A quick turnaround for the Utica Comets as they return to action for the first time in a month with a back-to-back.
I’m not sure what the impetus was to jamming the Comets schedule with games?
Including last night’s game against Rochester, the Comets are in the midst of a four-in-six stretch; they play eleven games 22 days through April.
There are still no concrete plans to host Calder Playoffs as of today; Therefore, the Comets, Amerks, and Crunch are mostly playing to stay fresh for their NHL squads and get reps in.
With that context in mind, what is the sense in getting the Comets playing three games in five nights?
Let me re-phrase: Why is the league forcing three games in five nights on a team that is just returning from a month-long layoff due to COVID?
There are no playoffs! There’s absolutely no need to have the Comets playing a schedule this dense after a COVID outbreak.
Anyways, tonight’s opponent for tonight, and the next three games, is the Syracuse Crunch, a team coming off of a four-game series against the Rochester Americans.
In that series, the Crunch dominated the Amerks, winning three of four.
- 2016 2nd rounder, Boris Katchouk, picked up three goals and four assists
- 2015 2nd rounder, Mitchell Stephens, picked up one goal and four assists in three games since joining off of Tampa’s IR
- The AHL’s leading scorer from last year, Alex Barre-Boulet, had one goal in each of the four games
The Lightning’s roster situation has allowed their farm team to load their top-six with talent.
The Crunch come into tonight’s matchup on three nights rest.
Like last night’s game, not expecting much from the Comets.
They dominated the first two periods against the Amerks but fumbled on defensive coverage at very inopportune moments that gave the Amerks the win.
They definitely deserved a better result for their efforts.
Let’s see how they do on tired legs in their first back-to-back in over a month!
Again, no pressure on anyone! These first couple of games here are about the players finding their legs and getting back up to game speed!
- Joel Hofer gets the start between the pipes! His first start since March 8th, 2020!
- Mitch Eliot slides off of that pairing with Josh Teves — likely because of this read on the game-winning goal against Rochester.
- Besides the above gaffe, I thought Eliot looked strong. Stronger than Tyler Tucker, who was responsible for this baffling read.
- Sliding in for Eliot is Josh Wesley, son of former Carolina Hurricane Glen Wesley, who looks suspiciously identical to head coach Trent Cull.
- Comets Harvest favourite, Vincent Arseneau, gets back into the lineup
- Other than that, the lineup remains unchanged
Don’t feel like reading? Click here for spoilers!!
- I will never not laugh at the name of Syracuse’s arena: Upstate Medical College.
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 1-0 Crunch: LMAO, when your goalie hasn’t played since March of last year, maybe don’t start your fourth-line against the Syracuse Crunch? Just a hunch! A miscue by Arseneau (#18) and Tucker (#2) on a loose puck leads to Boris Katchouk picking up his fifth assist in as many games. Comets just completely fumbling on coverage around the net. Ugly start 17 seconds into the period.
- Crunch pressure again, but Hofer stops their next shot. Confidence not shaken yet.
- The Comets fourth-line out for another spin that goes much better this time. Syracuse’s Sean Day gives up the puck in the neutral zone to John Stevens (#16), giving him and Vincent Arseneau (#18) a two-on-one rush chance. Arseneau’s shot on goal gets awkwardly pushed aside by Sam Montembeault.
- Sam Anas (#7) forechecking aggressively and fighting for an opportunity on a loose puck. Gadjovich (#21) with a tip attempt on a Jack Rathbone (#3) point shot.
- Comets first line getting pressured in the d-zone by the Crunch’s first line; Curtis McKenzie breaks the puck out of the zone but gets dinged for icing when he doesn’t reach the red line.
- Good pressure from the Lockwood, Focht, Stevens line, but they cannot generate any shots on goal.
- Hofer with a great glove save on Scott Wilson after the Comets get caught with three players playing up in the offensive zone. Luke Witkowski sends Otto Somppi in behind the Comets forwards for a wicked-fast rush chance.
- Sven Bärtschi with a gorgeous shot along the goal line that goes off the inside of the crossbar and out!
- A nice little tic-tac-toe set-play from Carson Focht (#19) and Nolan Stevens (#17) to set up Will Lockwood (#10) on the doorstep for a shot.
- Arseneau nearly generates a breakaway after picking off a pass from Syracuse’s Sean Day.
- The speed difference between the Crunch and the Comets is very noticeable through the opening ten minutes. Syracuse attacking in waves.
- Otto Somppi gets called for holding, Joel Hofer leaves for the bench, but the Comets can’t generate anything with a brief 6-on-5. Comets get the first powerplay of the game!
PP1 – Bärtschi, Jasek, Anas, Gadjovich, Reinke
- Oh wow, Anas fakes his patented move down to the goal line but goes for the drop pass. Boris Katchouk gets his stick in the skates of Anas and the Comets for the second game in a row gets an extended 5-on-3 powerplay opportunity.
- Rathbone subs on for Jasek
- PP1 is throwing a lot at Montembeault on the 5-on-3, but he stands tall.
PP2 – McGing, Woo, Focht, McKenzie, Nolan Stevens
- Chaos in Montembeault’s crease after Focht (#19) centers the puck for a redirect attempt. Syracuse recovers the loose puck, and Antoine Morand generates a lightning-quick chance for Syracuse.
- For the second night in a row, the Comets do not capitalize on an extended 5-on-3 opportunity.
- Syracuse is using their speed to make mince-meat of the Comets defence. Fortunately, Taylor Raddysh loses an edge on his breakaway attempt.
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 2-0 Crunch: Wellp, the Comets get entranced by the Syracuse Crunch’s puck movement, and Devante Stephens finds himself all alone on the left dot for a wrister past Hofer. The Comets look gassed. Missing assignments, missing passes, missing speed. They really need a reset in this upcoming intermission.
- Look at the strides of most of these guys. They’re just so clearly gassed. Why did the AHL think it’s a good idea to give them games back-to-back for their return?
- Jett Woo (#22) with a floater from the blue line that gets blocked followed by a decent little deke to maintain the zone and wade towards Montembeault for a follow-up shot.
- Amazingly, time winds down on the period, with the Comets edging the Crunch in shots-on-goal, eleven to ten.
- Cull starts the Lockwood, Focht, Stevens line, recognizing that they are one of the few lines operating with some jump in their step tonight.
- An early penalty was called against Boris Katchouk for high-sticking. Comets to another powerplay!
PP1 – Jasek, Anas, Bärtschi, Gadjovich, Reinke
- The Crunch clear the zone, and Hofer comes out of his net to play the puck around his net but gets nothing on it. Syracuse’s Antoine Morand nearly capitalizes on the gaffe with a set-up to Scott Wilson.
- Rathbone ices the puck as PP2 comes out.
- GOAL – UTICA – 2-1 Crunch: Jack Rathbone (#3) gets the Comets within one, off of his powerplay one-timer from the point. Nice little drop pass from Nolan Stevens (#17) for the setup. Carson Focht (#19) additionally picks up a secondary assist on the play. Good turnaround considering Rathbone started his powerplay shift icing the puck, haha.
- Will Lockwood gets dinged for tripping shortly after Rathbone’s goal, and the Comets are off to their first PK of the night.
PK1 – John and Nolan Stevens, Teves, Wesley
- Comets win the draw and force the Crunch out to the neutral zone for a reset.
- Comets clear twice more to force the Crunch to reset from their zone
- Jett Woo (#22) gets called for hooking while on the PK, and Syracuse gets a 52-second 5-on-3 powerplay
PK2 – Tucker, Reinke, John Stevens
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 3-1 Crunch: Despite the best efforts of PK2, Alex Barre-Boulet rifles a gorgeous shot above Hofer’s glove side to regain the two-goal lead for Syracuse. Barre-Boulet scores with just two seconds left on the Lockwood penalty. Crunch get another minute and ten seconds of 5-on-4 powerplay opportunity after this goal.
- Comets dump the puck off the opening faceoff and chew some time off the Crunch’s powerplay.
- Time winding on the Woo penalty, and the Crunch nearly capitalize with a quick set-play to Otto Somppi. Somppi, all alone in the slot, puts his one-timer just wide.
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 4-1 Crunch: The Crunch extends their lead again. Sean Day whips a shot that rebounds off the end boards to Antoine Morand on the Comets goal line. Morand backhands the puck past a sprawling Joel Hofer, and the puck barely trickles in. Tough pro-debut for Hofer tonight.
- Comets register their first shot on goal since Rathbone’s powerplay tally
- Teves (#4) pinches at the Crunch’s blue line for a hit; the Crunch quickly move the puck and generate a 3-on-1 the other way. Hofer makes a big save.
- Tucker (#2) floats a shot in on Montembeault, and the puck just barely grazes the outside post.
- One of my favourite things I’ve started noticing during this year’s recaps is Lukas Jasek arguing with the refs after every whistle. Constantly smiling while in complete disbelief that they blew play dead, haha.
- Comets generating something towards the end of the second period. Anas (#7) attempts to bank the puck off the back of Montembeault from behind the goal line.
- Otto Somppi gets called for slashing, and the Comets are off to their fourth powerplay of the game
PP2 – Rathbone, Focht, McGing, McKenzie, Nolan Stevens
- McGing and McKenzie collide with each other off the faceoff, and the Crunch easily clear, forcing the Comets to reset from the neutral zone
- PP2 then put themselves offside on their entry, and PP1 comes out to replace a very weak 30-second effort
- Reinke (#28) throws the puck away to Boris Katchouk while trying to break the puck out
- OOF, just atrocious powerplay for Utica
- zero shots on goal
- Josh Wesley cruises down the right-wing for a shot into the chest of Montembeault.
- I will say this, Montembeault makes every save look very difficult.
- Barre-Boulet snaps a shot off the post while being pressured by Jett Woo. Kids shot is deadly.
- With less than twenty to go in the period, Will Lockwood draws a slash against Odeen Tufto to put the Comets on their fifth powerplay.
- Sam Anas with a wrister that deflects off a foot and over the net. Syracuse clears the puck as time expires.
- Comets will start the third period with a minute and forty-seven seconds left on the powerplay.
- Comets generated just six shots on goal through the middle frame.
- The team just looks absolutely gassed. Josh Teves looks winded every time he’s on the ice.
- Rathbone still not getting PP1 time, which is baffling to me. Rathbone hasn’t stood out by any stretch in this game at 5v5. He is surely way more dynamic and valuable to your first powerplay group than he is on a powerplay featuring *checks notes* Curtis McKenzie, Nolan Stevens, and Hugh McGing.
- Jasek with a point-blank opportunity that gets blockered aside by Montembeault
- Wow, Sam Anas drives towards the net, and the refs call a trip against Noah Juulsen.
- Comets get their second 5-on-3 of the game, third in two games. Have yet to score on any of them.
PP1 – Anas, Bärtschi, Gadjovich, Jasek, Reinke
- Bärtschi throws a shot wide and around the glass, forcing the Comets to reset
- Another shot into the glove of Montembeault just as Tufto leaves the box
- Comets still on their 5-on-4 shit
- Scott Wilson strips the puck off of Sam Anas (#7) and gets his second shorthanded opportunity of the game.
- PP2 displays some solid passing, but the powerplay expires as Juulsen leaves the box
- The Comets powerplay has just been awful these past two games
- Lines at 5v5 are getting shaken up quite a bit.
- Tyler Tucker (#2) fans on a shot inside the offensive zone, handing the Crunch a three-on-one rush chance. Woo (#22) pulls a Tyler Myers then gets a stick on a great one-timer pass from Morand to break up the opportunity.
- Line shakeups continue; Anas out with McKenzie and Arseneau.
- Arseneau and Witkowski scrap along the endboards.
- Arseneau appears to have hurt himself badly; he goes down to his knees, surrounded by his teammates in the middle of the ice.
- Not a fan of seeing a big dude like this have to lean on a teammate and then drop to a knee before the doctor shows up.
- Arseneau appears to have hurt himself badly; he goes down to his knees, surrounded by his teammates in the middle of the ice.
- Hugh McGing serves Arseneau’s two-minute minor for roughing
PK1 – Kaspick, Lockwood, Tucker, Woo
- Comets clear, and Kaspick ties the puck along the end boards in the Crunch’s zone.
- The Stevens brothers step on for Kaspick/Lockwood and play give-and-go while shorthanded to generate a shot.
- Jasek picks off a pass in the d-zone and rifles it down the ice as McGing hops out of the box. Good kill.
- Jasek, Anas, and Gadjovich out as a trio; they pressure in the offensive zone for a bit but don’t generate much
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 5-1 Crunch: Jeez…look at how exhausted this Comets team is. Josh Wesley (#24) accidentally backhands the puck right to Mitchell Stephens, who gives Josh Teves (#4) the ole dipsy-doo before setting up Boris Katchouk for his seventh of the year.
- Vinny Arseneau is apparently back on the ice for a shift? He looked in a bad way when he left the ice not ten minutes ago?
- I am very curious about what happened in the last ten minutes that convinced the medical staff to let Arseneau back on the ice.
- Jett Woo (#22) gives Luke Witkowski a hard shove to the number from behind, and Witkowski goes hard into the boards. He leaves the ice under his own power, but that did not look pleasant.
- Crunch pressuring late. Comets content just to clear the zone and kill off the clock
- Tough loss against a fresher and faster opponent.
Syracuse Crunch Def. Utica 5-1
- I said in the preamble that the result didn’t matter. It was just about getting up to game speed. This was ugly. And through no fault of the Comets, really. The league should be ashamed of themselves for scheduling back-to-backs immediately, for a team recovering from a month-layoff due to COVID-19. Despicable. There are literally no stakes in the AHL season, and there are hardly even fans in the buildings. There was absolutely no need to have the Comets playing back to back.
- Further to the above, the league dropped the news that the Canucks will resume their season on April 16th with a 19-in-30 schedule. What the actual fuck is that? After watching this game, I don’t even want to think about what the Canucks are about to go through. Is it even worth playing?
- Props to Joel Hofer, he did what he could, and most of the time, looked pretty stable in net. The Comets just had absolutely nothing to match the Crunch’s speed.
- Jack Rathbone’s goal was pretty nice, but otherwise, he was pretty invisible at 5v5.
- Outside of his pretty dicey hit on Witkowski, Jett Woo played probably the best out of all the Comets defenders. He displayed some decent speed late in the game, and overall I really liked his defensive play.
- Gadjovich looked very slow tonight, as did the fourth line, Wesley, Reinke, and Josh Teves. Oh, man… Josh Teves looked absolutely gassed from the first period. He just had no legs under him whatsoever.
- Carson Focht had a much better game tonight than he did on Friday. Had some decent wheels on him tonight, good passing, good entries and playmaking attempts. Spent most of his game in the offensive zone trying to set up with Stevens and Lockwood until the wheels came off in the early part of the second period.
- The gameplay was ugly, but these guys are coming off a month layoff into the stupidest schedule imaginable. I can’t really make any judgements on their gameplay since everyone was on the same playing field.
- Get Reinke off PP1 if it isn’t a mandate from the Blues that he has to be there.
- Wear a mask
- Stay safe, everybody.
COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS
- Joel Hofer
- Jett Woo
- Sam Anas
Next Up on the Docket
The Comets run it back against the Crunch this upcoming Tuesday and Wednesday night! It will be a jam-packed schedule, and for some reason, I’ll be tasking myself with tracking four games of data between now and then… My poor wife, haha.
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for your daily dose of memes, sarcasm, stats, and both Comets and Canucks gameday clips!
You can also catch me on Podcast format with Lachlan Irvine at the Creasecast! Please give us a follow on your go-to podcast platform and rate, like and subscribe to help us out!
And if you’re more of a visual person! You can check out the Youtube channel, where we upload all of our podcasts in video form!
Cheers for tuning in, and I’ll see you all Tuesday, April 13th, for post-NHL-trade-deadline AHL action!