Great Picture of a CanucksArmy Blogger via Utica Comets Fans Facebook
While the Canucks continue to slough towards a top-8 pick in the draft the Utica Comets are continuing to make their final push towards earning a playoff spot in their inaugural season. This weekend was very critical for points as they were playing back-to-back-to-back games with two against the Abbotsford Heat at home.
But it’s not just “playoff season” in the AHL — The WHL and OHL are just starting their second rounds, the NLA and the SHL in Europe are well underway in their post season, and most teams have already been eliminated in the NCAA as we head towards the Frozen Four.
Read on to find out how your Vancouver Canucks prospects are performing in their respective leagues. And as always, feel free to follow me on Twitter @nuckprospects for the latest in prospect news. You’re more than welcome to send me any feedback on anything prospect related you wish for me to cover in the future.
Friday 2-1 OT Loss vs Abbotsford
The weekend started off great in their first game against the Abbotsford Heat. The Comets quickly dominated the game and ended up outshooting Abbotsford 17-9 in the first period alone. Final SOG were 44-30 in favour of Utica, with Friesen managing to get the Comets on the board (short handed) only 8 minutes into the first (assisted by Welsh).
But that was all the Comets could do as Joni Ortio stood on his head stopping everything else that came his way. It was a goal at the end of the second period with, what the referees determined was 0.1 seconds left, that allowed Abbotsford to tie it up. The Comets ended up going to OT where Street scored the winning goal against them with 2:19 left.
The Comets thoroughly owned the puck this game but could not get the two points they desperately needed. That’s how puck luck goes sometimes. DeFazio led the team with 10 SOG himself and the team set a new record for shots-for with 44. While Eriksson gave it his best, making 28 of 30 stops and earning a quality start, it was not enough though to earn them the win.
The PP went 0 for 2 and the PK went 2 for 2. Friesen earned the third star. Ferriero and Stuart, two key players for the Comets, are injured still and don’t look to be coming back this season. Corrado was also not in the lineup for this one, thanks to his ill-advised and unnecessary call-up by the Canucks.
Saturday 7-2 Loss vs Abbotsford
Playing back-to-back games the Comets went right back to facing Abbotsford on Saturday night and boy did they get their teeth kicked in. The Heat completely and utterly dominated play the entire game; Utica looked tired and sloppy which is no excuse since Abbotsford also played the previous night.
By the third period the Comets should have turned on score effects (but they didn’t). They had a lazy forecheck and there looked to be little offensive effort. I even saw a few guys try to sneak onto the bench to avoid another -1 (okay, that part is a joke, obviously, since Alexander Ovechkin isn’t a Comet). The only good thing I could notice was the Comets were denying Abbotsford access to their home plate and grade-A scoring chances were fairly even for both teams.
I don’t even think the defense corps showed up to play with Sauve looking, to my eyes, the worst of the bunch. The Comettes had better on-ice skills than Sauve did on Saturday. Eriksson also looked bagged, which isn’t all that surprising, since you PROBABLY SHOULDN’T PLAY YOUR GOALTENDER IN BACK-TO-BACK NIGHTS!! (then again, Ortio once again looked good, and he started the night before as well so what do I know, right?)
The Comets lost 7-2 with SOG in favour of Abbotsford 38-34. Biega and Welsh led the team with 5 SOG each, and they each had a goal apiece. Assists were given to Friesen (x2), DeFazio and Andersson. The second goal was another shorty and Friesen looked great setting up the first goal for Welsh.
The end of the game got physical with plenty of fights to go around. The PP went 0 for 2 (again) while the PK went 3 for 4. Two short-handed goals does look good.
Eriksson was terrible in this game, making 19 of 24 saves. He was pulled halfway through the game and Cannata came in for relief making 12 of 14 saves. One of those goals against was a penalty shot.
Sunday 3-2 Win vs Iowa
The Comets had a chance to salvage the weekend and at least earn a few more points when they played the Iowa Wild at home Sunday afternoon.
8 minutes into the game things didn’t look great already as the Comets were down 2-0, but they managed to fight back and ended up winning 3-2 with SOG in favour of the Wild 34-24.
The goals were credited to Pelletier, Welsh and DeFazio, while the assists were given to Corrado (x2), O’Reilly and Pelletier (x2).
The Comets could have used more of Corrado this weekend. He made it back to Utica just in time for the game. He skated in warm up with the Canucks on Saturday night, but by 10 pm PST he was on a flight to JFK airport in NY. He took a cab to La Guardia and then flew to Syracuse, driving to Utica to make it in time for the Comets warm up with the start of game at 3pm Eastern.
Cannata got the start in this game and he played good enough, making 32 of 34 stops and earning a Quality Start.
Blomstrand, Canucks Army’s Top Prospect, got to play in this game with his call up. He earned 2 PIM (which lead to a goal against) and a -1 on the night.
The PP went 1 for 3 and the PK went 4 for 5. The Three Stars went to Pelletier, Corrado and DeFazio.
Players stats who have played at least one game with the Comets, (X) indicates not currently on the active roster, so far are:
|17||Nicklas Jensen (X)||C||20||51||15||5||20||0.39||141||2.76||-4||24||10.6|
Goalies so far:
- Jeremie Blain reassigned to Utica
- Frank Corrado recalled by Vancouver
- Frank Corrado returned on loan to Utica
- Mike Aviani signed to PTO
- The Utica Comets statistics took a nose dive this weekend, especially due to Saturday’s game. On the year the Comets have been outscored 162-194 (-32 goal differential) and outshot 1942 to 2001 (-59). A rough possession estimate puts them at 49.25%.
- From a PDO perspective the Comets continue to be below 100% with a 7.9 Sh% and a 90.7 Save% gives them a 98.6% PDO. Eriksson’s numbers have nose-dived again going back down to .912 (he was .916 on the year). Isn’t it coincidental that his Sv% drops always from the second of back-to-backs? Cannata has improved his Sv% now to .903 on the year.
- Special teams keep on keepin’ on. The PK went 9 for 11 this week dropping them to 25th place with a 79.64% kill rate, while their PP went 1 for 7 keeping them steady at 20th place good for 16.23% efficiency.
- Fun Fact I learned #1: “Since Jan. 18, the Comets have been the AHL’s third highest producing team with 39 points, courtesy of an 18-8-3 record. Utica, which trails just St. John’s and Chicago in points during that span, has moved into sole possession of 11th place in the Western Conference, five points shy of the final playoff position with two games in hand.”
- The last point is from the pre-gamer on Saturday night. Coincidentally that date is around the same time that Jensen started producing and Eriksson started to really settle in.
- Looking at their playoff push the Comets are in 11th place with 68 points. They have 2 games in hand on 8th place and are 7 points behind. It is possible for the Comets to grab that last spot, but still a longshot at best.
- SportsClubStats also produces odds for AHL teams to make the post-season. Currently the Comets are sitting with a 1.6% chance which dropped a lot after this past weekend. They will need ~83 points to have a highly likely chance of making the playoffs which requires the Comets going at least 7-0-2.
- Hockey can become a game of ‘what ifs’ but despite that, random chance plays a large role. With Corrado missing those two losses the Comets might have came out of the weekend with a much needed extra point or two. The worst part is that Corrado didn’t even get a chance to play for the Canucks.
- Nicklas Jensen continues to play in the NHL and this week he saw a smaller role and less production than the week before. I’d imagine that he’s somewhere in between. Right now he is averaging 15.7 min/game, has 6 points in 12 games and his Sh% still remains high at 14.3%. His Cf% rel is a positive +4.0%. He’s still fitting in with the Canucks and playing in the top 6 doesn’t hurt.
- Fun Fact I learned #2: Utica and Rochester, maybe a 1.5-2 hour drive apart play each other 10 times in the season. Utica and Abbotsford, 5,000 km apart play each other 12 times in the season.
- I was at the game on Saturday night and I must say: I saw Friesen play in November and seeing him now he has made a huge jump in development. It’s too early to say now if it is just the increased TOI with injuries but he’s getting noticed out there. I’d say he’s overtaking Mallet on the prospect list.
- Brandon DeFazio was nominated “Man of the Year” by Utica for all of the charitable contributions he makes to the community. Read more from the Utica Comets press releases.
- With 9 games left in the schedule the Utica Comets look to face their last back-to-back-to-back of the season. On Friday the Comets will face Toronto at home. Saturday the Comets make the 45 minute trek West to Syracuse and then up North to play Toronto on Sunday. Canucks fans in Toronto should try and get out to that game and support your farm team.
- Don’t forget to vote for Audie for AHL Mascot of the Year. Currently he sits in fourth.
- The Utica Comets have signed Spokane Chiefs over-ager Mike Aviani to an Amateur Tryout Contract (ATO). At this time of year AHL and ECHL teams are handing out ATO like they are candy. Having discussed with Brendan Burke (The Comets play-by-play man) I learned that this is quite common. It only covers the costs of players basic living expenses but allows teams to evaluate them while giving the players a foot in the door. It is also useful as if a player has an ELC they can be signed to an ATO with their AHL affiliate without burning a contract year. Great for asset management.
- I find the Mike Aviani signing interesting as I am always thinking of the Comets in the big picture. Vancouver Canucks run the Comets Hockey Operations and Spokane is well within their area of operations. I would guess that Vancouver scouts saw something in him and management wants to give him a further look with Utica. But looking at his numbers I doubt we will ever see him in the NHL.
- Mike Aviani is an over-ager and never saw much success in the WHL till his OA year which is usually not a good sign. Looking back to his 16/17/18 yo seasons he barely reached over .6 PPG as an 18 yo centre. Not a good indicator for NHL success. This year he earned 81 points in 69 games, the first season to go over 1.00 PPG. He could provide some depth to Utica so we will have to watch him in the remaining 9 Comets games. His usage chart from Spokane is below and the Utica Comets press release can be found here.
- Comets’ Rewind [Canucks.com]
- AHL Power Rankings
- Reddit discusses Canucks propsects in the OHL playoffs
|Miles Liberati||D||1995-06-21||18||North Bay||7||0||1||1||0.14||-1||6|
|Jordan Subban||D||March 15, 1995||19||Belleville||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
- In the OHL the playoff race continues as the second round began on Wednesday night. The London Knights have been matched up with the Guelph Storm while the Erie Otters will be facing the Soo Greyhounds. In the West Kingston saw a Toronto-style collapse having been up 3-1 in the series before winding up losing. North Bay, meanwhile, advanced to face Niagara while Oshawa will play Peterborough.
- Erie is the first OHL team to play a game in the second round and currently they are leading the Soo 1-0. Gaunce earned 2A, +2 and 2 PIM in this one game while Fox earned a +1.
- In the last three games of Kingston’s series McEneny scored 1 goal and 1 assist while earning a -1 and 2 PIM. It would not be surprising to see him earn an ATO with the Utica Comets for the rest of the season.
- Miles Liberati played in the remaining seven North Bay games earning 1 assist.
- Both Bo Horvat and Cole Cassels had the week off, waiting for their 2nd round matchup to get underway.
|Hunter Shinkaruk (IR)||L||1994-10-13||19||Medicine Hat||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
- In the WHL the Playoffs are about to start with the second round. Portland, the number 2 seed, has been matched up with Victoria Royals, the number three seed. Both teams swept their first round opponents. Meanwhile, Medicine Hat will be facing the Kootney Ice.
- Portland has not played a game in the last week so Cederholm has not had any new activity.
- Right now Shinkaruk wishes he could be helping the Tigers.
|Ben Hutton||D||1993-04-20||20||Hockey East / Maine||35||15||14||29||0.83||8||119||3.40||12.61%||8|
|Jeff Costello||LW||1990-11-20||23||Hockey East / Notre Dame||41||13||9||22||0.54||8||125||3.05||10.40%||73|
|Joseph LaBate||F||1993-04-16||20||Big 10 / Wisconsin||35||12||10||22||0.63||-2||94||2.69||12.77%||16|
|Patrick McNally||D||1991-12-04||22||ECAC / Harvard||18||1||7||8||0.44||-5||33||1.83||3.03%||10|
|Mike Zalewski||F||1992-08-18||21||ECAC / Rennsselar||36||12||9||21||0.58||6||65||1.81||18.46%||11|
|Mike Williamson||D||1993-09-05||20||Big 10 / Penn State||25||2||4||6||0.24||-3||42||1.68||4.76%||34|
|Matthew Beattie||F||1992-12-14||21||ECAC / Yale||21||4||2||6||0.29||4||29||1.38||13.79%||17|
- Notre Dame played one more game on Saturday in the NCAA Regional Semifinals against St. Cloud State. They ended up losing 4-3 and despite his best efforts Costello was only able to walk away with 5 SOG.
- Last Friday night University of Wisconsin played North Dakota in the NCAA Midwest Regionals losing 5-2.
- All other universities are finished for the season and did not play this week.
- The awards and recognition keep coming in for Hutton’s great year. Today he was named New England’s Best Defencemen
- Because of his call-up to Utica Blomstrand did not play an ECHL game this week.
- David Pacan in two games with Kalamazoo scored 1 assist, earned a -2, 4 SOG and 2 PIM.
- A disappointing week for Sacha Guimond as in 3 games he earned a -2, 1 SOG and 2 PIM.
- No games for Wes Myron (IR) or Jeremie Blain (AHL) this week.
|Mathieu Corbeil||ECHL Gwinnett||1991-09-27||22||G||6||312||18||3.46||2||3||0||133||0.881|
|CHL St. Charles||G||6||236||21||5.35||0||2||1||103||0.831|
- Another week of no action for Corbeil, that’s been 4 weeks now without a game. He’s still listed on the roster so I can only assume they really don’t want to play him.
|Anton Rodin||W||1990-11-21||23||SHL Brynas||47||12||23||35||0.74||-11||38|
|Ronalds Kenins||LW||1991-02-28||23||Swiss ZSC||39||8||17||25||0.64||15||40|
- No more action for Anton Rodin this year, Brynas was eliminated last week by Farjestad BK.
- While ZSC is in the second round of the NLA playoffs, currently winning 2-1 vs Geneve, Ronalds Kenins has not play a game this week.