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Photo Credit: owen skye | @designedbyowen

CanucksArmy Utica Comets Pre-Game: Game #52, Laval Rocket At Utica Comets

Utica Comets Pre-Game

Game #52

Vs Laval Rocket

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific

Comets News

It has been just three days since the Utica Comets last played, but the team hasn’t been quiet during that span.

Let’s start with Zack MacEwen making his NHL debut on Monday night in Rogers Arena for the Vancouver Canucks. TheBigFella has been doing everything asked of him since turning pro and his dedication to improving his game was rewarded with his first NHL call-up.

We have seen the Canucks summon both of Guillaume Brisebois and Jalen Chatfield to Vancouver but not elect to play either in a game, instead, getting them into practices to see where their game is. MacEwen, however, not only played but also started the game on a line with Bo Horvat and Antoine Roussel.

So, how did Zack do in his first NHL game? He received 9:45 of ice-time, was credited with two shots on goal and picked up his first NHL point in the form of an assist.

Not a bad NHL debut, even if the score didn’t end up the way the team would have liked.

I had the pleasure of sitting with Zack’s family during the game and it was every bit as cool of an experience as you would imagine it to be. Watching TheBigFella’s family go through that range of emotions was fantastic. Just seeing him on the NHL ice had them beaming with pride, but when he picked up his assist…well, I will let Uncle Jeff’s tweet say it all.

If you have pushed play on that clip, right at the start, you can just hear me yell, “here it is” because I have seen Zack score his share of goals on that spin and fire play in tight. You will also have heard his family cheering wildly, and near the end, you may have even picked out me screaming, “Biiiig…Fella….WOOOO” 

What an experience to have been a part of. I can’t thank the MacEwen family enough for allowing me to be there to share it with them.

In other roster news, Brandon Sutter has gone down with yet another injury…I know, right? With Sutter out of the lineup, Adam Gaudette has once again been summoned to the big club and will join them on the road today in Anaheim. Gaudette has picked up 11 points in 14 games with the Comets this year and has recently been seeing some time on the penalty kill. The first-year pivot has also put up seven points in 32 games with the Canucks this season.

With Gaudette and MacEwen no longer available to the Comets, Reid Gardiner has been called up from the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL. Gardiner signed a one-year AHL deal this offseason for this exact reason. He provides the club with depth that should be able to provide some secondary scoring while being capable of playing all three forward positions.

Gardiner currently sits second in ECHL scoring with 26 goals and 27 helpers, giving him 53 points in 36 games. We will see if he suits up for the Comets today, but my money is on yes.

Last, but not least, the Canucks have traded a seventh-round pick in the 2020 draft to the New York Rangers for goaltender Marek Mazanec. This move will allow Mazanec to back up Jacob Markstrom while Thatcher Demko is out with his knee injury. It will also allow the club to send Mazanec down to Utica without the need for waivers as long as he isn’t on the big-club roster for more than 20 days as he’s already used up 10 of his waivers-exempt days with the Rangers.

I could see a scenario where the Comets keep Mazanec and Leighton in Utica and send Kulbakov back to Kalamazoo to get more minutes to work on his game in an environment with a little less pressure. I like where Kulbakov’s game is going, but I think he could use a little more work on settling his game down.

You can expect to hear something very soon in regards to defenceman Colton Saucerman. The right-shot defender with the large ginger beard was signed to a PTO, (professional tryout offer) and it is about to expire. The team can sign him to another PTO, they are good for 25 games, or they can cut him loose.

The other option and one that wouldn’t surprise me is that they can sign him to an AHL deal for the remainder of the season. I like that option as Saucerman has clearly been an excellent fit in the room and can be slotted into the lineup without worrying about him making a pile of defensive mistakes. It would also allow the Comets to make sure that they have the defender available to them during the playoffs, should they get there. You can never have too much defensive depth for the playoffs.

Pre-Game

It’s another battle of North Division foes today as the eighth-place Laval Rocket, (Montreal affiliate) will hit the ice in Utica to take on the fourth-place Comets for game number 52 of the season. The Rocket show a record of 19-22-4-4 coming into today’s action, giving them 46 points on the season. The Comets, for their part, have gone 26-19-4-2 this year, giving them 58 points.

The Comets have the edge in special teams for this one as their power play sits 10th overall after scoring 46 goals on 227 man-up opportunities, giving them a success rate of 20.3%. Their penalty kill sits 12th after giving up 37 goals while down a man 205 times for an 82.0% success rate.

Laval’s power play sits 19th after scoring 35 times on 202 chances for a 17.3% success rate. Their penalty kill sits 29th overall after giving up 45 goals while shorthanded 200 times for a 77.5% success rate.

Alex Belzile is the leading scorer for Laval with 11 goals and 26 helpers, giving him 37 points in 49 games. Jake Evans sits second with 10 goals and 18 assists to give himself 28 points in 45 games. Daniel Audette rounds out their top three with eight goals and 20 helpers, giving him 28 points in 44 games.

Evans’ points totals also lead all rookies in Laval, while the suddenly surging Jonathan Dahlen has been padding his rookie-lead in Utica with 14 goals and 13 assists, giving him 27 points in 47 games.

Reid Boucher is the top dog in Utica with 23 goals and 25 assists to give himself 48 points in 39 games. Tanner Kero sits second with 18 goals and 26 assists, giving him 44 points in 49 games, while Brendan Gaunce rounds out the top three with TheBigFella called up to Vancouver. Gaunce has put up a very solid 15 goals and 13 assists in 35 games this season to give himself 28 points. Three of Gaunce’s goals have come shorthanded.

The Comets have gone 6-2-1-1 over their previous 10 contests, while Laval has gone 3-5-1-1 over that same span. Laval last played to a 6-3 loss to the Belleville Sens, while the Comets are coming off of a 5-4 overtime loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Comets are showing a home record of 12-9-3-2- this season, while Laval has gone 6-14-2-0 on the road.

Both clubs have been outscored by their competition this season with the Comets scoring 165 times while giving up 176 markers and Laval showing a goals-for of 127 and a goals-against of 145.

 Scratched Last Game For Utica

  1. Richard Bachman: G. Out for the season, Achilles’ injury.
  2. Olli Juolevi: LD. Out for the season, knee surgery.
  3. Jesse Graham: RD. Day-to-day, upper body injury.
  4. Dylan Blujus: RD. Week-to-week, hand injury.
  5. Carter Bancks: F. Day-to-day, injured.
  6. Lukas Jasek: F. Day-to-day, illness.
  7. Colton Saucerman: RD. Healthy scratch.

Season Series

The two clubs have squared off five times this season with the Comets showing a three-games-to-two advantage and outscoring the Rocket by a 15-12 margin.

Special Teams

The Comets also hold the advantage in the special teams’ department in this series, going 6/24 on the power play, giving them a success rate of 25.0%, while their penalty kill has given up four goals while shorthanded 23 times for an 82.6% success rate. The Rocket show a 17.4% success rate on the power play in the series and a 75.0% success rate while down a man.

Head To Head

Former Comets forward Michael Carcone leads all players in this series, putting up two goals and five helpers to give himself seven points in five games. Tanner Kero and Alex Belzile have each picked up five points, while Evan McEneny, Alexandre Alain, and Michael McCarron have all put up four. Zack MacEwen, Jonathan Dahlen, Olli Juolevi, and former Rocket Byron Froese have each earned three points in the series.

Goaltenders

Michael McNiven shows a record of 1-0 in the series, posting a goals-against average of 2.14 and a save percentage of 0.911%. Charlie Lindgren has a record of 1-3 with a goals-against of 3.65% and a save percentage of 0.863%.

The Comets have used Thatcher Demko, Richard Bachman and Ivan Kulbakov in the series. Demko has gone 1-0, showing a goals-against of 2.00 and a save percentage of 0.905%. Bachman has gone 1-0 with a goals-against average of 4.00 and a save percentage of 0.879%. Kulbakov has gone 1-1-1, posting a goals-against of 2.33 and a save percentage of 0.921%.

The two clubs will get underway in Utica today at 7:00 pm Eastern. Stay tuned for the CanucksArmy post-game report following the game.