Utica Comets Pre-Game
Vs Toronto Marlies
Friday, April 5th, 2019
7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific
We are entering the final days of the AHL regular season as the Utica Comets have just six games remaining and are looking like a longshot to make the Calder Cup Playoffs this year. They will play three of those six games over the next three days and will wrap up their regular season with another three-in-three next weekend.
Today’s opponent will be the North Division’s third-ranked Toronto Marlies. The Marlies have picked up 85 points this season after compiling a record of 37-23-7-4. The Comets, for their part, sit in sixth place with a record of 31-31-6-2, giving them 70 points. They are currently nine points out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the North.
The Marlies power play currently sits fourth in the league after scoring 68 goals on 306 man-up opportunities, giving them a success rate of 22.2%. Their penalty kill isn’t quite as good, but is still much better than Utica’s in the league standings, sitting 14th overall after giving up 48 goals while down a man 257 times for an 81.3% success rate.
The Comets power play is sitting 18th in the AHL after scoring 55 goals while up a man 306 times for a success rate of 18.0%. Their penalty kill sits 24th after giving up 58 goals while shorthanded 286 times for a 79.7% success rate.
The Marlies are led in scoring by Jeremy Bracco with 20 goals and 55 helpers, giving him 75 points in 70 games this year. Chris Mueller sits second with 32 goals and 31 assists to give himself 63 points in 56 games. Dmytro Timashov rounds out their top three with 14 goals and 34 assists, giving him 48 points in 68 games this year.
Pierre Engvall is the Marlies rookie points leader with 18 goals and 13 assists, giving him 31 points in 67 games. Lukas Jasek is the big cheese amongst Comets rookies with eight goals and 15 helpers, giving him 23 points in 57 games this year.
Reid Boucher is the Comets top dog with 28 goals and 29 helpers to give himself 57 points in 51 games this season. Tanner Kero sits second with 24 goals and 30 assists, giving him 54 points in 64 games, while Zack MacEwen rounds out Utica’s top three with 20 goals and 28 assists to give himself 48 points in 63 games this year.
The Marlies have been able to outscore their competition by a 237-228 margin this year, while the Comets have been outscored by a 244-205 count.
Utica has gone 1-8-1-0 over their previous 10 contests, while the Marlies are showing a record of 5-4-1-0 over that same span. The Comets are coming off of a 6-2 loss at the hands of Syracuse, while the Marlies last played to a 3-0 loss to Hershey.
Toronto will bring a road record of 21-9-2-3 into today’s game, while the Comets are showing a home record of 18-14-3-0.
Scratched Last Game For Utica
- Richard Bachman: G. Out for the season, Achilles’ injury.
- Olli Juolevi: LD. Out for the season, knee surgery.
- Evan McEneny: LD. Out for the season, lower-body injury.
- Jalen Chatfield: RD. Week-to-week,
- Jonah Gadjovich: LW/RW. Week-to-week, upper-body injury.
- Kole Lind: RW. Week-to-week, lower-body injury.
- Vincent Arseneau: LW/RW. Day-to-day, lower-body injury.
- Wacey Hamilton: F. Day-to-day, neck injury.
- Dyson Stevenson: LW/RW. Healthy scratch.
- Brandon Anselmini: LD. Healthy scratch.
The two clubs have squared off in five games already this season with the Marlies holding a three-games-to-two advantage while outscoring the Comets by a margin of 25-21 in the process.
The Comets special teams are the worse of the two teams as far as the AHL standings are concerned, but they have had the Marlies number in this series. Utica has gone 5/21 on the power play against Toronto this season, giving them a success rate of 23.8% against the Marlies. Their penalty kill has also been the better of the two clubs as the Comets have given up three goals to the Marlies this year while shorthanded 20 times, giving them an 85.0% success rate while down a man.
The Marlies, for their part, show a success rate of 15.0% on the power play in the season series, while their penalty kill shows a 76.2% success rate against Utica this year.
Reid Boucher has been the biggest point producer in the series, putting up seven points over the first five games. Tanner Kero, Trevor Moore, Pierre Engvall, Jeremy Bracco, and Calle Rosen have all picked up six points for their efforts. Lukas Jasek and former Marlies forward, Adam Cracknel have both grabbed five points, while Dmytro Timashov and Tanner MacMaster, (while with the Comets) have picked up four points apiece. Zack MacEwen, Cam Darcy, Adam Gaudette, Brendan Woods, Andreas Borgman, and Vincent LoVerde have all managed three points over the first five games.
Both clubs have used three netminders against each other this season as the Marlies have leaned on Kasimir Kaskisuo, (2-1, 4.48 goals-against average and 0.873% save percentage) Jeff Glass, (0-1, 3.70 GAA, 0.852% save percentage) and Michael Hutchinson, (1-0, 2.00 GAA, 0.949% save percentage).
The Comets have used Micheal Leighton, (0-1, 3.10 goals-against average, 0.857% save percentage) Ivan Kulbakov, (2-1, 4.06 GAA, 0.883% save percentage) and Richard Bachman, (0-1, 6.09 GAA, 0.842% save percentage).
The parent Canucks and the Comets have both been busy with player signings in the last week. We will start with the Comets as they have signed defencemen Jett Woo and Aaron Thow to ATOs, (amateur tryout offers) this week, as well as forward Mitchell Vanderlaan.
Woo was chosen in the second round of the draft last year by the Canucks and it has been reported that he has already reaggravated a previously sustained injury since joining the Comets. Welcome to Utica, Jett…you are fitting in quickly with that injury.
Thow, a 24-year-old left shot defender from East York Ontario stands 6’1″ and tips the scales at 194lbs, according to Elite Prospects, has spent the past four years plying his trade with Clarkson University in the NCAA. During that time, he was able to pick up 15 goals and 37 assists, giving him 52 points in 144 games.
Eliot is a right-shot defender that the Canucks signed earlier in the offseason and he will be joining the Comets in order to practice with the team for the rest of the season, but he will not see any game action. This has been explained by Ben Birnell of the Utica Observer-Dispatch as being a way to keep the player from having to be exposed in the Seattle expansion draft. Getting these practices in with the Comets now will help Eliot understand a bit about what will be in store for him next year. It will also give the coaching staff an earlier look at him then they would have otherwise had.
Vanderlaan is the new forward who will be joining the ranks after spending the past four season with Cornell University in the NCAA where he put up 41 goals and 56 assists over 132 games to give himself 97 points for his NCAA career. The 23-year-old left-winger from Hanwell New Brunswick stands 5’7″ and weighs in at 179lbs, according to Elite Prospects.
The parent Canucks were also making some signings that will affect the Comets next season as they have brought right-shot defenceman Brogan Rafferty and goaltender Jake Kielly into the fold.
Rafferty has spent the past three seasons with Quinnipiac in the NCAA, picking up 10 goals and 55 assists to give himself 65 points for his 116 game NCAA career. The 23-year-old product of Dundee Illinois stands 6’2″ and weighs in at 192lbs according to Elite Prospects. The blueliner made his NHL debut with the Canucks last night.
The addition of Jake Kielly is an interesting one. The 6’2″, 201lbs, (according to Elite Prospects) product of Eden Prairie Minnesota has spent the past three seasons with Clarkson University in the NCAA. During that time the netminder picked up 64 wins in 114 games. This past season, he went 26-11-2 while posting a goals-against average of 1.91 to go along with a 0.929% save percentage.
The Canucks/Comets kind of got caught with their pants down earlier in the season after a rash of injuries left them with no choice but the start Michael DiPietro in a game that saw the young netminder allow seven goals in what was not an ideal situation for him to be put into.
The club has since had to sign Michael Leighton and trade for Marek Mazanec. It will be interesting to see how the goaltending situation shakes out next season as I would imagine that we will see Thatcher Demko and Jacob Markstrom start in Vancouver, while Utica will see some combination of DiPietro, Kielly, and Richard Bachman. We also can’t leave Ivan Kulbakov out of the mix, although his AHL deal with the Comets will expire after this season. I think that Kulbakov showed well enough to earn another AHL deal and hopefully he will be kept around as additional depth.
Will the Comets run with three goaltenders next year? Will they look to move on from Richard Bachman and run with the two younger fellows? Will they park one of DiPietro/Kielly in the ECHL and let the other battle with Bachman for starts? It will be fun to watch this play out.
If you consider that the team has added lefties Josh Teves, and Arron Thow, to go along with righties Eliot and Rafferty, the Comets backend could have a distinctly different look next season. We saw them start this season with eight rookies on their roster, seven of those being forwards. We know that next year, we will be seeing at least four rookie blueliners after these signings. There are interesting times on the horizon for this group.
The Comets and Marlies will get underway in Utica today at 7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific. As always, CanucksArmy will have your post-game report following the game.