Utica Comets Post-Game Report
Game #21 | Saturday, December 2nd, 2017
What a difference a day makes. Here is a little before and after exercise resulting from the Comets, Sound Tigers tilt yesterday.
Before the game yesterday, The Comets were 21st overall in the league, however, after picking up a point in their overtime loss, they were now 20th overall. The Sound Tigers finished the game still sitting ninth overall for their efforts.
The Comets’ power-play jumped up from seventh overall to fourth after going two for five yesterday, however, their penalty-kill plummeted from sixth to 18th after giving up four goals on five penalty-kills to Bridgeport. The Sound Tigers’ power-play moved up from 23rd overall to 10th, while their penalty-kill fell from 11th to 15th.
The Comets had a record of four wins, five losses and one overtime loss in their last 10 games. The Sound Tigers meanwhile, had seven wins, two losses and one overtime loss in their previous 10 contests.
The Bridgeport points leaders remained the same, but their point totals took a jump after yesterday. Tanner Fritz, who scored the overtime winner yesterday, was still their overall leader with 24 points in 18 games. Sebastian Aho was their points leader on defense while also holding the same title for the Bridgeport rookies with 16 points in 20 games.
The Comets, however, had a new leader atop the points board. Reid Boucher came into today as the new points leader with 22 points in 18 games. Philip Holm was still the big shooter on the backend with 11 points in 18 games. Patrick Wiercioch may soon be knocking on his door though. With Holm currently injured after taking a crushing open-ice hit yesterday, and with Wiercioch having six points in just seven games played this year for the Comets, I think there is a strong chance that we will soon see a battle for the points lead on the Utica blueline. Zack MacEwen had wrestled the rookie scoring crown off of the head of Alexis D’Aoust after his hard-working two-point effort yesterday.
Scratched for the Comets today were: Darren Archibald, (injured), Jaime Sifers, (injured), Yan-Pavel Laplante, (injured), Wacey Hamilton, (injured), Evan McEneny, (injured), Brendan Woods, (injured), Richard Bachman, (injured), Philip Holm, (injured), Jordan Subban, (injured), and Danny Moynihan.
Whew, that injury list wore me out. The Comets have been hit hard by the injury bug so far this year, which has been a double-edged sword. On one hand, the team would likely have a better record if they had been healthier this season, on the other hand, young players are getting looks in situations that they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. Players like MacEwen and D’Aoust up front, and Brisebois, and Chatfield on the blueline are getting chances to show that they can be everyday players and can play some special teams when needed. The AHL is a league for developing players, and that is just what Trent Cull and his staff are doing in Utica.
I need to make a note here. The feature image used in this post was taken by Alex Cooper for the Utica Observer-Dispatch. I neglected to credit the photographer for the photo in a rush to get my article posted. I apologize for this miscue.
Comets Starting Lines
24 Reid Boucher – 21 Michael Chaput (A) – 15 Zack MacEwen
16 Joe LaBate – 11 Cam Darcy – 23 Jayson Megna (A)
34 Carter Bancks (C) – 19 Cole Cassels – 58 Michael Carcone
13 Griffen Molino – 22 Brian Ward – 17 Alexis D’Aoust
6 Ashton Sautner – 55 Guillaume Brisebois
28 Patrick Wiercioch – 5 Jalen Chatfield
57 Mackenze Stewart – 2 Anton Cederholm
30 Thatcher Demko
It was Star Wars Night in Bridgeport, which meant the home team was wearing these groovy jerseys today.
It would also be Reid Boucher’s 300th professional game today.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) December 3, 2017
Today would also be Brian Ward’s debut with the Comets. Ward was recently signed to a professional try-out by Utica. The newcomer was wearing number 22 for the Comets today. More info on the Ward PTO in the link below.
Comets Add Forward Brian Ward on PTO https://t.co/bV060lOTSR
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) November 22, 2017
Mackenze Stewart was also making his Comets season debut today. Stewart was summoned from Kalamazoo on November 20th and got into his first action today. Stewart was wearing number 57.
Utica Comets Recall MacKenze Stewart From Kalamazoo Wings https://t.co/bFLbmC0Wew
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) November 20, 2017
After what was an exciting game yesterday between these two teams, the first period today was a letdown. These two teams looked tired to open the game. It was about as lackluster a period of hockey as I’ve seen from the Comets this season.
I would like to tell you that the two teams picked right up from yesterday and played a fast-paced, back and forth period of hockey. I would be lying if I did. There were a total of 10 shots taken between both teams in the opening frame…10. That would be six from Bridgeport and a paltry four mustered by Utica.
Mitchell Vande Sompel was sent off for high-sticking at 8:31 of the period. Maybe a power-play would inject some life into this game? ‘Fraid not. The Comets couldn’t get anything going with either of their power-play units, although the did give up a shorthanded chance.
The Sound Tigers got the next power-play about three minutes later and they faired no better than Utica did. The Comets were able to kill the Ashton Sautner hooking penalty.
Seth Helgeson was sent off for interference at the 16:12 mark of the period. With the Comets missing some key pieces of their power-play due to injury and recall, they were using Michael Carcone on the point on their second unit. We have seen this before this season, but I’m not sure he is the ideal player to use there. The Comets couldn’t get any traction on their second power-play of the day and finished 0-2 on the PP in the first.
Boucher had two of the Comets four shots in the first, with Brisebois and MacEwen getting the other two.
Would the second period be any more exciting than the first? Nope, sorry. The period did kick off with a fight between 6’4″ Mackenze Stewart and 6’4″ Ross Johnston though. At the 2:15 mark the two behemoths dropped the gloves and threw down. The best I can do to describe this tilt would be to tell you that Johnston fed a steady diet of rights to the back of Stewart’s head before the two went to the box for five minutes each.
About 40 seconds after that scrap, Brisebois and Stephen Gionta took coincidental minors to send the teams to four on four. For Brisebois, it was two minutes for hooking, while Gionta was sent off for a high-stick.
Before those two fellows would exit the box, Cole Cassels would put the Comets down another man when he took a cross-checking penalty. Trent Cull would send Carter Bancks out with Jalen Chatfield and Patrick Wiercioch to kill off the four on three and they would get the job done.
Demko was a little bit busier in the second period than he was int he first and he looked sharp on a couple of saves.
Zack MacEwen would be whistled for holding with about 11 minutes to go in the middle frame. The Comets would manage to kill off the MacEwen minor.
Scott Eansor thought he put the home team up by a goal when he put the puck past Demko. Sorry Scott, but your teammate Travis St. Denis was being whistled for roughing on a delayed penalty. No goal said the ref.
Guillaume Brisebois was getting some first unit minutes on this power-play and he fed a sweet pass to Boucher, who couldn’t get the puck past Sound Tigers goalie Kristers Gudlevskis. Bridgeport would kill the penalty.
The period ended with Tanner Fritz beating Demko for a goal with just 33 seconds remaining in the middle frame. For Fritz, it was goal number seven on the season. Sebastian Aho picked up his 10th helper of the season on the play, while Gionta earned his first.
All hell broke loose after the faceoff and there were some heavy hitters out on the ice. LaBate, Stewart, and Cederholm were all tangled up with Bridgeport players but it was Joe LaBate and Helgeson who would drop the mitts. Both men threw some wild haymakers but neither would connect with anything of consequence. Both players were issued five minutes for fighting and two each for roughing.
The second-period shot clock favored the Sound Tigers by a count of 11-10.
The third period would be a little more exciting than the previous two, but not until late in the frame. Things started out with Griffen Molino taking a slashing penalty 2:25 in. Thatcher Demko made a nice save to keep his team in it before Sebastian Aho took a penalty of his own just 44 seconds after Molino sat down.
With the teams playing at four on four, Boucher got a puck to the net and Chaput and MacEwen crashed the crease trying to force the puck past Gudlevskis but the netminder was able to hold the fort for the Sound Tigers.
Three minutes later, it was Wiercioch headed to the box for slashing. The Comets penalty-kill was doing great work to keep themselves in the game. They could also thank Demko for saves like this one.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) December 3, 2017
Demko would make another splits save shortly after and would stay down on the ice just long enough to make any Comets fans who happened to be watching a little bit uncomfortable. Thankfully Thatcher was able to stay in the game.
At 11:27 Boucher would take just his second penalty of the year when he was whistled for boarding. I have heard a lot of talk since the Canucks acquired Boucher about how he is lazy, about how he is a defensive liability, about how he is in terrible shape, about how he can’t skate. You would think that if a player was truly “that player”, that they would be spending copious amounts of time in the box for hooking, tripping, slashing, interference etc. But for Reid, this was just his second minor penalty all season.
The Comets did their job on the kill, but once again, it was Demko with a big save on a Steve Bernier one-timer. Demko was doing what number one goaltenders do, he was keeping his team in the game and giving them every opportunity to win.
With 6:19 left in the third, Kyle Burroughs was sent off for interference. Once again, Brisebois was out for the first unit and he managed a pretty sweet reverse spin-a-rama pass at speed to Boucher who shot the puck wide. Breezy Gui has some hands when he wants to use them.
With 2:20 left on the clock, Michael Dal Colle was sent in alone and Demko came up big again. Demko was very good in the third for his team.
With just 18.5 seconds remaining in the game, Joe LaBate corraled a loose puck in the slot and he fired it on the net. The puck just trickled through Gudlevskis to tie the game at one. For LaBate it was goal number four on the year and his second in as many games. I wonder if Joe sees an opportunity in Vancouver for a man of his talents now that Dorsett has had to hang up his skates. Jayson Megna earned his sixth helper of the year on the play, while Cam Darcy was credited with his eighth. That make two games in a row that the Comets were able to send the game to the extra period in the waning seconds.
The overtime period would see Demko make a big save off of Vande Sompel before the Sound Tigers were whistled for too many men on the ice. The Comets had their chance to win the game with the extra attacker but were unable to register a shot.
The game was off to the shoot-out. It would take five shooters from each team to settle this one. Tanner Fritz, the overtime hero yesterday was the lone shooter to beat Demko. Boucher scored on Gudlevskis and then Carcone fired home the winner.
The total shots in this game ended up favoring Bridgeport by a count of 33-22. Demko made the saves when he needed to today.
The Three Stars in the building today were:
3rd Star: Joe LaBate. One goal.
2nd Star: Tanner Fritz. One Goal
1st Star: Michael Carcone. Game winner
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
3rd Star: Guillaume Brisebois. Brisebois has been asked to do more of late than he was being asked to do at the start of the year and the rookie is handling himself well. Brisebois made a few nice plays today and showed once again that he can bring a physical element to his game. He won’t be blowing guys up on the regular, but he uses his body well to protect the puck and separate opponents from it.
2nd Star: Joe LaBate. LaBate scored in the second consecutive game and his goal today allowed his team to make it to overtime. I have been calling for LaBate to break out soon and it looks like the big fella might be doing just that. There could be an opportunity for him in Vancouver soon if he can keep up his recent play.
1st Star: Thatcher Demko. Demko made 32 saves today in regulation and overtime, including 15 in the third period. He also made four more in the shoot-out to do his part for the win. Demko made a few game-saving stops today when his team was on the ropes and hanging by a thread. Today marked four straight starts for Demko, including a 40 save, overtime game 24 hours earlier. It is a workload like this that will get him ready for when it’s his turn to take on work in Vancouver.
VS Syracuse Crunch
Wednesday, December 6th, 2017
4:00 pm Pacific