Utica Comets Post-Game Report
Game #66 | Saturday, March 24th, 2018
4:00 pm Pacific
The 16th overall Utica Comets hit the road to Syracuse today to take on the AHL’s third-ranked Crunch, (Tampa Bay affiliate) for the Comets 66th game of the season. The Comets had 74 points coming into the game today, while the Crunch had 87.
Utica’s power play was ranked 13th in the AHL with an 18.1% effective rate, while their penalty kill sat second in the league, operating at 86.1%. The Crunch showed the league’s 24th ranked power play, running at 15.4%, while their penalty kill was the league’s ninth-best with an 83.9% effective rate.
After picking up three points in yesterday’s win over the Pens, Michael Chaput had sole possession of the scoring lead for active Comets players with 34 in 46 games. Zack MacEwen was right behind him with 32 points in 60 games, while Patrick Wiercioch had put up 32 points as well, over 49 games. Wiercioch, FYI, was sitting 12th amongst AHL defensemen in points and was just one point behind former Comets defenseman Philip Holm. Wiercioch had also played three fewer games than Holm on the season.
Mathieu Joseph was the points leader for the Crunch with 47 in 62 games, while Matthew Peca sat second with 40 points in 55 games this season. Mitchell Stephens rounded out the top three with 39 points in 65 games this year.
The Comets were coming off of a 5-4 overtime win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, while the Crunch last played to a 4-1 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Crunch had gone 7-1-1-1 over their previous 10 games, while the Comets had gone 3-7-0-0 over the same span.
The Comets had a road record of 18-9-3-1 this season, while the Crunch were showing a home record of 20-8-2-1. The Crunch had outscored their opposition by a count of 211-170, while the Comets had scored 184 goals this season while giving up 189.
The two clubs had faced off in nine contests this season with the Comets holding a five-games-to-four advantage in the season series. Two of the four Crunch victories came in the shootout.
In other Comets news, fresh off of scoring his overtime-winning, third goal of the season, the Canucks announced today that Ashton Sautner had been recalled to Vancouver on an emergency basis. Ryan Beich of CanucksArmy breaks down the call-up in the link below.
Canucks recall D Ashton Sautner https://t.co/5PSzZJ0c0u
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) March 24, 2018
The team also announced the PTO signing of Mysterious Matt Leitner. This is the third time that I had seen talk of Leitner being brought in on a PTO, and I wrote a quick piece on his signing the first time around. Rather than see that piece go to waste, I figured I would share it again. Word is that Leitner will wear number 10 with the Comets.
Utica Comets Sign Forward Matt Leitner To PTO https://t.co/upplZ559b9
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) March 8, 2018
Scratched today for the Comets were: Yan-Pavel Laplante, (injured), Joe LaBate, (injured), Brendan Woods, (injured), Jayson Megna, (injured), Evan McEneny, (injured), Cam Darcy, (injured), Tony Cameranesi, (injured), Richard Bachman, (sick), Dylan Blujus, (injured), and Matt Leitner.
Comets Starting Lines
7 Tanner MacMaster – 21 Michael Chaput – 15 Zack MacEwen
13 Griffen Molino – 82 Andrew Cherniwchan – 34 Carter Bancks (C)
17 Alex D’Aoust – 19 Cole Cassels – 18 Vincent Arseneau
58 Michael Carcone – 36 Wacey Hamilton (A) – 39 Zac Lynch
55 Guillaume Brisebois – 26 Jaime Sifers (A)
28 Patrick Wiercioch – 5 Jalen Chatfield
44 Adam Comrie – 29 Frankie Simonelli
30 Thatcher Demko
Well, folks, this period did not resemble the exciting hockey that we saw yesterday. The video feed quality wasn’t so great either. That said, let’s get down to the action.
The two clubs went back and forth with neither club looking dangerous offensively. Matthew Peca picked off a pass in the Comets zone and got a shot off after a dipsy-doodle, but Demko denied the Crunch forward of a goal.
After that, it was the Comets bringing the pain. First, it was Vincent Arseneau standing up Gabriel Dumont in the neutral zone when the Crunch forward was looking to run the Comets forward over. Arseneau stood his ground and Dumont had to pick himself up off the ice.
Next up it was Comets captain Carter Bancks trucking Olivier Archambault in the Crunch zone, followed up by Alex D’Aoust plastering a Crunch player into the boards before Arseneau got back into the fun with a big hit on Reid McNeill.
Jalen Chatfield floated a puck into a crowd and it trickled toward Crunch netminder Connor Ingram. Ingram grabbed the puck and held for a whistle.
At the other end of the ice, Archambeault broke in with a shot from in close that Demko turned aside and Michael Carcone tuned on the jets and headed the other way for a chance that was tipped on net by a Crunch defender. Ingram was ready with the save.
We were halfway through the opening period and each team had just two shots apiece.
Vincent Arseneau was looking to keep the physical game coming but got a little overzealous when he ran over Craig Wyszomirski. Arseneau would be assessed with a charging penalty and the Comets were headed to the penalty kill.
Mitchell Stephens tried his luck with a jam play from the side of the net but Demko was equal to the task. Peca came back in with another chance but fired it right into the Comets crest on the front of Demko’s jersey. Thatcher held for the whistle.
Demko followed up with a save on a Carter Verhaeghe offering before making another save on a redirected shot from Verhaeghe again. The Comets came up with a good kill.
Just as the Comets kill ended, Mathieu Joseph ripped a shot off the iron and we still had a 0-0 game.
The Comets wanted to try their hands at getting a couple of shots on net as Chatfield fired the puck on the net and Ingram blockered it away to the corner. Wiercioch followed up with a wrister and Ingram denied that chance as well.
Gabriel Dumont had a chance at the other end with a quick shot and Demko came up with an alert save.
Daniel Walcott was whistled for boarding at the 15:41 mark and the Comets were headed to the power play. The Comets saw their shots either being blocked or going wide and they would come up empty-handed with their man advantage.
Vincent Arseneau blocked a shot in the Comets zone and he headed the other way for a break. He made his move and Ingram said no and that was it for the opening frame.
The Crunch showed a 9-8 advantage on the shot clock for the opening frame.
The second period was almost like an instant replay of the first. There were not a lot of shots between the two clubs, but we did have some action.
Zack MacEwen charged into the Crunch zone to start the period and he fired a shot on net that Ingram was ready for. At the other end of the ice, Demko made a toe save on Olivier Archambault to keep the game knotted at zero.
Jalen Chatfield made a good defensive read in the Comets zone when he skated the puck out of danger with a crowd forming in front of Demko. The Comets spent a good portion of the first couple of minutes hemmed in their zone.
The Comets looked like they had too many men on the ice at one point but they got lucky as the officials didn’t seem to notice. Carter Bancks broke up a back-door play and the puck went the other way.
Carter Verhaeghe didn’t want Bancks to be the only Carter to touch the puck so he came back in and got a shot away that was thwarted by Demko.
Gabriel Dumont was whistled for tripping at the 6:25 mark and the Comets were headed to the power play. Wiercioch and MacEwen both tried to jump on a point shot rebound but Ingram was wise to them and scooped up the puck for a whistle.
Chaput tried his luck with a shot but Ingram had his number as well. Alex D’Aoust and Guillaume Brisebois have been seeing time on the power play of late and I dig it. Both players will need to add layers to their games going forward so that they can bring something that the Canucks need, should they get to the NHL. The Comets would come up empty on this power play.
Vincent Arseneau followed up the power play with a heavy shot that Ingram gobbled up before Zack MacEwen would send the Comets to the penalty kill.
MacEwen was whistled for tripping and the Comets killers went to work. The Comets would come up with a good kill and spring MacEwen for a break as he came out of the box. Before the big fella could make his play, Ingram dashed out to the puck and poked it out of harm’s way and took out MacEwen in the process.
Adam Comrie was back on the blueline today and he sent a shot on net that Ingram was ready for.
Matthew Peca was fingered for tripping at the 13:51 mark and the Comets would head to the power play. Tanner MacMaster tried to dart behind the Crunch net but ended up getting squished into the boards by Wyszomirski. Bancks took a puck off the knee and headed to the bench in pain before Alex D’Aoust and Wacey Hamilton had back-to-back chances turned aside by Ingram. It would be another fruitless power play for the Comets.
MacEwen took a puck hard to the net and got a shot off that Ingram denied before Carter Bancks was sent off for boarding.
Demko came up big to turn aside a flurry of late chances by Erik Condra, Mathieu Joseph, Erik Cernak, and Alexander Volkov to end the period still tied at zero.
The Crunch showed an 11-9 edge in shots for the middle frame.
The final frame got underway with Michael Carcone charging behind the Crunch net and centring the puck to Wacey Hamilton in the slot. Ingram was ready with yet another save.
At the other end of the ice, Matthew Spencer got a quick one-timer away but Demko was quicker with the save.
Vincent Arseneau has been stepping up in the absence of David Dziurzynski and bringing the physical game. He came up with a pair of back-to-back hits that led to Mat Bodie being whistled for hooking. The Comets were back to the power play.
This was not one of the Comets better power plays as they would not be able to get anything going and would come up empty once again. The Comets are missing the likes of Reid Boucher, Nikolay Goldobin, and Philip Holm when it comes to their recent lack of success on the man advantage.
Jalen Chatfield showed off his blazing wheels again when he beat a Crunch player in a race to the puck and cleared it from the Comets zone. Dominik Masin came right back with a pair of chances that Demko was ready for. Thatcher has been playing well in his last three games and today was no different.
Erik Cernak came at Demko with a high shot that Thatcher snatched up and held for the whistle before Gabriel Dumont was sent off for hooking.
The Comets started out this power play by putting shots high or wide of the net. The shots that they did manage to put toward the net were being blocked by Crunch players.
They did get a couple of chances though as Ingram was forced into back-to-back saves on Simonelli and MacEwen. Tanner MacMaster followed up by redirecting a Michael Chaput shot but Ingram said no. Chaput would see another one-timer chance denied and the Comets were 0/5 on the power play.
Mitchell Stephens opened the scoring at the 12:21 mark when he beat Demko for his 19th goal of the season. Gabriel Dumont earned his 13th helper of the year on the play, while Dominik Masin picked up his 15th.
The Crunch kept coming as Matthew Peca came right back in with a shot that Demko turned aside before making another save and holding on for a whistle with a scramble in front of his net.
Adam Comrie took an untimely roughing penalty at the 14:02 mark and the Comets would have to kill off another penalty. Demko was busy on this one, swallowing up a Mathieu Joseph point shot and holding for a whistle.
Wacey Hamilton helped his goaltender out, making a nice poke check to get a puck to Jalen Chatfield who quickly cleared it out of harm’s way. Stephens was looking for his second goal of the game when he sent a hot-shot from the circle Demko’s way. Thatcher whipped out the mitt and said no. Demko would make one more stick save on Cernak and the Comets would have another good kill to their credit. While the Comets power play has been taking its lumps, their penalty kill just keeps on chugging along.
Vincent Arseneau looked like a man on a mission today as he pulled off a spin and fire move that Ingram was ready for with another save. Arseneau won’t bring a ton of offence, but the man is a gamer and brings what he can.
Mathieu Joseph came looking for a goal as first he sent a bullet on the net that saw Demko flash the leather on before getting a breakaway that Thatcher foiled as well.
Time was running out on the Comets and they summoned Demko to the bench for the extra attacker. Big Zack MacEwen stormed his way into the Crunch zone, looking like a young Todd Bertuzzi with one hand on his stick and using the other to fend off the check. Zack managed to get his shot away, but Ingram turned it aside. These are the power forward type of moves that I hope to see more of going forward from the big fella.
Erik Cernak would put this one away at the 19:57 mark when he popped the puck into the empty Comets net to make it a 2-0 game.
That was it in Syracuse. The Crunch led the third-period shot clock by a count of 17-6 and led the game with 37 shots to Utica’s 23. Comets lose 2-0
The Three Stars in the building today were:
3rd Star: Thatcher Demko. 35 saves
2nd Star: Mitchell Stevens. One goal
1st Star: Connor Ingram. 23 save shutout
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
3rd Star: Zack MacEwen. The big fella has been somewhat snakebitten offensively of late, but I expect that the points will start coming again soon. He has been having a very good rookie season with the Comets and his game has grown as the season has gone on. The points might not be coming right now, but Zack has been showing glimpses of becoming a player that the Canucks fans will want to keep an eye on. It’s hard to say what he becomes at the NHL level, but he clearly has the drive to put in the work to make the NHL dream a reality.
2nd Star: Vincent Arseneau. Arseneau brought the pain today, unloading with several big hits throughout the game. He was credited with two shots, but it sure seemed like he had a few more. Arseneau won’t be the guy who will come in and pile up points, but he is bringing a physical game and keeping opponents on their toes when he’s on the ice.
1st Star: Thatcher Demko. Demko came up with another 35 saves today to string together three very good games in a row. I think I would go back to Thatcher for tomorrow’s game whether Bachman is good to go or not. Thatcher is looking like he is getting back into that groove that he was in earlier in the season. His game is looking calm again and that will be something that the Comets will need going forward.
VS Binghamton Devils
Sunday, March 25th, 2018
2:05 pm Pacific