The Vancouver #Canucks confirmed today their intent to relocate the club's @TheAHL affiliate to #Abbotsford, BC, for 2021-22.
Fans can get secure their tickets by making a deposit, or learn more at https://t.co/iDnTD8RZEF pic.twitter.com/wjLxtuFATp
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) May 5, 2021
Let’s talk about Utica for a bit, shall we?
As an avid Farmies/CometsHarvest reader, I’m sure you’ve noticed my shoutouts to the locals, whether that be in clips, tweets, screenshots, or in some cases even radio hits with the local ESPN KROCK team.
The Utica Comets faithful have taken care of Vancouver’s prospects, and by extension, me and my little game recaps, for so long. But sadly this season will be the last time we share an umbrella with such a warm and inviting city.
Last year, on the precipice of the ‘mass pro-sports league shutdown,’ 3935 fans packed the Adirondack Bank Center for what would stand as the last packed house event featuring the Utica Comets. And they laid in egg.
In that game, the Comets got out to an early lead thanks to a powerplay tally from Justin Bailey, only to surrender three-straight unanswered goals to the Syracuse Crunch in a very ho-hum affair in front of the sold-out home crowd.
At the time, I criticized the team for their lax efforts in what might be the last game Utica ever watches in their barn.
This season, the Adirondack Bank Center has had the good fortune of allowing some spectators inside the arena to watch games.
Now, in a bizarre bit of poetry, the Comets return to play in front of a sparsely packed auditorium to rematch the Syracuse Crunch. Less than 24 hours after the news, Vancouver would be pulling their farm team to the west coast. The little team that kept the franchise afloat and saved countless jobs with their creation of the “puck the virus” shirt campaign, now finds themselves without an NHL affiliate heading into the end of May, through no fault of their own.
Now, let’s be clear here. Utica will likely have AHL hockey return.
Robert Esche has already put in the groundwork for a Utica/New Jersey Devils merger.
There is some rough history between the local Utica population and the New Jersey organization. But, I’m sure fences will be mended in order to bring hockey back to a rowdy and deserving market.
So yeah, the Utica faithful will have AHL hockey to cheer. But a fanbase as rabid as Utica’s should’ve had the chance to say goodbye to the Vancouver franchise.
This is a proud bunch that would purchase Darren Archibald jerseys, organize group trips to Rochester, Binghamton or Providence via bus so they could cheer on the farm in enemy territory.
They cared! A lot! And as someone who’s remotely observed this tiny market for the past two seasons, it feels bittersweet to see it end this way.
Selfishly, I’m thrilled that Vancouver is moving its farm team to the lower mainland. But, as someone who, as a child, saw his beloved Winnipeg Jets unceremoniously moved to the desert, my heart goes out to those diehards.
Hopefully, the Comets move to Abbotsford allows me to take the next step with my gameday coverage. I would be incredibly fortunate to provide in-rink coverage, Including in-person interviews with players and coaching staff as part of all future gameday recaps.
Until then, let’s keep it to a #ThankYouUtica, a fanbase 4700km away who showed nothing but relentless support for hockey and Vancouver’s youngest developing prospects for nearly ten years.
Whatever, anyone, I don’t care.
Let’s go with Will Lockwood, who has just one point in his last five games.
- I’m relatively surprised to see Joel Hofer starting in goal.
- That 5v5 goals-for ratio on Brisebois/Woo is quite ugly, considering they’ve barely played together this season.
- Here’s the Goals-for ratio and CORSI for the forward lines, subtracting the least common linemate
- First-line without John Stevens
- Second-line without Will Lockwood
- Fourth-line without Tanner Dickinson
Don’t feel like reading? Click here for spoilers!!
- A lot of puck chasing through the early minutes of the first period
- Three minutes of play elapse when Joel Hofer gloves down the first shot of the evening for a stoppage in play.
- Lukas Jasek (#9) picks off a break-out pass inside the neutral zone, enters the zone, and evades a check, but fans on his setup pass to Nikita Alexandrov (#41) on the right-wing.
- The rookie, Tanner Dickinson (#71), with a glorious scoring chance off a rebound from Mitch Eliot’s (#52) shot
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 1-0 CRUNCH: Atrocious d-coverage around Joel Hofer leads to Taylor Raddysh scoring the easiest tap-in goal of his life. Tyler Tucker (#2) gets caught spinning around the left circle then zones out while watching three teammates fight Antoine Morand and Boris Katchouk for possession.
- Will Lockwood (#10) with quality stick placement to disrupt a shooting opportunity for Syracuse’s Henry Bowlby. Lockwood’s tie-up and poke to Eliot (#52) allows the Comets to negate the Crunch’s pressure and go for a line change.
- Dickinson (#71) showing off his speed to create another dangerous scoring chance for the Comets fourth line.
- Guillaume Brisebois (#55) with a neat behind-the-leg tip on a Nikita Alexandrov (#41) pass that redirects onto the tape of Jasek’s (#9) stick for the one-timer
- Do the New Jersey Devils deserve this guy? I don’t know if I’m honest
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-1 TIE: Off of the d-zone faceoff, Sam Anas (#7) floats the puck high over neutral territory to a streaking Sven Bärtschi (#47), who slips one five-hold on Spencer Martin to tie things up at one! What a breakaway feed by Anas!
- Carson Focht (#19) with a tie-up in the offensive zone slot that leads to a high-danger chance for Nolan Stevens (#17)
- Focht (#19) gets tied up in the high slot, but he fights off several attackers to manage the shot on goal
- John Stevens gets called for hooking while defending in the Comets’ d-zone, and the Comets are off to the first PK of the night.
PK1 – Lockwood, Teves, Eliot, Kaspick
- PK1 with an early clear that forces the Crunch to reset in the neutral zone
- Teves with a painful-looking shot block that allows the Comets to ice the puck and get a full change
PK2 – Wesley, Tucker, Jasek, McKenzie
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 2-1 CRUNCH: With one second remaining on the Stevens penalty, the Crunch score on the man-advantage after the second opportunity on an uncontrolled rebound winds up past Hofer. It was a really good penalty kill for the Comets up until this last-second play by the Crunch. Defending the crease has proven quite tricky for Tyler Tucker and Josh Wesley this season.
- GOAL – UTICA – 2-2 TIE: The Crunch’s Chase Priskie with a brutal blind backhand turnover behind his goal line, directly leading to a gorgeous five-hole goal from Sam Anas (#7). Priskie might now be on Jim Benning’s radar with moves like that!
- Time winds down on the clock with the Crunch edging the Comets in shots narrowly, ten to nine.
- Anas (#7) and Bärtschi (#47) are vibin’ tonight.
- The Jasek, Lockwood, Alexandrov line is hammering the Crunch with pressure inside their zone, but they’re struggling to generate shot attempts. Fantastic pressure, nonetheless.
- A solid takeaway from Eliot (#52) to deny Henry Bowlby a shot attempt
- Joel Hofer with a terrific save on an Antoine Morand one-timer.
- GOAL – UTICA – 3-2 COMETS: The Comets generate their first lead of the game off of a spectacular forechecking effort from Will Lockwood (#10) that sets up Nikita Alexandrov (#41) for his second goal of the season. Lockwood, as usual, showing off his work rate to steal the puck from Lucas Carlsson and set up Alexandrov for his shot attempts.
- GOAL-SYRACUSE – 3-3 TIE: Well, the lead was short-lived. Less than thirty seconds after Alexandrovs’ tiebreaker goal, the Comets once again fail to clear their net-front of traffic and Ryan Lohin bats in a rebound over Hofer’s pads to tie the game at three.
- Crunch get away with some light goaltender interference after a point-shot by Taylor Raddysh. Fortunately, Hofer makes the save.
- Focht (#19) with an ugly hit on Antoine Morand that sends him to the box for interference. Comets off to their second penalty kill of the evening.
PK1 – Kaspick, Jasek, Tucker, Wesley
- Jasek with a big block midway through the PK
- Hofer makes a huge one-timer stop with his right pad
PK2 – Lockwood, John Stevens, Eliot, Teves
- Hofer with two massive saves in the dying seconds of the Crunch’s powerplay
- Syracuse with more offensive pressure against Joel Hofer
- A clearing effort from Focht (#19) slips past Syracuse’s defence, giving Curtis McKenzie (#81) a breakaway scoring opportunity. Spencer Martin makes a stop but slides towards his goal line, giving McKenzie the impression that his shot might’ve gone into the net.
- The Comets first line with a dominant shift in the offensive zone after spending most of the period on their heels in the d-zone
- A faceoff violation levied against Syracuse on an offensive zone faceoff, and the Comets are off to their first powerplay of the game!
PP1 – Brisebois, Anas, Jasek, Bärtschi, Nolan Stevens
- Syracuse controls the puck for PP1’s entire shift and generates several high-danger scoring chances… PP2 comes out in relief
PP2 – Alexandrov, Woo, Focht, McKenzie, McGing
- More nothing for the powerplay
- Alexandrov drills a slapshot on Martin seconds after the powerplay ends
- Jett Woo (#22) drills Jimmy Huntington with a shoulder along the Comets endboards.
- Comets finish the period down in shots fourteen to seven. Down 24 to 18 after forty minutes of action
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 4-3 CRUNCH: Wow, Raddysh, from an impossible angle, breaks the tie for Syracuse less than forty seconds into the third period. Raddysh receives the pass down at the Comets goal line, then banks a shot off the post that ricochets off Hofer’s outstretched skate and back towards the net. Boris Katchouk gets a last-second touch on the puck to get the official goal credit.
- Taylor Raddysh enters the Comets zone with speed as he hunts for his fourth point of the evening.
- Hofer with another insane post-to-post glove save on who else but Taylor Raddysh.
- Off a d-zone faceoff, the Comets draw a slash against Gabe Fortier to give the Comets their second powerplay of the game.
- Hopefully, it goes better than the last powerplay they had
PP2 – Woo, Alexandrov, McGing, McKenzie, Focht
- PP2 generates nothing, so PP1 hops out
PP1 – Jasek, Bärtschi, Anas, Brisebois, Nolan Stevens
- Comets just can’t settle the puck inside the offensive zone; zero shots on goal over the two-minute man-advantage
- Lockwood (#10) with a great defensive effort to thwart Henry Bowlby’s entry attempt for Syracuse
- A bit of an ugly read on the right side of the Crunch’s blue line by Josh Teves (#4) and Jett Woo (#22)
- Not exactly sure why Woo was leaving his side for the left?
- Teves (#4) with a solid diving effort to tie up Taylor Raddysh and prevent a rebound scoring chance for Syracuse
- Joel Hofer is doing everything but scores goals to help the Utica Comets stay in this game. Ryan Lohin cleverly ties up Lockwood along the Comets boards, preventing Utica’s break-out attempt and, in turn, generates a run of dangerous scoring chances for Syracuse.
- Lockwood (#10) moving through the neutral zone with speed to generate the Comets best chance all period.
- Syracuse ices the puck, and the Comets pull Hofer for the extra attacker on the offensive zone faceoff.
- Refs turn a blind eye to a blatant interference call
- Syracuse ices the puck, but then say a Comet touched the puck.
- Hofer back between the pipes
- Comets win the center-ice draw, and Hofer b-lines’ it to the bench for the extra attacker.
- GOAL – SYRACUSE – 5-3 CRUNCH: Tough break for Lukas Jasek (#9), who generates a great scoring chance for Utica off a one-timer. Jasek’s rebound pops right out to the open slot, but no Comet is there for a rebound opportunity. Jasek gets on his horse to defend the Crunch’s empty-netter chance, but he loses an edge when turning to defend Taylor Raddysh. Raddysh skates around the sliding Jasek and ladles in the empty netter for the hat-trick goal.
- Time winds down on the clock as the Comets get outshot 35 to 23 on the evening and outscored five to three.
Syracuse Defeats Utica 5-3
- How can an eight-goal game be as boring as this one was?
- To be fair to the Comets team, they’re playing a very hyper-condensed schedule against the same opponents with a less-than-ideal lineup after a month-long COVID outbreak. Of which, the after-effects on the Comets lineup are unknown to media and spectators. Similar to the Vancouver Canucks of late, the Comets struggled to find that late burst of energy that they needed to generate significant scoring chances in the third period.
- The first line of Anas, Bärtschi, and John Stevens was great through the first two periods but was invisible in the third.
- The second line of Jasek, Lockwood, and Alexandrov played excellently. Despite the lack of shot attempts, I loved the o-zone possession time they were generating with their cycling. I was glad to see them score a 5v5 goal through their zone control efforts.
- The third line of Focht, Stevens, and McKenzie had its ups and downs. I liked what they were doing defensively and liked some of the looks they were generating in the offensive zone.
- Trent Cull used his fourth line quite sparingly throughout the game. McGing is way too undersized at the AHL level and gets knocked over way too easily. Tanner Kaspick is a perfectly fine and aggressive penalty killer with decent offensive instincts, but he obviously struggled to carry the load of McGing and the debuting Tanner Dickinson. I liked what I saw of Dickinson in his brief TOI. He looked fast, played hard and aggressive on the forecheck and created some great momentum for his team early on in the first.
- Joel Hofer was the real hero in this one. The Comets defensive groups left him high and dry around the net-front. The Comets managed three shots in the slot, whereas the Crunch generated three goals and four additional shots from just outside the crease. Tyler Tucker and Josh Wesley’s coverage will surely be a point of focus for the coaching staff over the next few days. The former gets noticeably lost and caught coasting away from coverage while watching the play unfold around him. There needs to be so much more commitment to clearing the slot from tip-in and redirect chances. Unfortunately, the Comets goaltending isn’t getting that support with the absences of Reinke and Rathbone from their d-corps.
- On that note, Tyler Tucker may have been brutal defensively, but he was ‘on one’ offensively as he led the team in shots on goal with five on the night! Good for him, not so great for the team.
- Alexandrov is fun to watch. That is all.
- Jett Woo has not had the best run of games lately. I still have that blue line fumble between him and Josh Teves replaying over and over in my brain. He started this season so strong with his decision-making, speed, and assertiveness on the blue line, but lately, he’s been looking very sloppy in nearly all facets of the game. He’s still young and has tonnes of time to grow, but it is a bit concerning to see a mid-season skill regression, even if it’s just a minor bump in the road.
- I’m starting to wonder if the Canucks would get more use out of seeing games from Will Lockwood than they would of Jonah Gadjovich. I’m impressed by his work rate and his skating speed. If his hands can catch up with his feet just a bit more, then I think the Canucks might have an option for their bottom-six at next season’s training camp.
COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS
- Joel Hofer
- Sam Anas
- Will Lockwood
Next Up on the Docket
Comets are back at it this Friday for the rematch when they take on the Syracuse Crunch at 7 PM EST/4 PM PST.
Then it’s the re-rematch when they take on the Crunch on Saturday, May 8th, at 7 PM EST/4 PM PST.
Then finally, it’s the re-re-rematch when they battle the Syracuse Crunch on Monday, May 10th, at 7 PM EST/4 PM PST.
I probably won’t recap them all… but then again, I found out I won’t be getting my puppy this summer, so I might need to fill the empty void of my life with something this weekend. So I just might.
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Cheers for tuning in. Sorry it sucked, haha.