Courtesy of UticaComets.com
With the NHL embarking upon its 2+ week Olympic break, the Canucks have sent Kellan Lain, Frankie Corrado, Yann Sauve, and Pascal Pelletier all back to Utica in order to continue playing and developing over that time. If you’re coming here looking for answers as to what on earth has happened with the big club, those 4 being in the lineup are probably a good place to start.
But that’s not what this is about. This post is about the Utica Comets, who – with their incoming reinforcements – went up against the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday afternoon. The two teams engaged in a very exciting back-and-forth contest, and with the lack of NHL action to cover, we figured we’d recap it here.
Despite the Jensen Train stepping it up, the Comets were sent to OT, and ultimately a loss, due to a rather questionable call.
In case you’re unfamiliar, the IceHogs are Chicago’s AHL affiliate. They went into this game ranked 8th in the AHL West (23-21-4-2), but were particularly en fuego as of late, having lit the lamp 15 times in their past 2 outings. These two teams played each other just last Saturday, with the Comets losing 2-1 (with the goal by Pascal Pelletier being the bright spot in an otherwise foregettable affair).
With the 4 aforementioned players being sent down to the Comets, there’s now a roster crunch. Of all of the guys on PTOs, it appears that C.J. Sevryn will be the first to be released, but don’t be surprised if Lepine and/or Kennedy are also considered to be on the chopping block.
Cal O’Reilly and John Negrin are still on the IR, and Peter Andersson was actually just hurt in the previous game after being pushed into the boards (ruling him out for this one). Starting in net for the Comets was Eriksson, with a familiar face in Jason LaBarbera between the pipes on the other end.
The Comets came out of the gate pretty slowly, getting thoroughly outplayed by their opponent (largely due to the large number of power play opportunities the IceHogs were handed, it should be mentioned). Thankfully Joacim Eriksson came to play, stopping everything that was directed his way early on. Don’t look now, but his numbers are getting awfully respectable since that ugly stretch to start the season. It’s quite conceivable that he was just adjusting to his first taste of North American hockey, and has since been fantastic.
He can’t stop everything, though, and eventually Brandon Pirri – who should be on an NHL roster, and maybe even in a top-6 on most teams – got one through Eriksson’s five-hole following a turnover in the neutral zone. The shots were 14-7 in favour of the IceHogs after 20.
The second period was much more viewer-friendly, with the teams trading goals. Just 2:56 into the period the Icehogs managed to get another goal past Eriksson on his blocker side. Then 30 seconds later, birthday boy Darren Archibald sent a one-timer past LaBarbera to get the Comets on the board and bring ’em within 1. Archibald is now just 3 points shy of the career best he put up last year with the Wolves.
After the IceHogs scored on the power play to restore their 2 goal lead, it was all the Nicklas Jensen show. He went on to score a natural hat-trick within a span of 5 and a half minutes, which was weird to see, since the Canucks seemingly haven’t scored 3 goals as a team in the past month.
The first goal went top corner past the glove of LaBarbera off of a rebound from Tommernes. Two minutes later, Jensen scored again off a faceoff win, but this time on the power play. Jensen got this third goal four minutes later after being set up by a beautiful tic-tac-toe play from Grenier and Pelletier. Jensen had a fourth goal which was also waived off due to a high stick. The ladies in the crowd were probably disappointed, I’d imagine.
With the start of the third I was expecting score effects to show up but they did not as the Comets continued to control most of the period. The tide didn’t turn until there was 3:09 left in the period, when the Comets received an odd penalty. The team was given a bench minor for a faceoff violation that is not normally enforced (Rule 76.6).
Ferriero was deemed to have played the puck with his hand, but the replays pretty clearly showed that he had fallen and grazed it. Regardless, the IceHogs managed to score on the ensuing power play and sent the game into OT, where they won the game by a score of 5-4.
Goals in this game went to Jensen (x3) and Archibald (1), as I mentioned above. The assists were awarded to DeFazio, Mullen (x2), Tommernes (x2), Welsh, Pelletier and Grenier. Shots on net were in favour of the IceHogs 37-33. Eriksson made 32 of 37 saves and he is now ranked 8th in goaltender Sv% in the AHL.
This road trip has been fairly successful for the Comets, having earned 5 of their last 8 points despite not really having their main cast of players for most of it. They continue to close the gap in the standings with those above them and they probably will not be last in the conference for much longer.
Tommernes was hurt at the end of the third after he slammed into the boards and his leg bent awkwardly. He was assisted to the locker room so hopefully he is okay, otherwise it will be likely the Comets wont need to release Lapine from his PTO.
The Comets next game will be on Friday night in Rochester after the AHL All-Star Break (which, sadly, no Comets are a part of). Next Saturday the Comets play at home vs. the Americans and then on Sunday the Comets travel to Toronto to play the Marlies. We’ll hopefully have some post-game coverage following all of those affairs.