Utica Comets Post-Game Report
Game Six | Saturday, October 28th, 2017
The Utica Comets made the last stop of their season starting seven-game road trip today as they played the first game of a back to back series with the Charlotte Checkers. The two teams will hook up again tomorrow morning at 10:00 am Pacific in the same Bojangles Coliseum that they played in today. This was the first time that the Comets have played the Checkers in the five seasons that they’ve been in the league.
The Checkers have played two games more than the Comets, most recently coming off a 6-4 victory over the Toronto Marlies. The Comets were coming off of a three-game winning streak with their latest win, a 5-1 defeat of the Rochester Americans. The Checkers top three scorers before the game today were F Lucas Wallmark with 3-8-11, F Valentin Zykov with 5-3-8 and F Andrew Miller with 1-6-7. Jake Chelios came in as their top scoring defenceman with 1-4-5. All but Chelios would add to their point totals today. For the Comets it was F Reid Boucher leading the way with 2-6-8, Nikolay Goldobin with 3-4-7 and Carter Bancks with 1-5-6. Philip Holm leads the Comets blue line with 1-4-5. None of the above Comets players would be able to extend their points totals today.
The Comets have scored 14 goals while giving up 10 in their first five games while the Checkers have scored 27 goals while giving up 23 in their first seven games of the season. Excellent special teams have been a staple for the Comets thus far this season with the Utica team coming into today’s action with their power play running at a league-best 31%, and their penalty kills sitting at a very respectable 90%, good enough for third overall in the league.
The scratches listed for Utica today were: Yan-Pavel Laplante, Griffen Molino, Jayson Megna, Michael Carcone, Cam Darcy, Jaime Sifers and Wacey Hamilton. Both Darcy and Carcone are banged up while the others were healthy scratches. Getting into the Utica lineup today for their first games of the season were, Zack MacEwen who had been out with an upper-body injury, and Cole Cassels who had been nursing an injury since camp with the Canucks. Brendan Gaunce also played his first game since a shoulder injury sidelined him late last season in Vancouver. Gaunce is back in Utica on a two-week conditioning stint from Vancouver. In other roster news since Utica last played, defenceman Patrick Wiercioch has been recalled to Vancouver, Thatcher Demko was rewarded for his early season success with a short recall to help the team with their LTIR/Salary Cap manoeuvring and has since been returned to Utica. Michael Chaput and Cole Cassels were returned from Vancouver as well, while Gaunce was sent down for the aforementioned two-week conditioning stint.
In his pregame interview, Comets head coach Trent Cull was asked about what he liked about his team so far this season. Cull is thrilled with his special teams and praised associate coach Gary Agnew for his work with the Comets penalty kill, citing his ability to make the game to game tweaks that are allowing the Comets penalty kill to sit near the top of the league. He also likes how his power play is clicking. Another area that he is happy with is how his team does a good job on the backcheck and his team’s transition game. One thing he would like to change is the amount of shots that his team has been giving up, seeing that as an area that needs improvement.
Comets Starting Lines
25 Archibald (A) – 20 Brendan Woods – 15 Zack MacEwen
77 Nikolay Goldobin – 34 Carter Bancks (C) – 24 Reid Boucher
10 Brendan Gaunce – 21 Michael Chaput (A) – 8 Anton Rodin
16 Joe LaBate – 19 Cole Cassels – 17 Alexis D’Aoust
6 Ashton Sautner – 5 Jalen Chatfield
52 Philip Holm – 55 Guillaume Brisebois
4 Evan McEneny – 7 Jordan Subban
32 Richard Bachman
Trent Cull opted to start a newly formed line against the Checkers when he rolled Darren Archibald, Brendan Woods and Zack MacEwen over the boards along with the regular defensive pair of Sautner and Chatfield. At 6’3, 212lbs, Archibald is the “small guy” on that forward line, with Woods and MacEwen, listed at 6’3, 222lbs and 6’4, 211lbs respectively. That is a lot of size on one line, and all three can get around the ice pretty well. I am interested to see if this line becomes a regular thing and if so, what kind of damage they can do as a unit. Thatcher Demko sat today in favour of Richard Bachman, who by the way came into today tied with Jayson Megna with one assist…I was happy to see Megna taking a seat in favour of Anton Rodin today and would like to see that continue.
The first period saw the Comets rolling four lines with quick shifts. Cull had a handful of players who were either getting into their first game of the season or their first game in a couple, and I think that played a part in that decision. This was not an exciting period of hockey with only a total of twelve shots between the two clubs. Reid Boucher did manage a nice hit on the forecheck just inside the Charlotte blue line. I find myself wanting to see Boucher back in Vancouver more each game. There was one power play in the first period, and that went to the Comets when Sergey Tolchinsky went off for high sticking. The Comets were unable to score with the man advantage, but it was interesting to note that while Reid Boucher manned his now familiar right side point on one power play unit, Anton Rodin manned the left side point on the other unit. Rodin didn’t manage to pick up any points today. However, he did finish the night being credited with four shots on net. Brendan Gaunce wasn’t shy about testing out his shoulder in his first game back after a long recovery from shoulder surgery. He didn’t look timid going into the corners or mucking his way into the slot in traffic. The Comets managed to keep the Checkers to just one shot on net in the final ten minutes of the first period. With just over two minutes left in the frame, Boucher was flat out robbed by the glove of Charlotte netminder Alex Nedeljkovic, who was a perfect 4-0 coming into today’s game. With Boucher unable to ripple the mesh, it was the first time this season that Utica hasn’t scored in the first period. The period ended with the Comets going 0-1 on the power play while outshooting the Checkers 8-4. Evan McEneny led the Comets with three shots on net with Boucher picking up two of his own. Rodin, MacEwen and D’Aoust were credited with the other Comets shots in the first.
The second period is where things started to unravel for the Comets. Checkers forward Andrew Miller opened the scoring just 37 seconds into the period with his second goal of the season. Phil D’Giuseppe picked up his third assist of the season while Brenden Kichton picked up his first. Shortly after Jalen Chatfield managed a nifty pass to Anton Rodin in the Checkers zone but Rodin was unable to convert. Just over seven minutes after his first goal of the game, Andrew Miller struck again, this time with Lucas Wallmark collecting his ninth assist of the season while D’Giuseppe added to his assist total for the game, picking up his second of the day. The Comets thought they could get back into the game when Charlotte forward Nicolas Roy went off for slashing but once again the Checkers penalty killers had the Comets’ number. The Roy penalty was barley over when Sergey Tolchinsky put the home team up by three when he beat Bachman for his first of the season. Valentin Zykov was awarded his fourth assist of the season while Brenden Kichton added his second on the play. Just over two minutes later Philip Samuelsson notched his second goal of the year for the Checkers with Philip D’Giuseppe picking up yet another helper for his fifth while Roland McKeown earned his second. With five minutes left in the middle frame former Checker and current Comet PTO player Brendan Woods and Charlotte captain, Patrick Brown got into some brief fisticuffs which lead to both men being served with double minors for their efforts. Utica defenceman Guillaume Brisebois was caught flat-footed and took a two-minute break in the box for tripping with just over two minutes left in the second, but the Comets were able to kill his penalty. The second period also saw Reid Boucher create a nice turnover in the Checkers zone by pressuring the Charlotte player. Boucher is doing the little things that should get him noticed when call-ups come in Vancouver. We also saw Ashton Sautner trying to do his best Adam McQuaid vs Brock Boeser impersonation with these shot blocks….Sautner, to his credit, was able to finish the game.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) October 28, 2017
The Checkers were credited with ten shots on net in the second period while the Comets managed just four. Rodin and MacEwen were each credited with a shot on net while Nikolay Goldobin had two.
Rodin, Gaunce and Chaput started the third period with some sustained pressure in the Checkers end but were unable to score. At 2:28 of the third, Brendan Woods was whistled for tripping. Patrick Brown made him pay with his first goal of the season. Philip Samuelsson and Clark Bishop each collected their third assists of the season on the Brown marker. During that Checkers power play both Reid Boucher and Cole Cassels had shorthanded breaks that they were unable to convert on. The Brown goal was the first power play marker that the Comets have given up since October 8th vs the Marlies.
Brendan Gaunce finished up the scoring for the game when he buried a Joe Labate rebound to notch his first goal in….well…quite some time.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) October 29, 2017
The total shots on goal for the game ended up being 26-19 in favour of Utica. The Comets will be looking for different results when they get right back at it tomorrow morning at 10:00 am Pacific.
- Anton Rodin needs to play. Both of the Comets and the Canucks need to see what they have in this player, and unless there is still some lingering issues from his knee surgeries, he should be playing. I am all in favour of sitting Jayson Megna for a few games so Rodin can get some sort of rhythm going.
- Cole Cassels also needs to play…but he needs to stay healthy to do so. Injuries have been a problem for him since joining the organization. He was thrown right into penalty killing duty tonight in his first game and didn’t look too far behind. Hopefully, the young man can get through this season without any more setbacks.
- Trent Cull isn’t afraid to change things up with his lines when he is looking for a push. Having a coach who is willing to tinker when things aren’t clicking bodes well for the Comets. I feel that more players will get looks in different situations and someone could end up taking on responsibilities that show them in a new light with the organization.
The Three Stars in the building tonight were:
3rd Star: Alex Nedeljkovic – 26 saves
2nd Star: Andrew Miller – 2 goals
1st Star: Phil D’Giuseppe – 3 assists
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
3rd Star: Zack MacEwen. When a team gets whooped 5-1 it can be hard to pick three stars…so Big Mac is getting the third star for having a solid game in his season debut. MacEwen finished the night with three shots on net and looked like he could be a nice bookend for Darren Archibald. Having two big guys who can wheel around the ice and make some room while also having decent hands makes for an exciting 2/3rds of a line.
2nd Star: Brendan Gaunce. Gaunce jumped in with both feet today. He didn’t shy away from physical play and made his way into the corners and to the net front where the going gets greasy. He finished the day with his first goal at any level in a long time and that should hopefully build his confidence for when his conditioning stint is over.
1st Star: Reid Boucher. Boucher once again lead the Comets with four shots on net, (Rodin also had four). He is playing a well-rounded game for Cull. When I think of Reid Boucher I don’t generally think of a physical game, but he hasn’t shied away from any physical play, in fact, he often initiates physical play on the forecheck. I see good things coming for Boucher if he can continue to play the way he has thus far in Utica.
Sunday, October 29th, 2017
10:00 am Pacific