seven minutes down and Tyler Gaudet records the Marlies first shot on goal! Tonight, so far, an inverse of how the Amerks first period started, shot-wise
- GOAL – UTICA – 2-0 Comets: The Comets are buzzing tonight, as Ashton Sautner (#6) steps up in the neutral zone to set up to catch a bad clearance (pass?) from Toronto’s Teemu Kivihalme. The “whatever-it-was” goes off the body of Sautner to Carter Camper (#19), who quickly crisscrosses with and drops off for, Reid Boucher (#24), who nets his 29th goal of the season
- Goldobin (#77) attempts to set up John Stevens (#16) with the redirect. but it goes wide
- Rafferty with a one-timer off of Woll’s pads — the Comets 12th of the period with over eleven minutes remaining in the frame
- Fantastic display of puck control from Justin Bailey (#95) to shield the puck followed by a slick deke from Kole Lind (#13) to create space for a shot on goal
- Comets thoroughly controlling the Marlies in their end tonight
- Reid Boucher (#24) with a risky giveaway from behind the net of Di Pietro, but Brogan Rafferty (#25) steps in to disrupt a scoring chance and regain possession for the Comets
- Rising shot from Tyler Gaudet gets snapped into the glove of Di Pietro
- Justin Bailey attempts to charge up for an end-to-end skate, but he overskates the puck twice, haha
- Di Pietro makes a short stop on Riley Woods, but loses his stick into the back of his net — Rafferty hands over his
- John Stevens (#16) pushes end-to-end before dropping off to Goldobin (#77). Goldy goes cross-ice to Francis Perron (#27), but the pass goes into the skates of Perron, and he doesn’t quite get the shot he wants out of it
- Francis Perron (#27) capitalizes on a very fortunate bounce inside the Marlies zone and quickly passes over to Goldobin (#77) for the one-timer. But Goldy fans on the attempt
- More offensive-zone control from the Hamilton/Lind/Bailey trio — great puck movement being displayed by these three
- Sven Baertschi (#47) eats a hit on the Marlies blueline, but still manages to set up Dylan Blujus (#8) with a cross-ice feed. Blujus rushes down the left wing before centering for Carter Camper (#19) on the doorstep, but the shot is into the body of Woll
- Comets fourth-line even controlling the offence in the Marlies zone, eventually forcing them into icing the puck. Impressive control displayed by the Comets so far
- John Stevens picks up a tripping minor after getting his stick in the skates of Garrett Wilson — Comet will finish the period on the PK
- 1st peeker: Hamilton, Boucher, Blujus, Brisebois
- Pontus Aberg completely misses a pass on the left wall, allowing the 1st peeker to clear
- 2nd peeker: Bailey, Baertschi, Chatfield, Sautner
- Di Pietro with a massive close-range save on Kenny Agostino with five seconds remaining in the opening frame
The score at the end of the 1st period: 2-0 Utica Comets
I almost don’t even want to compliment or say anything about the teams play that period. They were good. Like, really good. I praised the defensive chops of the team in the Belleville game, but that pales in comparison to their effort in tonight’s opening twenty minutes. Comets end the period outshooting the Marlies 13-to-6.
- Di Pietro keeping the puck out at all costs, even after the whistle
- Comets PK clears off the ensuing faceoff just as Stevens leaves the box
- Goldobin dangling in the offensive zone. I’m wet.
- Dyson Stevenson (#26) with a nice tip to Seamus Malone (#17) for a rush. Malone centers for Gadjovich (#21), but his through-the-legs try stopped by Woll
- MDP faces down two one-timer blasts from the Marlies; one goes wide, the other off his right shoulder
- Marlies looking out of sorts this game as they ice the puck for, what feels like, the 20th time tonight
- Francis Perron (#27) with a great shift as he fakes for a setup to John Stevens (#16), then backchecks to break up a shot-attempt from the Marlies. Perron’s end-to-end efforts results in a near scoring chance for Brogan Rafferty (#25) from Goldobin (#77)
- Behind the Marlies net, Seamus Malone (#17) wins a board battle with a sick backhand, through-the-legs pass to Jonah Gadjovich (#21) on Woll’s doorstep, only for Gadj to rip his one-timer wide of the goal
- Brogan Rafferty (#25) battling along the Comets endboards — Kole Lind (#13) stepping in along the wall to assist, before moving to the front of the crease to prevent a scoring-chance from Miika Salomaki
- Goldobin (#77) with time and space alone on the left dot, but perhaps, overplays his move
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-0 Comets: Reid Boucher nets his 60th point of the year off of his second goal of the night. Sven Baertschi (#47) starts the sequence with an aggressive forecheck to poke the puck off of Kevin Gravel’s stick and out to Carter Camper (#19). Camper turns to center for Boucher, who’s first one-timer shot is stopped by Woll. Boucher capitalizes on the rebound, and although he fans on the shot, the bounces go his way, and the Comets are up by three!
- Comets first-line pressures immediately off the faceoff draw and Sven Baertschi (#47) draws an interference penalty against Michal Kapla
- 1st peeper: Bailey, Baertschi, Boucher, Rafferty, Goldobin
- Comets first peeper loses the zone almost immediately, and the Marlies force them to spend the majority of their powerplay time sitting in their zone trying to breakout
- 2nd peeper: Lind, Camper, Brisebois, Juolevi, Gadjovich
- Kole Lind has a one-timer blocked, but then Guillaume Brisebois (#55) gets called for interference when he attempts to stop Tyler Gaudet from driving into the Comets zone
- Comets with a brief lull of 4v4 before 1:45 of penalty killing
- Wacey Hamilton (#36) steals the puck off a falling Marlies forward and races around another to go end-to-end for a shorthanded shot on goal. Fantastic effort from Hamilton in his return game
- GOAL – TORONTO – 3-1 Comets: Marlies capitalize on the powerplay as Joseph Duszak launches a one-timer from the left-circle that beats Di Pietro glove side for his third of the season. Good puck movement from the Marlies to find space on this one — Juolevi might’ve been screening MDP a bit, but that was a legit nuclear-rocket from Duszak to get the Marlies on the board
- Not to be deterred, the Comets battle back instantly with Olli Juolevi (#48) stepping in for a blast off the point. Woll makes the initial save, and then gets out the left pad to stone Francis Perron’s (#27) rebound attempt
- GOAL – UTICA – 4-1 Comets: Dylan Blujus (#8) regains the Comets three-goal lead with his fourth of the year. Reid Boucher (#24) starts it off with a centering pass behind the Marlies’ goal-line out to Blujus, who’s initial shot gets blocked by a Marlies defender. The shot goes high up into the air and over Woll. Carter Camper (#19) should get an assist for standing there and letting the puck cross the line on its own merit, and not getting the greasy last-second hit for the goal credit.
- GOAL – UTICA – 5-1 Comets: Jesus…Reid Boucher (#24) with literally a carbon copy of the Blujus-goal pass to set up Sven Baertschi (#47) for a one-timer goal on Woll. Boucher records his fourth point of the night pushing push him to 62 points on the year.
- Marlies with five shots in the final two minutes of play
- The Marlies strip Carter Camper (#19) of the puck at their blueline and immediately create an odd-man rush. Camper races back on the backcheck, but gets called for hooking as he gets a little too aggressive with his stick-lift on Riley Woods
The score at the end of the 2nd period: 5-1 Utica Comets
I am going to plead the fifth on this one. That strategy worked at the end of the last period, and since the Comets will spend the first 1:40 of the third on the PK, it’s for the best if I don’t invoke a jinx. But the Comets are playing fantastic hockey right now. Definitely can’t count out the Marlies, however, as they’ve come back from worse deficits before. Have to cross our fingers that the Canucks have a similar display of dominance over their Torontonian opponents tomorrow!
- Kenny Agostino fails on his turning shot on the doorstep, and the Comets clear
- Moments after the Camper penalty is killed, Olli Juolevi takes a slashing penalty to put the Comets back on the PK
- Comets kill the penalty well, holding the Marlies to just two shots on Di Pietro
- Lind/Bailey/Hamilton line pinning the Marlies into their end again for the Comets
- Ashton Sautner (#6) throws the shoulder a bit high on the Marlies Michael Kapla, and things begin to get a little heated at the front of the Comets bench after Sautner takes a hit from behind
- on second look, Sautner kind of deserved the chop from behind after he makes the incredibly dangerous move of grabbing the visor of a turned-away Kapla and yanking it dangerously towards him
- Justin Bailey ends up taking a minor penalty for roughing during the scrum, while Garrett Wilson takes a coincidental roughing minor, and Jonah Gadjovich takes a completely unrelated goaltender interference minor, haha
- Comets to a 5-on-4 PK for two minutes
- Woll almost makes it 6-1 for the Comets when he’s forced into playing the puck behind his net after failing to control the puck off his pads
- Di Pietro with a massive stretch-pad-save on the penalty-kill to deny Yegor Korshkov’s one-timer try
- After the Bailey/Gadjovich minors get served, the Comets appear a bit behind the 8-ball as they struggle to move the puck into the Marlies zone.
- The stanchion nearly nets the Marlies their second goal of the night
- GOAL – UTICA – 6-1 Comets: Justin Bailey (#95) extends the Comets lead to five with his 27th goal of the year. Play starts with Wacey Hamilton (#36) blocking a Marlies break-in attempt at the Comets blueline, allowing Justin Bailey to steal and rush up ice with Kole Lind (#13) on his right-wing. Lind floats a pass to the crease of Woll’s net, and Bailey gets an easy tap-in goal while getting hauled down.
- Ashton Sautner (#6) takes a high-hit from Miika Salomaki, and Dyson Stevenson (#26) ignites a huge scrum with the Marlies, while Sautner heads down the tunnel
- GOAL – TORONTO – 6-2 Comets: Awkward play off the 4-on-4 faceoff, as Guillaume Brisebois (#55) chases down Kenny Agostino into the defensive zone only to get shoved hard into the net of Di Pietro. As Brisebois flies into the net, Agostino backhands a shot under the pads of Di Pietro to cut the Comets lead back to four
- Goldobin (#77) draws a tripping penalty against Mac Hollowell to put the Comets onto a 4-on3 powerplay
- 1st peeper: Baertschi, Lind, Boucher, Rafferty,
- Comets struggling to set up in the offensive zone
- Reid Boucher (#24) with a bomb, blocked by Kevin Gravel
- 2nd peeper: Bailey, Goldy, Brisebois, Camper in the final twenty seconds of powerplay time
- 5:13 left in the period and the game returns to 5-on-5
- GOAL – TORONTO – 6-3 Comets: Yegor Korshkov cuts the Comets lead down to three with a solo-effort to roof one over Di Pietro after walking past the entire Comets squad uncontested. Remember what I said about not counting the Marlies out.
- 4:15 remaining in the third and Woll heads to the bench for the extra-attacker
- GOAL – UTICA – 7-3 Comets: Sven Baertschi (#47) casually throwing some rink wide sauce to Reid Boucher (#24) who gets the hat-trick off the empty-netter and sets a franchise record for most points in a season with 63 in 49 games played
- Boucher’s 63-points clears the Comets previous “most points in one season” record which was set by… *ahem*, himself, last season. Haha.
- Ashton Sautner back on the ice after heading down the tunnel earlier
- Matt Lorito throws an elbow to the face of Kole Lind (#13). Amazingly, no scrum ensues
- Lind has taken a beating his last two games played with the Comets, but he’ll have the last laugh in both as the Comets finish the game on the powerplay and earn another two big points
- 1st peeper: Malone, Stevenson, Blujus, Brisebois, Gadjovich
Final Score: 7-3 Utica Comets
|1st||UTI||Wacey Hamilton||Kole Lind||—||5v5|
|1st||UTI||Reid Boucher||Carter Camper||Ashton Sautner||5v5|
|2nd||UTI||Reid Boucher||Carter Camper||Sven Baertschi||5v5|
|2nd||TOR||Joseph Duszak||Matt Read||Kenny Agostino||PPG|
|2nd||UTI||Dylan Blujus||Reid Boucher||Justin Bailey||5v5|
|2nd||UTI||Sven Baertschi||Reid Boucher||Olli Juolevi||5v5|
|3rd||UTI||Justin Bailey||Kole Lind||Wacey Hamilton||5v5|
|3rd||TOR||Kenny Agostino||Mac Hollowell||—||4v4|
|3rd||TOR||Egor Korshkov||Kenny Agostino||—||5v5|
|3rd||UTI||Reid Boucher||Sven Baertschi||—||EN|
- Comets get outshot 2-to-1 in the third period but it doesn’t matter because they entered it leading the Marlies 27-to-15 in shots on goal and leading, 5-1. Great defensive effort from the club overall with very few mistakes, outside of those late rallying goals from the Marlies to cut the lead down to the three.
- Boucher casually breaking franchise records in back-to-back seasons is certainly a look. I know the Canucks are pretty set at forward, but oh boy, it certainly would be something to see if the Canucks could bring him up at least for a look on the 2nd powerplay unit. Historically, the Canucks have been pretty bad at employing guys who have very catered roles (a la Gagner). Still, Boucher has been one of the teams better penalty killers and is a proven playmaker/goal-scorer. So far every forward on the Comets has gotten a look, I think it’s about time Boucher gets a look, especially now that the Canucks need something new out of their fourth line.
- Impressive game from the Lind/Bailey/Hamilton trio. Every shift through the first 40 minutes, these three were just hemming the Marlies into their end with a great cycle and pressure. Happily eat my words on that call in the pre-amble that this wouldn’t work. Hamilton has his flaws as a player, but this was a great bounce-back for him with one-goal, one-assist, and four shots in his return. He was a great complimentary piece to Lind/Bailey, who both ended the game with two points each.
- Another strong game on the fourth line for Seamus Malone. He didn’t end up on the scoresheet, but he looked just as dangerous tonight as he had done in the previous two games with Stefan LeBlanc on his wing.
- Di Pietro faced a few unlucky bounces and awkward goals tonight, but on some of those shots that should have been sure-goals, he was clutch. That save on Korshkov while the Comets were on the PK was huge for the team.
- Again, outside of that pretty embarrassing Korshkov goal late in the game, the defensive group was solid AF. Juolevi/Rafferty with another strongk game together as they controlled play in the offensive-zone incredibly well whenever they were on the ice together.
- Dyson Stevenson was the only player from the Comets not to record a shot or a point. Everyone else at least recorded a shot on goal or a point on a goal. That’s a huge collective effort from the squad to beat a tough division rival! Great momentum builder heading into tomorrows matchup against the Laval Rocket
- Goldobin was dingle-dangling through most of tonight, and while he had a few high-quality scoring chances with Perron and Stevens, it still feels like he’s playing too cheeky of hockey. I feel like if he kept it a bit simpler, he’d be racking up the points (a la Baertschi), but the guy just loves to style on dudes with the puck. Still a solid game from him despite remaining off the scoresheet, but wish we saw more out of him besides the dangles.
Comets Three Stars
- Reid Boucher
- Wacey Hamilton
- Sven Baertschi
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets are back at it again tomorrow, when they take on the visiting Laval Rocket. Comets will be looking to LEAP up the standings as they now find themselves within four points of the second-place Rochester Americans, with one game in hand.