Following their gruelling shutout victory over the Binghamton Devils, the Utica Comets look for their second straight win tonight against the Rochester Americans!
The ‘Merks and the ‘Mets…wait, that doesn’t sound right.
The ‘Merks and the Comets have split wins through six games this season, with Utica barely edging the ‘Merks by a single point, thanks to one shootout loss back in February.
- Their current record head-to-head record: 3W-2L-0 OTL-1 SOL
It’s been a tough road for the farm team post-COVID layoff, with the Comets seemingly hit hard by the fatigue factor and the depleted roster.
Since I haven’t caught up on micro stats tracking yet, this graphic will suffice.
Over their last three games, the Comets have struggled to produce offence at 5v5 while giving up excessive shots to their opponents.
It’s certainly no coincidence either that this massive uptick in 5v5 shots-against came immediately following Jack Rathbone’s call-up to the Canucks.
Without Rathbone in the lineup, Trent Cull and his coaching staff are forced to cobble together a defensive group that is underwhelming at producing 5v5 offence and very meh at preventing 5v5 offence.
Definite “Wolverine lying in bed meme” vibes while looking at Jack Rathbone’s placement on the above chart.
The Comets just aren’t generating much 5v5 offence from the back-end.
In the seven games since returning to play, the Comets have eighteen goals total, with ten goals coming at 5v5 (a good balance). However, the defence has picked up points on only ten of those total goals.
If you subtract Jack Rathbone from the equation, it’s only six goals
When you boil it down to goals at 5v5? It’s just two.
Just two goals scored at 5v5 in the return-to-play that had the defencemen contributing.
There were going to be hundreds of question marks on this team’s abilities after missing an entire month due to a COVID outbreak.
I can’t stress enough how badly the Comets need offence from their defencemen at 5v5.
The number of 5v5 shots on goal has slowly decreased since game two of the return to play, and while it’s great that Joel Hofer picked up his first pro shutout, relying on him to put up 40 save performances every night to give them a chance is unrealistic.
The Comets skaters need to do their rookie netminder a favour tonight and get the early advantage on the scoresheet. 5v5, powerplay, shorthanded, whatever avenue, they need to do it!
I’m not sure if my brain can handle two death marches from one organization.
- Let me know in the comments if you like the added 5v5 goals for and against information on the starting lineup card!
- Comets moved a bunch of guys off of IR and are healthy scratches tonight! Possibly the healthiest the roster has been in weeks.
- Comets will be glad to have Sven Bärtschi back in the lineup!
- The Comets sticking with Gadjovich, Stevens, and Lockwood, is the right call; I really liked what they were bringing on Wednesday!
- Kielly starts for the first time since April 9th; he spent the last week and a bit “banged up,” according to head coach Trent Cull.
Don’t feel like reading? Click here for spoilers!!
- Early icing from Rochester gives the Comets an offensive zone faceoff in the first ten seconds! A promising start!
- Carson Focht (#19) picks up a loose puck at center and quickly races into the offensive zone for a two-on-two rush with Curtis McKenzie (#81). McKenzie can’t quite reach Focht’s centering pass and, unfortunately, throws his shot wide of the goal as it gets pushed off its moorings.
- Nolan Stevens takes a slashing penalty, and the Comets are off to the first penalty kill of the game.
PK1 – Kaspick, Tucker, Lockwood, Wesley
- Off of the faceoff, Tucker immediately takes a high-stick to the face and goes down hard.
- PK1 forces Rochester out to neural ice, and Comets change their PK units after they ice the puck on an entry attempt
PK2 – Jasek, John Stevens, Teves Eliot
- A fantastic penalty-kill from Utica as they hold Rochester to zero shots on goal
- A solid shift from the Comets third-line as Josh Wesley threads a rink-wide pass through traffic to Focht (#19) for a one-timer.
- The Comets pressure pays off as Rochester ices the puck.
- Cull sends out his fourth-line against a tired Amerks group. Ok?
- The fourth line generates one shot on goal that results in a scrum, then on the ensuing faceoff in the Amerks zone, they lose possession and give up a shot and d-zone faceoff.
- Again, a bizarre choice to roll out your lowest scoring line against a tired bunch.
- Will Lockwood (#10) draws a penalty, then Mitch Eliot (#52) rifles a shot through traffic that glances off the side of the net.
PP1 – Anas, Jasek, Gadjovich, Bärtschi, Reinke
- Lukas Jasek (#9) tosses a blind backhand pass from the slot instead of taking a shot. The questionable decision works as the Comets generate some scrambly chances immediately after.
PP2 – Focht, McGing, McKenzie, Woo, Nolan Stevens
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 COMETS: What a start for PP2! Carson Focht (#19) rifles a one-timer on Billy Christopoulos while McKenzie (#81) screens. Focht’s shot rebounds out to Hugh McGing (#14), who slips his shot past Chritopoulos’ blocker side and into the net. Talk about gaining the early advantage for the team!
- Ethan Keppen out for a shift with Hugh McGing at 5-on-5, and he looks like an absolute colossus in comparison.
- Nolan Stevens (#17) picks off a pass at center-ice and enters the zone. Shortly after, Focht (#19) makes a slick pass to turn a nothing 3-on-2 rush into a shot-attempt for Utica.
- Nolan Stevens (#17) with another steal in the neutral zone! Stevens follows up with another quick entry and shot-attempt from Jett Woo (#22) that goes off an Amerk behind.
- Tanner Kapisck (#26) obliges Brandon Hawkins for a fight. Not sure if it was the right call for Hawkins…
- A dangerous moment for Kielly after C.J. Smith beats out the icing call.
- Patrick McGrath picks up a slashing minor that gives the Comets their second powerplay of the game.
- PP1 is setting up well, Sam Anas (#7) attempts the goal-line net-front tip-pass, but Christopolous deflects it wide.
- PP1 gets forced out to the neutral zone, and the Comets change PP units with just over a minute to go on the powerplay.
- PP2 can’t get much going and spend the majority of their time stuck in the defensive zone. Shame.
- GOAL – UTICA – 2-0 COMETS: Have the floodgates officially been opened!? Mere seconds after the McGrath penalty expires, Will Lockwood (#10) bats in his second in as many games to put the Comets up by two! A tremendous hardworking shift from Jonah Gadjovich and his linemates to win the puck battle in the Amerks endzone and work the puck towards the net.
- Anas (#7) quickly sends Jasek (#9) up for a breakaway opportunity. Fortunately, Jasek hits the target this time. Unfortunately, the target was the goaltender and not the back of the net.
- Time winds down as the Comets finish the period up in shots, thirteen to seven, and up in goals two-zip.
- Yikes, an ugly ugly ugly hit from Brandon Hawkins sends Tyler Tucker crashing hard into the Comets endboards.
- Tucker eventually skates to the bench under his own power with the medical trainer.
- Hawkins picks up a five-minute major and a game misconduct. The non-Travis Hamonic kind.
PP1 – Bärtschi, Jasek, Gadjovich, Reinke, Anas
- Bärtschi rips a shot off the crossbar then sends another one-timer into the glove of Christopoulos.
- PP1 throwing all volume on this powerplay
- There’ve been plenty of good looks for both powerplay units, but they’ve struggled to beat Christopoulos.
- Dominic Franco leaves the box after serving Hawkins five-minute major. Tough break for the powerplay after multiple good looks.
- Kielly is forced to make his biggest stop of the evening after Brett Murray steals the puck off of Lukas Jasek in the Comets’ d-zone for a shot.
- Ethan Keppen (#92) drives down the right-wing and draws a hooking penalty against Nicholas Welsh. Comets back to the powerplay
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-0 COMETS: Who needs five minutes to score on the powerplay when you can do it in fifteen seconds! Sam Anas (#7) rifles a shot over the glove side of Christopoulos to give the Comets a three-goal lead with thirteen minutes remaining in the second period!
- Comets are getting into a groove now (clip is not of a powerplay) Lockwood puck-handling before handing off to John Stevens (#16), who hands off to Keppen (#92) for a backhander.
- Remi Elie gets called for tripping, and the Comets are off to another powerplay!
- PP1 spend their time cycling but don’t generate anything considerable with their efforts. PP2 subs on
- Jett Woo takes a tripping penalty with fourteen seconds left on the powerplay while defending a shorthanded rush. Comets to their second penalty kill of the game
PK1 – Lockwood, John Stevens, Wesley, Teves
- PK1 forces the Amerks back into their zone and forecheck aggressively, allowing Kaspick and Jasek to sub in as the forward pair.
- GOAL – ROCHESTER – 3-1 COMETS: The Comets penalty killers get caught cheating heavily with all four skaters near the left wall. Michael Mersch wins the puck battle along the boards and pokes the puck out to Brett Murray, who rifles one past Kielly’s blocker side.
- Focht takes a clothesline at the Amerks blueline and tries to sell an interference, but the refs don’t bite.
- Amerks are trying to capitalize on the momentum of the Murray goal and drill Kielly with several dangerous opportunities in a row.
- Lockwood (#10) displaying some slick puck protection and evasion skills to maintain the offensive zone for Utica as he holds the puck long enough to find Jonah Gadjovich (#21) on the doorstep for a wrist shot
- Sometimes the Comets are maybe a bit too unselfish. Jasek (#9) carries the puck up ice into the offensive zone for a three-on-one that quickly turns into nothing when Josh Wesley (#24) hands off instead of taking the shot.
- GOAL – UTICA – 4-1 COMETS: Oh yah, floodgates are definitely opened. Will Lockwood capitalizes on a horrendous giveaway by Casey Fitzgerald and rifles a puck over Christopolous’s glove for his second of the game.
- Patrick Mcgrath with a very unpleasant action against Ethan’s Keppen’s
- A scrum ensues outside of Christopolous’ net after a shot from Tanner Kaspick, and McGrath takes a roughing penalty. Comets to their sixth powerplay.
- GOAL – ROCHESTER – 4-2 COMETS: OH MY GOD, Michael Lehr’s goal call here is absolutely hysterical. Just the comical, “no, no, no no” after the horn is sending me. After Kielly fumbles a drop pass from Mitch Reinke (#28), Michael Mersch crashes the net to capitalize on the loose puck. Eventually, the puck gets steered out by Kielly, but it goes right to Brendan Warren, who puts it over the blocker side of Kielly. Comically ugly sequence.
- GOAL – UTICA – 5-2 COMETS: PP2 gets it done for Utica again as Carson Focht (#19) lifts a wrister over the glove of Christopoulos for his first of the night. A phenomenal cross-ice feed from Nolan Stevens (#17) and a brilliant heads-up play from Focht to set up in the circle for the shot.
- Gadjovich (#21) lays the stick hard into the chest of Casey Fitzgerald, who responds with a fight request. Gadjovich ditches the mitts, and the two brawl. Gadjovich, the sick fuck, smiling at the end of the scrap.
- Josh Teves (#4) walks down the left wing to tee up a slapper on Christopoulos’ glove side. Amazingly, Christopolous makes the stop.
- GOAL – ROCHESTER – 5-3 COMETS: Well, if it hadn’t been clear already, this game has gone completely off the rails. Jett Woo (#22) attempts to play the puck around the Comets endboards, but it gets stopped by Michael Mersch. Remi Elie picks up the loose puck and feeds C.J. Smith at the front of the net. Lukas Jasek (#9) comes down with the stick to disrupt Smith’s shot attempt but inadvertently has the puck roll up his stick and over to Mersch, who sinks the puck past Kielly. Jasek is frustrated as hell and smashes his stick on the net, then hucks it into the boards.
- Jasek has had an ok night so far, but obviously, he isn’t happy that he just helped the Amerks get back within two. You’ve got to love the fire!
- OOF, Curtis McKenzie throws a check along the Comets endboards and gets his elbow a little too high for the refs liking. Comets to the PK.
PK1 – Lockwood, John Stevens, Wesley, Eliot
- Lockwood, vibing, wins a puck battle and pushes the Amerks powerplay into their zone for a reset.
PK2 – Jasek, Kaspick, Teves, Reinke
- Interesting that Cull elected to swap Teves with Wesley — I’m assuming this is some calculation made due to Tyler Tucker’s absence.
- Jasek picks off two passes in a row to foil any powerplay setup from the Amerks.
- Twenty-seven shots, six goals, two fighting majors, and one game misconduct later; the second period concludes.
- Comets finish the middle frame up in shots, seventeen to ten, and up in goals, five to three.
- They’re possibly up in pride/60 too, but it’s hard to say.
- Jake Kielly flashes the glove early as the Amerks pressure with shots in the opening minute.
- Gadjovich and Fitzgerald leave the box after serving their fighting majors.
- Three minutes down in the final frame, and it’s been all Amerks thus far.
- Lockwood (#10) picks off a giveaway in the offensive zone, then centers for Gadjovich (#21), only for Gadj to miss the pass. The pass rebounds off Christopoulos’s right pad and out to Lockwood, who wheels around the net for a wraparound attempt.
- Great speed shown on this shift from Lockwood.
- GOAL – UTICA – 6-3 COMETS: Sam Anas (#7) gets his second of the night past Christopoulos, off of a brutal deflection from Patrick McGrath. Mitch Eliot (#52) starts the sequence with the long pass up to Sven Baertschi (#47), who floats his pass over the heads of several skaters to Anas. Great quick-up play from the Comets to re-re-regain the three-goal lead.
- AHL hasn’t currently credited Eliot with a secondary assist, but he should get one on the play.
- Teves has also been credited with the primary assist over Bärtschi, lol.
- Comets have spent most of this third period inside their end.
- Seven minutes into the period, and the Comets step foot in the offensive zone for the fourth time, haha.
- A tremendous aggressive forecheck from the Comets second line. John Stevens (#16) forces a turnover behind the Amerks net, allowing Lockwood (#10) to set up Teves (#4) at the bottom of the right circle. Teves backhands a pass to Stevens, who tries to go five-hold on Christopoulos, but comes up short.
- An interesting thing of note, head coach Trent Cull rolled out his lines, 1, 2, 3, 4, 2, 3, 1.
- They are possibly recognizing that the Jasek trio with Bärtschi and Anas haven’t been firing all that well tonight. In contrast, the second and third lines have been on every shift.
- A three-on-two opportunity for Utica one way gets thrown out when Jasek drop passes to the slot. Newell Brown would love Jasek, methinks.
- On the backcheck, Josh Teves gets his stick caught in the skates of C.J. Smith after a poke-check. Rochester off to the powerplay with less than five minutes to go in the third.
PK1 – Kaspick, Reinke, Wesley, Jasek
- Kaspick, with his trademark excellent penalty killing as he forechecks into the Amerks zone, then plays rink wide pass with Josh Wesley to chew time off the clock.
- GOAL – ROCHESTER – 6-4 COMETS: The Amerks get themselves back within two via a powerplay goal from Dominic Franco. Remi Elie whips a shot towards Kielly, and though Mitch Eliot (#52) drops to block the shot, he only gets a piece of it. Franco picks up the puck and takes one whack then another that sneaks past Kielly.
- Comets pull Christopoulos for the extra attacker. Comets facing the 6-on-5 with less than three remaining in the period
- GOAL – UTICA – 7-4 COMETS: John Stevens picks off a pass in the neutral zone and sinks the empty-netter to re-re-re-regain the three-goal lead for Utica.
- Mitch Eliot takes a slashing penalty, and the Comets will finish this one facing a 6-on-4 for the final two minutes of the game.
- GOAL – ROCHESTER – 7-5 COMETS: With a minute twenty left in the game, Michael Mersch redirects a slap pass behind Kielly to make a twelve-goal game and put the Amerks back within two.
- Nolan Stevens (#17) sets up Anas (#7) for a late chance on Christopoulos. Anas’ shot goes into Christopoulos’ glove, but he elects to play the puck so that the Amerks may get the extra attacker.
- Comets ice the puck with ten seconds left in the game
- Jasek wins the final faceoff, and Wesley smothers the puck along the end boards; this chaotic-ass game comes to a close
- Comets register five shots to the Amerks twelve over the last twenty minutes of play.
UTICA DEFEATS ROCHESTER 7-5
- Wildly chaotic game, but par for the course when you have atrocious goaltending on one side of the table and bad bounces on the other side.
- Kielly wasn’t great, so we’re clear, but a couple of those goals resulted from awful puck-handling by his skaters.
- Christopoulos is going to get exposed hard if he plays against the Comets again. That glove side of his is begging to be lit up.
- Truly, a fantastic game from Will Lockwood and the Comets’ second line. I loved how aggressive they were on the forecheck and how they created havoc for the Amerks defenders. I had my doubts that Lockwood’s shorty from Wednesday would be an actual “opening of the floodgates.” But now I’m wondering if that actually did the trick. He looked outstanding. Two goals, four shots, and a Plus-3 on the night. The fact that Lockwood is also the first guy out for the Comets penalty kill is excellent news for this team and the Canucks organization. If Lockwood can go on a scoring heater late in the season, that bodes well for Lockwood’s training camp aspirations for the 2021-22 season. I have been high on his skating, compete, battle, and utility as a penalty killer. All that was missing was proof that he could do something with his physical talents, and these last two games have been very promising that he can.
- Gadjovich looked solid again, trying to play the same role as Lockwood instead of being a one-trick triggerman.
- John Stevens ended his night with one goal and two assists and largely thanks to the efforts of Lockwood and Gadjovich. This second line could be deadly for the Comets facing subpar AHL competition down the stretch.
- Ethan Keppen looks like he could probably use a break. He’s a big boy, and there are some shifts where he gets caught out for just a bit too long, leading to him looking incredibly lethargic with his skating. Unnoticeable for most of the night.
- Jasek continues to struggle. He puts up good underlying shot-control metrics but has had a tough go trying to produce offence. Coaches need to get this kid shooting his shot.
- Bärtschi was largely unnoticeable for the evening, but that was to be expected given his time off due to injury.
- Another night where I come away impressed with the work of Teves and Eliot
- Kaspick had a quiet night post-fight but was still lethal on the Comets penalty kill. Have to wonder if the fourth-line didn’t see much ice time because of an injury concern with Kaspick’s hand; He was shaking it out in the penalty box post-fight.
- Jett Woo was quiet for the night, but I noticed his outlet passes and defensive positioning quite often. Had several instances where he could’ve done “the AHL thing” by double-teaming a skater in the defensive zone by giving up the net-front. But he played it safe every single time. The lone 5v5 goal that he was on-ice for came after a clearing attempt that got deflected off of Lukas Jasek’s stick past Kielly. Hard to really fault him on that one.
- I critique Tyler Tucker’s play quite often, but he’s kind of like Tyler Myers. Unspectacular, mostly, but he eats minutes like a workhorse at 5v5 and on the penalty kill. You have to hope that he comes away from that boarding unscathed; it was truly an ugly hit from behind.
- Sam Anas finally breaks his goal-scoring slump with two tonight on six shots. This might sound weird, but Anas was unnoticeable for most of the night but in a good way. Usually, he’s noticeable because he’s constantly throwing offence at the net or giving the puck away in the neutral zone. He barely threw the puck away tonight, which is an excellent step in the right direction for him.
- Carson Focht had himself an excellent first two periods, but he disappeared in the third. He’s got a sneaky good two-way game and was lethal on the forecheck for Utica in the early goings of this game. His play, combined with Nolan Stevens’ play, made the Comets’ second and third lines the most dangerous on the evening.
- Focht finished the night with one assist and one goal on four shots
- Shoutout to the Comets play-by-play guy Jason Shaya, whose commentary made this chaotic game even more entertaining. I’m still cackling over the call on that shorthanded goal the Comets gave up.
COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS
- Will Lockwood
- Carson Focht
- John Stevens
HM: Sam Anas, Nolan Stevens
Next Up on the Docket
The Comets are back in action this Sunday against the Syracuse Crunch at 3 PM EST/12 PM PST.
Depending on how stats tracking on these last three games goes, I’ll see if I feel up to recapping!
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