Arise, arise, Riders of Utica!
Sticks shall be shaken, shinguards shall be splintered,
a stick-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Skate now, skate now, skate! Skate for ruin and the season’s ending!
Death! Death! Death!
DiPietro’s battle cry was heard echoing through the hallways of the Adirondack Bank Center as he made his triumphant return to lead his team onto the ice Friday night.
DiPietro looked to harness everything he had learned during his lengthy stay in Vancouver. After months and months of one-on-one time with Ian Clark, DiPietro finally put his practice to good use.
As a quick refresher, DiPietro’s last real game-action came against the Syracuse Crunch back on March 11th, 2020.
The team in front of him laid an egg in front of a sold-out home crowd. At the time, I criticized the team for such a pitiful effort in what could be the last game of their 2019-20 season.
The words proved prophetic, as the Comets would not return to the Adirondack Bank Center until February 17th, 2021.
With rumours that the Utica Comets might move to the westfold, it felt poetic that DiPietro would return once more to the Adirondack Bank Center and backstop the team to a dominant victory. A victory that was ower to the Utica faithful some 415 days ago.
Tonight’s game was wild. It was carnage. And it had everything you could expect from a hockey game.
Game misconduct galore.
Multi-point nights from debuting rookies.
Sven Bärtschi instigating a scrum.
And Vincent Arseneau manning a powerplay unit before attempting to murder someone with a body check in the final two minutes of a 7-1 blowout.
The game was pure entertainment. And, like the Rohirrim’s charge, it felt great to see the good guys get a big W for once.
Tonights do something was a holdover from the last game.
“Anyone other than Gadjovich, please score at 5v5!” – Sincerely, me.
- DiPietro SZN baybeeeee
- Nikita Alexandrov makes his anticipated debut with the Comets on a pretty decent-looking second line with Gadjovich and Jasek!
- Dakota Joshua joins Nolan Stevens and Will Lockwood on the third line, and my god, their speed will give Rochester problems.
- Did I mention it was DiPietro szn!?
- Note the 5v5 goals-for and against for what I mean by “this team needs 5v5 goal production from people not named Jonah Gadjovich.”
- Bärtschi and Anas have a 44.53 CF% together without John Stevens
- Gadjovich and Jasek have a 63.93 CF% together without the debuting Nikita Alexandrov
- Nolan Stevens and Will Lockwood have a 53.64 CF% without Dakota Joshua
- Curtis McKenzie and Carson Focht have a 51.75% CF% without Vinny Arseneau
Don’t feel like reading? Click here for spoilers!!
- Rochester’s starter has not had a good year in the AHL. This could get ugly if the Comets are on.
- Early on in the game, the Comets are cycling the puck well, just not in the right zone.
- Josh Teves enters the offensive zone for Utica, and they establish their first sustained bit of offensive zone pressure.
- Mitch Eliot (#52), defending the two-on-one, bats down a saucer pass. Di Pietro nearly faces his first in-game shot in over 14 months!
- A relentless effort by Dakota Joshua (#11) moves the puck out of the d-zone and into the offensive zone for Utica.
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 COMETS: Dakota Joshua’s effort to move the puck up-ice pays off as he cashes in on a Nolan Stevens (#17) rebound to score in his first game back! An unreal effort from Joshua to make this goal happen.
- The play was offside, but DiPietro faces his first shot in over 14 months!
- John Stevens (#16) finds Sven Bärtschi (#47) behind the Amerks defence for a breakaway opportunity.
- Rochester pressures the Comets heavily in the seventh minute, but the Comets are doing a great job at deflecting shots away from the net. Di Pietro still yet to face a shot on goal.
- Woo (#22) with a giveaway off of a soft pass through a crowded neutral zone.
- MDP’s first official save comes at the 9:04 mark of the first after Casey Fitzgerald bombs a high shot from outside the blue line.
- Will Lockwood (#10) enters the offensive zone with speed and quickly creates a gap to set up Nolan Stevens (#17) for a one-timer that ricochets off the post. Joshua (#11) has a wide-open net, but a diving Michael Mersch blocks the attempt!
- Vinny Arseneau (#18) plays the puck back to Mitch Eliot (#52), who quickly returns fire to send Curtis McKenzie (#81) ahead for a breakaway opportunity. Like Bärtschi before him, McKenzie shoots his shot wide of Lekkas’ glove side.
- Brent Gates Jr. with a huge breakaway opportunity for Rochester after stealing a rink-wide feed from Jett Woo. Brisebois (#55) backchecks but takes a delayed hooking-from-behind penalty on the play. DiPietro comes up huge for a save.
- DiPietro makes a save on the assessed penalty shot for Brent Gates Jr.
- GOAL – ROCHESTER – 1-1 TIE: A series of lost battles at the front of the net leads to Brett Murray tying the game at one off of a Matej Pekar rebound. Tough break for DiPietro, who came off two very strong saves for the Comets. I can’t fault DiPietro on this one as the undersized Jasek (#9), and Tucker (#2) stood no chance battling Matej Pekar, or the behemoth, Brett Murray.
- GOAL – UTICA – 2-1 COMETS: What a way to answer back from Lukas Jasek (#9)! A mere eleven seconds off the faceoff draw, newcomer Nikita Alexandrov (#41) makes a hold at the Amerks blue line only to get muscled to the ice. Jasek picks up the loose puck and wheels around Alexandrov and his check and slips the puck five-hole past Lekkas.
- Woo (#22) slips around Gates Jr. on the blue line to set up Anas (#7) for a shot through traffic.
- THE CODE! Tyler Tucker (#2) takes a shot from behind, and both teams square up in the neutral zone.
- The hit in question that drew the scrum; a bit of a dicey hit from behind on Tucker by Matej Pekar.
- Pekar heads to the box for a cross-check
PP1 – Bärtschi, Jasek, Gadjovich, Brisebois, Anas
- An errant pass loses the zone for the Comets, then Gadjovich fans on a pass that forces them to reset from the d-zone. Ugly powerplay
PP2 – Alexandrov, Focht, McKenzie, Woo, Nolan Stevens
- Casey Fitzgerald steals the puck off of Woo, but Woo recovers. A whole lot of nothing happening on this powerplay
- After leaving the penalty box, Matej Pekar dangles around Woo (#22) to set up a centering pass, but a backchecking Dakota Joshua (#11) prevents the redirect attempt by Michael Mersch.
- Josh Wesley (#24) fights through three bodies in the offensive zone to thread a pass to Jonah Gadjovich (#21), who quickly dishes to Joshua (#11) for a shot on goal.
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-1 COMETS: Great pressure from the Comets pays off again, as Lockwood (#10) scores his fourth in as many games utilizing some blistering speed to beat the Amerks defenceman. Gadjovich (#21) with a quick entry off a pass by Wesley (#24) before dishing off to Lockwood, who kicks on the jet fuel to drive around former Comet, Dylan Blujus, for a diving backhander. Gorgeous goal.
- Time winds down on the period, and the Amerks players look frustrated as all hell.
- Comets finish the period up in shots, eight to six, and up on the scoreboards three to one.
- Gadjovich switched to a line with Nolan Stevens and Will Lockwood to start the second.
- Jonah Gadjovich asks Matej Pekar to honour “THE CODE,” and Pekar obliges.
- Joshua (#11) with a dangerous chance in Lekkas’ crease only to send his shot wide of the goal.
- GOAL – UTICA – 4-1 COMETS: Nikita Alexandrov with his first pro-goal on North American ice! Jasek (#9) starts the play by digging the puck out of a board battle that Alexandrov is engaged in. Jasek then passes back to Josh Teves (#4), who instantly slaps a shot towards Lekkas that gets tipped by Alexandrov and goes five-hole. Great play from Alexandrov to win the battle and get to the net for his first!
- Utica College head coach Gary Heenan pointing out during the break that Cull likely put Gadjovich out with Stevens and Lockwood for the faceoff so that he could fight Pekar.
- Code things
- Ryan Jones with a hit from behind on Arseneau that comes nowhere near the play
- Arseneau gives Jones several whacks with the stick in retaliation. Refs turn a blind eye on the ruckus.
- Dakota Joshua drives on goal for a scoring chance, and Nick DeSimone gets called for hooking Joshua on the attempt.
- Comets are off to their second powerplay of the game.
PP2 – Focht, Woo, Alexandrov, McKenzie, Nolan Stevens
- GOAL – UTICA – 5-1 COMETS: Four seconds onto the powerplay, and the Comets add another one to the tally. Woo (#22) corrals a clearing attempt and quickly relays over to Carson Focht (#19), who rifles one that redirects off the leg of Griffin Luce and into Lekkas’ pads. McKenzie (#81) picks up the uncontrolled rebound and quickly puts it over a sprawled Lekkas to continue the rout.
- Amerks head coach opts not to change goalies, which seems rather cruel at this point.
- Brett Murray trips Eliot in the neutral zone, and the Comets are right back onto the powerplay.
PP1 – Jasek, Gadjovich, Bärtschi, Anas, Brisebois
- GOAL – UTICA – 6-1 COMETS: Gadjovich with his team-leading 15th goal of the year, once again, from the net-front position. Not much to say about this one, tactical puck movement, and Lekkas just proves that he is completely out of his depth. Rewatching the goal, and Lekkas is nowhere near his left post. Lekkas has put up decent numbers at the ECHL level; a 2.13 GAA and a 0.917 save percentage. In five games with Rochester this season, Lekkas has zero wins, a 4.45 goals-against average, and a 0.849 save percentage. Pull him—unacceptable coaching decision from Appert here.
- Dominic Franco attempts to scrap with Vinny Arseneau, and Matej Pekar uses his stick to smoke Arseneau from the bench. Greasy ass shit.
- Arseneau gets tossed for instigating.
- Somehow the Comets end up on the PK after all of this
PK1 – Tucker, Jasek, Wesley, John Stevens
- Quick gloved shot by DiPietro
PK2 – Joshua, Lockwood step on for Jasek/Stevens
PK3 – Teves, Eliot, McKenzie, Nolan Stevens
- Comets kill the penalty
- During the break, Arseneau steps back on the ice and heads to the penalty box with his nose plugged with gauze, haha.
- Jasek with a decent centering opportunity to Alexandrov, but an Amerk defender ties him up
- Lockwood (#10) showing off his speed but loses control of the puck at the last second.
- Woo (#22) engaged in a hard battle with Remi Elie around DiPietro’s net.
- McKenzie (#81) with a great takeaway in the d-zone to set up himself and Lockwood for a 2-on-1 rush. McKenzie gets hooked at the last second of the rush, and the Comets are off to another powerplay.
PP1 – Gadjovich, Anas, Bärtschi, Jasek, Brisebois
- Good pressure from the first unit
- Bärtschi (#47) with a high shot off the shoulder of Lekkas
- THIS GUY! Glad to see some old crowd familiars back in the Adirondack Bank Center!
PP2 – Focht, Woo, Alexandrov, McKenzie, Nolan Stevens
- Focht (#19) with a blistering one-timer that catches Griffin Luce in the face
- GOAL – UTICA – 7-1 COMETS: Carson Focht (#19) with an exact repeat of his overtime winner, only this time he banks it off the skate of Amerks defenceman Ryan Jones and past Lekkas. Not sure what Lekkas did to Seth Appert to deserve this treatment.
- Lockwood (#10), flashing the speed once more before Joshua (#11) sets up Tucker (#2) for a rising shot attempt.
- Every shift from Utica is just pure dominance. A line of Arseneau, Anas, and Nolan Stevens just caved the Amerks in their zone.
- Lockwood picks off a pass in the neutral zone, cruises into the offensive zone, posts up on the blue line, then sets up Teves (#4) for a point shot.
- Comets are cruising right now! After forty minutes of play, the Comets are up in shots 27 to 13.
- I mean, good lord! Lekkas is just getting zero support around the net!
- DiPietro with a blocker stop on Laaksonen followed by a collision with Brendan Warren. Eliot (#52) then finds Bärtschi behind the Amerks defence for a clapper at point-blank range.
- Comets with a rare giveaway in the defensive zone that prompts DiPietro to make a disgusting glove stop on Remi Elie.
- A scrum after a scoring chance from the Comets fourth-line results in Curtis McKenzie, Tyler Tucker, Griffin Luce, and Alec McCrea taking minor penalties for roughing.
- Jonah Gadvjovich ends up in the box as well for Utica, with the Comets ending up on the PK after all is said and done.
- Lukas Jasek picks up a loose puck from the high slot and carries it out into neutral territory for Utica. Comets PK is doing well to keep the Amerks’ chances limited to the outside.
- Sam Anas (#7) dispossessed in the offensive zone by Brendan Warren, allowing C.J. Smith a breakaway opportunity. DiPietro comes up big with the right pad to maintain the Comets six-goal lead.
- Bärtschi strips the puck in the d-zone and races down the ice for a shot. Griffin Luce attempts to throw a shoulder to the head of Bärtschi at the whistle, and a giant scrum ensues.
- Jasek (#9) with a filthy and disgusting cheap shot. Pure goonery.
- I don’t even think I can blame the refs for this one getting out of control. Seth Appert should have pulled their goalie midway through the second.
- Game to a brief 4-on-4
- Lockwood uses his speed to maintain the offensive zone for Utica and draws a tripping call with his efforts.
PP3 – John Stevens, Tucker, Joshua, Lockwood, Arseneau
- Now, this is a powerplay unit!
- No surprise, but this powerplay unit is a bit clunky.
- Griffin Luce high-sticks Nolan Stevens hard in the chops, and he goes down in a heap. Luce then engages with rookie Alexandrov in the ensuing scrum.
- Luce gets assessed for a game misconduct by the refs and gets tossed
- A double-minor penalty is called against Luce for the high-sticking infraction, and the Comets are off to a brief 5-on-3 powerplay.
PP2 – Alexandrov, Focht, Woo, McKenzie, Nolan Stevens
- Shot from Focht comes just as Welsh leaves the box
PP3 – Lockwood, Tucker, Arseneau, Joshua, John Stevens
- PP3 puts in work as Arseneau gets a stick-lift on an Amerk defender to prevent the clearing attempt. Tucker holds the blue line afterward as John Stevens (#16) sets up Joshua (#11) for a one-timer attempt from the slot.
- Lekkas finding his footing late in the game as he makes a one-timer stop on Nolan Stevens
- Arseneau gets dinged for a slash as the Amerks attempt a zone entry from the natural zone.
- Jasek (#9) with a great effort on the PK to tie up Brent Gates Jr. inside the d-zone before working the puck around the endboards
- 4-on-4 comes to an end
- Cull trying all kinds of different combinations on the penalty kill
- Cull throws out Anas and Gadjovich for a spin with Dakota Joshua
- Vinny Arseneau (#18) attempts to murder two Amerks players on the same shift. The crowd loves it. Fuck, those are two ugly hits.
- Comets to close out the final two minutes on the penalty kill
- With less than one minute left in the game, the Amerks mount their first string of offence against DiPietro.
- I’m sure David Quadrelli has something to say about that post-integration.
- Clock winds down with a late shorthanded chance by McKenzie and John Stevens.
- Comets finish the game doubling the Amerks 40 to 21 in shots on goal.
Utica crushes Rochester 7-1
- That’s one helluva game to make your return! The Utica Comets didn’t need DiPietro that much tonight, but he came up huge for them when they did.
Mikey DiPietro's first two significant saves in over 400 days: a breakaway save and a save on a penalty shot. He looks great so far, and the work he's done with Ian Clark in Vancouver is evident already. Feet look even quieter than they were before.
— David Quadrelli (@QuadreIli) April 30, 2021
- Personally, I’m looking forward to Quadrelli’s review of DiPietro’s game! I’m no goalie expert, but I thought he looked infinitely more calm, poised, and controlled in the crease. Last season, he was like 2016-17 Markstrom, flopping all over the ice to make flashy and acrobatic saves on routine shots. Tonight, he was calculated in his movements, hugged his posts hard and rarely let himself get into positions where he was flopping on his belly to make wild calf-muscle saves on one-timer opportunities.
"I always pride myself on my leadership qualities on and off the ice. Entering this season, it was about what do I have to do to take a step in my game. I feel more mature, it's crazy to think that I'm 21 now."
— 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 Faber 🔥🎙 (@ChrisFaber39) May 1, 2021
- My fanfiction Theoden speech might have actually happened?
"Obviously, he fast but he's playing with confidence now. I'm happy that he's feeling comfortable. I like how Will is playing right now."
-Trent Cull on Will Lockwood
— 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 Faber 🔥🎙 (@ChrisFaber39) May 1, 2021
- A bit of an understatement! Lockwood was wheeling around the rink tonight, making the Amerks defender look foolish on practically every zone entry of his. I had a feeling that the trio of Lockwood, Joshua, and Nolan Stevens would give the Amerks fits. But, I did not expect them to cave them the way they did as often as they did. It was a slaughter every shift. The brief third-period powerplay look was a bit clunky and awkward for Lockwood, but I won’t hold that against him. His speed is a separator at the AHL level. I think he might be closer to an NHL look than Gadjovich with his speed. Although, Lockwood’s one deficiency is his hands can’t keep up with his feet. But, if you’re entering the zone at will with speed like that, then who cares! Just dish it off and let your linemates do the rest of the cycling. I’ve been pleased with his turnaround these past few games!
- Lockwoods production chart and shot-control metrics are now starting to look very promising
- Lukas Jasek looked good with Gadjovich and Alexandrov! He needed a game like tonight where he just controlled play heavily in the offensive zone. Alexandrov was a great fit with the two of them. Alexandrov has a nose for the net, good speed, a good shot, and above-average skating, a perfect complement to Jasek’s distributing and Gadjovich’s shot and vision. It was great to see him immediately bounce back from the lone goal-against with a 5v5 goal of his own. Jasek’s shooting luck has been atrocious this season, and I wonder if it’s a confidence issue. Hopefully, tonight’s goal is the pat on the back that he needed for a return to form.
- Woo struggled again tonight as he got caught being indecisive several times in the neutral zone, which led directly to dangerous breakaway chances for Rochester. Not sure if it’s the d-partner adjustment or what, but he’s had an uncharacteristic number of blunders in the neutral zone as of late. Chalk it up to rookie growing pains for now.
- Carson Focht had a good night with Arseneau and McKenzie. Bizarre trio to put together, and frankly, I think someone like Tanner Kaspick ought to keep his spot in the lineup for his speed and utility as a penalty-killer. The Comets penalty kill didn’t get tested often tonight, but against a goalie like Lekkas, I believe Kaspick could’ve made swiss cheese out of him.
- Always good to see the depth D on the team step up big for the Comets; Tucker, Teves, Eliot, and Wesley were providing big minutes on the PK and at 5v5 for the club. Teves and Eliot have sneakily been one of the club’s most reliable duo against the opposing team’s depth.
- Because I know I will be asked about it, yes, Gadjovich needs to work on his skating. No, he isn’t a complete write-off. But, his skating is a hindrance. He has been doing much better this season at keeping pace, but even comparing his wheels to Will Lockwood, and there is a sizeable difference. Fortunately, he’s found a way to use his size and positioning to rack up goals for the club. But getting that positioning is worlds-different at the NHL level than it is at the AHL level. We can all be happy that Gadjovich has found a niche as an elite AHL goalscorer. But, as we’ve seen before with elite AHL goalscorers. Sometimes, it’s just not enough.
- Brisebois was Brisboi-ok on the powerplay, but otherwise, he’s unspectacular to watch. He had a couple of good backchecking moments to recover for his partner, Woo, but otherwise. Meh.
- As you all know, the Comets Harvest is a big fan of Vinny Arseneau, but that hit in the dying minutes of a blowout game was really gross. I imagine the AHL is going to levy quite a few suspensions once they’ve reviewed the tape. It was an ugly game. I still blame the Amerks’ head coach Seth Appert for this one. He left in a goalie that gave his team zero chance, and his skaters were blatantly frustrated after the first period with the goaltending they were getting. It won’t ever happen, but Appert should face some kind of discipline for this.
- As should Matej Pekar for his cheap shot from the bench on Arseneau.
- Also, leave Sven Bärtschi alone. Who the fuck tries to throw an elbow on Bärtschi after all he’s been through with concussions?
- The Seattle Kraken are 100% going to have Bärtschi in their lineup next season, aren’t they?
- Paging Namita Nandakumar. Give Bae a chance!
COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS
- Will Lockwood
- Nikita Alexandrov
- Michael DiPietro
HM: Jonah Gadjovich and the whole gang!
Next Up on the Docket
The Comets are back in action this Sunday, 3 PM EST/12 PM EST. I will probably be very hungover, so don’t count on a game recap.
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Cheers for tuning in, despite some shitty fights and code-related things; it rocked!