Utica Comets Post-Game Report
At Syracuse Crunch
Friday, December 28th, 2018
7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific
The 17th overall Utica Comets rolled into Syracuse today to take on the Crunch, (Tampa Bay affiliate) for game number 35 of the season. The Comets brought a record of 16-15-2-1 into today’s game, giving them 35 points on the season. The Crunch, for their part, had a record of 18-8-2-0 to give themselves 38 points this year.
The Crunch had outscored their opponents by a margin of 107-75 this season, while the Comets had scored 104 times while giving up 115 goals this year.
Utica had gone 9-6-2-1 on the road this year, while Syracuse showed a home record of 8-4-0-0. In their last game, Utica lost 1-0 to Binghamton, while the Crunch also played their last contest against the Devils, coming away with a 6-3 win.
The Comets had gone 6-3-1-0 over their previous 10 games, while the Crunch had a record of 7-3-0-0 over that same span.
Jonathan Dahlen was the top dog amongst the Utica rookie crew with seven goals and 10 assists in 30 games this year to give himself 17 points. Alex Barre-Boulet was the big cheese for first-year players in Syracuse with 14 goals and 15 assists to give himself 29 points in 28 games.
Carter Verhaeghe led all Syracuse skaters with 11 goals and 22 helpers, giving him 33 points in 28 games this season. Former Comets forward, Cory Conacher sat second with 11 goals and 21 assists to give himself 32 points in 24 games, while Barre-Boulet rounded out their top three with his 29 points.
For the Comets, it was still Reid Boucher wearing the top scorer’s crown with 16 goals and 13 assists to give himself 29 points in 23 games. Tanner Kero sat second with 10 goals and 17 assists, giving him 27 points in 34 games. Zack MacEwen rounded out their top three with 13 goals and 13 helpers, giving him 26 points in 33 games.
The Comets power play was the AHL’s ninth-ranked unit after scoring 32 goals on 153 opportunities with the man advantage, giving them a success rate of 20.9%. Their penalty kill sat eighth in the league, giving up 23 goals while down a man 139 times for an 83.5% success rate.
The Crunch had the league’s best power play after scoring 35 goals while up a man 130 times for a success rate of 26.9%. Their penalty kill sat 10th in the AHL after giving up 24 goals while shorthanded 137 times for an 82.5% success rate.
Zack MacEwen and Guillaume Brisebois would both be suiting up for their 100th regular season AHL game today. Congrats to both men.
Coincidentally, Zack MacEwen also celebrated his first goal in the QMJHL four years ago today. Take a page from Zack’s story, folks. Follow those dreams and don’t ever give up.
Keep chasing those dreams, kids! Four years ago, Zack MacEwen was celebrating his first goal in the QMJHL. Today he suits up for his 100th regular season game in the AHL. His first NHL game could be right around the corner as well…#TheBigFella https://t.co/26VwOlEQTR
— Cory (@CoryHergott) December 28, 2018
Word out of Vancouver is making it sound more and more like the Canucks are getting back to being a healthy team. The Canucks announced today that Sven Baertschi and Troy Stecher could draw back into the lineup as soon as tomorrow and it doesn’t sound like Brandon Sutter is all that far off either.
Coach Green said Baertschi and Stecher could play tomorrow: “we’ll see how they feel in the morning.”
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 28, 2018
With the parent club getting back to a healthy roster, they will have some decisions to make with how they adjust their numbers to fit the 23-player requirement. The easy move would be to assign Adam Gaudette back to Utica as he does not need to clear waivers in order for them to do so. That would take care of one spot, but they may need more than one…and what if they decide they want to keep Gaudette in Vancouver?
We could see a trade…or two. Alternatively, the Canucks could try to sneak a player through waivers to get them to Utica. Tim Schaller hasn’t been playing much of late, but it’s hard to say if the team will be ready to risk losing him on waivers or not. In fairness to the team, they did make that tough call with Sam Gagner after just one year with the club.
It could also be a defender who is sent to Utica via waivers. Alex Biega has cleared once this year and would have to again, but boy would he be a welcomed addition to a Utica backend that is currently decimated by injuries.
Just for fun, let’s take a look at what the coaching staff would have at their disposal if Alex Biega and Adam Gaudette were to be sent to the club in the coming weeks.
Jonathan Dahlen – Tanner Kero – Reid Boucher
Darren Archibald (A) – Adam Gaudette – Zack MacEwen
Tanner MacMaster – Brendan Gaunce – Lukas Jasek
Carter Bancks (C) – Cam Darcy – Kole Lind
Jonah Gadjovich – Brendan Woods – Vincent Arseneau
Those fourth and fifth lines could be interchanged/swapped out or mixed and matched depending on opponent/who is healthy. On the backend, the addition of Biega would allow the coaching staff to roll out more favourable pairs as well.
Brisebois – Sifers (A)
McEneny – Biega
Dirk – Blujus
Graham – Saucerman
I liked what I saw from the Dirk/Blujus pairing when they spent a few games together before Colton Saucerman got back into the lineup. I feel like they did a solid job of looking after their own end while showing some offensive ability as well, and that is what I’d like to see from a third pairing.
There would clearly be plenty of options available to the coaching staff as far as roster alignment goes, and the above is just one alignment that I think could work well. Time will tell what moves are made, but you can be sure that there are some coming.
Olli Juolevi, (out for regular season) Jalen Chatfield, (month-to-month) Ashton Sautner, (indefinite) Richard Bachman, (indefinite) Wacey Hamilton, (indefinite) Brendan Woods, (day-to-day) Colton Saucerman, Tony Cameranesi, and Jonah Gadjovich.
Comets Starting Lines
54 Jonathan Dahlen – 16 Brendan Gaunce – 25 Darren Archibald (A)
19 Tanner MacMaster – 11 Cam Darcy – 15 Zack MacEwen
9 Lukas Jasek – 10 Tanner Kero – 24 Reid Boucher
18 Vincent Arseneau – 34 Carter Bancks (C) – 13 Kole Lind
64 Jesse Graham – 26 Jaime Sifers (A)
55 Guillaume Brisebois – 2 Evan McEneny
4 Jagger Dirk – 8 Dylan Blujus
31 Ivan Kulbakov
30 Thatcher Demko (backing up)
Well, this period of hockey was a lot more exciting than any that we saw yesterday, even if it didn’t end in the Comets favour.
Ivan Kulbakov got the start in this one and he was busy in the opening frame. He saw an early shot and steered it over the glass before covering up a bouncer on the ensuing faceoff. He had to follow up with a save on Carter Verhaeghe before stopping a net-side jam play after the puck took a bounce off the end boards into a scoring area.
Ross Colton let fly with a shot off the left side that was stopped by Kulbakov before Tanner MacMaster came up with a shot block that felled him. The young winger would be back out for his next shift.
Carter Bancks was sent off for hooking at the 2:06 mark and the Comets had a penalty to kill. Kulbakov had to make a save on a Cameron Gaunce offering and the Comets had a good kill.
Unfortunately, as Carter Bancks exited the box and frantically tried to get back into the play, Nolan Valleau beat Kulbakov for his first of the year. If that name sounds familiar to you, it is because the defender played in five games with the Comets on a tryout deal at the end of last season.
Taylor Raddysh picked up his eighth assist of the year on the play, while Boris Katchouk earned his sixth.
It was all Syracuse early and the Comets were about to give the league’s best power play another chance to score a goal as Dylan Blujus was sent off for interference at the 6:51 mark.
Zack MacEwen had a shorthanded chance, but TheBigFella put his offering off of Pasquale’s pad from the side of the net.
Syracuse was dinged for having too-many-men on the ice at the 8:05 mark and we had some four aside action for about 47 seconds. Kulbakov had to turn aside an Alex Volkov chance before Evan McEneny let fly with a shot that Pasquale denied at the other end of the ice.
With the Comets getting a brief power play at the end of the four aside time, we saw Guillaume Brisebois getting some spot duty with the extra man. The Comets would come up empty.
Kulbakov was doing his best to keep his team in this one as he made a save on a point shot through traffic before whipping out the mitt to shut down an Alex Barre-Boulet chance from in close. The young netminder would make another save off the ensuing faceoff before the Brendan Gaunce line put on some good pressure in the Syracuse zone.
I have been noticing some pretty sweet passes coming off of the stick of Lukas Jasek of late, and that continued in today’s game.
The Crunch went up 2-0 at the 14:12 mark when Carter Verhaeghe beat Kulbakov for his 12th goal of the year on a backdoor play. Taylor Raddysh grabbed his ninth helper of the season and second of the period on the play, while Gabriel Dumont earned his ninth.
Cory Conacher was looking to make it 3-0 when he came right back in, taking the puck hard to the net, only to be foiled by Kulbakov with another save.
Dominik Masin elbowed Cam Darcy and the Comets would get a power play. Jesse Graham had a point shot denied before MacEwen saw the same result on his net-front chance. Jonathan Dahlen followed up with a clapper from the circle that was also turned aside by Pasquale.
The Crunch came back the other way with Conacher looking dangerous, but Kulbakov barred the door.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) December 29, 2018
Eddie Pasquale wasn’t about to be outdone as he followed up the Kulbakov sprawling saves by flashing the leather to stymie Darren Archibald with a huge glove save.
Gabriel Dumont levelled Carter Bancks with a hit and Kole Lind stepped in to let the offender know that he didn’t appreciate his captain being treated in such a manner. Lind would get dinged for roughing and the Comets had another penalty to kill.
Andy Andreoff let fly with a shot and Kulbakov whipped out the mitt to make another save. Dennis Yan followed up with another shot and Kulbakov followed up with another save.
Cal Foote took advantage of having his former teammate in the box when he beat Kulbakov for his fifth goal of the season at the 18:28 mark to put his club up 3-0. Boris Katchouk earned his seventh assist of the season on the play, while Taylor Raddysh grabbed his 10th.
That was it for the opening frame as the Crunch doubled up the Comets on the shot clock with an 18-9 advantage.
Brendan Gaunce kicked off the second period with back-to-back chances that were both denied by Pasquale before Kulbakov shut down a chance by Raddysh. Cam Darcy got a shot away off of a Zack MacEwen faceoff win, but Pasquale was ready with another save.
Ross Colton had a shot gloved down by Kulbakov before Jaime Sifers snuck a shot through traffic that was tracked and stopped by Pasquale.
Troy Bourke put the Crunch up 4-0 at the 3:17 mark when he beat Kulbakov for his first of the year. That seems to happen a lot this season…players picking up their first of the year against the Comets. Olivier Archambault picked up his third helper of the year on the play, as did Dennis Yan.
That was it for Kulbakov as Trent Cull summoned him to the bench in favour of Thatcher Demko after making 17 saves on 21 shots.
Demko was tested early as he had to shut down a chance by a rushing Cory Conacher before denying an Archambault one-timer as well. Thatcher followed up with another save through traffic before Dahlen stole the puck in the offensive zone and ripped his shot wide of the net.
Tanner Kero hit Lukas Jasek with a feed and the rookie forward saw Pasquale deny yet another chance.
Nolan Valleau was whistled for tripping at the 8:24 mark and the Comets had another power play to work with. MacEwen had a chance on a backdoor feed, but the puck went off his stick and out of play. Brisebois found himself all alone in the right circle and uncorked a shot, but Pasquale stymied him with the glove.
Kero followed up with another chance that was denied, as was the chance by TheBigFella that came next. The Comets came up empty with the extra man.
Kole Lind keeps getting chances, and sooner or later one of them will get through, but it wouldn’t be the backhander from in tight that came next.
Carter Verhaeghe put his club up 5-0 with his 13th of the season when he beat Demko with an unassisted goal. The hole, it was getting deeper.
Darren Archibald got a backhander away that was turned aside by Pasquale before the Comets tried to stuff the puck in off of a net-side scramble with no luck. There was a scramble play in the Comets end shortly after that saw Demko make a stop before Kole Lind and Vincent Arseneau went the other way for a chance.
Lind tried to hit Arseneau with a pass but put the puck behind the pugilist. Arseneau wasn’t about to be denied his first of the year, however, as he crashed the net on a follow-up play and beat Pasquale. Cam Darcy picked up his sixth assist of the year on the play, while fellow-former Crunch skater, Dylan Blujus grabbed his fourth.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) December 29, 2018
It was a little under two minutes later when Raddysh was whistled for a high-stick and the Comets were off to the power play. Pasquale had to make a stick save on a Dahlen chance before the netminder shut down back-to-back one-timer chances from Kero and Boucher.
Cameron Gaunce was dinged for a cross-check at the 17:38 mark and the Comets had a five-on-three man advantage for just under a minute.
Kero had a chance from the right circle soaked up by Pasquale before Dahlen fired yet another shot wide of the net. Raddysh came out of the box just in time to pick off the result of Dahlen’s missed shot and helped set Cory Conacher up for a shorthanded goal. Conacher’s 12th of the year put the Crunch up 6-1. Gabriel Dumont earned his 10th helper of the year on the play, while Raddysh grabbed his 11th.
If you are following along at home, that was Raddysh’s fourth assist of the day.
Dylan Blujus was dinged for hooking at the 19:56 mark and the Comets would end the second period, and start the third a man down.
Utica showed a 13-12 advantage in shots for the second period but found themselves in a 6-1 hole.
With the Comets down a pile of goals, Trent Cull elected to put Kulbakov back in the pipes to finish this game. He also put the lines through the blender for the remainder of the game.
I’m not sure that plan had the desired effect, however, as this game was well out of hand and the juggling only seemed to muddy the waters more for the players.
With defender Dylan Blujus still in the penalty box, we saw Jagger Dirk get a look on the penalty kill. Dirk has quietly been having a nice little run with the Comets. He continues to show well and end up on the right side of the bulk of his defensive assignments. The Comets came up with a good kill.
Guillaume Brisebois has also been showing well of late, and he put another shot on net early in the third, but Pasquale gloved it down for another save.
This game had its share of scrums after whistles and we saw Nolan Valleau and Tanner MacMaster, of all people, get into a brief shoving match that resulted in roughing penalties for each. We would see more four aside action.
Hubert Labrie let fly with a shot that was stopped by Kulbakov before Dahlen hit Gaunce with a pass, only to see Pasquale whip out the blocker for a save. Gaunce came right back with another shot and this time the netminder got his glove on it.
Jagger Dirk followed up with a nice offensive look with a backhander that was denied before Jesse Graham had a shot from the left circle turned aside as well.
As if things weren’t already going the wrong way for the Comets, Dominik Masin was sent off for slashing, sending the Comets to the power play.
Yes…you read that correctly, this power play was anything but helpful to the Comets cause as they gave up two shorthanded goals in rapid succession.
First up, it was Gabriel Dumont, who was sent in all alone and beat Kulbakov for his third of the season. Andy Andreoff earned his 11th assist of the season on the play, while Cameron Gaunce picked up his 16th. The Dumont goal came at the 7:52 mark.
It was at the 8:17 mark when Boris Katchouk scored the second shorthanded goal of the period and third of the game with his fifth tally of the year. Raddysh grabbed his 12th assist of the season and FIFTH of the game, while Cal Foote picked up the other helper for his seventh assist of the year.
As it was now an 8-1 game, I was a little bit shellshocked at this point and had to go back to make sure that Raddysh didn’t, in fact, pick up an assist on Vincent Arseneau’s goal for the Comets as well. It turns out that he didn’t, so crisis averted.
Jaime Sifers fired a shot from the point that was gloved down by Pasquale before Kulbakov made a trio of saves in the Comets end.
Darren Archibald had a partial break but got himself in a little too close and could only bang the puck off of Pasquale’s pads. Kole Lind followed up with a nice feed to Tanner MacMaster for a shot that would ring off the iron. McEneny tried his luck with a followup shot, only to see Pasquale get a glove on his offering for another save.
At the other end of the ice, Guillaume Brisebois showed some nice use of his stick and his body to break up a Syracuse scoring chance before Lind whipped out a couple of dandy moves to break out of his zone, getting deep for a scoring chance. However, the young winger fired his offering right into the crest on Pasquale’s jersey.
Cal Foote made it a 9-1 game when he beat Kulbakov for his sixth goal of the season with a point shot through traffic. Ross Colton picked up his ninth helper of the season on the play, while Troy Bourke earned his fourth.
It didn’t end there, however, as Dennis Yan finished things off with his eighth of the year, assisted by Bourke with his fifth and Alexander Volkov with his 10th.
That was it in Syracuse as the Comets will have to put this clunker in the rearview as the Rochester Americans are waiting for them in Utica for the club’s third game in three nights.
Both clubs were credited with 11 shots in the final frame with Syracuse showing a 41-33 advantage for the game.
Arseneau (1) from Darcy (6) and Blujus (4).
The Three Stars in the building today were:
3rd Star: Boris Katchouk. One goal, two assists.
2nd Star: Cal Foote. Two goals, one assist.
1st Star: Taylor Raddysh. Five freaking assists!
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars:
3rd Star: Any Comets Fan Who Sat Through This One. Let’s face it, folks, this one was tough to watch. As if 10 goals against wasn’t bad enough, three of them came shorthanded. Most who read what I write in this space will know that I tend to focus on the positive storylines, but there were not many to be found in this one.
2nd Star: Kole Lind. Once again, Lind was held off the score sheet, but the young winger did have some nice moments today. He was credited with just two shots, but he did dish a couple of nice passes today, came to the aid of his captain after Bancks was clobbered by a questionable hit, and he came up with some nice moves on a breakout play that ultimately led to Arseneau’s goal.
1st Star: Dylan Blujus/Jagger Dirk. I am aware that plus/minus is a flawed stat, but when your team gives up 10 goals and you are the only two players on the team without a dash beside your name, you must have done something right. It was pointed out to me by a Twitter follower, (thanks, Bob Martin) that the duo was even on the night, but it didn’t surprise me in the least as the pair has been pretty tidy in their own end in every game that Trent Cull has used them as a duo. Right now, I firmly believe that the two make up the best option that the team currently has on the backend behind Brisebois, McEneny, Graham, and Sifers. At this point, I have both of Blujus and Dirk ahead of Graham as well.
Vs Rochester Americans
Saturday, December 29th, 2018
7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific