Utica Comets Post-Game Report
Game #72 | Friday, March 6th, 2018
4:00 pm Pacific
The first overall Toronto Marlies, (Toronto affiliate) rolled into Utica today to take on the 15th ranked Comets for game number 72 of the Comets season. Toronto had 104 points coming into today’s game, while Utica showed 83 points for their season’s work.
The Marlies power play was the league’s 14th best unit, operating at 17.8%, while their penalty kill was first in the AHL with an 89.2% success rate. The Comets had the 10th best power play in the AHL with an 18.6% rate of success, while their penalty kill was second only to the Marlies with a success rate of 85.7% on the season.
Ben Smith led all active Marlies point getters with 57 in 71 games played, while Chris Mueller sat second with 46 points in 70 games. Miro Aaltonen rounded out their top-three with 41 points in 61 games. Michael Chaput was still the Comets active leader with 40 points in 52 games. Patrick Wiercioch with 35 in 54 and Michael Carcone with 26 points in 64 games rounded out the Comets top-three active scorers.
The Comets and Marlies last played to a 3-2 overtime game yesterday, in which the Marlies came out on top. Toronto had gone 8-2-0-0 over their previous 10 games, while the Comets had a record of 6-3-1-0 over the same span.
The Marlies had a road record of 29-5-0-1 this season, while the Comets showed a home record of 15-14-3-3 coming into today’s game.
Utica had been outscored by a 205-202 margin by their competition this season, while the Marlies had scored 233 goals while giving up just 153.
Scratched today for the Comets were: Yan-Pavel Laplante, (injured), Joe LaBate, (injured), Brendan Woods, (injured), Cam Darcy, (injured), Zack MacEwen, (injured), Guillaume Brisebois, (injured), Frankie Simonelli, (injured), Carter Bancks (vet rule), Griffen Molino, and Matt Leitner.
Comets Starting Lines
27 Tony Cameranesi – 19 Cole Cassels – 23 Jayson Megna
7 Tanner MacMaster – 21 Michael Chaput (A) – 40 Lukas Jasek
58 Michael Carcone – 36 Wacey Hamilton (A) – 37 Kole Lind
17 Alex D’Aoust – 82 Andrew Cherniwchan – 18 Vincent Arseneau
28 Patrick Wiercioch – 5 Jalen Chatfield
12 Nolan Valleau – 26 Jaime Sifers (A)
44 Adam Comrie – 8 Dylan Blujus
30 Thatcher Demko
This period got off to a slow start, but it turned out to be a decent period of hockey.
We didn’t see a single shot on net from either team in the first four minutes, but at the 4:05 mark, Martin Marincin beat Thatcher Demko for his fourth goal of the season with the first shot on net. Pierre Engvall picked up his third helper of the year on the play, while Trevor Moore earned his 19th.
Justin Holl came right back for another chance that Demko steered to the boards. Thatcher followed up that save with another and covered for the whistle.
The Comets were then whistled for having too many men on the ice and they were headed to the penalty kill. Newcomer Lukas Jasek served the bench minor. This penalty kill saw the return of Jayson Megna as one of the Comets killers and he didn’t look out of place after not having played since December 20th.
Near the end of the kill, Adam Comrie was bumped into Demko and the Comets stopper went down. The Marlies got the puck and sent a shot on the net and Demko came up with a diving save to keep the Comets within a goal. The Comets would come up with a good kill.
— x – Utica Comets (@UticaComets) April 6, 2018
The Marlies started to pour it on as Scott Poolie ripped a one-timer Demko’s way that was gobbled up before Trevor Moore stepped over the Comets blueline with a shot that Thatcher grabbed up and held for the whistle. Martin Marincin was up next with a shot and Demko soaked up his offering as well.
I continue to be impressed by Tanner MacMaster and the way he has been playing for the Comets. He has some decent wheels and he used some nifty skating to turnstile Timothy Liljegren at the Marlies blueline before dishing to Dylan Blujus for a sweet give-and-go play that nearly resulted in MacMaster tying the game, but Pickard was ready with the save.
Pierre Engvall was sent off for hooking at the 10:03 mark and the Comets were headed to the power play. I was quite happy to see Lukas Jasek getting time on the first unit and Kole Lind getting a look on the second unit. Trent Cull has been all about opportunity and development this season in Utica, whether that is because of injuries and call-ups is somewhat irrelevant as the players have been taking advantage of those opportunities when they get them.
Jasek was looking good with the man advantage as well, cutting hard to the net with the puck to get a shot off that was denied but Alex D’Aoust was there to bang away at the rebound. Once again, Pickard said no. The Comets would come up empty on their power play.
After the penalty kill ended, rookie winger Kole Lind made a nice defensive play to clear the puck out of Demko’s crease after the goaltender was once again bumped into and knocked out of position. Lind was more noticeable in his second AHL game.
Demko followed up the Lind play by making a diving poke check on Chris Mueller to keep his team within a goal.
At the other end of the ice, Vincent Arseneau crushed Liljegren with a hit before Jalen Chatfield sent a point shot on net that was denied by Pickard. Lukas Jasek let fly with a shot from the high slot that Pickard got a blocker on before Michael Chaput tried a spin and fire move that Pickard turned aside.
I have been impressed with the board work of Lukas Jasek in his first two games and today was no different. He is a bit of a prick along the wall, poking and shouldering his opponents constantly. The Canucks may have a new honey badger in the system.
Patrick Wiercioch had a shot denied and then the fun started as Cole Cassels and Andrew Nielsen squared off for what was mostly a wrestling match and both men were sent off for fighting. Less than 40 seconds later, Patrick Wiercioch joined Cassels in the box after being whistled for hooking.
With the Comets on the kill, Demko turned aside a Liljegren chance before Andrew Cherniwchan went the other way for a shorthanded opportunity. Cherniwchan charged into the Marlies zone, wearing one of their defenders on his back like a jersey. He got his shot away and Pickard had another save in the books.
The Marlies came back the other way on a three-on-one that saw Justin Holl get a shot away that Demko gloved down. Wacey Hamilton took a nifty pass from Michael Carcone at the other end and ripped a one-timer on net that Pickard denied.
That was it for the opening frame. The Marlies were up 2-1 on the score clock and led 9-7 on the shot clock.
Jalen Chatfield was wheeling today, he was all over the ice and looked like he was feeling it. The rookie defender cruised down the left side and broke into the Marlies zone, putting the puck on net where Jasek was waiting to bury some garbage. Once again, Pickard said no. Newcomer Nolan Valleau was next to break down the left side and put a shot on net that Pickard would turn aside.
Valleau has looked solid in his first two games. Hats off to Pat Conacher for unearthing all of these PTO guys that the Comets have used this year. Nearly every player who has been brought in has brought something to the table to help get the Comets into the playoffs.
Jalen Chatfield came back for one more chance, sending a shot on net from the high slot that was gobbled up for a whistle.
Calle Rosen tested Demko with a point shot through traffic and Thatcher saw it, saved it and held for the whistle. Scott Poolie stripped Alex D’Aoust of the puck just inside the Comets blueline and he tried his luck with a shot. Demko turned it aside. Thatcher would come up with another pair of saves before Ben Smith hammered the puck off the iron.
Wacey Hamilton absolutely ran over Liljegren and the Comets forward was sent off for interference. With the Marlies on the power play, Demko had to come up with back-to-back saves on Moore and Mueller before stoning Ben Smith from in close.
Thatcher wouldn’t stop them all though as Vincent LoVerde put the Marlies up 2-0 as the penalty was winding down. The goal was LoVerde’s ninth of the season, while Jeremy Bracco picked up his 22nd helper of the year on the play marker and Andrew Nielsen earned his 18th.
Miro Aaltonen cut hard to the net with a shot and Demko said no and held for a faceoff.
Tanner MacMaster had Patrick Wiercioch charging to the net when he sent a shot on Pickard looking for a tip. Pickard was ready with the save and the puck went the other way.
Demko had to be big in the middle frame and he was when he made a series of saves that started with an Andrew Nielsen point shot, followed up by another save on Adam Brooks’ rebound chance. Demko would make another save on Brooks when the Marlies’ pivot sent a backhander his way from the slot.
Cole Cassels took a feed from Tony Cameranesi and buried it behind Pickard to get the Comets to within a goal. It was goal number seven on the year for Cassels, which is a new career high for him. Cameranesi picked up his fifth helper of the year on the play, while Dylan Blujus earned his 12th.
— x – Utica Comets (@UticaComets) April 7, 2018
The Marlies were looking to get that one right back when Colin Greening was stymied by the limber legs of Demko. Newcomer Nolan Valleau turned the puck over to Greening just inside the Comets blueline and the Marlies forward charged to the net for a chance. Demko laid out with the splits and Greening was left wanting.
Calle Rosen followed up the Greening chance with a heavy shot that Thatcher turned aside before he made another save off of the stick of Engvall and held for the whistle.
At the other end of the ice, Tony Cameranesi sent a hot-shot on net and Pickard whipped out the mitt and said no. Justin Holl would finish up the period with a shot that Demko snatched up and held for a faceoff.
The Marlies finished the middle frame up 2-1 on the score clock and had a staggering 18-6 advantage on the shot clock for the period.
The third period got underway with a really nice give-and-go between Jasek and MacMaster that nearly led to a Jasek goal, but Pickard was equal to the task.
Thatcher Demko came up with another save before rookie Kole Lind dished a nice pass to spring Michael Carcone for a break. Carcone got his shot away, but the winger sent it wide of the net.
Demko denied a Nielsen point shot before doing the same with a shot that came off the right side boards.
Vincent Arseneau enjoys the rough going and he lit up Timothy Liljegren for the second time of the game early in the third. Two Marlies challenged Arseneau after the hit and when the Comets pugilist flipped off his mitts, both Toronto players scurried in the opposite direction.
— x – Utica Comets (@UticaComets) April 7, 2018
There would be a little more back and forth after the Arseneau hit as Jeremy Bracco unloaded a wrister from just inside the Comets blueline that Demko swallowed up before Cherniwchan blocked a shot that sent him heading to the bench slumped over. Wacey Hamilton went the other way and sent a shot from down low on Pickard and the Marlies netminder turned it aside.
Martin Marincin had a shot denied by Demko before Vincent LoVerde was sent off for delay of game after sending the puck over the glass.
It took just over a minute for Lukas Jasek to score his second goal of the season to tie the game at two. If you are following along, you might be realizing right about now that both of Jasek’s goals have been of the game-tying variety. That is a heck of a way to make a debut with your new team. His six points in three games are nothing to sneeze at either. Back to the goal though, Tanner MacMaster sent a nice pass to Wiercioch to get things started. MacMaster wouldn’t pick up a helper on this one, but his pass kicked things off nicely. Wiercioch dished to Chaput, who set Jasek up for the one-timer. The assist was the 25th of the season for Chaput, while Wiercioch earned his 27th.
— x – Utica Comets (@UticaComets) April 7, 2018
Wacey Hamilton was sent off for hooking just over a minute after the Jasek marker and the Comets were back to the penalty kill. Pierre Engvall tried a shot on the short side that Demko turned aside before Michael Chaput came up with a timely shot block and the Comets had a good kill.
Timothy Liljegren sent the puck over the glass and that would send the Marlies to the penalty kill for the remainder of the third period. The Comets would get no traction and we were off to the extra frame.
The Marlies showed an 8-7 edge in shots for the third period.
The Comets would start the overtime period with what remained of their power play but would be unable to capitalize.
Calle Rosen had a chance denied by Demko before Trevor Moore had a chance turned aside as well. Dmytro Timashov followed up with a shot that clanged the iron behind Demko and the puck went the other way.
Tanner MacMaster had a chance but he was at the end of a shift and was out of gas and saw his offering turned aside. Engvall had another chance at the other end, cutting across the ice and sending his shot on net against the grain of the play. Demko came up with a great pad save. Trevor Moore tried his luck with a shot and Demko flashed the leather before Wiercioch had a chance denied at the buzzer. This one would need the shootout.
The Marlies finished with a 4-2 advantage in shots for the extra frame.
The Marlies were up first and they sent Miro Aaltonen over the boards. Thatcher said no.
Lukas Jasek was first up for the Comets and he tried a backhander that was shut down by Pickard.
Ben Smith was the Marlies’ next hope and he too was thwarted by Demko.
Next up it was Cole Cassels and the Comets pivot went low blocker side, off the post and in to beat Pickard.
— x – Utica Comets (@UticaComets) April 7, 2018
It was up to Dmytro Timashov to send this one to extra shooters but Thatcher Demko crushed the Marlies hopes with another save for the win.
That was it in Utica as the Comets came away with a 3-2 shootout win.
The Three Stars in the building today were:
3rd Star: Lukas Jasek. Game tying goal.
2nd Star: Pierre Engvall. One assist.
1st Star: Thatcher Demko. 37 saves.
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
3rd Star: Lukas Jasek. Jasek picked up his second goal in just three games and both have been goals to tie the game. He also has four assists to give him six points in three games. Two points per game will clearly not be sustainable for Jasek, but it is his play without the puck and along the boards that will likely be what gets him to the next level, should he get there. The young man is like a dog on a bone along the wall and he plays a feisty style that will get under the skin of his opponents.
2nd Star: Cole Cassels. Cassels got the first goal for the Comets today and he got the shootout winner. Cassels isn’t a points machine by any means, he now has 26 in 66 games, but he is proving that he can provide some decent secondary scoring at the AHL level to go along with his strong defensive game. He has been in a few fights this season as well, and while that part of the game may be dying down, it is still handy to have players on your roster who aren’t afraid to get their nose dirty when needed.
1st Star: Thatcher Demko. Thatcher had another strong game, putting up 37 saves. He has put up 178 saves over his last five starts with the Comets. While it isn’t great that the Comets are bleeding shots like that, it does bode well that they have a guy, (or two) behind them who can stand up to that kind of onslaught on a regular basis. With the playoffs right around the corner, it sure is a good feeling having Demko playing at the top of his game. The team will be relying on Thatcher for their playoff run and if they have a long one, Demko could cement his status as a legitimate threat to make the Canucks out of camp next season.
At Syracuse Crunch
Saturday, March 7th, 2018
4:00 pm Pacific