CanucksArmy Utica Comets Post-Game: Comets Wrap up 2018 With Gritty 4-3 Win Over Rochester

Utica Comets Post-Game Report

Game #36

Vs Rochester Americans

Saturday, December 29th, 2018

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7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific


The fourth overall Rochester Americans, (Buffalo affiliate) rolled into Utica today to take on the 17th ranked Comets for game number 36 of the season. The Amerks brought a record of 20-10-2-0 into today’s game, giving them 42 points on the season. The Comets, for their part, were showing a record of 16-16-2-1 to give them 35 points this year.

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Both clubs had scored 105 goals ahead of today’s game. The difference was in the goals allowed, where Rochester had given up just 93, while Utica had allowed 125 goals against.

The Comets had gone 7-9-0-0 at home this year, while Rochester had a road record of 9-2-2-0 so far. The Amerks were coming off of a 5-1 win over Toronto, while we all know about the 10-1 debacle that we saw in Syracuse yesterday from the Comets.

The Americans had gone 6-4-0-0 over their previous 10 games, while the Comets had a record of 6-3-1-0 over that same span.

Rasmus Asplund was the rookie points leader for Rochester with one goal and eight helpers to give himself nine points in 32 games, while Jonathan Dahlen wore that crown in Utica with seven goals and 10 helpers, giving him 17 points in 31 games.

Reid Boucher was the top dog in Utica with 16 goals and 13 assists to give himself 29 points in 24 games. Tanner Kero sat second with 10 goals and 17 assists, giving him 27 points in 35 games, while Zack MacEwen rounded out their top three with 13 goals and 13 helpers in 34 games this year.

CJ Smith was the points leader for the Americans with 12 goals and 16 assists to give himself 28 points in 32 games this year. Victor Olofsson sat second with 10 goals and 18 helpers, also giving him 28 points, but in 29 games played. Zach Redmond rounded out their top three with 15 goals and 11 assists in 32 games.

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The Comets power play was dropping, now sitting 14th in the league after going 32/159, for a success rate of 20.1%. Their penalty kill had dropped to ninth after giving up 24 goals while down a man 143 times for an 83.2% success rate.

The Amerks power play was the league’s ninth-ranked unit, scoring 26 times on 124 opportunities for a 21.0% success rate. Their penalty kill was the league’s 24th best after giving up 30 goals while shorthanded 142 times for a 78.9% success rate.

With Sven Baertschi expected to play for the Canucks tonight, there will be a move required to get the club back down to a 23-man roster. By the time you are reading this, we will already know what that move was.

There will be another move coming soon with Brandon Sutter on the cusp of returning as well. With all of this in mind, it was interesting to see Tony Cameranesi released from his PTO, (professional tryout offer) today. Cameranesi had played 19 games of his 25-game tryout deal and had put up one goal and three helpers for the Comets.

*Edit* Adam Gaudette has been assigned to the Comets.

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Comets Scratches

Olli Juolevi, (out for regular season) Jalen Chatfield, (month-to-month) Ashton Sautner, (out indefinitely) Richard Bachman, (out indefinitely) Brendan Woods, (day-to-day) Reid Boucher, (day-to-day) Tanner MacMaster, (day-to-day) Jesse Graham, and Adam Gaudette, (in transit).

Comets Starting Lines

54 Jonathan Dahlen – 16 Brendan Gaunce – 25 Darren Archibald

9 Lukas Jasek – 10 Tanner Kero – 15 Zack MacEwen

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22 Jonah Gadjovich – 36 Wacey Hamilton (A) – 34 Carter Bancks (C)

18 Vincent Arseneau – 11 Cam Darcy – 13 Kole Lind

2 Evan McEneny – 26 Jaime Sifers (A)

55 Guillaume Brisebois – 8 Dylan Blujus

4 Jagger Dirk – 39 Colton Saucecerman

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30 Thatcher Demko

31 Ivan Kulbakov (backing up)

First Period

The fantastic fans in Utica were treated to a welcomed announcement part way through the opening frame when it was announced over the PA system that the Vancouver Canucks and Utica Comets have extended their affiliation agreement for another six years, (there is an option for the Canucks to leave after year-two according to Ben Birnell of the Utica Observer-Dispatch). Congrats Utica, you’ve earned it!

Jaime Sifers got this game kicked off with a bang when he lit up Kyle Criscuolo with a big hit that would send the grizzled vet to the penalty box for a check-to-the-head. The Comets had an early penalty to kill.

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We saw the vaunted penalty killing duo of Carter Bancks and Wacey Hamilton back together and all was right in the Comets defensive world again. Bancks and Hamilton are kinda like Utica’s version of the Sedin twins, only they do their best work on the defensive side of things.

Zach Redmond let fly with a shot from the high slot that was soaked up by Demko before we saw a shot block from Zack MacEwen. Evan McEneny followed up by clearing the zone. The Comets would come up with a good kill.

Kole Lind has been having some really nice moments over his last handful of games and he whipped out the moves to get the puck into the Amerks zone and hit Cam Darcy with a pass before Vincent Arseneau buried his second goal in as many games.

Say what you want about BigVinny, but the young Comets could learn a thing or two from him as far as putting out a consistent effort and going HARD to the dirty areas. The goal was the second of the year for Arseneau, a career-high for him. Darcy picked up his seventh assist of the season on the play, while Lind grabbed his third for his efforts.

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Thatcher Demko had to follow up the Arseneau goal with a quick pad save from in close and followed up by batting another puck out of harm’s way.

Victor Olofsson has been having a heck of a year for Rochester and he found himself with a breakaway from center-ice. He came in and tried his moves, only to be thwarted by Demko.

Dylan Blujus went the other way for a chance that Adam Wilcox managed to get a blocker on. Darren Archibald followed up with a chance on the doorstep but was denied as well.

Kyle Criscuolo was whistled for a cross-check at the 7:30 mark and the Comets had a power play to work with. Just over 30 seconds later, Brandon Hickey was dinged for hooking and the Comets had a two-man advantage.

It took just over 30 seconds for Jonathan Dahlen to score his eighth of the season. Archibald earned his fifth helper of the year on the play, while Evan McEneny picked up his 12th.

The Comets were unable to make it two power play goals as the Amerks killed off the Hickey minor.

Demko followed up with a save and we went to a commercial break. When we came out of the break, we found out about the affiliation extension and the crowd was still going wild.

We saw some more back and forth between the two clubs with the physicality picking up from both teams. Dalton Smith and Colton Saucerman nearly came to blows, but cooler heads prevailed and we saw each man get dinged for roughing rather than fighting penalties.

With the teams playing at four aside, we saw Demko make his umpteenth save with his mask this year before gobbling up a Brendan Guhle offering from the blueline. The Amerks came back in with another chance where we saw a nice backcheck by Dahlen, unfortunately, he got a little overzealous with his stick and took a slashing penalty on the play.

With Dahlen in the box, Guillaume Brisebois came up with a nifty clear before CJ Smith pulled Rochester to within a goal with his 13th of the year. Zach Redmond teed up the shot for Smith, earning his 12th assist of the season, while Victor Olofsson was credited with the other helper for his 19th of the year.

Demko followed up the goal with another save and held for a whistle. Brendan Gaunce has been playing great for the Comets since being shifted back to the middle and he had a chance off the rush denied by Wilcox before the Amerks started to put on the pressure in the Comets zone.

Jonah Gadjovich has shown well in his most recent games, playing a heavy-hitting brand of hockey with some great work on the forecheck. Well, he showed more of the same with a great forecheck and the Comets had some nice pressure of their own.

That was it for the opening frame as the Amerks showed a 12-9 advantage on the shot clock.

Second Period

There was some early back and forth before Tanner Kero was dinged for hooking at the 1:58 mark. The Comets would have an early penalty to kill. Demko had to glove down an early chance, but the Comets were not giving the Amerks much to work with on this one. Utica had a good kill.

Demko made a save as the penalty came to an end before BigVinny unloaded with a heavy hit on Andrew MacWilliam in the offensive zone. Carter Bancks was at the end of a shift and wanted a favourable line change, so the savvy vet fired a shot from the net-side, forcing Wilcox to freeze the puck for a whistle.

Demko had to keep doing Demko things as he made a pair of saves on the sharpshooting Victor Olofsson before MacWilliam was whistled for a high-stick. We saw a sweet stretch pass from McEneny to Archibald, but otherwise, this power play went nowhere fast.

The Comets followed up their power play by rolling the Gadjovich-Hamilton-Bancks line over the boards and the trio went to work with another heavy shift. Gadjovich showed a nice read to force a turnover before he and Hamilton dished out the pain with a pair of solid hits.

Kyle Criscuolo was quickly sent off for interference after the Hamilton line had their way with his group and the Comets had a power play.

Dahlen let fly with a one-timer from Reid Boucher’s office, but Wilcox got a glove on it. Dahlen followed up with a nifty feed to Gaunce, but Brendan tried to set up Archibald in a case of one-too-many passes. Dahlen followed up with some patience to find a scoring lane, only to be rebuffed by Wilcox once more. The Comets would come up empty again.

Kole Lind didn’t want to be outdone by Gadjovich, so he showed that he is also adept at forcing turnovers and picking off passes when he grabbed one in the neutral zone to send the Comets the other way.

Demko had to follow up with back-to-back saves of the big variety before Archibald had a backhander gloved down at the other end.

The Amerks came back the other way and Demko had to whip out the blocker for another save as the action went back and forth. Saucerman came back with a snapper off the right side that was stopped by Wilcox before Gadjovich sent Hamilton in all alone for a chance that was denied, but the veteran drew a holding penalty on Dalton Smith.

Darren Archibald whipped out the moves when he tried to turn and fire a shot from between his own legs, but Wilcox was wise to his act and shut him down. McEneny followed up with a point shot that was stopped as well. The Comets had some nice puck movement, but they couldn’t convert with the extra man.

Wilcox finished with a short flurry of saves with the Comets pressing until the Amerks pressured at the other end with the buzzer sounding to end the middle frame.

Utica showed a 15-9 advantage on the shot clock for the second period.

Third Period

The third period got going with a pair of early saves from Demko before Dylan Blujus blew up Rasmus Asplund and was dinged for elbowing.

With Blujus in the box, Evan McEneny came up with a big shot block before Eric Cornel tied the game at two with his fourth goal of the season. Justin Bailey grabbed his 11th helper of the year on the play, while Brendan Guhle earned his 12th.

Dylan Blujus must have been having a gripping conversation with the penalty box attendant because he was no sooner back on the ice when he was whistled for a high-stick and was right back in the box feeling shame.

This time it was Carter Bancks who took one for the team when he threw his body in front of a shot for another block before Demko covered up a loose puck with the Americans pressing. The Comets had another good kill.

Both goaltenders were fairly busy in this one as Demko had to come up with a blocker save before soaking up a Dean Malone offering.

At the other end of the ice, Zack MacEwen hit Brendan Gaunce with a pass and the pivot-turned-winger-turned pivot fired up a spinning backhander to beat Wilcox for his ninth goal of the season. It was a great effort by Gaunce, who for some reason has not been able to translate that goal-scoring prowess to the NHL level. TheBigFella earned his 14th assist of the season on the play.

Zach Redmond didn’t do his club any favours when he was sent of for tripping just 25 seconds after the Gaunce goal…then again, maybe he saw Syracuse bang in three shorties in last night’s game and thought he was doing his club a solid.

On the power play, Gaunce fed Archibald for a backhander that was denied by Wilcox and the Comets were once again stymied on the man advantage.

The line of Gadjovich-Hamilton-Bancks rolled back over the boards and went to work with another heavy forechecking shift that saw Wilcox have to come up with a pair of saves on Hamilton and Gadjovich.

At the other end, Demko steered the puck out of play on a spinning shot and we had another whistle in the Comets end.

Carter Bancks dished a feed to McEneny for a point shot that was gloved down by Wilcox and a brief scrum ensued in the Rochester zone.

Jaime Sifers let fly with a point shot that felled Cam Darcy and sent the Amerks the other way for a chance that was foiled by the mitt of Demko.

Wayne Simpson was dinged for a high-stick at the 14:32 mark and Utica had another power play to work with. We saw a first unit power play that consisted of Kero, McEneny, Dahlen, Gaunce, and Archibald followed up by the group of MacEwen, Darcy, Brisebois, Blujus, and Jasek.

Archibald ripped a shot off the iron, and the Comets would come up empty once more.

Time was running out, but there were more goals to come. Wacey Hamilton was having himself a game today in his season debut, getting a shot away that was denied before Demko had to make a save of his own at the other end.

Wilcox was summoned to the bench with about 1:30 remaining and the Amerks threw out the extra attacker. MacEwen charged up the left side and was dumped, drawing a tripping penalty on CJ Smith and Utica had a late power play with just over a minute left in the game.

Gaunce had a chance denied before Wilcox made a beeline back to the bench and the Amerks were back to five skaters with an empty net.

Demko had to make an alert pad save before Archibald flung a backhander from his knees down the ice and into the yawning cage. Thatcher earned his first assist of the year on the play. The Comets were up 4-2 with 43 seconds remaining in the third. Sorry, there was no gif of the Archibald goal available at the time of this writing.

That wasn’t it for the scoring, however, as Justin Bailey pulled his team back to within a goal when he put the puck behind Demko for his ninth of the year. Sean Malone picked up his eighth assist of the year on the play. The goal was reviewed, as the net was dislodged on the play, but the officials deemed it to be a good goal.

That was it for this one as the Comets came away with a 4-3 win to end 2018. Rochester showed a 15-11 advantage in shots for the third period and a 36-35 advantage for the game.

Today’s Official Boxscore

Comets Goals:

Arseneau (2) from Darcy (7) and Lind (3).

Dahlen (8) from Archibald (5) and McEneny (12). Power play goal.

Gaunce (9) from MacEwen (14).

Archibald (11). Unassisted, empty-net, power play goal.

The Three Stars in the building today were:

3rd Star: Jonathan Dahlen. One goal.

2nd Star: Thatcher Demko. 33 saves.

1st Star: Brendan Gaunce. One goal.

CanucksArmy’s Three Stars:

3rd Star: Jonah Gadjovich/Carter Bancks/Wacey Hamilton. The veteran players like Bancks and Hamilton tend to get the lion’s share of the Vancouver fan’s ire when the young players have to sit out in their stead. The thing is, it’s players like Bancks and Hamilton who will help young players like Gadjovich adjust to the AHL. Gadjovich looked like a sponge today, soaking up what the pair of vets were putting down, following their lead and forechecking like a beast. This trio did not look like they were a whole lot of fun to play against and that will only help Gadjovich stay in the lineup.

2nd Star: Kole Lind. Lind had another solid game, even picking up an assist for his efforts. Kole was showing some nice reads today, forcing turnovers and picking off passes in the neutral zone. The points will be nice when they start to come, but it will be that defensive awareness that helps earn the trust of the coaching staff. Lind showed an opportunistic side on the play that helped set up the Arseneau tally as well. All in all, it was a good game from the young winger.

1st Star: Thatcher Demko. Thatcher put up 33 saves today and kept his team in the game after three straight loses. The club had to be somewhat fragile after getting hammered 10-1 last night by Syracuse. Demko was calm and cool today, as is his way. He tends to settle his club down and helps out his defencemen with some adept puck handling. He picked up and assist on the Archibald goal, though that came from making a save that sent a rebound right to Archibald for his game-winner. Demko is ready, folks. He looks like a young man who is ready for a new challenge, and that challenge is waiting for him in Vancouver.

Next Game

Game #37

Vs Syracuse Crunch

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific