Utica Comets Post-Game Report
Vs Cleveland Monsters
Sunday, February 17th, 2019
5:00 pm Eastern/2:00 pm Pacific
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) February 17, 2019
Richard Bachman, (out for the season) Olli Juolevi, (out for the season) Dylan Blujus, (week-to-week) Carter Bancks, (day-to-day) Jonah Gadjovich, (day-to-day) Jesse Graham, (healthy).
Today’s Comets Lines
16 Brendan Gaunce – 11 Cam Darcy – 14 Reid Gardiner
20 Tom Pyatt – 10 Tanner Kero – 24 Reid Boucher (A)
54 Jonathan Dahlen – 21 Brendan Woods – 9 Lukas Jasek
18 Vincent Arseneau – 36 Wacey Hamilton (A) – 13 Kole Lind
3 Stefan LeBlanc – 26 Jaime Sifers (A)
6 Ashton Sautner – 39 Colton Saucerman
2 Evan McEneny – 5 Jalen Chatfield
49 Michael Leighton
31 Ivan Kulbakov (backing up)
I know that sometimes my post-game reports can feel like reading a novel because I tend to get a little wordy, but if I were writing a novel, this first period would be all about the character development of Michael Leighton. The opening frame was all about him.
It didn’t start out so bad for the Comets. The recently called up Reid Gardiner got the start on the right side and the winger showed nice gap control to pressure a Monsters defender at the Comets blueline. He then went the other way and got a shot off that goaltender JF Berube gloved down for a whistle.
We had some good back and forth before Leighton had to buckle up and get down to work. He came up with a blocker save before coming up with another stop on Dan DeSalvo.
Kole Lind was having an active first-period on the forecheck while playing on a line with Wacey Hamilton and Vincent Arseneau. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the way Lind plays when lined up with those two fellows.
It was back to the Leighton show again as the netminder had to come up with a pair of saves after a Comets giveaway before Jalen Chatfield showed a good stick in the defensive zone to break up a play, as he has been known to do.
Leighton wasn’t done stopping pucks as he first shut down Vitali Abramov in close before gloving down a shot off the left side. The Monsters kept pressing and Leighton had to stop a shot off the stick of Brett Gallant to keep the game knotted at zero.
Kevin Stenlund followed up with a shot from the high slot and Leighton denied him as well.
The Comets finally got a shot at the other end after Kole Lind swiped a loose puck in the offensive zone, turned and fired, forcing Berube into a save. At the other end, Leighton turned aside a muffin from out far before stopping the rebound chance and covering for the whistle.
Gabriel Carlsson followed up with a chance of his own from a faceoff win and Leighton said, no. The veteran netminder wouldn’t be able to stop all of them, though. Doyle Somerby snuck a point shot through traffic for his sixth of the year and the Monsters had a 1-0 lead. Dan DeSalvo earned his fourth helper of the year on the play, while Dillon Simpson picked up his sixth.
The Monsters were taking it to the Comets.
Vitali Abramov got in behind Colton Saucerman after a nice stretch pass and went in all alone. He was unable to beat Leighton as the netminder stymied his attempt. Leighton followed up with a good stick to break up a cross-crease play by the Monsters. The man was playing defence today as well as goal.
Leighton kept the saves coming when he shut down a shot through traffic before stopping another from Tommy Cross. It was all Cleveland.
The Comets tried to muster some offence when Reid Gardiner hit Tanner Kero in flight with a pass and the pivot went to the net with Evan McEneny hustling in for a pass. Berube was able to pick that pass off to keep the Comets off the board. Kero followed up with a shot from a tough angle and Berube was ready with the save.
We had some quick back and forth as Carlsson had a tipped shot gloved down by Leighton at one end and Kero dishing a sweet feed to Pyatt for a chance that was denied at the other.
Kero was soon sent off for tripping as the Comets once again took a penalty late in a period. This is a habit that needs to be broken. Leighton had to steer a shot aside with his stick before Brendan Woods was crushed into the boards and Justin Scott was sent off for boarding.
The two clubs finished the period at four aside and we saw Ashton Sautner absolutely abuse the 6’4″ Kevin Stenlund while time ran off the clock in the Utica zone.
I really enjoy watching the “mean” Ashton Sautner on the ice. I have met the man in person and you would never know that he would be the type to take pleasure in dishing out the punishment that he does. He’s a good dude, just stay away from his corner…or his goaltender.
The Monsters finished the opening frame with a staggering 19-5 advantage on the shot clock.
The Middle frame opened up with an early chance from Tom Pyatt being denied by Berube before Doyle Somerby scored his second of the game to put his team up 2-0.
The goal was Somerby’s seventh of the season, while former Canucks/Comets defender Adam Clendening earned his 25th assist of the year on the play and Paul Bittner picked up his 18th. The goal came with the team still playing at four aside.
The Comets had a brief power play that went nowhere and they still had a 2-0 hole to dig themselves out of.
They started to put on some pressure as Colton Saucerman had a shot turned aside before Jalen Chatfield had the same experience. Brendan Woods fed Jonathan Dahlen in the slot and the winger saw his shot soaked up by Berube for another save.
Vincent Arseneau has a heavy shot and he unloaded one from the high slot that was blockered aside by Berube before the burly winger slipped a check on the rush and came right back in with another chance that Berube was ready for. The Monsters netminder kept the saves coming as he denied LeBlanc and Saucerman on back-to-back chances.
The Woods line went back to work as Lukas Jasek did Lukas Jasek things along the boards to get the puck to Woods. Woods set up Dahlen for a backhand chance that was denied by Berube. The Comets were a little sloppy for a few shifts as we saw Gaunce and McEneny have some miscommunication that almost led to a costly turnover before they settled things down.
Leighton had to be good again today as well as a little lucky when he was able to squeeze the puck for a save on Abramov before Arseneau and Lind went to work with a heavy forecheck at the other end of the ice.
The Monsters had the Comets hemmed in their own end for a good stretch before Leighton was able to freeze the puck to get a much-needed line change for his club. Leighton would have to make an alert save on a Paul Bittner offering before Brendan Gaunce went the other way for a break but fired his shot over the net. Jaime Sifers followed up with a shot from the high slot that was gloved down by Berube to keep his team up by a pair.
Tommy Cross was whistled for interference at the 11:44 mark and the Comets power play had a chance to pull the team back into it. We saw the first unit of McEneny, Gaunce, Boucher, Kero, and Dahlen, along with the second group of Jasek, Saucerman, Lind, Pyatt, and Gardiner.
Gaunce coughed up the puck to Justin Scott while the first unit was out and Leighton had to shut down his shorthanded bid. The Comets came up empty.
I was talking about Jonathan Dahlen in my pre-game report and how he wears the number 54 and I was noticing a bunch of the number 54 in my pre-game prep today. I was expecting a big game from the youngster today. Though he didn’t get on the scoresheet, he did have his chances, like the one he got when LeBlanc fed him in the right circle for a shot that was soaked up by Berube.
Speaking of all that number 54 stuff…peep the final score of this game…
Berube had to glove down a Reid Boucher shot from the left side before Kevin Stenlund put the Monsters up 3-0 with his 10th goal of the season. Mark Letestu picked up his 14th assist of the year on the play, while goaltender JF Berube earned his first.
The Comets were in a 3-0 hole and it was time to grab the shovels and get to work digging their way out.
Reid Gardiner tried to do just that when he skated himself into a scoring lane and let fly with a shot that was denied by Berube. I thought Gardiner showed pretty well today. He made some nice plays and looked dangerous on a couple of occasions. I have time to see a little more of Mr. Gardiner.
Where Gardiner was unable to get his team back into the game, Jaime Sifers succeeded. The grizzled vet uncorked a point shot through traffic that beat Berube for his third goal of the season. Kole Lind grabbed his ninth helper of the year on the play, while Wacey Hamilton picked up his seventh.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) February 17, 2019
The Sifers tally came at the 18:11 mark and we saw him and Boucher both have late chances denied before the horn sounded to end the period. The Comets finished with a 14-6 edge on the shot clock for the middle frame. That’s a bit better than the first period.
Buckle up, folks. This third period was something else. Kole Lind started things off for the Comets with an early chance that Berube steered aside with this stick before Gardiner set up Gaunce for a chance that was put wide of the net.
Brendan put a few off-target today. It’s time to shine up those specs and zero in on the net Gauncer. In fairness to Gaunce, he has been playing really well for the Comets and has put up eight points over his last seven games and would be heard from again later in this one.
Michael Leighton has been playing really well for the club also and he is having a bit of a calming presence on the backend similar to how Thatcher Demko used to when he was here. Leighton acts like a third defender when he stops ring-arounds and either sets them up for his blueliners or sends the puck out of the zone on his own with a flick of the wrist. He chose to do the later and cleared the puck out to a teammate.
Speaking of the blueline, Trent Cull changed things up a little in the final frame, putting Sautner and Chatfield together, while McEneny and Saucerman formed another new tandem. Sautner and Chatfield have played together in the past and they can be a bruising duo to play against.
We saw Tom Pyatt get a shot away that was stopped and covered by Berube before Brett Gallant lit up Colton Saucerman with a big hit that was out of view of the camera. The Voice of the Comets Joe Roberts let us know about the hit and that Saucerman shook it off.
It looked like the Comets were going to get back into this one when Kero and Boucher broke in two-on-one, only to see Kero unable to get his pass away cleanly. Saucerman followed up with a point shot that was kicked aside before Ryan Collins was dinged for tripping at the 9:17 mark.
Just 10 seconds later, the Monsters did something that no hockey team should ever do. They left Reid Boucher wide open and allowed him to do Reid Boucher things.
The goal was Boucher’s 24th of the season and puts him one behind the Comets single-season record of 25. If you are wondering who holds that record…well, that would be the very same Reid Boucher, he set the record last season. Me thinks that record will be a little tougher to reach next season because Boucher has plenty of time left to add to his totals. Tanner Kero picked up his 27th assist of the season on the play, while Brendan Gaunce grabbed his 16th.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) February 18, 2019
The Comets weren’t done there as just over a minute later Gaunce made no mistake and picked up his 16th goal of the season. Reid Gardiner earned his first helper of the year on the play, while Cam Darcy grabbed his ninth.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) February 18, 2019
Were the Comets done there? I think we all know the answer to that question. Just one minute later, Tanner Kero scored his 20th of the season to give the Comets their first lead of the game. Tom Pyatt picked up the lone assist for his seventh of the season.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) February 18, 2019
I wrote about it in the offseason, but the Comets have never had more than one 20-goal scorer in a season in their history in Utica. I speculated on which players could push for 20 and if this would be the year that they would finally have more than one. Well, some of my suggested 20-goal men look a little silly now, but the team does have two of them this year already while Zack MacEwen, (if he returns), Brendan Gaunce, and Jonathan Dahlen are all within striking distance.
The Monsters didn’t wait long to answer back and knot this game at four when Sam Vigneault beat Leighton with a shot through traffic for his second goal of the season. Doyle Somerby picked up his fifth assist of the season and third point of the game, while Dillon Simpson picked up his seventh helper of the year on the play.
Can we just take a moment to appreciate what a fantastic hockey name Doyle Somerby is?
With the game tied at four, we saw some back and forth before the Comets applied some pressure. Not much came of that pressure and then we ran into a run of whistles…sooo many whistles.
When play finally did get back to something resembling decent flow, Gaunce and Gardiner went in two-on-one and this time it was Gardiner who put his shot off target to end the period. We would need the extra frame.
The Comets finished the third with a 10-3 advantage on the shot clock.
Trent Cull leaned on his vets in last night’s overtime and it got him the win, though Dahlen was the one who really made that winner happen. Would the coach go the same route this time? Sort of.
His first trio consisted of Gaunce and Sautner…check, and check as far as trusted vets go. The third person on that trio? Reid…Gardiner. Cull sent the call-up from the Kalamazoo Wings out to start things off. Gardiner has been tearing up the ECHL this year, the kid knows how to put up points.
Unfortunately for him. he wouldn’t be getting any in this overtime.
After the first trio came up empty, we saw Wacey Hamilton sent over the boards with Tom Pyatt and Stefan LeBlanc. That trio came up empty as well, but before Pyatt could sub onto the ice for him, Gardiner made a great play with his stick to deflect a Stenlund shot out of play.
I know what you are thinking. Why have Hamilton and Pyatt out on the ice when you could be giving kids like Dahlen, Lind, and Jasek a look there instead? I had the same feeling last night when Dahlen was the only one of those three to get a look and he grabbed an assist on the winner. Last night’s game wasn’t against a divisional rival, so I thought there might be a little more leeway there. Today, however, the coaching staff was probably concerned about a divisional opponent grabbing the extra point.
For what it’s worth, Pyatt and Hamilton did get a nice scoring chance, but Berube was ready with a quick leg to kick the Hamilton offering aside.
The next group out would be Boucher, Kero, and McEneny. Leighton had to make a somewhat sketchy looking save while this trio was out, but they would eventually make way for Cam Darcy and Jonathan Dahlen, however, McEneny got stuck out there.
Darcy got a shot away that was stopped and held by Berube before Kero and Boucher made a repeat appearance, this time with Sautner. Kero set up Boucher for a shot that was ripped wide of the net before Sautner headed off to be replaced by LeBlanc. Kero and Boucher stayed put.
When Boucher and Kero finally did come off the ice, they were replaced by Pyatt and Gaunce…along with Evan McEneny. This trio would be the one that would get it done as Gaunce broke down the right side and let fly with a shot. Berube made the save but Pyatt pounced on the rebound and buried his fourth goal of the season. Gaunce grabbed his 17th helper of the year on the play, while McEneny picked up his 21st.
The Comets finished the overtime period with a 4-1 lead on the shot clock and a 33-29 lead on the shot clock for the game.
Sifers (3) from Lind (9) and Hamilton (7).
Boucher (24) from Kero (27) and Gaunce (16). Power Play goal.
Gaunce (16) from Gardiner (1) and Darcy (9).
Kero (20) from Pyatt (7).
Pyatt (4) from Gaunce (17) and McEneny (21). Overtime winner.
The Three Stars in the building today were:
3rd Star: Tanner Kero. One goal, one assist.
2nd Star: Doyle Somerby. Two goals, one assist.
1st Star: Tom Pyatt. Overtime winning goal, one assist.
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars:
3rd Star: Jaime Sifers. All Sifers does is show up, game in and game out. He gets down to work and tends to make his defence partner better with his steady game. The man hits like a truck, blocks shots like his life depends on it and kills penalties like a fiend. He has been a fantastic leader for this young Comets squad, showing them how a professional hockey player conducts himself on and off the ice. Sifers picked up a goal today, which is a nice bonus from him as offensive output isn’t his calling card.
2nd Star: Tom Pyatt. Pyatt has been with the Comets for 17 games and has put up 11 points in that span. He was acquired in the deal that sent fan favourite Darren TheMayor Archibald to the Ottawa organization. Now, I am not ever going to suggest that Tom Pyatt, or anyone else for that matter, would be able to replace what Arch brought to the Comets, but Pyatt is doing a solid job of replacing some of the lost points. Archibald has six points in his nine games with the Sens. Pyatt grabbed a pair of points today, including the all-important game-winner.
1st Star: Brendan Gaunce. Gaunce grabbed a goal and two helpers today to continue his great play with the Comets this season. He is up to 33 points in 38 games which has him just five points shy of his AHL career-high of 38 that he put up in 46 games in the 2015/16 season under Travis Green. He is also just one goal shy of his career-high of 17. Gaunce has put up eight points over his last seven games for the Comets while continuing his role as one of their better defensive forwards. I’d like to see Gaunce get another look at the NHL level. I would like that to be with the Canucks, but time will tell if I get my way on either front.
Vs Rochester Americans
Friday, February 22nd, 2019
7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific