Utica Comets Pre-Game
Vs Syracuse Crunch
Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019
7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific
I thought I would change things up a little for the second half of the season and start bringing you separate pre-game and post-game reports rather than rolling them all into one as I have been doing since the start of last season.
The AHL’s seventh-ranked team will roll into Utica today as the Syracuse Crunch, (Tampa Bay affiliate) are in town to take on the 17th ranked Comets for game number 37 of the season. The Crunch will bring a record of 20-8-2-0 into today’s action, giving them 42 points on the season. The Comets, for their part, are sporting a record of 17-16-2-1, giving them 37 points this season.
The two clubs have met up three times already this season with the Crunch holding a two-games-to-one advantage and outscoring the Comets by a margin of 17-5 in the process.
Darren Archibald and Lukas Jasek have each put up a goal and a helper in the season-series to lead the Comets, while nine other Comets have put up a single point as well. For the Crunch, it’s a whole different picture as former Comets forward Cory Conacher and Taylor Raddysh each have six points in the series, while six other Syracuse skaters have three points.
Brendan Woods has missed the last several games for the Comets with an injury, but he still leads the club with 49 minutes spent in the penalty box this season. Andy Andreoff is the penalty minutes leader for the Crunch with 55 minutes serving time this year.
Zack MacEwen and Cameron Gaunce share the penalty minute lead in this series with nine minutes each spent in the box.
The Crunch hold the edge in special teams work for the series, having gone 3/15 with the man advantage and killing 10 of 12 penalties.
Connor Ingram has a record of 1-1 in the series, posting a 2.05 goals-against average and a 0.938 save percentage for his efforts. Eddie Pasquale has a record of 1-0 this year against the Comets, putting up a goals-against average of 1.00 and a save percentage of 0.970.
Ivan Kulbakov has been the goaltender of record for the bulk of the Comets work against the Crunch this year, showing a record of 1-2 while putting up a sketchy goals-against average of 6.59 and a save percentage of 0.831.
A big part of those less than desirable numbers by Kulbakov come from getting ventilated for nine goals in his last start against the Crunch. He has been replaced by Connor LaCouvee and Thatcher Demko in games against the Crunch this season. That isn’t to say that Kulbakov can’t get the job done at this level, however, as the young netminder showed well in an early-season audition with the team while Demko was out with a concussion.
Carter Verhaeghe is the points leader for the Crunch with 13 goals and 22 helpers to give himself 35 points in 36 games this year. Cory Conacher sits second with 12 goals and 22 assists, giving him 34 points in 26 games. Alex Barre-Boulet rounds out their top three with 14 goals and 16 helpers to give himself 30 points in 30 games.
Reid Boucher still leads all Comets with 16 goals and 13 assists to give himself 29 points in 24 games this year. Boucher missed the Comets last game with an injury and it is not known at the time of this writing if he will be available today. Zack MacEwen and Taner Kero have spent all season wrestling the second spot away from each other, and today it belongs to TheBigFella. MacEwen has 13 goals and 14 helpers, giving him 27 points in 35 games. Kero rounds out the Comets top three with 10 goals and 17 assists to give himself 27 points in 36 games this season.
Jonathan Dahlen grabbed a goal last game and still leads the Comets rookies with eight goals and 10 assists, giving him 18 points in 32 games. Barre-Boulet’s 30 points in 30 games lead all Syracuse rookies.
The Comets have given up 128 goals this season while scoring 109. Syracuse is looking better in that category, outscoring their opposition by a 121-79 margin this year. That 10-spot that they put up last week against the Comets helped with that.
The Comets will go into today’s contest with the league’s 14th ranked power play after scoring 34 goals this season while up a man 167 times for a success rate of 20.4%. Their penalty kill sits 10th overall after giving up 26 goals while down a man 148 times this year for an 82.4% success rate.
The Crunch own the league’s best power play, scoring 36 times on 136 opportunities for a 26.5% success rate. They bring they AHL’s ninth-ranked penalty kill into the game today after giving up 25 goals while shorthanded 147 times for a success rate of 83.0%.
As mentioned above, Reid Boucher missed the Comets last game with an injury, as did Tanner MacMaster. The club did see the returns of Jonah Gadjovich and Wacey Hamilton from injuries and the pair played on a line with captain Carter Bancks, forming a hard-working, heavy forechecking trio.
The Comets were also missing Olli Juolevi, Jalen Chatfield, Ashton Sautner, Richard Bachman, and Brendan Woods to injuries. Defenceman Jesse Graham was the only healthy scratch last game, outside of Adam Gaudette, who was en route to Utica. Gaudette should be available to the Comets for today’s contest.
In other Comets news, the club appears to have signed defenceman Craig Wyszomirski to a PTO, (professional tryout offer).
— Comets Cory (@CoryHergott) January 1, 2019
Wyszomirski is a 26-year-old left shot defender. He stands 6’4” and tips the scales at 220lbs. He’s played 135 ECHL games, picking up eight goals and 26 assists for 34 points over parts of four seasons with the Manchester Monarchs. He’s also played 10 AHL games split between the Ontario Reign & Syracuse Crunch, going pointless. Seven of those games came last season with today’s opponent. If you’re wondering if penalty minutes are in Wyszomirski’s bag of tricks, he put up 81 in 63 games last year and has 33 in 20 contests with the Monarchs this season.
It isn’t yet clear if this is a depth signing, or if the Comets will be without the services of one of their other defenders for today’s game. Selfishly, I’m kind of hoping that Wyszomirski doesn’t see any action, if only because his name feels so unnatural to type and I’m afraid of butchering it. That said, it might be fun to hear Joe Roberts call his name on the broadcast.
The Comets and Crunch get underway at 7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific. Stay tuned for the CanucksArmy post-game report following the game.