Utica Comets Post-Game Report
Game #60 | Friday, March 9th, 2018
4:00 pm Pacific
The 25th overall Springfield Thunderbirds, (Florida affiliate), rolled into Utica today to take on the 15th ranked Comets for the first half of a home and home series in game number 60 of the Comets season. Springfield brought 58 points into the game today, while the Comets had 68.
The Comets power play has taken a hit of late, that will happen when you lose six straight and get shutout in a pair of them. Their power play had dropped to 12th in the league, operating at 18.7%, while their penalty kill remained strong, sitting third in the AHL, operating at 86.2%. The Thunderbirds, for their part, had the league’s 26th ranked power play, operating at 14.7%, while their penalty kill sat 11th in the league with an 83.9% effective rate.
Former Comets forward, Curtis Valk came into the game as the Thunderbirds’ leading scorer with 45 points in 56 games, while their blueline was led by Ludwig Bystrom with 25 points in 51 games this season. Rookie Zack MacEwen was now the Comets active leading scorer with 30 points in 54 games, while Patrick Wiercioch was the blueline leader with 26 points in 43 games played.
The Comets were coming off of a 7-2 beatdown at the hands of the Binghamton Devils, while Springfield last played to a 2-0 loss to Providence. The Thunderbirds had gone 5-3-2-0 over their previous 10 games, while the Comets had a record of 3-6-0-1 over the same span. The Thunderbirds brought a road record of 10-16-1-0 into the game today, while the Comets had gone 12-13-3-3 at home this season.
The two teams had played just once this season, a game that ended in a 3-2 win for Springfield.
In other Comets news, I was curious as to who were the top five in games played for the Comets this season and after taking a look, I was happy to see the results. Rookies Guillaume Brisebois with 56 and Zack MacEwen with 54 are the top two, and they are followed up by Cole Cassels and Ashton Sautner with 53 each, while Michael Carcone rounds out the top-five with 52.
The part of this that makes me happy is the fact that Sautner is the oldest of that group at 23 years of age. The young guns in Utica are proving to be durable this season, and as such, they have been afforded different/more opportunities than they would have had if the veteran players had all remained healthy. It bodes well for the future of these players who have been making the most of their chances by stepping up in different ways throughout the season.
Speaking of Ashton Sautner, the blueliner was signed to a two-year contract extension by the Canucks this week. The young man has earned it with his solid play this season. Sautner has proven to be a steady blueliner who can take care of things in his own end and provide some modest secondary offence from the blueline. Putting up points isn’t Sautner’s game, but he has been a key cog for one of the best penalty-killing units in the league this season. You can read more about the Sautner signing in the link below, as Ryan Biech of CanucksArmy breaks the signing down.
Canucks sign Ashton Sautner to two-year, two-way contract extension https://t.co/l9ZERt3fmF
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) March 8, 2018
The Comets found out this week that they would also be without the services of Reid Boucher for the foreseeable future as the parent Canucks have summoned the winger to Vancouver after Brock Boeser was injured. Boeser is done for 4-6 weeks, so don’t expect Boucher to be back in Utica soon.
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) March 7, 2018
As a result of the Boucher recall, the Comets have once again reached into the PTO bin and this time they have pulled out forward Matt Leitner of the ECHL’s Manchester Monarchs. Leitner has put up 35 points in 42 games this season with the Monarchs. The Comets have also signed Joel Lowry, Tony Cameranesi and Zac Lynch off of the Monarchs’ roster this season, with Cameranesi and Lynch still remaining in Utica. Maybe Trent Cull plays the trio as a line at some point. You can read more about the Leitner signing in the link below.
Utica Comets Sign Forward Matt Leitner To PTO https://t.co/upplZ559b9
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) March 8, 2018
So…about that Matt Leitner PTO…let’s just pump the brakes and take a wait and see approach on that one, shall we? There has been no official explanation as of yet, but it appears that Leitner had a quick turnaround in Utica. I did see that he has been assigned the number 18 at one point, so I’m not 100% sure what the deal is with this one.
Now, AHL transactions says Matt Leitner has been released.
Neither move announced by team. pic.twitter.com/ULP4nLZi5n
— Ben Birnell (@OD_Birnell) March 9, 2018
Scratched today for the Comets were: Carter Bancks, (injured), Yan-Pavel Laplante, (injured), Evan McEneny, (injured), Joe LaBate, (injured), Brendan Woods, (injured), Jayson Megna, (injured), Wacey Hamilton, (injured), and Frankie Simonelli.
Comets Starting Lines
58 Michael Carcone – 21 Michael Chaput (A) – 27 Tony Cameranesi
13 Griffen Molino – 19 Cole Cassels – 15 Zack MacEwen
44 Adam Comrie – 82 Andrew Cherniwchan – 17 Alexis D’Aoust
22 David Dziurzynski – 11 Cam Darcy – 39 Zac Lynch
28 Patrick Wiercioch – 5 Jalen Chatfield
Ashton Sautner (A) – 8 Dylan Blujus
55 Guillaume Brisebois – 26 Jaime Sifers (A)
30 Thatcher Demko
This first period started with the Comets getting some good early pressure in the Springfield end. Zack MacEwen dished to Griffen Molino in the Thunderbirds’ zone and Molino dropped a pass to Ashton Sautner. Unfortunately, Sautner duffed his shot. Not to be deterred, Sautner followed up with a heavy point shot that goaltender Harri Sateri turned aside.
Veteran defenseman, Jaime Sifers sent a point shot of his own on the net but saw it turned aside as well. Alex D’Aoust jumped on the rebound but put his chance wide of the net.
At the other end of the ice, Tim Erixon sent a point shot on Demko and the Comets netminder grabbed it up and held for the whistle with traffic forming in front of his net.
Alex D’Aoust continues to impress me with his heavy work along the boards. The winger seems to thrive in board battles and he was at it again early on in the Thunderbirds zone.
Ed Wittchow unloaded with a cross-check on Jaime Sifers that saw his stick explode on impact. Sifers is a rough customer when he is angry and it didn’t look like he enjoyed the stick from Wittchow. Sifers dropped the gloves and a wrestling match ensued. When the smoke had cleared, Sifers and Wittchow each were assessed with a five-minute penalty for fighting, while Wittchow picked up an extra two for his stick work. All of this came at the 3:30 mark of the first period.
The Comets would head to the power play and they would continue to slump. Alex D’Aoust had the best chance early when Patrick Wiercioch hit him with a breakaway pass and the winger got a shot away that Sateri denied. The Comets would go 0-1 on their first power play.
The Comets got some traction after the power play ended as Tony Cameranesi sent a low shot just wide of the net and Zack MacEwen followed up with a wraparound attempt that Sateri got a piece of. I like seeing the big fella trying wraparounds. He is looking more comfortable at the pro level as the season goes on. Cole Cassels followed up the MacEwen chance with a hot-shot that he ripped off the iron and out of play.
Thatcher Demko had to come up with a spectacular diving save when a shot got through him but he turned around and dove for the puck to deny the Thunderbirds of the first goal of the game. Anthony Greco followed up by rolling down the wing to the right of Demko and sending a shot on net that Demko swallowed up for a whistle. Demko was next tested by Jayce Hawryluk when the winger let fly with a shot from the slot, Thatcher said no.
At the other end of the ice, Cam Darcy charged down the right side and put a shot on net that Sateri redirected out of play. Zack MacEwen followed up with a heavy hit on Tim Erixon in the Springfield zone before Dryden Hunt was sent off for goaltender interference at the 12:48 mark after clipping Demko.
During the power play, Dylan Blujus hammered a shot on net that Sateri turned aside. Adam Comrie followed up with a heavy shot of his own that Sateri denied before Cam Darcy would put the Comets up 1-0 with his fourth goal of the season. Darcy beat Sateri with a cheeky backhander as he was heading behind the net. Cole Cassels picked up his 17th helper of the season on the play, while Patrick Wiercioch earned his 19th.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) March 10, 2018
Demko would follow up the goal by turning aside a bouncing puck with Curtis Valk on the doorstep looking to pounce. Back in the Springfield zone, David Dziurzynski tipped a Patrick Wiercioch shot on net and Sateri grabbed it and held for the whistle. Zack MacEwen took a drop pass from Cassels and saw his ensuing shot turned aside. Cassels jumped on the rebound but couldn’t get it to go.
That would be it for the first period. The Comets showed a slight edge of 12-11 on the shot clock for the opening frame.
The second period saw Anthony Greco get an early breakaway and Thatcher Demko came up with a big save. Josh Brown tried his luck with a point shot and Demko once again said no.
Newcomer Zac Lynch hit a streaking Cam Darcy with a pass and Darcy got his shot away, but Sateri denied him. Curtis Valk had a chance at the other end of the ice when he dangled past Tony Cameranesi with a toe drag and sent a shot on net that Demko was ready for.
Michael Chaput was sent off for goaltender interference at the 4:12 mark and the Comets penalty kill would get down to work. I am not one to question head coach Trent Cull, especially since he has been pushing all the right buttons for most of this season, but I am still wanting to see rookie Zack MacEwen get a look on the kill. The Comets kill does do great work though, so I can understand not wanting to tinker with it too much at this point
Dylan Blujus had a shorthanded chance denied before Curtis Valk finally got a chance for the Birds. Valk let fly with a one-timer chance and Demko gobbled it up and held for the whistle. Cole Cassels and Andrew Cherniwchan would head back the other way off the faceoff for a two-on-one chance. Cassels elected to shoot rather than pass and he sent his offering wide of the net. That was it for the Thunderbirds power play and the Comets kill would continue to shine.
Ryan Horvat, (no relation), was set up for a chance right in front but he was unable to get a handle on the puck for a shot. That would matter little though, as seconds later Horvat was setting up Chase Balisy for his 14th goal of the season. The assist was Horvat’s 13th of the season, while Anthony Greco earned his 14th helper of the year on the play. The game was tied at one.
Jaime Sifers was looking to get that one right back when he snuck a point shot on net that Sateri got a pad on. Going the other way, Bobby Farnham hit Cameron Brown with a pass, Brown got his shot away and Demko said no. Ashton Sautner would see a point shot turned aside at the other end before Tim Erixon was whistled for holding.
Dylan Blujus got a point shot away that was turned aside before Adam Comrie put the Comets up 2-1 with a backhander from in close. The goal was Comrie’s seventh of the season, while Michael Chaput picked up assist number 17 on the year, and Zack MacEwen earned his 22nd.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) March 10, 2018
Jaime Sifers would be whistled for delay of game just one minute later when he put the puck over the glass. The iron would ring behind Demko again on this power play, but for the most part, the Comets were doing excellent work once again on the kill. Curtis Valk would put yet another shot off the bar and the Comets would come up with another good kill.
Demko would take a puck off the lid following the Valk chance, but the netminder would shake it off.
Tony Cameranesi worked his way down the right side and let fly with a shot that Sateri soaked up for the whistle. At the other end of the ice, the rookie stripes showed for a moment when Guillaume Brisebois dished the puck from behind his own net right onto the stick of a Springfield player in the slot, who was so surprised that he didn’t get a shot away. Breezy Gui got lucky on that one, but he has been a steady player on the Utica backend this season.
Francois Beauchemin was sent off for holding at the 18:30 mark and the Comets would finish the period with the man advantage…or would they? The Comets were having a tough time getting traction on their power play before Brisebois was dinged for slashing at the 19:46 mark. Now, before you go jumping all over the rookie for taking a penalty, I will say that the call was suspect at best. The two clubs would finish the period playing with four skaters aside, with Ludwig Bystrom getting a late chance with a wrister that Demko turned aside. The middle frame ended with the Comets showing an advantage of 11 shots to 10 on the shot clock.
The third period got underway with the teams playing four-on-four hockey and former Comet, Alex Grenier nearly knotted the game at two when he tried to send a pass, but it went off Ashton Sautner’s skate, forcing Demko into an alert save. The Comets would end up killing off what was left of the Brisebois penalty after the four aside play ended.
David Dziurzynski crushed Mark Fayne with a big hit and Fayne came back with a scoring chance that Demko denied. Griffen Molino and Zack MacEwen went to work at the other end of the ice when Molino set up MacEwen with a pass and the big fella saw his shot turned aside.
Ed Wittchow would be sent off for high-sticking at the 4:14 mark and the Comets were back to the power play. Michael Carcone would try his luck with a wraparound attempt that Sateri turned aside before Patrick Wiercioch set up Cam Darcy for a one-timer that was denied as well. Brisebois followed up with a shot of his own and Sateri got a pad on it to keep his team within a goal. It would be no dice on this power play opportunity for the Comets.
The two teams would go back and forth for about four minutes of hockey with very little flow. There were plenty of offside and icing whistles to go around for everyone. When things finally did get back to looking like hockey, the Thunderbirds had tied the game at two. Ludwig Bystrom sent a point shot through traffic that got past Demko and the game was knotted. The goal was the fourth of the season for Bystrom, while Jayce Hawryluk picked up his 23rd helper of the year on the play and Francois Beauchemin earned his second.
Jaime Sifers was whistled for slashing just after the goal was scored and it was back to the penalty kill for the Comets. Cam Darcy blocked a shot and was clearly in pain, but the Comets forward would shake it off and be back out for his next shift. The Comets would come up with another good kill.
There was a little bit of back and forth after the kill as Sifers sent a point shot through traffic that Sateri stopped before Dryden Hunt went the other way and lit up the goal post again for the Thunderbirds. Thatcher had some big, fat posts behind him today. Zack MacEwen was up next with a shot from in close that was deflected out of play. That was all the time we had in regulation and it would take overtime to solve this one. The two teams finished the period with Springfield showing a shot advantage of 5-4 for the third frame.
In the extra frame, Cam Darcy went end-to-end for a chance and saw Sateri come up with a save. Jayce Hawryluk came the other way for a chance, cutting into the Comets zone and letting fly with a shot that Demko denied.
Adam Comrie would play the hero at the three-minute mark when he jumped on a loose puck and leaned into one, beating Sateri for his second goal of the game and eighth of the season. Patrick Wiercicoh picked up his 20th helper of the season on the play, while Michael Chaput grabbed his 18th.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) March 10, 2018
That was it for this one. The Comets outshot the Thunderbirds 3-1 in overtime and 30-27 for the game. Comets win 3-2 in OT.
The Three Stars in the building today were:
3rd Star: Chase Balisy. One goal.
2nd Star: Cam Darcy. One goal.
1st Star: Adam Comrie. Two goals.
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
3rd Star: Patrick Wiercioch. Wiercioch picked up two more assists today and helped get the Comets power play back on track. He is now up to eight goals and 20 assists to give him 28 points in 44 games this season. He will need to continue to produce to help the Comets get back into that winning mood that we all loved so much before these last six games.
2nd Star: Michael Chaput. Chaput also picked up a pair of helpers today and now has 12 goals and 18 assists to give him 30 points in 41 games this season. With Boucher recalled to Vancouver, Chaput will need to keep his foot on the gas and keep those points coming. I am interested to see who ends up with more points this season between Chaput and MacEwen. The big fella has more games in and is one point up on Chaput at the moment. Mikey Chaps is the best centerman the team has on the roster at the moment, in my opinion, and he will have some heavy lifting to do as the Comets make their playoff push.
1st Star: Adam Comrie. Comrie picked up a pair of goals today and now has eight on the season. Seven of those goals have come with the Comets while the first one came while he was on a PTO with Lehigh Valley earlier in the season. The 6’4″, 220lbs defenseman/winger now has eight goals and nine assists in 41 games to give him 17 points on the season. He has been the multi-tool in Trent Cull’s bag of tricks this season, moving from defence, to forward and back again without blinking an eye and he has been putting up some nice secondary offence from both positions. When the Comets were on their run earlier, they seemed to have a different player step up for them each game. Today, it appears that Comrie was the one who did the stepping up.
At Springfield Thunderbirds
Saturday, March 10th, 2018
4:05 pm Pacific