Utica Comets Post-Game Report
At Springfield Thunderbirds
Friday, December 21st, 2018
7:05 pm Eastern/4:05 pm Pacific
The 14th overall Utica Comets rolled into Springfield today to take on the seventh-ranked Thunderbirds, (Florida affiliate) for game number 32 of the season. The Comets brought a record of 15-13-2-1 into today’s contest, giving them 33 points on the season. The TBirds, for their part, were showing a record of 15-8-2-3, giving them 35 points for their season’s efforts.
Springfield had outscored their opponents by a count of 102-89 this year, while the Comets had been outscored by a 109-99 margin on the season. The Comets were coming off of a 4-3 overtime win over Charlotte, while Springfield last played to a 3-2 win over Syracuse.
The Comets had gone 8-6-2-1 on the road this year, while the TBirds had a home record of 11-2-2-2 coming into today’s action. Utica had gone 6-3-1-0 over their previous 10 contests, while Springfield had gone 5-2-2-1 over that same span.
Sebastian Repo was the TBirds active leading scorer amongst their rookies with four goals and four helpers in 19 games this year, while Lukas Jasek was the Comets leader amongst active rookies with seven goals and nine helpers, giving him 16 points in 25 games this season.
Anthony Greco was the active leader for the rest of the Springfield squad with 14 goals and 11 assists, giving him 25 points in 27 games. Paul Thompson sat second with 12 goals and nine helpers in 28 games to give him 21 points on the season. Harry Zolnierczyk rounded out their top three with six goals and 15 assists, giving him 21 points in 28 games.
The Comets were led by the sharpshooting, Reid Boucher with 15 goals and 12 helpers to give himself 27 points in 20 games this season. Tanner Kero sat second with nine goals and 16 assists, giving him 25 points in 31 games, while Zack MacEwen rounded out their top three with 13 goals and 11 assists in 30 games to give himself 24 points.
The Comets power play has dropped a little, now sitting eighth in the AHL after scoring 30 times on 139 opportunities with the extra man for a success rate of 21.6%. Their penalty kill continued to rise, now sitting 10th in the league, giving up 22 goals while down a man 124 times for an 82.3% success rate.
Springfield had the league’s third-best power play after scoring 37goals while up a man 141 times this year for a 26.2% success rate. Their penalty kill sat 26th in the AHL, giving up 28 goals while shorthanded 130 times for a 78.5% success rate.
Olli Juolevi, (out for regular season) Jalen Chatfield, (month-to-month) Ashton Sautner, (indefinite) Jonathan Dahlen, (day-to-day) Brendan Woods, (day-to-day) Wacey Hamilton, (day-to-day) Tanner MacMaster, and Colton Saucerman.
Comets Starting Lines
25 Darren Archibald (A) – 16 Brendan Gaunce – 15 Zack MacEwen
9 Lukas Jasek – 10 Tanner Kero – 24 Reid Boucher
34 Carter Bancks (C) – 11 Cam Darcy – 13 Kole Lind
18 Vincent Arseneau – 27 Tony Cameranesi – 22 Jonah Gadjovich
64 Jesse Graham – 26 Jaime Sifers (A)
55 Guillaume Brisebois – 2 Evan McEneny
4 Jagger Dirk – 8 Dylan Blujus
32 Richard Bachman
30 Thatcher Demko (backing up)
This was a pretty good period of hockey between the two clubs, so let’s get right to it. An early hit from Darren Archibald led to Brendan Gaunce setting up Zack MacEwen for a chance, but TheBigFella put his shot off target.
At the other end of the ice, Richard Bachman kicked out a leg for an early save as well. Defenceman Jaime Sifers was playing in his 800th pro game today, split between a few leagues. Congrats to the Comets grizzled vet on that milestone.
There was some back and forth between the two clubs before Ryan Horvat let fly with a shot that was turned aside by Bachman. Riley Stillman followed up with a shot and Bachman gobbled it up and held for the whistle.
Sifers wasn’t the only Comets player to reach a milestone today as captain Carter Bancks was playing in his 500th AHL game. Congrats captain Bancks.
Jagger Dirk has been playing a tidy game since getting back in for the Comets and he came up with a nice hit in the Comets end on Harry Zolnierczyk before getting the puck going the other way for Utica. Stillman followed up with a wrister through traffic that was swallowed up by Bachman for another whistle as the action continued.
Reid Boucher forced a turnover in the neutral zone before teeing up a shot that he put wide. Matt Marcinew went the other way and ripped a shot off the iron. Bachman followed up with a save and held for the whistle.
At the other end of the ice, Sifers unloaded a point shot that was swallowed up by goaltender Michael Hutchinson with Jonah Gadjovich ready to pounce on a loose biscuit. On the ensuing faceoff, Gaunce turned and fired a shot on net that was gloved down by the netminder.
Guillaume Brisebois has been playing well of late and he showed a nice stick to break up a play in the Comets end before Carter Bancks put a puck on net from the right side at the other end with Kole Lind cutting to the net looking for some garbage. Hutchinson came up with another save.
The Comets kept it coming as Zack MacEwen turned and fired a bullet on net through traffic, but another save was made. Boucher followed up with a shot from the right circle that was kicked aside before Bobby Farnham went the other way for a chance that was denied by Bachman.
Kole Lind was dinged for a high-stick at the 12:22 mark and the Comets had a penalty to kill. We saw forward pairs of MacEwen/Archibald, and Gaunce/Bancks, along with defence pairs of Blujus/Sifers and McEneny/Brisebois. The Comets would come up with a good kill.
Boucher stole the puck behind the TBirds net and dished a sweet feed to Tanner Kero in front, but Hutchinson whipped out the mitt for a save in close. The action went back and forth as Bachman kicked out a shot at one end before Vincent Arseneau was set up for a one-timer by Gadjovich at the other, only to see Hutchinson make another save.
The TBirds netminder would not stop all of them, though. Darren Archibald scored his ninth of the year when he did…well…when he did this…
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) December 22, 2018
Brendan Gaunce picked up his seventh assist of the season on the play, while Zack MacEwen earned his 12th. This was Archibald’s 300th game with the Comets and the 500th pro game of his career. Congrats to TheMayor.
Just over a minute later, Dryden Hunt was dinged for a cross-check, twice. The Comets had four minutes of power play time to work with as time wound down. Tanner Kero tipped a Boucher shot at the buzzer, but Hutchinson came up with another save.
Utica showed a 15-12 advantage on the shot clock for the opening frame.
The Comets still had plenty of time to work with on the man advantage, but it was Bachman making the early save, kicking out an Anthony Greco offering. The visitors were having a tough time getting any traction before Kole Lind nearly fooled Hutchinson with what was meant to be a pass, but the netminder fought it off for a save. MacEwen followed up with a chance that was gobbled up for a whistle. The Comets came up empty with the extra man.
Jagger Dirk followed up with a sweet backdoor feed to Cam Darcy, but the pivot couldn’t get his shot to go. At the other end of the ice, Bachman gloved down a Dryden Hunt chance before soaking up another shot that was redirected and he held for the whistle.
Cam Darcy was sent off for hooking at the 5:09 mark and the Comets would be down a man. I think that I have mentioned in a recent post-game report about how Brendan Gaunce has been doing great work on the kill this year and how he has been a shorthanded scoring threat while he is out there. Well, today he picked up his second shorty of the season when he broke down the right side and beat Hutchinson for his eighth goal of the year. The tally was unassisted.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) December 22, 2018
Just over a minute later, Dylan Blujus was dinged for delay of game when he put the puck over the glass and the Comets were down two men for 38 seconds. Bachman would turn aside a one-timer before Darcy was freed from the box. The Comets netminder would glove down a Matt Mangene point shot and the Comets had another good kill.
The Comets have been getting decent value from their fourth line all season, no matter who was playing on it. Today, one of those players was Vincent Arseneau and BigVinny hit Lukas Jasek for a one-timer from the high slot that was soaked up by Hutchinson for another whistle. It was a nice pass from the big winger and he brought his usual heavy game today as well.
MacEwen followed up with a shot off the left side that was denied before Archibald had a shot of his own gloved down. The Comets were putting on some pressure.
Bachman had to make a big save at the other end while being mowed over by Matt Marcinew and the TBird was sent off for goaltender interference.
Harry Zolnierczyk had a shorthanded break shut down by Bachman before Gaunce corraled a loose puck for a chance that was denied at the other end. Brisebois followed up with a shot off the iron before Bachman was forced into another save, this time stoning Farnham on a shorthanded two-on-one chance. The Comets came up empty with the extra man.
Kole Lind dished a nice feed to Lukas Jasek and the young winger fired his shot over the net.
Paul Thompson was sent off for holding at the 17:38 mark and the Comets had another power play late in the period. They wouldn’t get much going until Jesse Graham let fly with a shot from the high slot that was soaked up for a whistle.
Tanner Kero was whistled for a cross-check with just 11 seconds remaining in the period and the Comets would start the final frame down a man.
The shots were tied at nine apiece in the middle period.
With Tanner Kero still in the box, the Comets had some work to do to get this period off on the right foot. Springfield had some good pressure but the Comets would come up with another good kill.
Following the penalty kill, Bachman gloved down a Ryan Horvat chance off the right side before kicking out a quick leg on another shot that came through traffic.
Sebastian Repo was sent off for interference at the 4:12 mark and it was the Comets turn with the extra man. Bachman had to rob Anthony Greco from in close after some sloppy play from the Comets in their own end led to a point-blank chance from the forward. The Comets would come up empty with the extra man.
Not long after exiting the box, Repo let fly with a shot that was steered aside by Bachman before Dylan Blujus was sent off for slashing at the 7:10 mark. With Blujus in the box, we saw forward pairs of Bancks and Gaunce, Boucher and MacEwen, and Archibald with Darcy. It was the pairing of Archibald and Darcy who did great work on this kill, spending the bulk of their time in the Springfield end of the ice. The Comets had another good kill.
Richard Bachman was having himself a game today until he was taken down by Harry Zolnierczyk and had to leave the ice with assistance, unable to put any pressure on his left leg. Thatcher Demko would have to step in and finish the game.
If Bachman is unable to go tomorrow, the Comets may need to summon Ivan Kulbakov from Kalamazoo, or possibly sign someone as an EBUG, (emergency back up goalie) to back up Demko against Binghamton.
Demko was busy as he had to make a save early before Tony Cameranesi had a shot gobbled up at the other end. Demko would see just over a shot per minute for the remainder of the game.
Jesse Graham was sent off for a high-stick at the 10:36 mark and the Comets had another penalty to kill. This one saw Guillaume Brisebois pick off a pass in the Comets end and send himself and Archibald in for a fruitless two-on-one effort. Demko followed up with a pair of saves as the Birds were putting on some pressure. The Comets would come up with a good kill.
Not long after the kill ended, Josh Brown uncorked a point shot through traffic that eluded Demko and we had a 2-1 game. The goal was the second of the year for Brown, while Paul Thompson picked up his 10th assist of the year on the play, and Joel Lowry earned his 15th.
Lowry spent some time with the Comets on a PTO last year, getting into one game. He has played in 29 contests this year for Springfield, picking up five goals and 15 helpers to give himself 20 points. That is some pretty solid production from a player who was in the ECHL last season.
Anthony Greco had a glorious chance to tie it up for the TBirds when he whipped out a filthy toe drag to get a scoring chance away that was thwarted by a Demko kick save. The saves kept coming from Thatcher as he stymied Jonathan Ang before making another pad save.
Kole Lind came up with a nice shot block before Demko made another save, this time through traffic on Ludwig Bystrom.
I have pointed out at various times this season about how coach Cull is putting the young kids out on the ice late in games, either looking for a goal or protecting the lead. He had Kole Lind out with 2:36 remaining in the game today, giving him a chance to prove that he can be trusted in such a situation with his team protecting a one-goal lead. I feel like this is important to point out to the crowd who bemoans the fact that the kids don’t get into every game. These kids do get some opportunities to prove themselves when they are in.
The Thunderbirds summoned Hutchinson to the bench for the extra attacker with 1:17 remaining and we saw Demko showing his much-improved puck handling skills as he picked off a ring around to get the puck headed out of his zone.
Evan McEneny was whistled for slashing at the 19:14 mark and the Comets would have to finish the game shorthanded. Demko was busy as he made no fewer than four saves as time wound down, shutting down prime chances from Greco and Bystrom before the final buzzer sounded. The Comets came away with a 2-1 win.
Springfield showed a staggering 17-5 advantage in shots over the final frame for a three-period advantage of 38-29 over the Comets.
Archibald (9) from Gaunce (7) and MacEwen (12)
Gaunce (8). Unassisted, shorthanded goal.
The Three Stars in the building today were:
3rd Star: Josh Brown. One goal.
2nd Star: Richard Bachman. 27 saves.
1st Star: Brendan Gaunce. Game-winning, shorthanded goal, one assist.
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars:
3rd Star: Darren Archibald/Zack MacEwen. I mean, come on. That goal from Archibald was sick. It was also his second goal in as many games while TheMayor has also been doing some fantastic work on the penalty kill. He is up to nine goals and 13 points in 19 games this year while doing some heavy lifting for the Comets on the defensive side of things as well. MacEwen, meanwhile, picked up his 12th assist of the season and now has 25 points in 31 games this year. He is just eight points shy of his career-high 33 that he put up in 66 games last year. Zack now has points in five straight games, picking up three goals and three assists along the way. If Zack isn’t knocking on the door for the next forward recall, I’m not sure who is.
2nd Star: Richard Bachman/Thatcher Demko. Bachman played a heck of a game today, shutting down all 27 shots that he faced before leaving with an injury. The veteran has played well of late and was coming off of three straight wins, putting up 47, 33, and 23 saves respectively in those three games. Demko, for his part, stopped 11 of 12 shots faced today in a short period of time after coming in cold. Thatcher currently holds a 2.47 goals-against average and a 0.915 save percentage. While those are not mind-blowing numbers, they are the numbers of a young man who looks like he is ready to give his team some games at the NHL level very soon. I think it’s time for the Canucks to explore a way to have Thatcher finish the season in Vancouver and get there soon after the new year.
1st Star: Brendan Gaunce. Gaunce picked up another assist on the Archibald goal today, giving him seven on the season, and he also scored his eighth goal, shorthanded to boot. Those two points bring Gaunce to 15 in 16 games with Utica this year. He has been held pointless in just four games since returning to the Comets on November 23rd but has picked up seven goals and seven assists during those 13 games. Gaunce has given the coaching staff the ability to roll out two potent scoring lines by taking on the second line pivot job behind Tanner Kero. He has also done some killer work on the PK, scoring twice while shorthanded and shutting down the opposition.
Vs Binghamton Devils
Saturday, December 22, 2018
7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific