Photo Credit: Owen Skye | @designedbyowen

CanucksArmy Utica Comets Post-Game: Comets Take Down Syracuse Crunch In 3-2 Win

Utica Comets Post-Game Report

Game #42

Vs Syracuse Crunch

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific


Comets Scratches

Richard Bachman, (out for season) Olli Juolevi, (out for regular season) Jalen Chatfield, (month-to-month) Ashton Sautner, (month-to-month) Brendan Woods, (indefinite), Vincent Arseneau, (day-to-day) Tanner MacMaster, and Lukas Jasek.

Comets Starting Lines

34 Carter Bancks (C) – 36 Wacey Hamilton (A) – 13 Kole Lind

20 Tom Pyatt – 10 Tanner Kero – 24 Reid Boucher

54 Jonathan Dahlen – 16 Brendan Gaunce – 15 Zack MacEwen

22 Jonah Gadjovich – 11 Cam Darcy – 64 Jesse Graham

2 Evan McEneny – 8 Dylan Blujus

55 Guillaume Brisebois – 26 Jaime Sifers (A)

29 Cliff Watson – 39 Colton Saucerman

31 Ivan Kulbakov

33 Alex Sakellaropoulos (backing up)

First Period

Today the game got started with a couple of early penalties, both to Syracuse as they were first dinged for having too-many-men on the ice at the 0.57 mark before Hubert Labrie was sent off for a high-stick at the 2:02 mark. The Comets had an early five-on-three man advantage for just under a minute.

Zack MacEwen took a one-timer feed from Tanner Kero and was denied before Kero found Jonathan Dahlen at the side of the net and the rookie winger added to his point totals, banging in his ninth goal of the season. Kero picked up his 19th helper of the year on the play, tying him with Reid Boucher for the team lead with 34 points. MacEwen grabbed the other helper for his 16th of the season. TheBigFella is now just two points shy of his rookie total points total of 33.

Carter Verhaeghe is one of those players that I see often, as he plays for an in-division team and I have always liked what I’ve seen from him. I wonder what he’d cost to acquire in a trade. The forward walked into the Comets zone and got a shot off that was denied by Ivan Kulbakov, but Verhaeghe drew a penalty on Carter Bancks in the process.

With Bancks in the box for hooking, we saw more of that great offensive zone pressure from Brendan Gaunce while shorthanded before Verhaeghe let fly with a chance from the left circle that was denied by Kulbakov. The netminder also turned aside an Alex Barre-Boulet offering with a quick pad save before following up with another stop. The Comets came up with a good kill.

Wacey Hamilton and his line followed up the kill with another strong shift in the offensive zone and Kole Lind was showing more of that hustle that we’ve seen from him of late. Tanner Kero came up with a smart play with his stick in the defensive zone to break up a play while the Crunch had some pressure before Verhaeghe put a puck off the shoulder of Kulbakov.

Zack MacEwen isn’t just about sweet hands and big hits as TheBigFella came up with a fantastic play in his own end to stymie Gabriel Dumont on a scoring chance. MacEwen’s defensive game has always been solid and it looks to be taking another step this season.

Hamilton followed up the MacEwen play with a shot off the left side that was gloved down by goaltender Eddie Pasquale.

Cam Darcy’s line was hemmed in their end for a shift before breaking out and drawing a penalty on Dominik Masin. With Masin in the box for interference, the Comets power play went back to work.

Dahlen fed MacEwen with a pass in front and Zack’s chance was denied, as was the Boucher rebound that followed. Evan McEneny followed up with a blast from the high slot that was tipped by Tanner Kero, but Pasquale came up with another save.

Jesse Graham was playing as a forward today and he got a shot away that was also stopped and held by Pasquale. The Comets power play came up empty again.

The Comets have had a habit of taking penalties late in periods this season and Wacey Hamilton did it again after being sent off for tripping at the 16:41 mark. I’m hoping that Hamilton doesn’t fall back into the habit of taking as many penalties as he seemed to be doing late in the season last year.

Kulbakov had to make a save on a chance in close from the left circle before soaking up another chance from Verhaeghe. The Comets would come up with another good kill and the period came to a close.

Syracuse showed a 10-8 advantage on the shot clock for the opening frame.

Second Period

The middle frame kicked off with Evan McEneny taking a stick to the mumbles that went undetected by the officials, but Kole Lind and Wacey Hamilton let Gabriel Dumont know that they were wise to his antics.

Zack MacEwen got a backhander away that was gobbled up by Pasquale for a whistle before Verhaeghe sent a wrister Kulbakov’s way that was gloved down by the netminder. The Crunch came back with another chance and Kulbakov made the save and smothered the puck with a crowd forming.

Andy Andreoff came back with a shot off the iron as the Crunch were pressing.

The Comets were looking to change the momentum as MacEwen dished out a heavy hit in front of the Syracuse bench before Dylan Blujus had a chance redirected by Kero that was shut down by Pasquale.

The trio of Gadjovich, Darcy, and Graham came with a chance of their own, but the Darcy one-timer was denied by Pasquale.

Jonathan Dahlen has been dishing the sweet sauce all season long and the young winger hit MacEwen for a chance in close that was deflected out of play by a defender.

We saw a bit of back and forth before Cam Darcy dished out a solid hit in the offensive zone.

Jesse Graham was sent off for tripping at the 9:18 mark and the Comets had another penalty to kill. Utica did great work to keep the Crunch to the outside and came up with a good kill.

Dennis Yan followed up with a shot off the left side that was soaked up by Kulbakov for a whistle. Yan was soon sent off for boarding and the Comets had a man advantage to work with. MacEwen fed Dahlen for a shot from the high slot that was soaked up for a whistle before Brisebois was sent off for slashing.

We had 36 seconds of four aside time that saw Verhaeghe rip a puck off the glove of Kulbakov before the Comets had to kill off the Brisebois minor. Cory Conacher put a shot off the iron but the Comets would come up with another good kill after more great work from their PK crew.

Zack MacEwen no longer seems to be getting spotted in on the penalty kill, he seems to have taken on a regular role with the club. This same thing was done last season with Nikolay Goldobin not long before he got his summons to Vancouver for a longer look with the big club.

McEneny hit Kero with a saucer pass from the parking lot to send him in for a chance that was turned aside before Kulbakov had to make another save and cover up with a crowd forming. The Gadjovich, Darcy, Graham line followed up with a good shift before Tanner Kero put the Comets up 2-0 with just over a minute left in the period. The goal was Kero’s 16th of the season, while Reid Boucher earned his 18th helper of the year on the play and Tom Pyatt grabbed his fourth.

That was it for the middle frame as the Crunch were showing a 9-8 advantage on the shot clock for the period.

Third Period

We saw some early back and forth in the final frame before former Comets PTO player, Nolan Valleau let fly with a shot from the high slot that was soaked up for a whistle by Kulbakov.

Jonah Gadjovich took an early spin with Kero and Boucher that saw Reid have a chance shut down by Pasquale. It looked like Pyatt might have had a skate issue as he took Gadjovich’s spot with Darcy and Graham for a shift before things went back to how they were to begin the game.

Boris Katchouk pulled his team to within a goal when he beat Kulbakov with another weird goal. Ivan seems to have an odd one go in nearly every game that he plays. For Katchouk, it was goal number six on the season, while Cameron Gaunce picked up his 23rd helper of the year on the play and Andy Andreoff grabbed his 13th.

Syracuse kept the pressure coming and Wacey Hamilton had to come up with another big shot block to help keep his club up by a goal. Kulbakov had a shot ring the iron, followed up by Cory Conacher running into him in his crease. The netminder let Conacher know that he wasn’t impressed by his close proximity and a brief scrum ensued. While his mates were mucking it up near his net, Kulbakov skated out to the blueline and made a gesture to Eddie Pasquale, as if he wanted to dance, before heading to the Comets bench for some refreshments.

By the time the smoke had cleared, Conacher and Hamilton were in the box doing time for roughing minors.

With a play that you could see coming from the moment that he picked up the puck, MacEwen dumped the biscuit deep into the Crunch corner and followed it in at a good clip, dishing some lumps to the Syracuse defender with a solid hit.

Ivan Kulbakov soaked up a Barre-Boulet chance off the rush that followed and we were back to five aside action.

The five aside would last ever so briefly as Andreoff was whistled for a cross-check barely 10 seconds after Hamilton and Conacher exited the clink.

Brendan Gaunce had a shot gobbled up for a whistle, but otherwise, there wasn’t much going on with this power play for the Comets and they would come up empty once more.

The Hamilton line spent a shift hemmed in their end before the Gaunce line came out and we saw Brendan force a turnover just inside the Crunch blueline, getting a shot off that Pasquale was able to get a shoulder on. Gaunce continues to work hard and make things happen for the Comets.

Kulbakov had to whip out a pair of big saves as the Crunch were pouring on the pressure, The netminder made a save and held on for the whistle with a crowd forming before shutting down another Barre-Boulet offering.

Zack MacEwen and Jonah Gadjovich found themselves out on the ice at the same time and the young duo broke in two-on-one. MacEwen dished a sweet feed to Gadjovich for a chance that saw Pasquale come up with a huge save to stop the Gadjovich offering.

Kulbakov kept his club in it with a  quick leg on a Gabriel Dumont chance. Cam Darcy got corked at the Comets blueline, but the pivot was able to pop back up and head to the bench under his own power.

Trent Cull often has the young kids out late in games to let them show him how they handle those types of situations, but today he elected to go with a trio of Hamilton, Bancks, and Gaunce in the final three minutes and they went to work with a banger of a shift. The three forwards got physical and greasy, eventually leading to a Brendan Gaunce tally to put his club up 3-1 at the 17:49 mark.

The goal was Gaunce’s 12th of the season, while Hamilton picked up his third helper of the year on the play and Bancks grabbed his sixth. Apologies, but there was no gif of the Gaunce goal available at the time of this writing.

Time was winding down, but this one wasn’t over yet as Carter Bancks set up Kole Lind for what could have been his first AHL goal, but the young winger saw his shot turned aside by Pasquale. Evan McEneny followed up with a shot that was gloved down before Cory Conacher pulled his team to within a goal at the 19:31 mark. The goal was the 15th of the year for the former Comets forward, while former Comets PTO player, Nolan Valleau earned his seventh helper of the season on the play and Cameron Gaunce picked up his 24th.

That was as close as the Crunch would get as time wound down and the final buzzer sounded. Syracuse showed an 11-10 advantage on the shot clock for the final frame and a 30-26 advantage for the game.

Today’s Official Boxscore

Comets Goals

Dahlen (9) from Kero (19) and MacEwen (16). Power play goal.

Kero (16) from Boucher (18) and Pyatt (4).

Gaunce (12) from Hamilton (3) and Bancks (6).

The Three Stars in the building today were:

3rd Star: Jonathan Dahlen. One goal.

2nd Star: Tanner Kero. One goal, one assist.

1st Star: Ivan Kulbakov. 28 saves.

CanucksArmy’s Three Stars:

3rd Star: Jonathan Dahlen/Zack MacEwen. The two wingers currently make up two-thirds of a line with Brendan Gaunce in the middle and the trio has looked dangerous in each game that they’ve been deployed together. Dahlen grabbed his ninth goal today. He has put up 13 of his 19 points on the power play as he has six goals and seven helpers while a man up. MacEwen picked up another helper today and continued to keep pace with Boucher and Kero in that tight top three of Comets scoring. The second-year forward looks to have earned a regular spot in the penalty kill rotation now and continues to add layers to his game. I don’t think that TheBigFella as very far off from his first NHL call-up.

2nd Star: Tanner Kero. Kero ripped off another two points today with his goal and assist and continues to make the Comets the big winners in the trade that sent Michael Chaput to Chicago in the offseason. Kero is up to 35 points in 42 games this year, showing durability as the only Comets player to suit up in every game so far, (Zack MacEwen missed one game with a suspension), and that he can provide this team with some top-line scoring along with a steady presence on the defensive side of things.

1st Star: Brendan Gaunce. Gaunce just keeps getting it done for the Comets this year. The pivot-turned-winger-turned-pivot again…again, has been showing well since his move back to the middle for the Comets. He grabbed another goal today on the back of his unquestioned work ethic and is now up to 23 points in 26 games this season. He’s been versatile, opportunistic, and defensively reliable. He looks like a young man who wants to claw his way back to the NHL and I’m not so sure that he doesn’t deserve another look. He seems like the type of player who Travis Green would like to have around, foot-speed be damned.

Next Game

Game #43

Vs Syracuse Crunch

Wednesday, January, 16th,  2019

7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific









  • Watched most of the 3rd period wow did the Crunch ever have the Comets hemmed in their end and that new Utica goalie kept them in the game until Comets scored that much needed third goal if it wasn’t for Kulbacov keeping them in the game in the third the Comets were lucky to get out of the game with the win.

  • I only got to watch the last 10 minutes of the 3rd period. I was impressed by the goalie Ivan Kulbakov who made some excellent saves. I also noticed Brendan Gaunce, who I have seen many times before when he was with the Canucks. Based on what I saw he is, IMO, better than Schaller, who is on the team. Although Schaller has been scratched from recent games. Would rather have Gaunce.

  • Thanks for the report. Wondering if Comet players like Gadjovich and Gaunce have access to dedicated skating instructors to help them with foot speed? So of what Horvat did to improve his skating. Or does the club just leave it to the players to figure it out themselves.