Utica Comets Post-Game Report
Game #55 | Friday, February 23rd, 2018
4:00 pm Pacific
The 27th overall Laval Rocket, (Montreal affiliate), rolled into Utica today to take on the fifth-ranked Comets for game number 55 of the Comets season. Laval had 46 points coming into today, while the Comets had accumulated 68 points thus far this season.
The Rocket brought the league’s 12th ranked power play into today’s game, operating at 18.2%, while their penalty kill was clicking along at 77.3%, which had them sitting 29th overall in that category. The Comets had the league’s fourth-best power play with a 20.5% effective rate, while their penalty kill was sitting in sixth place, operating at 85.0%.
The Rocket were led in scoring up front by Chris Terry, who had put up 43 points in 39 games this season, while defenseman Matt Taormina led their backend with 40 points in 46 games. Niki Petti was their rookie leader with 11 points in 44 games this season.
Reid Boucher led all Comets players with 44 points in 40 games, while Patrick Wiercioch was their active leader on defence with 24 points in 38 games. Wiercioch is having a very good season in Utica and could be on the radar of a playoff team or two as a depth piece. Zack MacEwen led all Comets rookies with 30 points in 49 games this season.
Laval was coming off of a 4-2 loss to Toronto, while the Comets last played to a 6-4 loss to Lehigh Valley. Utica had a home record of 12-10-3-3, while Laval had a road record of 10-9-4-1. Laval had gone 2-7-1-0 over their previous 10 games, while the Comets had gone 8-1-0-1 over the same span.
The Rocket had been outscored 184-168 by their opponents so far this season, while the Comets had outscored their competition by a count of 162-151.
Zack MacEwen came into the game today sitting tied for 16th in AHL rookie scoring with his 30 points. While he may be in tough to catch Curtis Valk’s rookie scoring record of 46 points in 75 games set last season, he is only one point back of Hunter Shinkaruk’s 31 that led Comets rookies in the 2014/15 season, has already surpassed the 26 points that Jordan Subban led Comets rookies with, in the 2015/16 season, and he is only nine points back of the 39 points that Alex Grenier led with in his, and the Comets’ first AHL season of 2013/14. I won’t count MacEwen out from matching or surpassing Valk’s record though, as the big rookie has spent his entire career proving people wrong and besting their expectations of him.
Laval and Utica had faced off in five games already this season, with the Comets holding a decisive four-games-to-one advantage, though the Rocket did win the first game of the season between the two clubs by a score of 5-4.
In other Comets news, Richard Bachman has been returned to the Comets by the Vancouver Canucks.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) February 23, 2018
Scratched today for the Comets were: Carter Bancks, (injured), Yan-Pavel Laplante, (injured), Brendan Woods, (injured), Jayson Megna, (injured), Jaime Sifers, (injured), Joe LaBate, (injured), Jalen Chatfield, (injured), Evan McEneny, (injured), Richard Bachman, (in transit), Justin Taylor, and Frankie Simonelli.
Comets Starting Lines
24 Reid Boucher (A) – 21 Michael Chaput (A) – 58 Michael Carcone
13 Griffen Molino – 36 Wacey Hamilton (A) – 15 Zack MacEwen
82 Andrew Cherniwchan – 11 Cam Darcy – 17 Alexi D’Aoust
22 David Dziurzynski – 19 Cole Cassels – 27 Tony Cameranesi
6 Ashton Sautner – 8 Dylan Blujus
44 Adam Comrie – 57 Mathieu Brodeur
28 Patrick Wiercioch – 55 Guillaume Brisebois
30 Thatcher Demko
The opening faceoff featured a duel between Michael Chaput and former Canuck forward Adam Cracknell. The Comets would head into the Laval zone where Michael Carcone picked off a pass and dished to Boucher who saw his shot turned aside by Laval goaltender Michael McNiven. Michael Chaput grabbed the rebound for a shot and McNiven denied him as well.
Michael McCarron came back the other way with a heavy shot off a drop pass that Demko got a pad on. Comets rookie Alexis D’Aoust used a solid hit to separate a Laval player from the puck in the defensive zone and he headed the other way. D’Aoust is a solid hitter.
The first five minutes of the period were pretty sloppy with neither team getting much traction. Daniel Audette got a wrister away that Demko got a pad on to send it to the corner. Audette came back with some speed, trying to dangle past newcomer Mathieu Brodeur, but the 6’5″ defenseman used his reach to tip the Audette offering over the glass.
Cam Darcy took a high elbow from Antoine Waked at the 5:42 mark and the Laval winger was sent off for elbowing. The Comets used up a good portion of their power play trying to gain zone time and stay there. Once they did manage to get a foothold, they showed some nice puck movement but were unable to make anything happen as the Rocket were blocking any shot from getting through.
After the power play ended, Tony Cameranesi caught Ashton Sautner with a one-timer pass and the defenseman fired a bomb on net that McNiven swallowed up. I would like to see Sautner shoot a little more, his shot has some mustard behind it when he gets it off.
Wacey Hamilton was once again playing a physical game and he was getting into Nikita Scherbak’s face after taking a high stick from the Laval winger.
Patrick Wiercioch has been playing well all season and he has been putting up some decent points. He came into the Laval zone and let fly with a hot shot and McNiven whipped out the mitt for the flashy save.
Alexis D’Aoust grabbed a turnover in the Laval zone and quickly put it on Boucher’s tape for a shot, but McNiven was equal to the task.
At the other end of the ice, Thatcher Demko wasn’t as busy, but he was playing the puck well when he had his chances to do so.
Zack MacEwen was whistled for tripping at the 10:55 mark and the Comets penalty killers got down to work. Nikita Scherbak quickly fired a puck on net that clanged off the bar, Tom Parisi got a point shot through that Demko grabbed and held onto for the whistle. The Comets would come up with a good kill.
David Broll and Mathieu Brodeur were sent off for roughing at the 13:44 mark when Broll came looking for trouble after a whistle. During the four-on-four play, Wacey Hamilton was doing a nice job of directing traffic when the puck was in the Comets’ zone, letting rookie Griffen Molino where to be on the ice. Brett Lernout had a point shot turned aside that was followed up by an Eric Gelinas shot that Demko also denied.
At the other end of the ice, Mathieu Brodeur uncorked a heavy shot off a Cole Cassels faceoff win, but McNiven swallowed it up. The two teams went back and forth with some sloppy play for a bit before Boucher took a Michael Chaput pass in tight and put it on the net, but McNiven said no.
Micahel McCarron was whistled for tripping with just six seconds remaining in the period and Laval would run the clock down to end the period on the penalty kill but not before Reid Boucher saw two of his shots blocked before they could get to the net. The Comets held an advantage of 11-6 on the shot clock for the opening period.
The Comets started the middle frame with a power play and once again, they had a hard time getting set up. Adam Comrie fired a point shot wide before Chaput hit Boucher for a one-timer that McNiven denied. Comrie got another heavy shot off from the point but it was no dice on the power play again for the Comets.
Markus Eisenschmid had a good look from the point with a shot, but Demko was ready with the save. At the other end of the ice, Ashton Sautner let fly with a low, hard shot that was tipped wide of the net.
The Rocket would go up 1-0 at the 3:03 mark when Chris Terry picked up his 21st of the season after his shot went in off the skate of Guillaume Brisebois. Adam Cracknell earned his 14th helper of the season on the play, while Tom Parisi picked up his sixth.
The two teams would go back and forth with Wacey Hamilton and Zack MacEwen coming with a heavy hitting forechecking shift.
Thatcher Demko gobbled up a wrist shot and held for a whistle. Adam Cracknell followed up with a cheeky backhander from an odd angle in close, but Demko was ready with the save and held on.
Jordan Boucher would put the Rocket up 2-0 at the 7:34 mark when he snuck a backhander through a crowd that beat Demko for his seventh goal of the season. Daniel Audette picked up his 15th assist of the season on the play, while Michael McCarron earned his 13th.
Demko had to make a save not long after that goal and Jeremy Gregiore and Guillaume Brisebois got a little greasy on the ensuing whistle before the officials stepped in. Demko followed up with another save, this time off the stick off Stefan Leblanc and more pushing and shoving took place after the whistle.
Michael Carcone was sent off for tripping at the 9:32 mark and the Comets would head back to the penalty kill. Cole Cassels was using some excellent stick work to twice break up plays and clear pucks out of the Comets zone on the kill.
There was an extended board battle in the Comets zone that ended with Michael McCarron wanting to dance with Patrick Wiercicoh. Wiercioch held on and the two were soon laying on the ice before each was assessed a two minute roughing minor to go with five for fighting. The Comets still had to finish killing off the Carcone minor, and they would, but not before Chris Terry had a dangerous looking shot redirected out of play by Adam Cracknell, who was looking for a tip in.
Terry would put the Rocket up 3-0 at the 14:16 mark, picking up his 22nd goal of the season when he cut hard to the net and lifted a backhander over Demko. Brett Lernout earned his sixth helper of the year on the play, while goaltender Michael McNiven picked up his first assist of the season.
Alexis D’Aoust was looking to get his team back in it with a shot that McNiven gloved down. More pushing and shoving began before the officials settled things down.
Reid Boucher was whistled for tripping at the 15:48 mark and the Comets penalty troubles continued.
There were some technical difficulties with AHL Live for the remainder of the period where there was no audio in the feed. It isn’t always easy to see who has the puck from the opposing teams as I can only see what the camera shows me. I often have to rely on the voice of the Comets, Andy Zilch’s play by play when the camera isn’t at a favourable angle. As such, you will get a stretch of action here where I was unable to tell you who was shooting the puck.
Demko first swallowed up a point shot and held on for the whistle before whipping out the glove for another save and another whistle. Demko followed up that glove save with another quick mitt off of a point shot. He made another save, this one through traffic, and the Comets would come up with a good kill.
Dylan Blujus finished up the period with a pair of chances that McNiven handled to send the Comets to the room down 3-0. Laval showed a 15-7 advantage on the shot clock for the middle frame.
The third period got underway and we saw rookie Guillaume Brisebois get turnstiled by Daniel Audette, who got a nice backhander away that Demko turned aside. Brisebois would make up for that turnstiling soon after.
The two teams would have a couple of minutes of sloppy play before Brisebois buried a one-timer past McNiven for his third goal of the season. Patrick Wiercioch earned his 17th helper of the season on the play, while Tony Cameranesi grabbed his fourth.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) February 24, 2018
There was more of the sloppy play after the goal before Michael Carcone caught Wacey Hamilton in the slot with a pass that the veteran ripped off the bar. Ashton Sautner followed up with a wrister and McNiven flashed the leather. Alexis D’Aoust came with a heavy shot off a Wacey Hamilton faceoff win, and McNiven was ready again.
With the Comets looking for some sort of spark, Trent Cull put the lines into the blender and we saw some different combos than we have been used to. The line juggling would only last a couple of shifts though before things would go back to normal.
Adam Cracknell came at Demko with a hot shot from just inside the blueline and the Comets netminder steered it over the glass. The Comets were looking flat in the third.
Michael Carcone hit Hamilton with a pass and he cut hard to the net but was unable to get it to go. D’Aoust followed up by doing the same, cutting hard to the net and forcing his way into the crease but he too was denied. D’Aoust followed up with another chance, this time a one-timer that McNiven snatched up.
At the other end of the ice, Jordan Boucher sent a shot on net, but Demko said no. McCarron followed that up with a shot off of a faceoff win, Demko turned that aside as well. Stefan Leblanc sent a shot on net and Demko steered it to the corner.
Carcone and Boucher broke in with speed and Carcone set Boucher up with a pass, but Boucher could only try to one-hand it on the net to no avail. Adam Comrie followed up with a chance but sent it wide.
Trent Cull summoned Demko to the bench with 4:10 left to play. The Comets would work the puck into the neutral zone before the whistle was blown and Demko was back in the net for the faceoff. Thatcher had to make a blocker save before heading back to the bench for the extra attacker.
With Demko on the bench, Cole Cassels extended his points streak to six games when he beat McNiven for his sixth goal of the season, tipping in a Dylan Blujus point shot. Blujus earned the lone assist on the play, his ninth of the season.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) February 24, 2018
The celebrating in Utica would be short-lived, however, as just nine seconds later, Jordan Boucher made it 4-2 with his eighth goal of the season. Michael McCarron picked up the lone assist on the play to earn his 14th of the year.
Laval wasn’t done there though, as Daniel Audette picked up his 12th of the season just 13 seconds later. The Audette goal was unassisted. The two teams would play some sloppy hockey back and forth to finish the game. The Comets lost two straight for the first time since November 18th and 22nd. It won’t get any easier as the Springfield Thunderbirds are in town tomorrow for a 4:00 pm Pacific start.
Utica finished outshooting the Rocket 10-6 in the third period, and 27-26 for the game.
The Three Stars in the building today were:
3rd Star: Michael McNiven. 26 saves.
2nd Star: Chris Terry. Two goals.
1st Star: Jordan Boucher. Two goals.
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
3rd Star: Guillaume Brisebois. Brisebois was beaten badly for a scoring chance today and for some rookies, that could have made for a tough night. Brisebois shrugged off the play and soon scored his third goal of the season. He now has five points in his last 10 games and has three goals and nine helpers on the season. No player has played more than Brisebois’ 52 games with the Comets this season. He has been durable and has played well enough that Trent Cull is leaving him in the lineup as a regular. Brisebois is seeing increased penalty killing time as the season goes on and he is proving to be a valuable piece on the Utica blueline.
2nd Star: Patrick Wiercioch: Wiercioch picked up another assist today to give him eight goals and 17 assists, good for 25 points in 39 games this season. His points per game stats are only just behind those of Philip Holm, and we know how much fans have been clamouring to see him in Vancouver, (Holm played his first game for the Canucks tonight). He has put up 10 points over his last 11 games. Wiercioch has been a good soldier for the organization this season, it would be nice to see him rewarded with some time down the stretch in Vancouver, or possibly with another club if he is moved by the deadline.
1st Star: Cole Cassels. Cassels scored his sixth goal of the season today to give him 22 points for the year. Cole’s previous career high in the AHL was 11 points, so he has now doubled those totals and he still has 20 games left in the season. Cassels has put up six points over his last six games and has been a key part of this Comets team after having been hampered by injuries over his first two campaigns. Cassels could soon be playing the role that Wacey Hamilton plays on this club if the team decides to shuffle the veteran deck next season. Hamilton and Bancks are both without a contract for next season, and that could still change, but Cassels is starting to become a leader with this group and may not be a bad choice to wear a letter next season.
VS Springfield Thunderbirds
Saturday, February 24th, 2018
4:30 pm Pacific