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Photo Credit: Cory Hergott

CanucksArmy Utica Comets Post-Game: The Comets Gritty Effort Earns a 5-2 Win Over The Marlies

Utica Comets Post-Game Report

Game #28 | Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

It has been a busy few days since the Utica Comets last played. We have seen a player called up to Vancouver, two players returned from Vancouver, one player returned to Kalamazoo, and one more player signed to a PTO.

The Comets have had an up and down season this year, and they aren’t where many fans had hoped they would be in the standings. There are some reasons why, and I took a quick look at some of those reasons and explain why it may not be a bad thing.

Moments after I posted this article, we found out that Reid Boucher had been recalled to Vancouver by the Canucks. I firmly believe that Reid has earned this recall, and hope that he has success while up in Vancouver. Boucher played for the Canucks last night and he had a solid game, drawing a penalty that led to a Thomas Vanek power-play goal.

While Boucher was on his way up to Vancouver, Ashton Sautner was on his way back to Utica. Sautner didn’t get into a game during his recall. I am quite sure that Sautner’s teammates and coaching staff are thrilled to have him back in Utica.

With Sautner back, and available for Utica, the parent Canucks assigned defenseman Mackenze Stewart back to the Kalamazoo Wings. Stewart played in two games while with Utica, picking up five minutes in the penalty box during his stay.

The next move up for the Comets was to sign forward Joel Lowry to a PTO. Lowry has been playing this season with the Manchester Monarchs of the ECHL, which makes him teammates there with one of the Comets other try-out players, Tony Cameranesi. Lowry is the son of former Canuck, Dave Lowry.

We would also find out from Andy Zilch today that Cam Darcy is banged up and won’t be able to play in today’s match.

The final move to tell you about before we get to our regularly scheduled programming is that Michael Chaput has been returned by the Canucks. Chaput had been with the Canucks since December seventh and went pointless in three games.

There are a couple of details about the Chaput reassignment that I wanted to share with you and Ryan Biech of CanucksArmy did an excellent job of ironing out the wrinkles for us.

It would be the powerhouse second overall Toronto Marlies rolling into town today to take on the depleted 20th place Comets.

The Marlies power-play was sitting 21st overall with a 15.5% rate of conversion, while their penalty-kill was operating at a sparkling 91.1% to have them sitting first overall in that category. The Comets were sitting 13th overall on the power-play, operating at an 18.1% effective rate, while their penalty-kill sat 11th with an 83.3% rate.

The Marlies were led in scoring by forward Ben Smith, who had put up 12 goals and 11 assists, good for 23 points in 28 games. Defenseman Justin Holl was the Marlies’ blueline leader with 12 points in 24 games this season.

The Comets top two scorers are up with Vancouver right now and their third leading point getter, Michael Chaput wasn’t available to play today. This left defenseman Philip Holm as the Comets leader today with 12 points in 20 games. Jayson Megna, Zack MacEwen, and the injured Cam Darcy were all tied with 11 points coming into today’s action.

The Comets were coming off of a 3-2 overtime loss to Rochester over the weekend, while the Marlies had dropped their previous two games to the Manitoba Moose.

The Marlies had gone 7-3-0-0 over their previous 10 games while the Comets were 4-2-4-0 over the same span. So far this season, the Marlies had scored 88 goals while giving up just 56. The same can’t be said for the Comets, as they had scored 73 and given up 84 coming into today.

The season series favored the Marlies by a 3-0 count, with the Marlies outscoring the Comets 12-6.

Scratched today for the Comets were: Darren Archibald, (injured), Wacey Hamilton, (injured), Evan McEneny, (injured), Jaime Sifers, (injured), Yan-Pavel Laplante, (injured), Cam Darcy, (injured), Michael Chaput, Cliff Watson, and Anton Cederholm.

Comets Starting Lines

16 Joe LaBate (A) – 20 Brendan Woods – 17 Alexis D’Aoust

15 Zack MacEwen – 34 Carter Bancks (C) – 23 Jayson Megna (A)

13 Griffen Molino – 19 Cole Cassels – 58 Michael Carcone

22 Joel Lowry – 27 Tony Cameranesi – 14 Brady Brassart

28 Patrick Wiercioch – 5 Jalen Chatfield

53 Philip Holm – 55 Guillaume Brisebois

6 Ashton Sautner – 8 Dylan Blujus

30 Thatcher Demko

Thanks once again to @Cometstalk for the early heads up on who was wearing the “A”s today and some line combo info.

The Comets got off to a good start and managed a pretty solid first period of play against a very good team. Jayson Megna would open the scoring just 36 seconds into the opening frame. The speedy winger flew down the left side and fired a puck past a surprised Calvin Pickard. The goal was Megna’s fourth of the season. Philip Holm was credited with his 10th helper of the season on the goal. Unfortunately, Megna would not finish the period for the Comets. More on that in a minute.

Less than two minutes after the Megna goal, he would take coincidental minors with Rinat Valiev. Valiev was sent off for delay of game, while Megna took a tripping penalty.

Michael Carcone, who has been playing great recently, got a nice chance in the four on four play but Pickard managed to get his shoulder on the puck to keep it out of the net.

With the teams still playing with four skaters aside, Dmytro Timashov tied the game when he scored his ninth goal of the season. Miro Aaltonen earned his 11th helper of the year on the play, while Sam Jardine picked up his first.

Ben Smith was whistled for hooking at the 6:48 mark and the Comets would get their first look on the power-play. Megna would set up Philip Holm for a point shot and the blueliner would squeeze one past Pickard to put the Comets up 2-1. For Holm, it was goal number four on the season, while Megna and Carter Bancks each picked up their ninth assist of the season on the play.

The PTO line of Joel Lowry, Tony Cameranesi, and Brady Brassart had a nice chance to put the Comets up 3-1, however, Lowry would end up in the net, instead of the puck.

Thatcher Demko was sharp, making a nice save on a scramble in his crease to keep the Comets up 2-1.

At the 9:47 mark, Miro Aaltonen threw a hit on Megna and the Comets winger was in obvious pain. Megna lay writhing on the ice as the trainer came out to give him a look over. The trainer helped Megna, who was holding a towel to his face, off the ice and the Comets goal scorer would not return for the first.

With the Comets on the power-play, Carcone put a puck on net and MacEwen and Bancks banged away at it but couldn’t beat Pickard.

The Comets were doing a good job of keeping the Marlies at bay.

Philip Holm was sent off for holding the stick at the 17:07 mark and the Comets penalty-kill went to work. The Comets were able to kill off the Holm minor and finished the period up 2-1.

The shot clock for the first period favored Utica by a count of 13-6.

When the Comets rolled out for the second period, they did so without Jayson Megna, as the winger was done for the day after the hit he took in the first period. Megna started the game looking like he was going to be the guy to step up today. Who would step up in the second period in Megna’s absence? Michael Carcone, that’s who, but I will get to Carcone in a minute.

Megna wasn’t the only player missing from the Comets bench in the second frame as Brendan Woods was also absent. I did not see what happened to Woods to force him from the game, but he did recently come back after missing time with an injury.

With Megna and Woods unable to finish the game, Trent Cull fired up the line blender and he had some decent results.

Cole Cassels, who has been playing very well of late, set up Philip Holm early for a chance but the steady Swede fired the puck into the chest of Pickard.

Alexis D’Aoust has wheels, and he uses them really well in the offensive zone. Game-in and game-out, D’Aoust has his feet moving and he makes life miserable for opposing defenders who have to be aware of him when he’s on the ice.

Carcone was also using his wheels to his advantage today, blasting past a Marlies defender on the forecheck to beat him to the puck and get it back to Molino at the point. Molino got a decent shot off but once again, Pickard was equal to the task.

Ben Smith would tie the game at two at the 7:09 mark. For Smith, it was goal number 13 of the season. Aaltonen picked up his 12th helper of the season, and second of the day.

At the 10:21 mark, Sam Jardine was sent off for slashing to send the Comets to their third power-play of the day. Thatcher Demko would be forced to make a shorthanded save on Colin Greening as the Comets power-play couldn’t get anything going.

Guillaume Brisebois and Joe LaBate were making their presence felt as the period wore on. Both men were showing their physical side again.

Demko had to make a few big saves in the middle frame, including a break by Timashov, and back to back saves off of Michael Paliotta, and Calle Rosen.

LaBate was sent off for tripping at the 15:21 mark and the Comets penalty-killers went back to work. Griffen Molino was getting some penalty-killing and some power-play time today and he looked pretty solid on the kill.

Carcone, who has been red-hot of late, put the Comets up 3-2 with just under two minutes left in the period. Carcone’s goal was a great second effort goal and exemplifies the type of player he is. This dude plays hard. For Carcone, it was goal number five on the season and his fourth in his last six games. Zack MacEwen picked up his 10th assist of the season on the Carcone goal.

The shots were closer in the second period, with the Marlies holding a 13-12 advantage.

The third period started with the Marlies getting a great chance when Jalen Chatfield blew a tire and coughed up the puck, but Demko was being Demko and made the save to bail out his defender. Chatfield is no shrinking violet though, and he made up for his gaffe with more than a few shot blocks today. Have I mentioned that he reminds me of Tanev?

The Comets had a short bench with Megna and Woods out, and the coaching staff was doing a great job of rolling quick shifts to keep the undermanned team fresh.

Carcone was once again showing his speed as he used his wheels to separate himself from two Marlies defenders to get a quality shot off, but once again, Pickard flashed the leather and made the save.

The Comets were getting some chances early, but Pickard was standing his ground. Sautner had a nice shot, but Pickard got a pad on it.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the four PTO players were playing today. With a short bench, they were all thrown to the wolves, so to speak. Dylan Blujus was having a solid game on the backend and I found myself impressed by Tony Cameranesi today. Cameranesi spent a few seasons in the Maple Leafs system, which meant that he was facing off against some of his former teammates.

At the 6:04 mark of the final frame, Martins Dzierkals took a holding penalty on Cole Cassels and it appeared that Cole all that interested in being held. Cassels flipped his mitts off and tried to get Dzierkals to throw down, but the Marlies winger wanted no part of it. Each man sat for two minutes with Cassels picking up a roughing penalty and Dzierkals getting sent off for holding.

During the four on four play, Demko made a sprawling save off of Aaltonen to keep the Comets up a goal.

Jalen Chatfield was once again doing great work in his own end. He uses his stick well to break up plays along the boards as well as in front of the net.

Ashton Sautner was sent off for cross-checking at the 10:18 mark to put the Comets penalty-kill back to work. The Marlies managed some good pressure and had a good amount of time in the Comets zone, but the home team was showing the league’s best penalty-killers how it was done. Chatfield was blocking shots and when Demko was forced to make a scrambling save, Griffen Molino was there with a timely clear to get the puck out of harm’s way.

Molino is picking a good time to pick up his game. It could also be that he has more to offer and is just now getting the chance to show it with all of the call-ups and injuries that the Comets have been facing. Injuries and call-ups make for opportunities, and right now opportunity abounds in Utica for the bottom of the lineup players to show they can handle more minutes.

As I said, the lines were in the blender for this one and Trent Cull may have stumbled upon a trio that he may want to keep together when the team gets healthy. Zack MacEwen, Carter Bancks, and Alexis D’Aoust looked incredible on a shift where they were forcing their way around the Marlies zone, attacking without the puck and attacking harder with it.

Thr trio had the puck in the Marlies zone and they were looking dangerous. The puck made its way to Sautner for a point shot and D’Aoust tipped it past Pickard. The shift that led to the goal was something to behold, especially considering that the Comets were playing with just 10 forwards for the bulk of the game. It was goal number seven of the season for D’Aoust, while Sautner earned his third helper of the year.

Just 23 seconds after the D’Aoust goal, Michael Paliotta was sent off for slashing. It was Molino, using his speed that drew the penalty. The man can skate. That’s one thing you have to say about the Comets, for the most part, they are a speedy team.

The Comets had some good pressure on the power-play and it finally paid off as the Paliotta penalty was about to expire. Patrick Wiercioch leaned into a Dylan Blujus offering and hammered the puck past Pickard. That makes goal number five on the season for Wiercioch, to give him 10 points in 15 games with the Comets. Blujus’ assist earned him his first point with the Comets in a game that he played well in. D’Aoust picked up his fourth helper of the season on the goal as well.

The Comets would win this one by a score of 5-2. That is some pretty impressive work. The 20th place Comets just beat the second place Marlies in a game in which they were using four players from the ECHL who are on pro try-outs with the team. They were also missing their entire top line and top three scorers. Oh, and they lost two more players to injury before the second period started. They beat the league’s best penalty-kill for two goals on four opportunities. It was a gritty effort from a hard-working team.

The shots for the third period favored the Marlies by a count of 15-9 but were even at 34 apiece for the game.

Today’s Official Boxscore

The Three Stars in the Building today were:

3rd Star: Zack MacEwen. One assist

2nd Star: Michael Carcone. One goal.

1st Star: Alexis D’Aoust. One goal, one assist.

CanucksArmy’s Three Stars

3rd Star: The PTO Four. Okay, I know, I’m cheating here. But since this whole “Comets Three Stars” thing is something that I made up, I can break the rules. This win was a team effort, and the four newcomers all chipped in to make this win happen. Not all of their efforts were rewarded with points, but they all contributed to the win in their own way. Dylan Blujus picked up an assist and has looked pretty solid since he came on board. Joel Lowry was in his first game with the team and understandably looked to be playing on adrenaline, but he had some decent shifts. Brady Brassart put a couple of shots on the net and showed some speed, while Tony Cameranesi looked like a guy who was playing against the team that gave up on him. It was a solid effort all around from the PTO Four.

2nd Star: Michael Carcone. Carcone picked up his fourth goal in his last six games and looks to be getting on a nice little run. He is a gritty, hard-working player and he can fly. Carcone put seven shots on net today…seven. Those are Reid Boucher like shot totals. His motor is always running and for a guy who isn’t the biggest fellow on the ice, he sure likes to go to the dirty areas and get down to work.

1st Star: The Rookie Two. Okay, here I go cheating again, but I already set a precedent with the third star today, so I’m going to go with it. The Rookie Two would be Alexis D’Aoust and Zack MacEwen. D’Aoust and MacEwen have been battling it out for the rookie scoring lead on the Comets since day one of the season. MacEwen now has 12 points, while D’Aoust has 11. Both players have stepped up this season in the absence of players like Archibald, Hamilton, Goldobin, Chaput, and Boucher. One of those players led the team in scoring last year and three of the others are the top scorers on this year’s squad. Those are big shoes to fill and the two rookies are more than keeping their heads above water.

Next Game

VS Toronto Marlies

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

4:00 pm Pacific