CanucksArmy Utica Comets Post-Game: Cull’s Comets drop the Crunch 3-2 in Coach’s Return to Syracuse

Utica Comets Post-Game Report

Game Four | Saturday, October 24th, 2017

Game four of Utica’s seven-game road trip brought the Comets to Syracuse to face the Crunch. Comets head coach Trent Cull spent the 2002/2003 and 2003/2004 seasons as a player in Syracuse along with two stints there as an assistant coach from the 2006/2007 season through to the 2009/2010 season as well as the 2013/2014 through 2016/2017 seasons with three years as head coach in OHL Sudbury sandwiched in between them. Comets associate coach Gary Agnew also has ties to Syracuse having spent the 2000/2001 through 2005/2006 seasons there as head coach.

Today’s game is the first of twelve meetings this season between the Comets and Crunch. Last season saw the teams looking pretty evenly matched with the season record of five wins, five losses and one shootout loss for each team. The Comets’ record coming into the game was one win combined with two losses while the Crunch sported one win, one loss and one overtime loss. The leading scorers for Utica before today were Reid Boucher with five assists and Nikolay Goldobin and Carter Bancks with three points each. For the Crunch, it was former Comet Cory Conacher and Mitchell Stephens with three points apiece.

Trent Talk

Cull won his first game as an AHL head coach yesterday, and when interviewed before today’s game he said it felt good to get the first one out of the way. He also dropped a great line, “show me good coaches and I will show you, good goalies”. He said this mentioning how Thatcher Demko has such a calming influence on his team and how he makes it look simple in the net. When asked if today’s game was more important because it was against his former team, Cull’s response was simple, “Same as any other game”. Not sure I buy that as I would imagine he did an inner fist pump as the final horn sounded to end the game.

The scratches today for Utica were: Zack MacEwen, (upper body injury, day to day), Wacey Hamilton, Anton Rodin and Jaime Sifers were the veteran scratches, and Danny Moynihan, Brendan Woods and Guillaume Brisebois also sat.

Comets Starting Lines

25 Darren Archibald – 11 Cam Darcy – 23 Jayson Megna

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77 Nikolay Goldobin – 34 Carter Bancks – 24 Reid Boucher

16 Joe LaBate – 21 Michael Chaput – 17 Alexis D’Aoust

58 Michael Carcone – 13 Griffen Molino – 9 Yan-Pavel Laplante

52 Philip Holm – 4 Evan McEneny

28 Patrick Wiercioch – 7 Jordan Subban

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6 Ashton Sautner – 5 Jalen Chatfield

30 Thatcher Demko

I have line combos listed above, however, with a total of 14 penalties called today, special teams work muddled the lines up into several combos throughout the game. Darren Archibald, Cam Darcy and Jayson Megna all sat last game, but they opened the game up front today for the Comets. On the backend, it was workhorse Philip Holm and Evan McEneny getting the nod. Thatcher Demko got the start in goal after posting a 33 save shutout the day before. Demko is looking like a goaltending Superman early this season with timely saves and his calm, poised demeanour in the crease.

Alexis D’Aoust got the game kicked off with a tripping penalty 2:23 into the first frame. Trent Cull used Bancks, Megna, Archibald, Chaput and Boucher on the PK up front with Mr Everything, Philip Holm, Evan McEneny, Patrick Wiercioch and Ashton Sautner were rolled out to help them. Boucher had an interesting kill, using his stick deftly one minute to poke a puck out of harm only to have his pocket picked on the same play. “200′ Boucher” is coming along, but he is still a work in progress. The Comets were able to kill off D’Aoust’s penalty along with the other six that they gave up on the day. The Comets penalty kill has been pretty effective so far this season, that said, they’ve had plenty of practice. In what is becoming a theme on the season, the Comets opened the scoring. Once again it was Nikolay Goldobin with the game-opening goal. Reid Boucher picked up his team-leading sixth assist with Holm picking up the other for his first of three points for the day.

The Comets were afforded three power plays in the first but were unable to convert on any of them with the following personnel, Goldobin, Bancks and LaBate with Holm and Boucher on one unit and Archibald, Chaput and Megna with Wiercioch and Subban on the other. Goldobin had a hiccup, coughing up the puck sending the Crunch in on a shorthanded two on one but they couldn’t convert. Jordan Subban twice slipped past Crunch defenders along the boards to get the puck in deep, but the Comets couldn’t get a puck past Michael Leighton. Subban used his speed again later in the period to draw a penalty on Michael Bournival, but again the Comets couldn’t convert. Former Comet Cory Conacher closed out the scoring for the first when he picked up his second goal of the season with less than a minute to go in the frame. Mat Bodie and Anthony Cirelli each picked up their second assist of the season on the Conacher marker.

The second period started much the same as the first with the Comets down a man early. This time it was Michael Carcone who took a seat for holding. Once again the Comets penalty killers proved better than the Syracuse power play. The teams spent the rest of the period taking turns on the power play as they each took three turns with the man advantage with the Comets the only team able to make hay with the man advantage. At 12:41 of the second, Philip Holm scored his first goal of the season. Carter Bancks picked up his third helper of the season while Goldobin picked up his second with the other helper.

Demko wasn’t just making saves in the second period, although he did stop all eleven that came his way. He was also sticking up for his teammates as Sautner and Conacher got tied up, and Conacher took exception to it. The former Comet jumped on Sautner and Thatcher intervened.

Demko did make a nice save or two as well.

Syracuse opened the scoring in the third when Erik Cernak beat Demko for a goal, his first career goal in the AHL. The assists went to Mitchell Stephens, his 3 of the season and Daniel Walcott with his first. The teams alternated penalties with two each in the third with the Comets being the team to capitalize on 50% of their third-period chances. Michael Chaput put the Comets up for good with his 3-2 tally on the power play, his first goal of the season. Evan McEneny picked up his first assist of the year, and Philip holm picked up his second of the night to go along with his second-period power play goal. It was a good night for Philip Holm, and Ryan Biech made mention before the game about how Holm was starting to get his feet under him in the AHL

That was it for the scoring in this game as the Comets delivered a 3-2 homecoming victory to their coaching staff.


Quick Hits

  • Jalen Chatfield reminded me of Chris Tanev when he broke in with the Canucks. He just seems like he has been in the league longer than he has. Sure he will have to spend some time in the AHL, but he is already an all situations player in his first year tasked with both power play and penalty killing minutes to go along with his even strength time.
  • Holm is also getting all situation minutes under Cull, and tonight it paid off with 3 points. Holm could end up being a nice find for Jim Benning if he can continue to adapt to the North American sized ice and the game that comes with it.
  • On a personal note, I would like to see Trent Cull have a look at a pairing of Holm-Chatfield for a few games. I feel like the two could compliment each other well.
  • Michael Chaput is having a steady start to his season in Utica. He is playing a responsible game, and I could see him earning an injury call-up for 4th line minutes when needed.

The Three Stars in the building tonight were:

3rd Star: Philip Holm

2nd Star: Mitchell Stephens

1st Star: Thatcher Demko

CanucksArmy’s Three Stars

3rd Star: Michael Chaput. Michael Chaput is putting in minutes on this Comets squad. While the fans in Vancouver had their fun with Chaput and his deployment under former coach Willie Desjardins, he is proving to be an important piece in Utica. Chaput plays the power play, the penalty kill and is centring one of the team’s top two lines each game so far this season. He was rewarded with a power play goal tonight when he tipped in a point shot by Ashton Sautner.

2nd Star: Philip Holm. Did Jim Benning find a hidden gem? That remains to be seen, but he appears to have found a serviceable player who may be in Vancouver getting minutes for the Canucks before the season is over. Holm picked up a goal and two helpers tonight and looked good doing it.

1st Star: Thatcher Demko. Once again I have to give that first star to Thatcher. The big second-year pro has started his season playing a calm and poised game which head coach Cull says translates to the rest of the team when he’s in the net. Demko not only made several big saves in this game he also came to the aid of Ashton Sautner when he thought former Comet Cory Conacher was taking liberties.

Next Game

Saturday, October 21st, 2017

4:05 pm Pacific time vs the Rochester Americans

  • Comets are the good news story, Canucks not so much.

    The play of Goldobin is so good in the AHL. I wonder why it doesn’t translate to the NHL the same way. I understand competition is more fierce, but still. Maybe he needs more seasoning, but good for him for playing well.

    Demko is an impressive young man. His development is right on schedule and I see him as our #1 soon. Next year as a backup and starter the year after that.

    Hope Chatfield and Holm continue to play well.

  • Dan-gles

    I understand the veteran rule and the crunch the comets are in because of the depth signings. But it really bothers me seeing Rodin sit in the press box. He is still around if you can’t afford him a chance let the go go somewhere he does have one.

      • Dan-gles

        They are only allowed to ice so many veterans and I think Rodin fits into the Canucks plans if he works out. So I assuming they are not wanting to supplant a player they are actually evaluating I get and expecting to play in Utica.