Utica Week in Review: March 4th

Gaunce 3

Photo credit: Lindsay A. Mogle / Utica Comets

The Comets began the post-Shinkaruk era last weekend, and fared better than some might have expected. They managed to gain four points, going 2-1-0, and are still in a playoff position, but some personnel issues are beginning to creep in. Brendan Gaunce has been recalled, and the injury bug has returned at the worst possible time.

Still, compared to watching the Canucks, the Comets were looking just fine last week. Here’s the weekly recap of the goings on down on the farm.

The Games

February 26th vs St. John’s: 4 – 1 Win

The Utica Comets scored in every period Friday night, including two goals in the second period, to defeat the St. John’s IceCaps 4-1 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Carter Bancks (1-1-2), and Brandon Prust (0-2-2) had multi-point nights for the Comets, while Chris Higgins (1-0-1), Mike Zalewski (1-0-1) each tallied a goal in the Utica win. Richard Bachman made 28 saves in net for the Comets for his 11th win of the season.

From the Utica Comets post-game report.

Game 52

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February 27th at Lehigh Valley: 2 – 1 Win

Backed by goals from Alexandre Grenier and Jordan Subban, the Utica Comets defeated the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the third time this season with a 2-1 win at the PPL Center on Saturday night.
Joe Cannata made 20 saves in the win, while Alexandre Grenier (1-0-1), and Jordan Subban (1-0-1) accounted for all the scoring.

From the Utica Comets post-game report.

Game 53

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February 28th at Hershey: 5 – 1 Loss

The Utica Comets could not complete the weekend three-in-three sweep and were dropped by the Hershey Bears 5-1 on at the GIANT Center Sunday night.
Alexandre Grenier (1-0-1) scored on the power-play, for the Comets only goal of the evening, while Richard Bachman made 29  saves in the loss. Ronalds Kenins collected an assist on the Comets goal to extend his point-scoring streak to five games, and has run his point total to 11 points in his last nine games.

From the Utica Comets post-game report.

Game 54

Roster Report

Roster Information:

Nine days after losing their leading scorer, Hunter Shinkaruk, to a trade, the Comets will head towards this weekend without their new leading scorer, Brendan Gaunce, who was called up to the NHL on Tuesday.

In an effort to shore up their forward ranks, the Comets signed Gregor Hanson to a PTO. Hanson has split the season between the AHL and ECHL, and was the ECHL playoffs MVP last season with the Allen Americans.

Injury Update:

Blair Jones is still sidelined, but is inching closer to a return. Meanwhile, Wacey Hamilton has also gone down with an injury, as has Jon Landry, who is expected to be out a few weeks.

.Tonight”s scratches:

The Stats

# Player GP G A P +/- Sh PIM
15 R. Kenins 3 0 3 3 -2 9 2
26 B. Prust 3 0 3 3 -2 4 5
28 A. Grenier 3 2 0 2 -1 6 0
34 C. Bancks 3 1 1 2 -2 4 2
36 W. Hamilton 1 1 0 1 0 1 0
7 J. Subban 3 1 0 1 0 5 7
14 M. Zalewski 3 1 0 1 -2 11 2
21 C. Higgins 3 1 0 1 0 11 0
20 J. Landry 1 0 1 1 0 3 0
5 D. Shields 2 0 1 1 0 4 0
37 A. Pedan 3 0 1 1 -1 10 6
27 T. Fedun 3 0 1 1 -5 5 0
22 B. Jones 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
11 J. Negrin 2 0 0 0 0 2 4
6 A. Sautner 2 0 0 0 -4 3 0
2 T. Ehrhardt 2 0 0 0 -1 4 0
13 B. Marino 2 0 0 0 0 1 0
10 B. Gaunce 3 0 0 0 -1 6 2
25 D. Archibald 3 0 0 0 -3 4 7
16 J. LaBate 3 0 0 0 -1 6 10
24 C. Cassels 3 0 0 0 -1 1 2
8 A. Friesen 3 0 0 0 -3 4 0

† Missed game(s) due to injury/illness; * Missed game(s) due to NHL call up.

Goalies:

# Goalie GS Record GA SA Sv% GAA
32 R. Bachman 2 1-0-1 6 63 .905 3.02
35 J. Cannata 1 1-0-0 1 22 .955 1.00

Joe Cannata got the best of Richard Bachman again this week, further solidifying the notion that he should be the one running with the starts when crunch time rolls around. To Bachman’s credit though, he didn’t let in any awful goals this week. That’s progress.

Prospects:

Ronalds Kenins continues to produce at a torrid pace, tallying three assists in three games. He’s only got 13 points on the season, but 11 of them have come in his last eight games. Kenins is currently riding a five game point streak, in which he has seven assists.

Alex Grenier had a pair of goals last week, continuing to put up points in the season stretch drive. A long midseason lull put a big dent in his point totals and he’ll be hard pressed to catch up to what he had last year, but the last three weeks have been the best he’s had all season.

Jordan Subban scored one goal last week, and it was an absolute rocket from the point. He continues to impress offensively.

Mike Zalewski had a goal last week, and now that Gaunce has been called up, Zalewski is the Comets leading goal scorer, with 13 on the year.

Andrey Pedan collected one assist, while Gaunce, Cole Cassels, Alex Friesen, Joe LaBate, and Ashton Sautner had no points.

Team Level:

The Comets outshot their competition 105-84 across the weekend. As as often been the case this season, the were strong in the first period, taking 29 shots on net while allowing 19. They were also strong in the third period, outshooting their opponents 44-34, although part of this was due to score effects in the Hershey loss.

The Comets were 1-for-11 on the power play last weekend, which is about the status quo for the last long while. This team was having enough trouble scoring on the man advantage with Hunter Shinkaruk waiting at the top of the right circle. Now not only are they without him, they’ll be without Brendan Gaunce this weekend. Yikes.

Their penalty kill was better, killing eight of nine penalties. This is another area where Gaunce will be sorely missed, in addition to the fact that Wacey Hamilton, their best faceoff man and top of the rotation penalty killer, is injured. Luckily they’ve got Chris Higgins and Brandon Prust, veteran players with NHL penalty killing experience, to make sure they stay on an even keel.

Leaders:

Brendan Gaunce might be up in the NHL for a little while, so this weekend is the chance for someone else to pass him on the Comets leaderboard. For now, he sits on top.

Comets Point Leaders - Mar-3PNG

Player of the Week

This week’s award goes to Alexandre Grenier, the only Comet with multiple goals in a week that didn’t see much offence from the good guys. After going a tortuous length of time between goals, Grenier has managed to pot a bunch of goals in the past couple of weeks.

It’s a great time for Grenier to regain that scoring touch and physical presence that put him on Canucks fans and management’s radar last season. Following a trade deadline in which the Canucks did nothing, GM Jim Benning vowed to give extended looks to some of the organization’s younger players. Grenier is on the short list to get a look in Vancouver sometime before the end of the season.

Looking Ahead

Since the Comets had such a great time playing a three-in-three set last weekend, they’re going to do it again this weekend. And just to up the ante, they’ll play the AHL’s runaway powerhouse, the Toronto Marlies, twice in a three day span. Good times.

The weekend festivities kick off at home on Friday as the Marlies come to town, and again on Sunday in Toronto. Everyone knows that the Marlies are damn good, but surely the promotions of top prospects William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman and Nikita Soshnikov will level the playing field a little bit?

Alright then.

In between those two Toronto games, the Comets will host the same Albany Devils mentioned in that tweet. The Devils are 7-2-1-0 in their last ten games and have won four of the six games in the season series between the two teams thus far.

Utica is clinging to the third spot in the North Division right now, keeping them in guaranteed playoff position as long as they can fend off the St. John’s IceCaps. A three game weekend against the two teams above them in their division will certainly test their fortitude. With only 22 games until the playoffs, the stretch drive is very much on for the Comets.

AHL Standings - Mar-3



  • Oilerchild77

    Its interesting to see how last year it was a priority for all of the prospects to go through a winning environment, particularly with AHL trades for Connacher and Acton. Whereas this year, the Canucks seem to be gutting Utica to assess the prospects in the big club. For all the noise that people raise with Gillis (no trades, poor drafting, goaltender fiasco- winning hockey and Stanley Cup appearance aside) – I think not having a proper farm system to develop prospects was his biggest fail. Who knows, maybe if Schroeder, Polasek, Rahimi et all were better developed, they may have been legit NHL’ers. I don’t recall if Syracuse was completely controlled by Canucks – but it seems the integration between Utica and the Canucks is much better. Its not as sexy as trading Hamhuis for 2 crap prospects and a fourth rounder, or trading Vrbata who’s wife is due in a few months for a 5th rounder – but it helps with prospect development.

    • Spiel

      The Canucks purchased a franchise when Gillis was GM and president. The bought the team in Peoria and moved them to Utica. Gillis said getting their own AHL affiliate was very important.

      Before that they used the Manitoba Moose and Chicago Wolves as affiliates. Manitoba seemed to be a good relationship, Chicago not so much.

  • Steampuck

    “Goddam it Lindenning, call up all the kids and play them in the NHL”

    “Goddam it Lindenning, you called up ONE PLAYERs and now Utica has been gutted, thus destroying their winning environment and endangering the future of all our prospects!”

    A just got a little bit more of the “ol Canucks Army whiplash.

    But seriously folks, I’d like to see Curtis Valk and maybe Dane Fox and Anton Cederholm called up from the ECHL for a look in Utica – unless of course Canucks fans are concerned about the “winning environment” of the Kalamazoo Wings.

  • Steampuck

    Next season looks like a rough road ahead for the Comets. Shinkaruk is gone. Gaunce should make the big show. Pedan and Grenier will most likely make it as well as both look NHL ready and require waivers. Kenins will require waivers. Lots of new faces and a new look for Utica next year.

    We may see Carl Neill and Tate Olson.

    I wonder if Chris Higgins gets bought out or spends the year in Utica waiting for a callup. Prust is gone. Lookup his mugshot on the Comets site. This guy looks pissed, Higgins too.

  • Oilerchild77

    In other news, Tryamkin just signed with the Canucks.

    Now they need to work things out with the league and get him permission to work here. We might see the big guy play within a couple of weeks!