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Photo Credit: Owen Skye | @designedbyowen

CanucksArmy Utica Comets Post-Game: Comets Score Five Unanswered Goals for 5-2 Win over Phantoms

Utica Comets Post-Game Report

Game #49

Vs Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Friday, February 8th, 2019

7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific

Pre-Game

Post-Game

Comets Scratches

Richard Bachman, (out for the season, Achilles’ injury) Olli Juolevi, (out for the season, knee surgery) Jesse Graham, (week-to-week, upper body injury) Dylan Blujus, (week-to-week, hand injury) Wacey Hamilton, (veteran scratch) Colton Saucerman, (healthy) Vincent Arseneau, (healthy) and Jonah Gadjovich, (healthy).

 

Comets Starting Lines

16 Brendan Gaunce – 17 Adam Gaudette – 13 Kole Lind

24 Reid Boucher (A) – 10 Tanner Kero – 15 Zack MacEwen

54 Jonathan Dahlen – 21 Brendan Woods – 20 Tom Pyatt

34 Carter Bancks (C) – 11 Cam Darcy – 9 Lukas Jasek

6 Ashton Sautner – 23 Luke Schenn

2 Evan McEneny – 5 Jalen Chatfield

3 Stefan LeBlanc – 26 Jaime Sifers (A)

49 Michael Leighton

31 Ivan Kulbakov (backing up)

First Period

The first period of this one didn’t see any scoring or a ton of action, but we did see some physical play from the Comets. We also saw the return of defenceman Ashton Sautner after being out since December 8th with facial fractures. Welcome back, Sauts!

Kole Lind was playing on a line with Adam Gaudette and Brendan Gaunce today and the trio had an early chance as Lind fed Gaudette and the pivot broke in, forcing goaltender Mike McKenna into a pair of saves.

Yes, that Mike McKenna, the one who was going to be a Comet until he was claimed off waivers by the Philadelphia Flyers. He is currently with the Phantoms on a conditioning stint, so he could very well find himself back on waivers and possibly even playing for the Comets within a couple of weeks.

The Comets also had a new defender in the lineup as Stefan LeBlanc was playing his first game for the club after being acquired in a trade for forward Tanner MacMaster. LeBlanc showed some nice work early when he hustled on the backcheck to come away with the puck in the Comets zone.

Lukas Jasek was back with Carter Bancks and Cam Darcy and he showed some great work to set up Sautner for a zone entry with a crisp pass before following up with an active forecheck.

Evan McEneny dished a solid hit on Steven Swavely and the Phantom took exception and ended up retaliating, taking an interference penalty on the play.

The Comets power play went to work as we saw the first unit of Gaudette, MacEwen, Kero, Boucher, and McEneny before the second unit of Gaunce, Lind, Dahlen, Pyatt, and Schenn rolled over the boards. Michael Leighton would have to make a shorthanded save before Boucher saw his one-timer from McEneny denied by McKenna. The Comets came up empty.

Leighton had to follow up with back-to-back saves on Greg Carey before getting a piece of a Colin MacDonald shot off the rush.

Adam Gaudette went the other way and whipped out the dangles, he literally toe dragged my AHLTV feed into submission and everything froze. By the time I got things back up and running, I found out that he did not manage to score on the play.

We had some back and forth before we saw Leighton show some nice puck handling to grab a puck at his net-side and quickly, and accurately backhand it around to Schenn for a breakout play.

Kole Lind continued with his strong play of late when he came up with a nice steal in the offensive zone before feeding Gaunce for a chance that he couldn’t get away.

Leighton had to be sharp to turn aside a pair of chances from Reece Wilcox, the second of which was through traffic.

The Comets went the other way as Sautner hit Boucher with a feed for a shot off the left side that was shouldered away by McKenna before Leighton came up with a stick save off the rush. He followed up by whipping out the mitt to shut down the resulting MacDonald rebound chance.

Jonathan Dahlen has been known to make some nice passes and he hit Jaime Sifers with one at the offensive blueline for a shot that was kicked out by McKenna. Lukas Jasek saw a shift with Kero and Boucher and the young winger showed great work to pick off the puck in the neutral zone before whipping out some dangles, but McKenna came up with another save.

Earlier in the season, Evan McEneny was dishing out the odd hip check, but we haven’t seen many of those since Olli Juolevi went down with his knee injury and McEneny was pressed into a more offensive role. Well, the hip check made another appearance today and it was nice to see from the big defender.

Speaking of heavy play, Zack MacEwen had his father and one of his uncles in the crowd for this one and he gave them a heavy shift in the defensive zone to discuss as he dished a couple of solid hits. Jalen Chatfield, not to be outdone, stood up a Phantoms forward coming over the Comets blueline, putting his opponents offside in the process. It’s nice to see Chatfield and Sautner jumping right back in with physical games after missing extended time with injuries recently.

That was it for the opening frame. Utica finished with a lead of 9-6 on the shot clock.

Second Period

Kole Lind and Adam Gaudette were playing on a line together today and they looked like they’d like to stay together as Lind hit Gaudette with a feed for an early wraparound chance that he couldn’t get to go.

This was where the wheels fell off for a couple of minutes as Justin Bailey put a puck behind Leighton off of Jalen Chatfield’s skate for his 14th goal of the season. Hey, who says Chatfield doesn’t score? Rookie Connor Bunnaman earned his seventh helper of the year on the play.

Just 45 seconds later, Jonathan Dahlen coughed up the puck and it was 2-0 after Phillipe Myers put his ninth of the season behind Leighton. Chris Connor picked up the lone helper on the play for his 23rd of the season.

Less than 30 seconds later, Reid Boucher was whistled for hooking and the Comets were playing with fire. We saw forward units of Gaudette with Bancks and Gaunce with Pyatt before Bancks came back out with Woods. Luke Schenn and Ashton Sautner gobbled up the bulk of this one on the backend before they were spelled off by Chatfield and Sifers.

Schenn had a nice clear and Leighton had to make a save through traffic before the Comets wrapped up a good kill.

Reid Boucher followed up the kill with a shot off the left side that Kero got a piece of, but so did McKenna with another save. At the other end of the ice, McEneny coughed up the puck and Leighton had to shut down a chance by Bunnaman.

Greg Carey followed up with a chance from a faceoff win and Leighton had to come up with an alert save to keep his team in it.

Speaking of keeping his team in it, that’s what captain Carter Bancks did when he scored his third of the season. Lukas Jasek did great work along the boards on this one before Sifers set Bancks up for the tally. Sifers picked up his ninth assist of the season on the play, while Jasek grabbed his 12th.

Leighton had to be sharp to kick aside a chance by Chris Connor following the Comets goal. The Comets went the other way where MacEwen and Boucher were both stymied by McKenna before Leighton had to come up with another save at the other end for some back and forth play.

The back and forth kept going as Kole Lind got a nice shot away from the right circle that was gobbled up by McKenna for a whistle. Jonathan Dahlen did solid work to hold the line in the offensive zone before the Phantoms eventually broke out the other way and Leighton had to come up with another save.

Part of me wonders if we might see the Comets with the oldest goaltending tandem in the AHL within the next couple of weeks if the team does end up with McKenna in a waiver situation and elects to run with the two vets down the stretch and let Kulbakov play a bunch in KZOO. Time will tell.

The Comets looked like they might tie this one at two when Gaudette hit Luke Schenn with a pass on the rush that resulted in McKenna flashing the leather for a save before Jaime Sifers was dinged for tripping at the 12:21 mark.

With Sifers in the box serving his time, we saw forward pairs of Woods with Bancks, Gaunce with Pyatt, and Woods with Bancks once more before the kill was over. We also saw defensive pairs of Sautner and Schenn, followed up by Chatfield and LeBlanc. The Comets would come up with another good kill and then we saw TheBigFella’s uncle Jeff and his father Craig letting everyone in the building know which player on the Comets roster they were there to see.

When play resumed, Tanner Kero had a chance denied by McKenna before the netminder came up with some sprawling saves on Gaunce and Lind to keep his team up by a goal.

Leighton came up with a save on a shot from a tough angle and followed up with another before Lukas Jasek went to work along the boards in the offensive zone. I sure like watching this kid in board battles, he is a puck possession machine.

As time wound down, we saw Lind get a nice backhander away that was turned aside before MacEwen hit Sifers for a shot that was denied as well. Leighton would finish up the period with a save and we headed to the final frame with the Comets in a 2-1 hole.

The shot clock showed both teams with 12 shots for the period.

Third Period

I’m not sure what was said between periods, but the Comets came out for the final frame like a team possessed. It took just 30 seconds for Ashton Sautner to grab his third goal of the season. Welcome back, Ashton. Tanner Kero picked up his 25th assist of the year on the play, while TheBigFella earned his 21st.

With the game tied at two, Luke Schenn sent a wrister on the net, only to see McKenna glove it down before Lind hit McEneny with a point shot feed that was also denied by the glove of the right-hand-catching McKenna.

Reid Boucher put his club up 3-2 when he beat McKenna for his 20th of the season. MacEwen picked up his second assist of the game and 22nd of the season on the play, while newcomer Stefan LeBlanc grabbed his first point with the Comets and eighth assist of the year. Welcome aboard Stefan. I thought that LeBlanc showed well in his first outing for the Comets. MacEwen, by the way, is just one assist back of his career-high of 23 set last year in his rookie season.

The Boucher tally came at the 3:54 mark, and at the 4:22 mark Tom Pyatt came looking for more. Pyatt beat McKenna for his third goal of the season, while Brendan Woods earned his third assist of the year. Jonathan Dahlen picked up the other helper for his 12th of the season, tying him with fellow rookie, Lukas Jasek.

With the Comets now up 4-2, we had some back and forth hockey.

Jonathan Dahlen is still figuring the AHL out and sometimes it shows in his game. The young winger had a learning moment when he overskated his check and saw him set up Bunnaman for a one-timer that Leighton had to shut down and hold for a whistle. These moments will happen with young players as they learn their way in the league.

Luke Schenn and Ashton Sautner were paired together today and the duo did not look like much fun to play against. Schenn has shown a penchant for heavy hits since joining the team and Sautner showed a clear uptick in his physical play from the get-go this season. The pair dished out a couple of stiff hits in the Comets zone on the same shift and had their opponent’s heads on swivels.

Leighton was playing well in this one and came up with a pair of big saves in succession before the line of Kero, Boucher, and MacEwen had a dangerous shift in the Phantoms’ zone.

Brendan Gaunce put his team up 5-2 with an absolutely filthy redirect of a Tom Pyatt shot. For a guy who can’t score, Gaunce has done a solid job of piling up points this season in Utica. The goal was the 14th of the season for Gaunce, while Pyatt grabbed his fifth assist on the play and Woods picked up his fourth of the season and second of the game.

The Comets were up 5-2 on the strength of five unanswered goals.

The Comets kept it coming as MacEwen was denied on a pair of chances before Sautner unloaded with another heavy hit. Have I mentioned yet that it was nice to see Sautner back in the lineup?

There was more back and forth as Leighton made a save through traffic at one end and Gaunce had a shot from distance denied at the other.

Leighton had to shut down another chance from Justin Bailey before Ashton Sautner was finally dinged for his vicious laying of the lumber with a two-minute cross-checking minor. Okay, maybe his lumber laying wasn’t so vicious on this one, but the dude was heavy on the lumber from the start of the season until his injury, so I don’t expect that to stop any time soon.

With Sautner in the box, we saw forward units of MacEwen with Bancks and Woods with Pyatt, along with defenders LeBlanc with Sifers and Chatfield with Schenn. The Comets would come up with another good kill and steered this ship home for the win.

Utica showed a 12-9 advantage in shots for the final frame and a 33-27 advantage for the game.

It was a good way to kick off their three-games-in-three-days weekend.

Today’s Official Boxscore

Comets Goals:

  1. Bancks (3) from Sifers (8) and Jasek (12).
  2. Sautner (3) from Kero (25) and MacEwen (21).
  3. Boucher (20) from MacEwen (22) and LeBlanc (8).
  4. Pyatt (3) from Woods (3) and Dahlen (12).
  5. Gaunce (14) from Pyatt (5) and Woods (4).

The Three Stars in the building today were:

3rd Star: Reid Boucher. One goal.

2nd Star: Tom Pyatt. One goal, one assist.

1st Star: Ashton Sautner. One goal.

CanucksArmy’s Three Stars:

3rd Star: Zack MacEwen. TheBigFella picked up a pair of helpers today and is now up to 38 points in 48 games this season. He has already obliterated his career high in goals, and his career high in points and sits one point shy of his career high in assists. He has also become a staple on the first unit power play and has been since mid/late last season. MacEwen has added penalty killing duties to his resume this season as he continues to round out his game. If you are looking for an example of player development in Utica, look no further than Zack MacEwen. Yes, he still needs to prove himself at the NHL level, but I am not about to be the guy doubting him when he gets there. MacEwen is proof that when a player earns his ice time with this coaching staff, he gets more rope with which to work. MacEwen has taken that rope and has woven it into a ladder to climb his way into the NHL conversation. Let’s see how some of this year’s rookie class follow up.

2nd Star: Tom Pyatt. Pyatt has been a solid addition since joining the Comets, playing up and down the lineup and showing well where ever he finds himself. He is a veteran of 445 NHL games, so he shouldn’t have any trouble holding his own in the AHL, but he has just gone about his business with the club, picking up three goals and five helpers in 12 games since his trade from the Ottawa organization. Pyatt has seen some second unit power play time as well as some looks on the penalty kill. His two points today helped the Comets come away with a win.

1st Star: Ashton Sautner. Sautner is what Brian Burke would call tougher than a night in jail. While the defender isn’t running around throwing fists into faces on the regular, he seems to relish laying the body, or the lumber at every opportunity. The man just looks like he plays the game angry. It was nice to see him back in the lineup and unafraid to get down to business with his heavy game. It was also nice to see him score a goal in his first game back as well. Sautner is actually on a two-game goal scoring streak as his last goal came in the same game that saw Eric Tangradi blow up his face with a questionable hit. I would imagine that we could see Sautner summoned to Vancouver to replace Guillaume Brisebois on their roster once he gets a few more games under his belt. Sautner just seems more ready for regular NHL minutes at this point.

Next Game

Game #50

Vs Rochester Americans

Saturday, February 9th, 2019

7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific