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CanucksArmy Utica Comets Post-Game: Special Teams, Not So Special As Comets Drop 4-2 Decision To Laval

Utica Comets Post-Game Report

Game #62 | Friday, March 16th, 2018

4:00 pm Pacific

Pre-Game

The 27th overall Laval Rocket, (Montreal affiliate) rolled into Utica today to take on the 16th ranked Comets for game number 62 of Utica’s season. Laval had accumulated 54 points this season, while the Comets had 70 points to their credit coming into the day.

The Rocket power play was operating at 18.4%, good for 11th in the AHL, while their penalty kill was the league’s worst with a 76.8% success rate. The Comets power play was sitting in eighth place in the AHL with a success rate of 18.7%, while their penalty kill was in third place with an 86.2% success rate.

The Rocket’s top three scorers were: Chris Terry, with 56 points in 49 games, followed by defenseman Matt Taormina with 42 points in 50 games, while former Vancouver Canuck Adam Cracknell sat third with 39 points in 56 games. The Comets top three active scorers were: rookie Zack MacEwen with 31 points in 56 games, followed by Michael Chaput with 30 points in 42 games, while Patrick Wiercioch rounded out the top three with 28 points in 45 games.

The Rocket and Comets were both coming off of 4-0 losses to Belleville and Springfield respectively. Laval had gone 4-6-0-0 over their previous 10 games, while the Comets had a record of 3-7-0-0 over the same span. Laval brought a road record of 13-12-4-1 into today’s game, while the Comets showed a home record of 13-13-3-3 this season.

The Rocket had been outscored by their opponents by a count of 223-177 this season, while the Comets had given up 176 goals this year while scoring 171 times. The two clubs had squared off seven times already this season with the Comets holding a five-games-to-two advantage in the season series, outscoring Laval 24-18 in the process. Laval did win the last game between the two teams by a score of 5-2 however, so the Comets needed to be ready for a battle today.

There have been a couple of roster moves made by the Comets since they last played, so let’s get to those now. First up, the Comets brought forward Vincent Arseneau back for another PTO, (professional tryout) tour with the team.

The team followed up that move by signing forward Tanner MacMaster to an ATO, (amateur tryout). MacMaster has spent the past four seasons playing with Quinnipiac in the NCAA. You can read more about the MacMaster signing in the link below. I had a Quinnipiac fan reach out to let me know that MacMaster seems to have at least one of the qualities that the Canucks tend to value.

 

Scratched today for the Comets were: Yan-Pavel Laplante, (injured), Brendan Woods, (injured), Jayson Megna, (injured), Evan McEneny, (injured), Joe LaBate, (injured), Alex D’Aoust, (injured), Tanner MacMaster, Frankie Simonelli, Zac Lynch, and David Dziurzynski (vet rule).

Comets Starting Lines

44 Adam Comrie – 21 Michael Chaput – 58 Michael Carcone

36 Wacey Hamilton (A) – 34 Carter Bancks (C) – 82 Andrew Cherniwchan

18 Vincent Arseneau – 19 Cole Cassels – 27 Tony Cameranesi

13 Griffen Molino – 11 Cam Darcy – 15 Zack MacEwen

28 Patrick Wiercioch – 5 Jalen Chatfield

6 Ashton Sautner – 8 Dylan Blujus

55 Guillaume Brisebois – 26 Jaime Sifers (A)

30 Thatcher Demko

First Period

The Comets were wearing their green jerseys again today…have I mentioned yet how much I dig those? Andrew Cherniwchan got this game underway with a solid early hit on Adam Cracknell in the Comets zone to set the tone for the game. Comets captain, Carter Bancks was back in the lineup today for the first time since December. He may have missed 28 games, but he didn’t miss a beat, looking good in his first period back.

Griffen Molino had an early chance off of a Comets faceoff win, but Laval goaltender Zach Fucale was ready with the save. Zack MacEwen followed up with a shot of his own off the ensuing faceoff, but he fared the same fate as Molino and saw his shot turned aside. Guillaume Brisebois got a heavy one-timer away but Fucale gobbled that one up as well.

At the other end of the ice, rookie defender, Jalen Chatfield showed his poise in his own end as he absorbed a hit to protect the puck and proceeded to skate away with it. The points may not be coming for Jalen yet, but he is doing good work in his own end.

Wacey Hamilton sent a shot on net that Cherniwchan tipped just wide before Vincent Arseneau dug a puck loose from a corner scrum and hit Cherniwchan with a one-timer pass. Once again Fucale said no. Cole Cassels sent a pass to Tony Cameranesi and the winger saw his shot turned aside. Fucale was the busier goalie in the opening frame.

The Rocket did get a few shots though, as Simon Bourque let fly with a heavy point shot that Thatcher Demko swallowed up.

Dylan Blujus unloaded a point shot at the other end and Fucale was equal to the task once more. Zack MacEwen flashed a short burst of speed last game that was a pleasant surprise for me, and I will be damned if he didn’t do it again today. The big fella is starting to reap the rewards from his efforts to become a better player.

Thatcher Demko would have to deny a Markus Eisenschmid shot before Patrick Wiercioch got his stick up on Gabriel Desjardins and the lanky defender would sit for two minutes for high-sticking. The Comets penalty kill would get down to work and the forward duo of Cole Cassels and Wacey Hamilton went into shut down mode. Cassels came up with a great diving play to sweep a puck out of the Comets zone before Jaime Sifers followed up with a timely shot block. The Comets would come up with a good kill.

Just as the Wiercicoh penalty expired, he joined the rush with Michael Chaput and Cam Darcy. The trio would hook up for a goal and it would be 1-0 Comets. The goal went to Darcy, his fifth of the season, while Wiercioch earned his 21st helper of the year and Chaput grabbed his 19th.

Just after the Darcy goal, Eric Gelinas was whistled for boarding and the Comets would head to the power play. Adam Comrie unloaded a bomb that was turned aside before Carcone tried to stuff a puck in as he came from behind the net. Fucale got a piece of the Carcone chance and then denied MacEwen on the rebound chance. The Comets would be unable to make anything happen with the man advantage.

The two teams would have some good back and forth as Chatfield had a point shot steered away at one end, while Demko denied a Tom Parisi chance at the other. Dylan Blujus came back the other way with a wrister from just inside the Laval blueline that was blockered away by Fucale. That would be it for the first period.  The Comets showed an edge of 11-6 on the shot clock and had a 1-0 lead for their efforts.

Second Period

Michael Carcone used his wheels to get in for an early chance that Fucale was ready for before Wacey Hamilton was sent off for slashing just 45 seconds into the middle frame. Laval newcomer Kerby Rychel made quick work with the man advantage, sending the rebound from a blocked shot over the shoulder of Demko to score just eight seconds later. The goal was Rychel’s 16th of the season, while Chris Terry picked up assist number 31 and Matt Taormina grabbed his 39th helper. The game was tied at one.

The Comets were looking to get that one back quickly when Zack MacEwen centred a puck to Vincent Arseneau, who saw his shot denied by Fucale. Arseneau was having his jersey held as he tried to get his shot away, but the officials let it slide.

Griffen Molino hit a streaking Cam Darcy with a pass from the corner, but Fucale was ready with another save.

At the other end of the ice, Kerby Rychel took a pass from Cracknell and got a quick shot away that Demko turned aside. Eric Gelinas followed up with a shot of his own and Demko would say no to him as well. Thatcher would come up with one more save off of the stick of Thomas Ebbing before Cole Cassels was sent off for holding.

Matt Taormina sent a point shot on net through traffic that Demko saw and grabbed up for a whistle. Seconds later, Nikki Petti would put the Rocket up 2-1 at the 6:38 mark when he beat Demko for his fifth goal of the year. Tom Parisi earned his 13th assist of the season on the play, while Chris Terry picked up his 32nd.

The Comets spent the next couple of shifts hemmed in their end as Laval continued to pour on the pressure. When they finally did get out of their end, Dylan Blujus uncorked a shot that would ring off the iron before Luc-Olivier Blain was sent off for slashing.

With the Comets on the power play, Chaput got a shot away that was turned aside before Adam Comrie unloaded a shot high and wide of the net. Michael Carcone spotted Comrie looking for a back door play and the winger sent the puck across the ice. Comrie got his shot off and Fucale came up with a huge save.

Jeremy Gregoire would head back the other way for a shorthanded chance and Demko would come up with the save. Unfortunately, seconds later Eric Gelinas would put the Rocket up 3-1 with a shorthanded goal. The goal was Gelinas’ 13th of the season, while Markus Eisenschmid earned the lone assist on the play with his ninth helper of the year. The Comets were in a 3-1 hole and they would be unable to get anything going with what remained of their power play. That makes three shorthanded goals against in the last two games for the Comets…yikes.

The home team would try to claw their way back into the game when Andrew Cherniwchan centred for Ashton Sautner who was set up in the slot. Fucale was ready with another save. At the other end, Demko made a pad save on a Chris Terry offering before Cherniwchan came back and had another chance denied by Fucale.

Tony Cameranesi tried to get a wraparound chance to go, but Fucale said no. The Comets were having a tough time getting shots through, and when they did manage to get one past the defence, Fucale was putting up a wall in the net.

Demko would make a diving save to give his team some hope before Cherniwchan went the other way, getting a sneaky shot away from the corner that handcuffed Fucale, but the netminder recovered and held for the whistle.

Adam Cracknell and Wacey Hamilton don’t seem to enjoy each other’s company very much as the two were seemingly in each other’s face at every opportunity. It was during one of their get-togethers after a whistle that a short scrum broke out and Cracknell would head off for cross-checking. The Comets power play would be short lived, however, as Michael Carcone was sent off for tripping less than a minute later and the teams would play four aside for 53 seconds to run the period down. The Comets showed a 14-12 edge on the shot clock for the middle frame, but they were down 3-1 in the game.

Third Period

The two teams would have a brief 13 seconds of four-on-four play, which Laval used to get control of the puck before Dylan Blujus was whistled for tripping just 53 seconds into the final frame. Chris Terry would put Laval up 4-1 with his 27th goal of the season to make it three power play goals and one shorty for the Rocket on the day. Kerby Rychel earned his 23rd helper of the season on the play, while Eric Gelinas grabbed his 11th. We were 1:17 into the third period and the Comets were behind the eight-ball.

Just over a minute later, Zack MacEwen and Jared Broll came together at centre-ice and each would end up in the box for two minutes, MacEwen for interference and Broll for roughing. During the four aside play, Matt Taormina let fly with a clapper that Demko steered away with his blocker.

Tony Cameranesi would give the Comets a glimmer of hope at the 4:19 mark when Cam Darcy took the puck end-to-end, stopped up and hit a streaking Cameranesi with a pass that the winger tipped past Fucale for his third goal of the season. Darcy earned the lone assist on the play to give him 17 helpers on the season.

We were back to five-on-five play and Demko had to be sharp to make a save on Rychel after he was set up by Cracknell. Chris Terry would be whistled for a high-stick at the 5:08 mark and the Comets would head back to the power play.

During the Comets man advantage, Carcone fired a shot on net and the rebound came to Guillaume Brisebois in the slot for a chance, but the Comets rookie was robbed by Fucale. First of all, this Fucale character was playing a heck of a game today, secondly, I like seeing Brisebois jump into scoring areas. Whether he is burying his chances or not right now, he is at least going to the right places to get those chances.

Cole Cassels was fingered for roughing at the 6:32 mark and the teams would play some more four-on-four hockey for 36 seconds. Cracknell let fly with a slapper from just inside the Comets blueline and Demko would steer the puck out of harm’s way.

The two teams would have some more back and forth play with Darcy getting a shot away from the faceoff circle that Fucale denied before Demko covered up a loose puck in his crease at the other end for a whistle. Carter Bancks got a shot away in the Laval zone that Fucale got his blocker on as well.

The Comets couldn’t get anything going and with 2:53 remaining on the clock, Laval iced the puck and Demko was summoned to the bench for the extra attacker. Wiercioch had a shot padded away before Demko came back into the net on the fly as the Rocket got possession of the puck. The Comets tried this play two weeks ago and pulled it off successfully, but the officials incorrectly gave them a penalty on the play. Today there would be no such penalty and the Comets showed a neat trick in their arsenal of plays.

Zack MacEwen nearly scored to get the Comets within a goal, but Fucale made a diving save and that was it for the Comets. The home team would show a 7-5 advantage on the shot clock for the third period and a 32-23 advantage for the game, but the Rocket would take this one 4-2.

Today’s Official Boxscore

The Three Stars in the building today were:

3rd Star: Cam Darcy. One goal, one assist.

2nd Star: Zach Fucale. 30 saves.

1st Star: Chris Terry. One goal, two assists.

CanucksArmy’s Three Stars

3rd Star: Patrick Wiercioch. The lanky defender picked up another assist today and now has 29 points in 46 games to leave him just two points shy of a share of the team lead, (active players) in points with Zack MacEwen and Michael Chaput. He will need to keep those points coming to help pull the Comets out of this funk that they are in. Just for reference, everyone was falling all over themselves for Philip Holm this season, myself included. Well, Holm isn’t quite a full year younger than Wiercicoch, he has played in three more games this season and has just two more points. I will say again, the Canucks should have given Wiercioch a look while he was up with the team for a month earlier in the season, maybe he could have fetched something at the deadline as well…

2nd Star: Tony Cameranesi. Cameranesi picked up his third goal of the year with the Comets today in his 28th game with the club. He has four helpers and 17 penalty minutes to go with those three goals. These are not world beater numbers, but for a guy who came in on a pair of PTO deals, he has done some decent work for the club. He put six shots on net today, which was three more than the next closest Comets player.

1st Star: Cam Darcy. Darcy grabbed a goal and an assist today and now has 22 points in 42 games with the Comets this season. He joined the Comets on a PTO this season after spending time with Trent Cull in the Syracuse system and has since earned an AHL deal with the club. While he isn’t a top of the lineup player when the team is healthy, he can certainly keep his head above water in a bottom-six role with the team and provide some decent secondary scoring. He plays both special teams, depending on who is in/out of the lineup and has proven to be a useful player in Utica this season. While I wouldn’t be going out of my way to give him a two-way deal, I wouldn’t be opposed to the Comets bringing him back next season on an AHL pact again to provide some secondary scoring and some depth for a team that has gone through a ridiculous number of players over the course of this season.

Next Game

At Belleville Senators

Saturday, March 17th, 2018

4:00 pm Pacific