Photo Credit: Owen Skye | @designedbyowen

The Utica Comets Get Off To A Quick Start But Fall 7-3 To The Toronto Marlies

Utica Comets Post-Game Report

Game One

VS Toronto Marlies

Friday, October 5th, 2018

4:00 pm Pacific


The defending Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies rolled into Utica today to take on the new-look Comets for game one of the 2018/19 season. We all know what happened the last time the two clubs faced off as the Comets were able to to take the Marlies to the brink in their five-game, first-round playoff series before falling 4-0 in the final game. That was no easy task as the Marlies went on to pretty much steamroll every other opponent in their path on their way to winning the Calder Cup.

This game also saw Sam Gagner suiting up for the Marlies rather than the Comets. That may ruffle your feathers, depending on which side you fall in this situation.

Some will see this as the parent Canucks doing a solid for a player who signed on for three years with the big club, only to be ousted after one season. Maybe this move helps save face for the franchise somewhat with future free agents. It also means that Gagner will not be taking prime minutes away from the likes of Adam Gaudette in Utica. Gagner’s presence in Utica would create the issue of having too many veterans and not enough spots to play them, as well. As it stands right now, the Comets shouldn’t be encountering any such issues without him.

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Others may see this as the Canucks robbing the Comets of a player who will very likely pile up points and help win games. It has been a long time since the Comets have had a pivot with the ability that Gagner has and playing prospects like Jonathan Dahlen, Kole Lind, or Zack MacEwen with him would surely help them produce. Let’s just hope that Mr. Gagner has a quiet night.

Last season, the two clubs finished tied with an 18% effective rate on their respective power plays. The Marlies picked up 62 goals on 345 opportunities, while the Comets scored 57 goals while on the man advantage 317 times.

The Marlies’ penalty kill was the AHL’s best in the regular season, clicking along at 88.9%. The club gave up just 30 goals while being shorthanded 271 times. The Comets, for their part, were right behind the Marlies, sitting second overall with an 85.5% effective rate. They gave up 49 goals while being short a man 338 times.

Last season, Ben Smith lead all Marlies scorers in the regular season with 27 goals and 32 helpers to give himself 59 points in 73 games. Andreas Johansson sat second with 26 goals and 28 assists, giving him 54 points in 54 games. Chris Mueller rounded out their top-three with 19 goals and 33 assists to give himself 52 points in 73 games.

Reid Boucher was the biggest producer in Utica last season, piling up 25 goals and 21 helpers to give himself 46 points in 45 games. Michael Chaput was next with 17 goals and 25 assists, giving him 42 points in 55 games. Patrick Wiercioch sat third with 10 goals and 27 assists to give himself 37 points in 58 contests.

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As the seasons change, so do many teams in the AHL and these two clubs are both experiencing that at the top of their rosters this year. Ben Smith is no longer with the Marlies as he signed overseas with Adler Mannheim in Germany, while Andreas Johansson has graduated to the big club in Toronto.

Things are similar in Utica as Michael Chaput was traded in the offseason to Chicago for Tanner Kero before becoming an unrestricted free agent and signing on with the Laval Rocket. Chaput was recently named to their leadership group and will be wearing an “A” with the club this season. Patrick Wiercicoh has also moved on, signing with Dinamo Minsk in the KHL.

The Marlies scored 254 goals in the regular season last year while giving up 170. The Comets, for their part, rippled the mesh 211 times while allowing 216 goals against.

Scratched today for the Comets were: Wacey Hamilton (injured), Guillaume Brisebois (injured), Jagger Dirk, Dylan Blujus, Lukas Jasek, Vincent Arseneau, Jonah Gadjovich, Petrus Palmu, and Michael Carcone.

Comets Starting Lines

19 Tanner MacMaster – 11 Cam Darcy – Reid Boucher (A)

54 Jonathan Dahlen – 10 Tanner Kero – 34 Carter Bancks (C)

25 Darren Archibald – 17 Adam Gaudette – 13 Kole Lind

16 Brendan Gaunce – 21 Brendan Woods – 15 Zack MacEwen

48 Olli Juolevi – 5 Jalen Chatfield

64 Jesse Graham – 26 Jaime Sifers (A)

6 Ashton Sautner – 2 Evan McEneny

32 Richard Bachman

31 Ivan Kulbakov (Backing Up)

First Period

Well, I don’t think that the all-new AHLTV kicked things off the way that they would have liked. Most of the first period had no sound, and some of it had no video. As such, you will be getting a condensed version of the first period. Let’s hope the second period is better.

Things got going the Comets way early when Dmytro Timashov was sent off for slashing just 28 seconds into the opening frame. Trent Cull rolled out a power play unit of Tanner MacMaster, Zack MacEwen, Jonathan Dahlen, Reid Boucher, and Olli Juolevi. It took Boucher just 31 seconds to score the first goal of the 20128/19 AHL season when he buried a rebound. Zack MacEwen and Tanner MacMaster picked up the helpers.

There was some pretty decent pace to the first period for a season-opening game. We saw Comets captain, Carter Bancks let fly with a point shot that was gobbled up by Marlies netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo before Darren Archibald unloaded a big hit at the Comets blueline that lead to a Marlies turnover.

Richard Bachman looked solid in the opening frame, posting nine saves, one of them by whipping out the mitt on a Marlies point shot.

The Comets got their second power play of the game at the 5:45 mark when Trevor Moore was whistled for hooking. This time, we saw a power play unit of Darren Archibald, Tanner Kero, Adam Gaudette, Kole Lind and right shot blueliner, Jesse Graham. They couldn’t get much going and neither did the unit that picked up the first goal when they came out for their turn.

Brendan Woods was showing his heavy game with some nice physical play in the first period.

There was more good back and forth before Bachman did well to cover a puck on a scramble play in his crease. Comets defender, Jaime Sifers took exception to the way Pierre Engvall was whacking away at his goaltender and offered to engage the Marlies winger in some fisticuffs, but he was rebuffed.

Bachman followed up by making Engvall feel shame as he gloved down his offering from the point before Ashton Sauter gave Sam Gagner a rough ride for a shift.

Adam Gaudette was having a good game, showing a nice spin move with the puck in front of the Marlies net before it was knocked off of his stick. MacEwen came up with a nice play with a good stick, breaking up a Marlies play and forcing a turnover.

The opening frame wrapped up with Cam Darcy being sent off for holding at the 19:19 mark. We saw Brendan Gaunce and Brendan Woods on the penalty kill, along with defenders  Jalen Chatfield and Ashton Sautner. Bachman came up with a save on Gagner in the dying seconds to finish off the period.

The Comets showed a 15-9 advantage on the shot clock for the opening frame.

Second Period

The second period wasn’t a whole lot better than the first as far as AHLTV goes, so once again, I will do what I can.

It didn’t take long for the Marlies to even this one up as former Comets defender, Jordan Subban ripped home a bomb of a point shot just 50 seconds into the second period. Pierre Engvall and Adam Cracknell grabbed the helpers.

Jonathan Dahlen can pass a puck and he did just that with a nifty backhand feed for a point shot that didn’t materialize. We saw Kole Lind, Darren Archibald and Adam Gaudette hook up for a nice bit of passing after forcing a Marlies turnover but they were unable to get it to go.

Bachman then came up with a pair of saves, first gloving down a Colin Greening offering before shutting down a Josh Jooris one-timer from the slot. The Comets ended up being hemmed in their end for a shift before Tanner Kero was fingered for hooking.

With Kero doing time in the box, Woods and Gaunce broke out for a shorthanded scoring chance that didn’t pan out before Sam Gagner hit Woods from behind and was dinged for boarding. With Gagner in the box, Archibald sent a nice feed to Gaudette who was stymied by Kaskisuo.

Bachman followed up with back-to-back saves before Engvall put the Marlies up 2-1 with a bullet of a wrist shot, glove-high. Jordan Subban and Calle Rosen were credited with the helpers. Less than two minutes later it was 3-1 after Timothy Liljegren beat Bachman for his first of the year. Rosen grabbed his second helper on the play, while Chris Mueller earned his first.

Jalen Chatfield saw Adam Gaudette in the open and sprung the rookie for a break with a nice feed, but Gaudette’s shot was denied by Kaskisuo.

The Comets were then called for having too-many-men on the ice and the Marlies were on the power play for the third time in the game. Once again, Brendan Gaunce had a shorthanded chance but was unable to capitalize. Gaunce had a solid game and looked good on the penalty kill.

Sifers, Sautner, Chatfield, and McEneny all saw time on the kill. McEneny and Chatfield both used their bodies well on this one. Chatfield was using his body to protect the puck, while McEneny used his to level a Marlies player at the side of the net. The Comets came up with a good kill.

Bachman followed up the kill with a nice stick-save before Boucher and Cam Darcy went the other way and had their chance blockered away. MacEwen, Woods, and Gaunce then showed some nice passing for a scoring chance that was put wide of the net. The Comets were getting chances, but they weren’t able to capitalize.

MacEwen dished out a sturdy hit at the Comets blueline that stood up Josh Jooris before Jaime Sifers and Carl Grundstrom were sent off together. Sifers for a slash and Grundstrom for boarding. With the teams playing at four-aside, it took less than a minute for Trevor Moore to nab a Jalen Chatfield turnover and whistle it past Bachman to put the Marlies up 4-1. Andreas Borgman picked up an assist.

Bachman was getting shelled a bit at this point, but he came up with a big save on a Marlies break before Archibald was sent off for hooking. Bachman was forced into another save before Ashton Sautner calmly grabbed a loose puck out of the crowd and cleared it down the ice. Plays like that one will see him getting called back up to Vancouver again this season when the injuries hit.

Bachman had to steer aside a Subban one-timer before the teams were back to even strength. With just under three minutes remaining in the period, Andrew Nielsen was sent off for holding and the Comets power play went to work. Juolevi saw his point shot steered over the glass before Reid Boucher let fly with a shot that went off Kaskisuo’s glove before ringing the iron.

The Big Fella made Nielsen pay for his sins, though. MacEwen showed some deft hands and incredible patience as he dished a hit, corraled a loose puck and outwaited Kaskisuo to rip the puck past him for his first goal of the season. Jonathan Dahlen and Tanner Kero each picked up their first assist of the year on the play.

I thought that newcomer, Jesse Graham showed some nice work to use his body and his stick in his own zone as this period wound down. The Marlies lead the period in shots by a count of 19-13 in the middle frame.

Third Period

Kole Lind started the third period off with a solid hit and an early shot on goal. Zack MacEwen followed up with some nice work on the forecheck and we saw Jalen Chatfield upping his physical game early in the third as well.

Reid Boucher got the Comets to within a goal just over three minutes into the final frame, finishing off a nice play from MacMaster after Ashton Sautner did well to keep the puck in play at the Marlies blueline. It was the second goal of the game for Boucher, while MacMaster picked up his second helper and Sautner grabbed his first.

Less than 30 seconds later, the Comets were headed back to the power play when Calle Rosen was whistled for boarding. Adam Gaudette had a shot turned aside, and this Comets power play came up empty. The Comets kept it coming though, as Sautner let fly with a shot through traffic that was turned aside before MacEwen dished a sweet backhand pass to Gaunce for a chance that was denied.

They were getting chances but couldn’t bury them.

Jonathan Dahlen is going to be a fun player to watch this year as he has the ability to whip out moves that make you take notice throughout the game. In this period, he took a pass in the neutral zone while skating backwards at speed before ultimately losing the puck. I’m looking forward to watching that play click for him as the season goes on.

The Comets started to bring a little more physicality as both of Chatfield and MacMaster dished out solid hits.

It was midway through the third period when Carl Grundstrom ripped a shot glove side past a screened Bachman to put the Marlies up 5-3. The unassisted goal was Grundstrom’s first of the season.

It wasn’t long after the Grundstrom tally that I noticed how much Zack MacEwen’s agility has improved since last season. The Big Fella put in the work this offseason and if game-one was any indication, I think he could have a big season for the Comets this year. Kole Lind also showed some agility when he danced into the Marlies zone, found a scoring lane and got a backhander off that was denied. It was a nice play by the rookie and it was nice to see him have the confidence to try it.

The Comets headed back to the penalty kill when Brendan Woods was whistled for high-sticking. They came up with another good kill before a brief scrum broke out in the Marlies’ crease with Archibald and Lind right in the thick of it.

Grundstrom’s name was all over this score sheet tonight and it showed up once more when he was sent off for interference at the 15:29 mark. Less than a minute later, the Marlies were up 6-3 when Trevor Moore took an Adam Cracknell feed to score his second of the game. Cracknell picked up his second helper on the shorthanded marker.

Trent Cull summoned Bachman to the bench with roughly three and a half minutes left in the period and Josh Jooris salted it away with another shorty into the empty net. Colin Greening earned the lone assist. The Comets power play came up empty while giving up a pair.

This game was out of reach, but nobody told that to Darren Archibald as he streaked into the Marlies zone with speed, and cut to the net with the puck before running out of room to get the shot off.

That was it for this one. The Comets outshot the Marlies 18-11 in the final frame and 46-39 for the game but they came up short.

Today’s Boxscore

The Three Stars in the building tonight were:

3rd Star: Reid Boucher. Two goals

2nd Star: Calle Rosen. Two assists

1st Star: Trevor Moore. Two goals

CanucksArmy’s Three Stars

3rd Star: Olli Juolevi. Juolevi didn’t show up on the score sheet but the rookie defender had a solid game. He had five shots on goal and showed poise with the puck. When things start to click for Olli, he should be able to help bring some offence from the blueline. CanucksArmy’s own Darryl Keeping lays out Juolevi’s game pretty well in this tweet.

2nd Star: Tanner MacMaster. I like what this kid brings. He is versatile enough to move from the wing to the middle and back again.  He is a heady player who skates well, and he has some nice hands for setting up plays. The rookie picked up a pair of helpers tonight and showed that he can not only hang with good players, but he can help drive play for them as well. I feel like Tanner could have a solid season ahead of him with the Comets.

1st Star: Reid Boucher. I feel like I did this a lot last season…having Boucher as one of my three stars. Boucher straight up knows how to score goals. He has a rocket of a shot and uses it well. He picked up right where he left off last season. Boucher’s pair of goals today should come as no surprise to anyone who follows this team, nor should his solid work on the penalty kill. He hasn’t been able to stick at the NHL level, but the man can get the job done in the AHL like nobody’s business.

Next Game

VS Belleville Senators

Saturday, October 6th, 2018

7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific







  • NeverWas

    Great write up Corey, really looking forward to following the comets through you this year. Keep up the great work!

    P.s. would love a little comets prospect report on the regular as the season progresses.

    • Cory Hergott

      NeverWas: Ryan and Jeremy generally kill it with the prospects coverage. Keep an eye on the Blackfish Report for that info. I try to include my thoughts about players in my post-game reports as the season goes on, so there will some of that info in this sapce as well.

      • NeverWas

        You’re not wrong mr. Corey, those blackfish reports are top shelf and often (both quantity and qualtity). That said, they often refer to your posts for more details on the comet prospects.

        Couple drops dives from your perspective is all I’m asking… maybe a couple guest appearances in the blackfish report 😉

        • Cory Hergott

          NeverWas: I don’t have the analytical chops for the kind of deep dives that the readers here have become accustomed to. I have some plans for some different pieces this year that I’m hoping to make happen. Hopefully they will fill in a few gaps here and there.

  • argoleas

    The last thing I expect when trying out a product that I may purchase is the silent treatment 🙂

    Alas, my few impression today was:
    – Boucher is a lethal AHL sniper. Shame it does not seem to translate to the NHL.
    – Juolevi was calm, cool, collected. There is something there that most people still refuse to see because Sergachev is flashier, and MacAvoy burst out so well. Juolevi should grow into a Dman that will be able to run a game. That takes more time to develop. In fact, even though I believe he will be comfortably in the NHL this year and beyond as our 2nd LD, that skill will probably not peak until he’s in his mid or late 20s. BTW, brutal mispronunciation of his name by the announcer.
    – Good stuff from Gaudette
    – Backman did not bring his A game. Not sure he even brought his B game. The other goalie, whatshisname, did.
    – Keep it all coming.

    • Cory Hergott

      Woj: The stream for this game was full of issues. The second period was especially bad as the stream dropped out completely for a good portion and the audio was off as well. It made things a little bit difficult to take notes, lol. Bachman had some struggles at times, but he made some big saves in the game as well. I don’t expect to see blowouts like that on the regular this year.

  • East van canuck

    This is why you don’t give your own contraced NHL players away to an elite Calder Cup champion division rival like the Marlies…and pay for the privilige. You just could not make it up. Gagner fitted like a glove and raised the level of all the Leaf prospects around him here. Titanic type franchise disaster from Benning here folks.

    • Cory Hergott

      EVC: Adding Gagner to the Comets would only serve to take prime minutes away from Adam Gaudette…who is one of the only legit prospects who can play the middle that the Canucks have in their system. It would also have added to their swollen ranks, pushing another young prospect down the depth chart. He would count as a vet as well, which would push them over the limit, causing further roster issues. It was only one game, but Gagner didn’t stand out to me outside of his boarding call and seeing him being abused by Sautner.

      • This Gagner thing is a two sided coin. I’m sure management wrestled with both sides before making the decision they did.
        I thing the bottom line on Gags is he has skill that didn’t line up or match up with what Canucks needed. He fit in well in Columbus, not so well in Van. Others may thing that Gags is not good at playing hockey.

      • East van canuck

        Cory I believe there is no limit on the number of vets you can actually have on the farm team, only the number dressed for a single game, so…

        Gaudette can stilll get his minutes regardless, if he earns them, but I think we have to look at the bigger picture here Cory. Ultimately, it’s about creating a winning environment and challenging to win a Calder Cup because that kind of success translates to the big club.

        NHL vets like Gagner can surely use their experience and knowledge to make everyone on the farm better, so sending him to a direct AHL rival only strengthens them and weakens Utica while we are paying his NHL wages, it’s totally absurd! In European soccer, I believe a player sent ‘on loan’ cannot play against his parent club and a deal is hammered out regarding salary payment… this makes much more sense to me, surely you agree?

        The fan talk about shopping Gagner around the NHL via the Marlies is laughable – he was available for free yet every team said no thanks… let him serve his masters in the A!

        • Dirty30

          The idea that Gagner is suddenly going to lift those around him with his professionalism and stellar play seems a stretch. He was uninspired and uninterested and no other NHL team wanted him. So how would that attitude suddenly make the Comets better? Or the Marlies?

          Toronto took him because he costs them nothing and that’s likely about what he will contribute overall. If Gagner was good at anything outside his PP sheltered role he would be a Canuck. He’s getting paid top money for his role and it should be a wake up call to him that he wasn’t wanted elsewhere.

    • Defenceman Factory

      “Titanic type franchise disaster” really? Are you just a troll or are you going for some sort of drama queen award?

      Gagner clearly does not have a spot in the future of this franchise. The small benefit Gagner might bring in making the Comets slightly better is more than offset by the benefit of prospects getting more ice time. Gagner gets moved as soon as anybody offers anything.

  • Nuck16

    Well it has become increasingly apparent the Canucks have lacked 2 things for many many years, which we look to finally be starting to break out of…
    1) players that can riffle one time shots with consistent accurcy, and this means off of perfect very crip set up passes. (solution: Brock, Petty, Gaudette…)
    2) Dman (or otherwise) that can deliver consistent crisp passes for one timer shots. This utica reports mentions Olli set up Boucher for a couple one timers. Olli also set up Petterson for that beauty one timer power play goal in preseason, so he’s looks like he’s probably our best option within our organization at the moment to lead the #1 power play on the big club. Hughes should be the guy next season. I think by next season Olli #2 PP, and Quinn #1 PP on the Canucks. Sorry Edler you just don’t cut it. I recall Hutton trying to set up some one timers, but they were consistently off the mark by about 5ft…really?

    • NeverWas

      Yeah, I saw that with Hutton too – he just couldnt get it in the sweet spot for boeser or pattie. Was pretty disappointing… only hope was that he just wasn’t feeling it that night.