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Photo Credit: Owen Skye | @designedbyowen

Utica Comets Post-Game: Utica Comets Come Up With Saucy 5-2 Win Over The Providence Bruins

Utica Comets Post-Game Report

Game #28

Vs Providence Bruins

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific

Pre-Game

The 18th overall Providence Bruins, (Boston affiliate) rolled into Utica today to take on the 20th ranked Comets for game number 28 of the season. The Bruins were sporting a record of 11-10-4-0, giving them 26 points on the season. The Comets, for their part, brought a record of 12-13-1-1 into today’s contest, giving them 26 points as well.

Ryan Fitzgerald led all Bruins scorers with seven goals and 14 assists, giving him 21 points in 25 games this year. Colby Cave sat second with six goals and 12 helpers through 15 games to give himself 18 points. Cameron Hughes rounded out their top three with eight goals and eight assists in 25 games.

Tanner Kero was the top dog in Utica with nine goals and 13 assists, giving him 22 points in 27 games played this year. Reid Boucher sat second with 12 goals and nine helpers through 16 games to give himself 21 points. Zack MacEwen rounded out the Comets top three with 11 goals and 10 assists, giving him 21 points in 27 games played. MacEwen coincidentally will play in his 100th AHL regular season game next Saturday against the Binghamton Devils, assuming that he continues to play every game between now and then.

Cameron Hughes’ 16 points were good enough to have him sitting in the top spot amongst the Bruins rookie scorers, while Jonathan Dahlen was the big cheese amongst the Comets rookies with seven goals and 10 helpers to give himself 17 points in 26 games this year.

The Bruins power play was the AHL’s ninth-ranked unit, scoring 22 times on 103 opportunities to give themselves a 21.4% success rate. Their penalty kill was tops in the league after giving up 13 goals while shorthanded 111 times this season for a success rate of 88.3%.

The Comets power play was ranked fourth in the league after scoring 30 goals on 127 opportunities for a 23.6% success rate. Their penalty kill was ranked 13th overall after giving up 20 goals while down a man 107 times for a success rate of 81.3%.

Providence had gone 6-2-2-0 over their previous 10 contests, while Utica had a record of 6-4-0-0 over that same span. The Bruins were coming off of a 3-2 loss to Belleville, while the Comets last played to a 7-4 win over Binghamton.

The Comets home record was sitting at 5-7-0-0 coming into today’s action, while the Bruins were showing a road record of 5-7-3-0 so far this season.

Providence had outscored their competition by a margin of 80-72 this season, while Utica had been outscored 100-84. The Comets were the first club in the AHL to give up 100 goals this season. Not a stat to hang your hat on, but I expect the goaltending to be much better going forward with Thatcher Demko back and starting to get more comfortable after a long layoff with a concussion.

The Comets had some injury/roster news come out this week as the team announced that they had signed defenceman Colton Saucerman to a PTO, (professional tryout) deal after losing defender Ashton Sautner last game to injury. Sautner suffered a broken nose, cheek and orbital bone according to his uncle, Kevin Garinger.

Losing Sautner is a massive loss for the Comets. I feel like he has been the club’s most consistent defender this season and he has been bringing a heavy game. Dylan Blujus was also dinged up last game, though he was able to finish the contest. There is word that he could have a day-to-day injury as well.

In their stead will likely slide Jagger Dirk on the left, and newcomer Colton Saucerman on the right. By the way, in case it isn’t clear yet, Saucerman has one of the better names in pro hockey. His beard is pretty legit too.

Comets Scratches

Wacey Hamilton, (week-to-week) Vincent Arseneau, (day-to-day) Jalen Chatfield, (week-to-week) Olli Juolevi (week-to-week) Ashton Sautner, (week-to-week) Dylan Blujus, (day-to-day) Brendan Woods, (day-to-day) Jonah Gadjovich, and Petrus Palmu.

Comets Starting Lines

24 Lukas Jasek – 10 Tanner Kero – 24 Reid Boucher

54 Jonathan Dahlen – 16 Brendan Gaunce – 15 Zack MacEwen

25 Darren Archibald (A) – 11 Cam Darcy – 34 Carter Bancks (C)

19 Tanner MacMaster – 27 Tony Cameranesi – 13 Kole Lind

64 Jesse Graham – 26 Jaime Sifers (A)

55 Guillaume Brisebois – 2 Evan McEneny

4 Jagger Dirk – 39 Colton Saucerman

30 Thatcher Demko

32 Richard Bachman (backing up)

First Period

The first period saw the debut of the BeardedWonder as newcomer Colton Saucerman got into his first game with the club, paired with Jagger Dirk.

The Comets would get an opportunity on the power play early when Connor Clifton was dinged for interference just 33 seconds into the game. We saw power play units of Dahlen, Kero, MacEwen, Boucher and McEneny, along with Jasek, Lind, MacMaster, Archibald and Graham. That second unit is pretty light on experience, but the kids are getting opportunities.

Boucher let fly with a shot from the right circle that went off the glove of goaltender Zane McIntyre before Thatcher Demko had to come up with back-to-back shorthanded saves at the other end. The Comets would come up empty with the extra man.

Zach Senyshyn followed up with a shot that saw Demko make the save and Kole Lind showing defensive awareness, quickly clearing the rebound.

Colton Saucerman hit Brendan Gaunce with a stretch pass that sent the pivot in for a chance off the left side that was turned aside by McIntyre. At the other end of the ice, Jagger Dirk came up with a stiff hit at the Comets blueline before Demko turned aside a shot through traffic for another save.

Cam Darcy hit Darren Archibald with a nice feed to spring him for a chance down main-street, but McIntyre was ready with another save. Zack MacEwen followed up with a heavy hit on Clifton in the Bruins end. Dirk saw the MacEwen hit and brought another one of his own near the Comets blueline. Dirk was showing well early for the Comets in this one.

Kole Lind was looking engaged in this one as well, showing some nice vision with his passing and forcing turnovers with his aggressive play.

The Comets were getting some excellent pressure from the Gaunce line…and then it happened. Jagger Dirk sent a cross-ice feed to Colton Saucerman at the Bruins blueline and TheSauce made no mistake, letting fly with a point shot through traffic for his first of the season. Dirk’s assist on the play was his first with the Comets, while Brendan Gaunce earned his second helper of the year.

Anders Bjork stormed in for a chance to tie it up, blowing by everyone in his path before being denied by Demko.

Reid Boucher put the Comets up 2-0 at the 12:42 mark when he scored from the left circle, picking up his 13th of the year. Jaime Sifers earned his fourth helper of the year on the play, while Jesse Graham picked up his sixth.

Olivier Galipeau followed up with a chance in the Comets end that was blockered away by Demko before he did the same with a Mark McNeill offering moments later.

Boucher had another chance denied before Senyshyn tried a wraparound, only to see Demko stretch out with the splits to make the save. Kole Lind followed up with a nice play in the neutral zone, forcing a turnover and sending his line back into the offensive zone.

The period wrapped up with Jagger Dirk showing some playmaker’s mitts with nice passes to Lind and MacEwen. The Comets showed a 9-8 advantage on the shot clock for the opening frame.

Second Period

The middle frame saw its share of penalties for the Comets as they had several shorthanded situations to deal with.

Demko steered an early shot over the glass for a whistle before Carter Bancks followed up with one of his patented shot blocks.

Brendan Gaunce got the penalty parade going when he was sent off for hooking at the 2:08 mark. The Comets had a penalty to kill. Demko made a save on Trent Frederic before Jaime Sifers was dinged with a double minor for a high-stick that caused some leakage.

It took mere seconds for Jordan Szwarz to pull his team within a goal with his seventh of the season, putting a shot in off of defender Guillaume Brisebois. Kyle Cumiskey picked up his third helper of the year on the play, while Anders Bjork earned his fourth.

The Bruins still had plenty of time to work with on the power play and Demko had to quickly shut down a one-timer before Archibald had a shorthanded chance denied by McIntyre. The Comets kept the shorthanded chances coming as Brendan Gaunce broke in with Jesse Graham and hit him with a pass, only to see McIntyre stymie the defender with a big save.

Demko came up with back-to-back saves in close, but the Comets were doing some great work on the kill. Demko came up with another big save on Senyshyn before Archibald ripped a shot off the iron going the other way.

Demko gloved down another chance as the teams were going back and forth on the Bruins man advantage. The Comets came up with another good kill.

Demko steered aside another shot before Jonathan Dahlen had a tipped shot denied at the other end.

Saucerman’s beard drew a hooking penalty at the 7:38 mark and it was Utica’s turn with the extra man as Tanner Pond took a seat. Evan McEneny tried to execute a questionable back-pass and the Comets had to regroup. They would come up empty once more.

Jesse Grahan was whistled for holding at the 9:56 mark and the Comets had another penalty to kill. Yes, it was a long night for the dude running the Comets penalty box door.

Demko kicked aside yet another Bjork offering before another shot clanged off the iron, this time behind Demko. The Comets had another good kill.

Demko came up with another save before losing his goal stick and using Tony Cameranesi’s twig for a few moments. Cameranesi was then sent off for tripping and the Comets were back to the kill…again.

Kero and Boucher had a shorthanded chance that they couldn’t get to go before Demko denied another Bjork opportunity and Brisebois came up with a clear. Thatcher followed up with another save off a shot from the right circle. The Comets did more great work and came up with another kill.

Emil Johansson followed up with a big blast from the point that was soaked up by Demko before Zack MacEwen took his turn in the box with a tripping penalty at the 16:58 mark. With TheBigFella in the box, Demko came up with another save on Anders Bjork from the right side. Bjork was getting his chances in this one.

Ryan Fitzgerald tried his luck with a shot through traffic that Demko gobbled up and held for the whistle. Thatcher would follow up with another save in tight before MacEwen was set free and the Comets had another good kill in the books. Utica would go 5/6 on the kill for the game.

As time wound down, Tony Cameranesi was decked and Archibald didn’t like it. A brief shoving match ensued before Cameron Hughes was issued with a cross-checking penalty for the initial infraction against Cameranesi at the 19:36 mark. The Comets would start the third with a power play.

Providence showed a 16-6 advantage in shots for the middle frame.

Third Period

With the Comets up a man to start things off, Jonathan Dahlen was looking to keep his goals streak going with an early chance, but he was flat-out robbed by McIntyre. The Comets kept the pressure on as MacEwen tried to stuff the puck in from in close but was rebuffed by the netminder. The Comets came up empty with their early power play.

Kole Lind looks a little more comfortable with each game that he plays and this one was no different. We saw him showing some good physicality in the offensive zone and he quickly followed it up with a big shot block in the defensive zone when the Comets were hemmed in for a shift. He still has work to do, but I have liked what I have seen from him in his last couple of outings.

Lukas Jasek and Reid Boucher have been playing on a line together for the last two games and the pair looks to be feeding well off each other. Jasek hit Boucher with a feed in the slot from behind the Bruins net, but McIntyre swallowed up the Boucher offering.

At the other end of the ice, Bjork let fly with a shot off the left side that was denied by Demko before Jagger Dirk showed some good man-on-man coverage in his own end of the ice. Demko elected to freeze the puck for a whistle soon after with some traffic gathering in his crease.

Do you remember me saying how Boucher and Jasek have been playing well on a line together? Well, they hooked up for a goal after some slick puck movement with Tanner Kero that resulted in a Jasek shot and Boucher burying the rebound for his 14th goal of the season. Jasek picked up his seventh helper of the year on the play.

Colton Saucerman was showing well in his first game with the Comets, picking up his early goal and showing some solid work in his own end, using his body positioning and a good stick to break up plays and protect pucks.

Guillaume Brisebois came up with a shot block that had him on the limp before Demko gloved down a shot for a whistle. Brisebois and Anton Blihd were each given roughing penalties resulting from the ensuing scrum and we had some four aside action.

TheBigFella extended the Comets lead to 4-2 when he corralled the puck and got a quick wrister away that found the back of the net for his 12th goal of the season. MacEwen now has nine points in his last nine games. Jaime Sifers earned his second assist of the day and his seventh point of the year. He picked up five points in his 37 games with the Comets last year. Brendan Gaunce grabbed the other assist for his third of the season and second of the game.

I know I have said it before, but Jaime Sifers hits like a truck and he uncorked a hit in the Comets zone that led to a Tanner MacMaster/Carter Bancks break the other way that, unfortunately, didn’t result in a goal.

Saucerman followed up by skipping a shot on net that McIntyre blockered out of harm’s way. Cam Darcy forced a turnover and charged in for a chance that was denied before Zach Senyshyn pulled his team to within a pair when he tipped his 10th of the year past Demko. Joe Messner grabbed his third helper of the year on the play, while Peter Cehlarik earned his 11th.

Brendan Gaunce has played well since coming back to Utica, picking up seven points in his nine games played since his most recent stint with the Canucks. He showed some great hustle to poke the puck ahead of a defender in the neutral zone before getting on his horse to chase it down to get a scoring chance away that was denied by McIntyre.

The Bruins pulled their goaltender with about 2:20 remaining in the period and that’s when the icing parade started as a handful of Comets tried their luck for an empty net goal. First up was Dahlen, who put his shot wide.

With the faceoff in the Comets end, there was a scramble that saw Demko making snow angels on the ice with a crowd all around him. Somehow, the puck stayed out. The play was reviewed as the Bruins were convinced of a tally, but it was deemed no goal.

Boucher was up next for his crack at the yawning cage for his hattrick attempt but put his shot off the outside of the net. McEneny tried his luck next to no avail before the Bruins put some pressure on.

The pressure would not be enough, however, as Archibald would prove to be the successful Comets player with an empty net chance for his seventh of the year. Boucher picked up the lone helper for his 10th assist of the season.

That was it for this one as the Comets skated away with a 5-2 win over the Bruins. Utica held an advantage of 11-9 on the shot clock for the final frame, but Providence led the game by a 33-26 margin.

Today’s Official Boxscore

Comets Goals:

Saucerman (1) from Dirk (1) and Gaunce (2).

Boucher (13) from Sifers (4) and Graham (6).

Boucher (14) from Jasek (7).

MacEwen (12) from Sifers (5) and Gaunce (3).

Archibald (7) from Boucher (10). Empty net goal.

The Three Stars in the building today were:

3rd Star: Colton Saucerman. One goal, (first in the AHL).

2nd Star: Reid Boucher. Two goals, one assist.

1st Star: Thatcher Demko. 31 saves.

CanucksArmy’s Three Stars:

3rd Star: Colton Saucerman/Jagger Dirk. I’m cheating here, but I wanted to give some recognition to the pair as I thought that they acquitted themselves well today. They each picked up their first points with the Comets and handled their own end of the ice well. Dirk was showing some nice passing and some physical play, while Saucerman was seeing time on the penalty kill and did not look out of place. The Comets will need to continue to get strong games out of these players when they have to step in and play games. So far, both men have given the coaching staff reasons to put them back in for more games going forward.

2nd Star: Brendan Gaunce/Zack MacEwen/Jonathan Dahlen. I’m cheating again, but I have to say that I like this line and hope to see them stick together for a while. I feel like the trio works well together and can bring offence while being able to handle their own end of the ice as well. Gaunce and MacEwen put up three points between them today and if that line gets an extended look, Trent Cull may have found himself a unit that can do some serious damage offensively. Gaunce is now up to eight points in 12 games for the Comets, while MacEwen is up to 22 points in 28 games, putting him just 11 points back of his 66 game total from his rookie season last year. Meanwhile, Dahlen has 17 points in the first 27 games of his rookie season.

1st Star: Thatcher Demko/Reid Boucher. I know, more cheating. Demko came up with 31 saves today for his fourth win of the season. He now has a 2.47 goals-against average on the season and a 0.911 save percentage. Thatcher gives his team a chance to win in every game that he plays and he showed more of that today. He rarely seems to get rattled, always showing a calming presence between the pipes. Boucher, for his part, picked up a pair of goals and an assist today, otherwise known as another day at the office for Reid. He is up to a ridiculous 14 goals in 17 games and now has 24 points on the season. Boucher has been held off the scoresheet for exactly one game this season and that came back on November 17th. Since then, he has put up five goals and six assists in seven games. Boucher is currently scoring at a pace that would see him net 63 goals and 45 assists for 108 points over a full 76 game AHL season. Is that good? I think it might be good…

Next Game

Game #29

Vs Binghamton Devils

Friday, December 14th, 2018

7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific

 

 

 

 

  • LTFan

    Once again an excellent write-up Cory. Looks like the Comets are starting to roll along as many expected this season. 7 wins in their last 10 games.

    I notice that Palmu and Gadjovich seem to sit out a lot of games. In fact Palmu has only played in 12 games and Gadjovich in 16. They certainly won’t develop without playing more often. Are they simply not up to the same caliber as the other players in Utica, hence not playing?

    • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

      Apparently. That’s why Palmu has now bolted back to Finland. I mistakenly had believed all these years that the AHL was the development league for the NHL. Apparently not.

        • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

          Aint that the truth!

          But in all honesty, if I was hired to coach a team that I knew was ‘rebuilding’…would I allow that to factor into my decision making process re: lineups? Probably not seeing as nobody hires a coach with an expectation to solely/firstly develop kids, and secondly to field the most competitive team that will give you a chance to win…

      • North Van Halen

        I’m just so confused by this. If he’s not good enough and clearly is over-matched, should they play him just for your approval?
        Coaches put him in 12 games, he got 1 point and coaches deemed he just wasn’t good enough for this league yet. He may never be good enough for the AHL, let alone the NHL.
        But you think they should play him regardless of his actual ability to play at that level. Interesting.

        • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

          It is “interesting” isn’t it Van Halen. Thanks for completely missing the argument I was making about questioning whether or not the AHL is indeed a development league, or a professional league.

          • DJ_44

            … questioning whether or not the AHL is indeed a development league, or a professional league

            It is both. It is the second best professional hockey league in the world, developing talent for the best professional hockey league in the world.

            Happy to answer any other basic questions you have.

    • Cory Hergott

      LT: Palmu was having a difficult time adjusting to the lack of time and space for him to work in the AHL. The coaching staff were working with him to help him get up to speed/find a role, but apparently, that didn’t materialize the way they had hoped. He will likely have a strong finish to his season now that he is going back to TPS and will be able to come back here next year with a better understanding of what he will need to do to take the next step. Gadjovich has been playing a bit better in his opportunities and I believe that his size helps him in that regard. He is physically able to handle the battles a bit better than Palmu right now. His foot speed will continue to need work for him to keep developing. He has time to work on that, though and has a guy on his team who could maybe offer a suggestion or two for him as someone who was also said to have skating issues in Zack MacEwen.

  • Missing Burr

    Cory, is Saucerman ever likely to get a call up to the big club, I would love to see this guy in action at the Rog’, he has cult hero written all over him?!

    • Cory Hergott

      Missing Burr: Saucerman is a nice story, and a fun one at that. He did have a nice debut for the team as well, but the reality is that he is a temporary fill in for the Comets on a tryout deal out of the ECHL. The Canucks would have to sign him to a contract in order to play him and I feel like there might be better uses of contracts for defensemen for the big club. I’m all for a story about an underdog with an epic beard, though. (I may or may not have grown a “yeard” in the past.

  • Kanuckhotep

    I didn’t know garden gnomes could play hockey but Colton Saucerman seems to be just that. He’d certainly be a PR man’s dream on the big team. Everyone automatically loves this guy.