Utica Comets Post-Game Report
At Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Sunday, February 10th, 2019
3:00 pm Eastern/12:00 noon Pacific
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) February 10, 2019
Before we get started with the post-game festivities, I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate Zack MacEwen and his family on his first NHL call-up. This kid has killed it since turning pro and has absorbed coaching like a sponge. He works tirelessly on his craft and is always looking for ways to improve his game. No shortcuts have been taken here, this young man has put in the work and I don’t expect that to change going forward anytime soon. #TheBigFella.
Richard Bachman, (out for the season) Olli Juolevi, (out for the season) Jesse Graham, (week-to-week, upper body injury) Dylan Blujus, (week-to-week, hand injury) Carter Bancks, (day-to-day) Colton Saucerman, (healthy), and Lukas Jasek, (day-to-day).
Comets Starting Lines
22 Jonah Gadjovich – 36 Wacey Hamilton (A) – 18 Vincent Arseneau
20 Tom Pyatt – 10 Tanner Kero – 24 Reid Boucher (A)
16 Brendan Gaunce – 17 Adam Gaudette – 13 Kole Lind
54 Jonathan Dahlen – 21 Brendan Woods 11 Cam Darcy
3 Stefan LeBlanc – 26 Jaime Sifers (A)
6 Ashton Sautner – 23 Luke Schenn
2 Evan McEneny – 5 Jalen Chatfield
31 Ivan Kulbakov
49 Michael Leighton (backing up)
I will start off this period by letting you know that the camera angles for this game were pretty terrible, so some of my details are less than stellar.
The Sound Tigers came in early with a trio of chances and Ivan Kulbakov was equal to the task on all of them.
Things kind of tailed off for a bit as the game lacked flow before Travis St. Denis put his squad up 1-0 at the 4:58 mark, jumping on a loose puck and putting it over the shoulder of Kulbakov for his 11th goal of the season. Chris Bourque picked up his 29th helper of the year on the play, while Otto Koivula earned his 22nd.
The Tigers kept it coming as Josh Ho-Sang let fly with a backhander that he put wide before Kulbakov was forced into another trio of saves. It was like Bridgeport was shooting in threes today.
St.Denis scored the opening goal and he took the game’s first penalty as well when he was sent off for slashing at the 10:35 mark.
It took Tanner Kero all of nine seconds to tip a Boucher offering past goaltender Christopher Gibson to even the game at one. The power play marker was Kero’s 18th goal of the season, while Reid Boucher picked up his 25th assist of the year and Evan McEneny grabbed his 19th.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) February 10, 2019
Former Canucks forward Steve Bernier, yeah…he’s still around. He came into the Comets end looking for the go-ahead goal, but Kulbakov whipped out the mitt and crushed his dreams. Kulbakov wasn’t done there as he followed up with an athletic save on Ho-Sang to keep the game knotted at one.
Jalen Chatfield kept up his physical play when he filled in Tanner Fritz with a stiff hit.
Otto Koivula already had an assist in this one and he added a goal when he beat Kulbakov high to the stick side for his 15th of the season. St.Denis picked up his 17th helper of the year on the play, while Bourque earned his 30th.
We saw a brief melee break out between the benches after Kiefer Bellows took exception to a Vincent Arseneau hit. Bellows was dinged with five for fighting and two more for a slash. Arseneau was given five for fighting and two more for embellishment.
Less than a minute later, Ashton Sautner was whistled for tripping and the Comets had a late penalty to kill.
Bourque had a chance denied by Kulbakov and the period came to a close with the Sound Tigers showing a 13-7 advantage on the shot clock.
The middle frame started out with Sautner still in the box and no sound on my AHLTV stream…good times. The Comets killed off the remainder of the Sautner penalty before Seth Helgeson was dinged for tripping at the 1:38 mark and the Comets had a power play to work with.
We saw Jonah Gadjovich make an appearance on the second unit as the net-front presence, along with Tom Pyatt, Kole Lind, Jonathan Dahlen, and Luke Schenn. That group were unable to get anything going and were replaced by the first unit of Adam Gaudette, Reid Boucher, Tanner Kero, Evan McEneny, and Brendan Gaunce. They also came up empty and we were back to evens.
The Sound Tigers came looking for a goal when Bellows and Helgeson went to work with a tip play, but Kulbakov was ready with the save. Mitch Vande Sompel followed up with a chance of his own and was also denied by the Comets netminder.
Chris Bourque was whistled for slashing at the 10:33 mark and the Comets were back to the power play. Boucher had a one-timer soaked up for a whistle before Dahlen had a one-timer of his own denied.
Luke Schenn, however, would not be denied as he unloaded a bomb off of a Dahlen feed and rippled the twine. The goal was Schenn’s first with the Comets and third of the season. Dahlen earned his 13th helper of the year on the play, while Jonah Gadjovich picked up his fifth.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) February 10, 2019
Adam Gaudette and Cam Darcy followed up by trying their luck from opposite circles and Gibson said no to both of them.
Steve Bernier put the home team up 3-2 with his 16th of the year after taking a feed from Sebastian Aho. The Aho assist was the lone helper and his 27th of the season.
Evan McEneny was looking to get that one right back with a shot that was tipped by Kero, but Gibson was ready with another save. Vincent Arseneau picked off the puck in the offensive zone and unloaded a heavy shot right into the guts of Gibson.
We saw a late flurry of chances from the line of Lind, Gaunce, and Gaudette, but Gibson stood tall and kept them off the board.
That was it for the middle frame. The Comets showed a 14-5 advantage on the shot clock but were down 3-2 on the scoreboard.
Maybe I was just distracted by the Zack MacEwen recall, but I was sure having a tough time getting into this game. We saw a total of 65 shots put up between the two clubs, but somehow this game just seemed flat to me.
The first five minutes seemed to drag on without much happening at either end of the ice before Jonathan Dahlen pounced on a loose puck in front of the Sound Tigers net and put a backhander behind Gibson to knot the game at three. The goal was Dahlen’s 14th of the season and second point of the game, while Brendan Woods picked up his sixth helper of the year on the play and Cam Darcy earned his eighth. Dahlen is starting to pick up some even strength points of late and they have come while playing with some of the club’s veteran defensive-type forwards.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) February 10, 2019
Just under a minute later, Vincent Arseneau was dinged for tripping and the Comets were off to the kill. We saw Sebastian Aho rip a shot off the iron before Brendan Gaunce did what he has done time and again this season. He manufactured a shorthanded scoring chance and this one beat Gibson for his 15th goal of the season and third of the shorthanded variety. Tom Pyatt picked up the lone helper for his sixth assist of the year.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) February 10, 2019
The Comets were up 4-3 when Kyle Burroughs let fly with a quick shot and Kulbakov flashed the leather to deny the tying goal. It didn’t take very long, however, for the Sound Tigers to pull even.
Ben Holmstrom redirected a Chris Castor play behind Kulbakov and the game was tied at four. The goal was Holmstrom’s third of the year, while Casto picked up his fourth assist of the season on the play and Parker Wotherspoon earned his 15th.
Bridgeport came right back in with another chance as the duo of Fritz and Bernier had their bid shut down by Kulbakov before Bellows unloaded a hot shot off the rush that was steered aside by the blocker of the Comets netminder. Kulbakov followed up with some quick legs to stop another chance before finally gloving down another for a whistle. The Tigers were pressing.
Bernier elected to mow over Kulbakov at the 17:24 mark and that earned him a trip to the box for goaltender interference. If he isn’t careful, one of these days Kulbakov is going to get dinged with a penalty of his own for intentionally trying to draw those calls. He got away with this one and the Comets were off to a late man advantage.
Kulbakov had to be sharp as it would be the Sound Tigers who were making the noise as the clock wound down. Ryan Bourque broke in shorthanded and Kulbakov fired out the blocker for the save, then followed up with a quick mitt to foil Sebastian Aho’s buzzer-beater attempt and we were off to the extra frame.
Utica showed an 11-10 advantage on the shot clock for the third period.
Well, I will say this…AHLTV has been leaps and bounds better than the old AHL LIVE package that used to run roughly the same price per season as one would pay for your average used Subaru, but when AHL TV is bad…it certainly picks the worst times to do it. Just as the overtime period was about to start, I was greeted by the black screen of death, telling me that my stream had dropped out.
No big deal, just shut it down and fire it back up and hope for the best. By the time I was back up and running, Tanner Fritz had his arms raised after scoring the game-winning goal. As Todd Bertuzzi once said, it is what it is.
The goal was the 11th of the season for Fritz, while Matt Lorito grabbed his first assist of the year on the play…great timing with that first helper, Matt.
The extra frame finished with the Comets being outshot 4-1, while Utica held a 33-32 advantage for the game.
Kero (18) from Boucher (25) and McEneny (19). PP goal.
Schenn (3) from Dahlen (13) and Gadjovich (5). PP goal.
Dahlen (14) from Woods (6) and Darcy (8).
Gaunce (15) from Pyatt (6). Shorthanded.
The Three Stars in the building today were:
3rd Star: Otto Koivula. One goal, one assist.
2nd Star: Travis St. Denis. One goal, one assist.
1st Star: Tanner Fritz. Overtime winner.
CanucksArmy Three Stars:
I am going to do something a little different with today’s stars. First, I am going to give an honourable mention to Jonathan Dahlen for continuing his stronger play of late, picking up two more points, one of them at even strength. It is important for Dahlen to show that he isn’t just a power play specialist. I would also like to give an honourable mention to Brendan Gaunce for another solid game and for picking up his third shorthanded goal of the season. Dude has been a threat to score while shorthanded all season long.
3rd Star: Zack MacEwen.
2nd Star: Zack MacEwen.
1st Star: Zack MacEwen.
Is it a bit much for me to give all three stars to a player who was not even in the building today? Probably, but this is my little space of the hockey interwebs and just like Frank Sinatra, I’m doing it my way.
I have been fortunate enough to view every second of professional hockey that the young man who I have dubbed TheBigFella has played in his career to date. As such, I have had a front row seat, of sorts…all the way from BC Canada. I have witnessed Zack grow from a player who looked like he was just slightly behind his rookie peers in his first season and have seen him work his tail off in order to improve his game. He has grown his game by soaking up coaching like a sponge and turning those lessons into tangible growth.
When Zack first came on the scene in my world, I had read that he wasn’t a good enough skater, that he needed to work on his playmaking and that he was basically a long shot to become much of a prospect. Armed with this information, I watched Zack as last season unfolded and saw him brush aside doubts about his skating as it improved continually as the year went on. I watched as he dished filthy passes and showed sublime mitts in tight around the net. I saw his defensive game take huge steps at the pro level and his points totals also continued to climb to more than respectable levels.
I have also seen him light large men up with big hits as well as throw down when the occasion called for it. TheBigFella has had his share of tilts as a pro in Utica and shows the type of fighting style that made Ed Jovanovski a feared opponent when the gloves came off. MacEwen throws some heavy, heavy fists.
All of this is stuff that we see on the ice, but it has been his dedication to his craft off the ice that has impressed me. MacEwen had a great rookie year last season. His skating improved, he proved some of his harshest critics wrong and he put up 33 points. He could have sat on that and came into this season expecting his spot in the top six to be handed to him.
That, however, is not how this young man was raised. MacEwen went home to P.E.I and got down to work. He trained with an Olympic gold medalist bobsledder in order to further improve his first three strides and build endurance so that he could go all out for long stretches in his shifts.
Did that have a positive effect on his game? It sure did. Nobody is talking about MacEwen’s skating as an issue anymore, in fact, one of the first things I hear about him is that he skates well. Not, he skates well for his size, he skates well, period. He is beating players to pucks that he wouldn’t have been able to last year. He is backchecking like a man possessed and his extra speed on the forecheck has opposing forwards keeping their heads on a swivel.
He has posted career highs in goals with 17…so far, career highs in assists with 25…so far, and career highs in points with 42…so far. Is that called development? I think it just might be.
TheBigFella gets it. He has had to work for every inch of ice that he has been given and it is paying off in spades. I don’t expect to see that kind of work ethic stop anytime soon. MacEwen is only just scratching the surface of what he can be as a pro and I’m looking forward to seeing him at the NHL level. He may only be up for a few practices like Brisebois and Chatfield saw, or he may get a look in a game or two. If he does get in, he may need an adjustment period to get up to speed, but I truly believe that he will get there. So whether it is a cup of coffee with the team or a long run of games down the stretch, I will be watching and pulling for TheBigFella. He is the type of person and player that will be easy for this market to get behind.
Good luck, Zack. I know that you are going to kill it when you get to the show as a full-time player.
Vs Laval Rocket
Wednesday, February 13th, 2019
7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific