Comets Militia: Down on the Farm – November 21st, 2014

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Courtesy: UticaComets.com

It’s been
another week of play down in Utica with the Comets have a lighter load as they
prepare for the Frozen
Dome Classic
, the most important regular season game of the year.  The Comets have continued their win
streak and all of the underlying numbers continue to look good.  News must have travelled to Vancouver, as Jim Benning has even made some moves to bolster the depth for a possible Calder Cup
run.

Without
keeping you any longer, read past the jump for all the latest down on the farm!

The Utica
Comets continue to expand their lead in the AHL as they are still sitting in
first in their division with 26 points and a 12-2-2-0 record.  They are 7 points ahead of second place
Adirondack, who have played 16 games as well. 
In the conference, the Comets maintain a stranglehold on first place
three points ahead of Rockford who are in second, and San Antonio in third, all
with 16 games played.  As the Comets are
sitting in 1st place in the league it’s a good time
to remember
 that one year ago the Comets were sitting 30th with just 6
points.

But is this
all PDO driven and their results don’t reflect the process?  Well, through 16 games the Comets have
out-scored their opponents 45-28 (+17) while out-shooting them too 503-445
(+58).  The Estimated Fenwick-Close puts
the Comets still at a very elite 58.29% and while that is not likely to be
sustained for the season, the Comets can revel in also sitting at first in the
possession standings.

Some bad
news to deliver though; while the Comets are good and will continue to be good,
it’s not likely they will be this
good.  The PDO of the Comets is at
102.65% mostly thanks to the great play of the goaltenders.  The league average in the AHL last year was
.910 so it’s not reasonable to expect the goalies to maintain a .937, although it’s possible that the Markstrom/Eriksson tandem will continue to provide elite AHL goaltending, resulting in a higher than average true talent PDO.  Thankfully, the shooting percentage is fairly
normal at 8.95%, so Utica’s offense appears fairly sustainable.

The Comets
also saw their special teams decline this week but it appears to be the team
regressing to their true norm.  The penalty
kill went 4 for 5 dropping their 87.30% efficiency down to 7th place
– maybe Travis Green should look at what Winnipeg is doing.  To give some credit to the team
the penalty kill is not nearly an issue relative to their power-play which is
sitting at 24th.  Much like
last year the Comets, this year’s have never been able to have much success with their
power-play, which went just 1 for 9 this week.

Friday’s,
4-3 Win @ Chicago



The Utica
Comets started off their week by playing in Chicago, the current affiliate of
the St. Louis Blues and the previous affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks.  In the line up for the Wolves was none other
than former Canuck Brent Sopel.  The Comets started off
slow, but the shot clock ended up being split between the two teams.  The Comets scored right out of the gate with Brandon DeFazio being awarded a penalty shot after being hooked on a breakaway.  Frank Corrado also had his first professional fight
in the first period, fighting Cody Beach.  

The second period started with the Wolves tipping a slap-shot past Jacob Markstrom to tie it up, but the Comets came back with Hunter Shinkaruk tapping in the
puck in the crease, followed up with Alex Grenier redirecting a Brendan Gaunce wrister from
the wing past the Wolves netminder.  

In the third period, the
Comets were winning 3-1, but thanks to a late push fueled in part by score effects, Chicago managed to tie up the
game.  With only three and a half minutes remaining, Shinkaruk was able to score the game winning goal to win the game with a lucky
bounce off his dump in from centre ice. 
The final score was 4-3 for the Comets, and they also outshot the Wolves 32-31.

Brent Sopel

Utica goals
were credited to: Hunter Shinkaruk (2x), Brandon DeFazio and Alexandre
Grenier.  Assists were given to: Kane
Lafranchise, Brendan Gaunce, Cal O’Reilly (2x), and Brandon DeFazio.  Henrik Tommernes has been sitting out the
last few games with an illness.  Jacob
Markstrom was in net making 29 of 32 saves and the three stars were given to Shinkaruk, DeFazio and O’Reilly. 

Wednesday,
3-2 Win vs Hamilton.

Wednesday
night saw the Montreal Canadiens affiliate head to Utica.  Rene Borque was in the line up for Hamilton
in his last game before being traded, and Alex Friesen returned to the line up for the first game since game 1 of the
season.  Jim Benning was supposed to attend
the game, like Gillis did last year, but the snowstorms in upstate New York
prevented him from arriving.  ESPN scout and prospect guru Corey Pronman was in the stands tweeting out some of his thoughts as well.

The first
goal came from Grenier, who carried the puck in off a pass from Cal O’Reilly,
made a dirty toe-drag, and put it in the net on the backhand. Two and a half
minutes later, the Bulldogs were able to score after a deflection off a player
in front of the net and was credited to Magnus Nygren (who
hates Hamilton
).  Then, the Jensen train
took over as he was able to recover a loose puck off a Bobby Sanguinetti slapshot,
and put it in the net.  Jensen was able
to score again as him, Friesen and Kenins were able to make a few cross-ice
passes to beat goaltender Mike Condon. 

The final
score was 3-2 for the Comets, as Rene Borque notched the last goal.  The Comets owned the shots as well to a count
of 30-21.  Assists were credited to
Friesen (2x) who continues his AHL domination (or PDO high), Bobby Sanguinetti,
Ronalds Kenins, and Cal O’Reilly (who has 17 points in 16 games and is 7th
in scoring in the AHL
; maybe he should be considered for an NHL job).  Joacim Eriksson made 19 of 21 saves and the
three stars were given to Nicklas Jensen, Joacim Eriksson, and Alex
Friesen. 

Pronman had
a few things to say that can be summarized as follows:  

Grenier had a highlight reel goal, active
all-around though he is not 100% sure if he is an NHLer but he is a 6’4”
forward with speed and skill.  Shinkaruk,
Grenier and O’Reilly are getting a lot of minutes and Corrado is playing in all
situations.  Nicklas Jensen had a
power-play goal that showed off his high skill level. Grenier, Jensen, Corrado
and Shinkaruk all had a good game while Utica dominated possession.

Player
Statistics

Name Pos GP G A PTS +/- PIM PPG SOG SoG/G Sh%
16 Cal O’Reilly C 16 1 16 17 3 6 1.06 23 1.44 4.35%
21 Dustin Jeffrey C 9 4 6 10 5 4 1.11 18 2.00 22.22%
28 Alexandre Grenier RW 13 5 4 9 6 15 0.69 31 2.38 16.13%
17 Nicklas Jensen RW 12 6 2 8 3 6 0.67 34 2.83 17.65%
24 Brandon DeFazio RW 15 5 3 8 2 14 0.53 45 3.00 11.11%
6 Bobby Sanguinetti D 15 2 6 8 13 0 0.53 28 1.87 7.14%
9 Hunter Shinkaruk LW 16 4 3 7 3 8 0.44 36 2.25 11.11%
10 Brendan Gaunce LW 16 1 6 7 5 0 0.44 28 1.75 3.57%
36 Wacey Hamilton C 14 1 5 6 5 23 0.43 22 1.57 4.55%
3 Alex Biega D 16 1 5 6 5 4 0.38 31 1.94 3.23%
15 Ronalds Kenins LW 14 3 2 5 5 15 0.36 20 1.43 15.00%
7 Henrik Tommernes D 13 2 3 5 -2 4 0.38 25 1.92 8.00%
34 Carter Bancks RW 15 3 1 4 3 7 0.27 22 1.47 13.64%
25 Darren Archibald LW 16 1 3 4 2 40 0.25 30 1.88 3.33%
26 Frank Corrado D 11 2 1 3 3 13 0.27 21 1.91 9.52%
40 Peter Andersson D 16 2 1 3 12 10 0.19 16 1.00 12.50%
2 Travis Ehrhardt D 9 1 2 3 4 8 0.33 10 1.11 10.00%
8 Alex Friesen C 2 0 2 2 2 2 1.00 4 2.00 0.00%
14 Mike Zalewski LW 10 1 0 1 0 2 0.10 11 1.10 9.09%
4 Kane Lafranchise D 2 0 1 1 -2 0 0.50 2 1.00 0.00%
18 Patrick Kennedy RW 3 0 0 0 1 0 0.00 6 2.00 0.00%
11 John Negrin D 4 0 0 0 -1 0 0.00 3 0.75 0.00%
29 Kent Huskins D 8 0 0 0 1 2 0.00 4 0.50 0.00%

Goaltenders

Name GP Min GA SO GAA W L OT SA SVS SAV%
1 Jacob Markstrom 8 483 10 4 1.24 7 0 1 222 212 0.955
2 Joacim Eriksson 8 485 18 0 2.23 5 2 1 223 205 0.919

Transactions

  • Bobby
    Sanguinetti recalled to Vancouver.
  • Wacey
    Hamilton has been signed to an AHL Standard Player Contract (SPC) so he doesn’t
    have to live in a hotel.
  • Travis Ehrhardt has been signed to an AHL SPC.
  • Carter Bancks has been signed to an AHL SPC.
  • Nicklas Jensen has been returned from Vancouver.
  • Jeremie Blain has been sent back to Kalamazoo.
  • Bobby Sanguinetti has been returned from his brief trip to Vancouver.
  • Curtis Valk has been returned to
    Kalamazoo having played in 1 game with no counting stats in very limited time
    on ice.
  • Kellan
    Lain
    has been traded to Edmonton / Oklahoma City.
  • Will Acton has been traded from Edmonton to Vancouver, most likely is to bolster Utica’s depth for a possible Calder Cup run.
  • Mitch Holmberg (aka WHL’s Dane
    Fox) has been traded from Oklahoma to Utica as part of the Acton/Lain deal.  He is on an AHL contract and has 1 assist in 1 AHL game this season, but also just 1 assist in 8 ECHL games with Bakersfield.

Schedule

There are three
games on the schedule for the Comets this week, with a game on Friday @
Rochester where the Comets won their only game against the Amerks this
year.  Last season, Rochester dominated
the series to a tune of 3-7-0-0.  Saturday
is the most important regular season game of the year: The Frozen Dome Classic.  The Comets will be facing off against
Syracuse, who the Comets beat twice last year, en route to a 2-0-1-1 record and 
winning the Galaxy Cup in the Thruway Throw-down.  With a few days off
the Comets then have a re-match against Syracuse at home on Wednesday the 26th.

Other News

  • Willie Desjardins on why Jensen was sent back to Utica [The
    Vancouver Sun
    ]
  • Canuck’s lack of Forward development is a concern [The
    Province
    ]
  • Where is
    the Canuck’s next franchise defencemen? [Ultimate
    Hockey Network
    ]
  • Vancouver tries to cover news on their latest prospect but fails to provide any real depth.  C’mon Canucks! You’re being out-written by a blog with no resources! [Canucks.com]
 
  • DCR

    No words to describe how much I hate Cody Beach. Dirtiest kid I played against in my life. We were like 15, and our goalie was skating to the bench for a delayed penalty, and so he crosschecked him from behind, head first into the boards. Hands down most gutless play I have ever seen. Don’t know what the hell is wrong with that guy, but he’s another breed.

  • DCR

    Wow Frankie got absolutely DESTROYED by Cody Beach. Good thing hockey fighting on its way out, because we won’t be relying on Corrado’s fighting skills in the future!

    Cody Beach deserves to be taken out back and taught a lesson though, what a d!ck.

  • DCR

    Good to hear that the injury to Hammy “probably” isn’t as bad as we all thought. My heart sank watching him glide slowly off the ice. Canucks showed both sides last night sluggish 1st period, fantastic 2nd, then just dead tired and a Dman down in 3rd and OT.

    Having the depth and youth in Utica will be key to the Canucks future. Having a Shinkaruk ready to step in means a second or third line forward like Hanson or even Higgins could be trade bait. Jensen will hopefully deveope a little bite to his game given his size, but all in all having a productive AHL team brings up productive players. Ask the Kings, Manchester has been pretty successful for them.

    Plus by the time Shinkaruk and Jensen are ready to step in McCann and Jake V will probably be ready for some pro games in Utica. Too bad Bo can’t go there to play against men, but he has played well enough to stick around and learn how to be an NHL player