Utica Comets Post-Game Report
Vs Syracuse Crunch
Sunday, April 14th, 2019
5:00 pm Eastern/2:00 pm Pacific
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) April 14, 2019
Scratched Today For Utica
- Richard Bachman: G. Out for the season, Achilles’ injury.
- Michael Leighton: G. Out for the season, lower-body injury.
- Olli Juolevi: LD. Out for the season, knee surgery.
- Evan McEneny: LD. Out for the season, lower-body injury.
- Reid Boucher: LW/RW. Out for the season, upper-body injury.
- Jalen Chatfield: RD. Out for the season, upper-body injury.
- Mitch Eliot: RD. Healthy scratch.
- Connor Doherty: LD. Healthy scratch.
- Brandon Anselmini: LD. Healthy scratch.
- Dyson Stevenson: LW/RW. Healthy scratch.
- Mitchell Vanderlaan: LW/RW. Healthy scratch.
Comets Starting Lines
(First forward line/defensive pair listed started the game. The remaining lines are in no particular order)
34 Carter Bancks (C) – 21 Brendan Woods – 15 Zack MacEwen
20 Tom Pyatt – 10 Tanner Kero – 13 Kole Lind
16 Brendan Gaunce – 11 Cam Darcy – 21 Jonah Gadjovich
18 Vincent Arseneau – 36 Wacey Hamilton (A) – 9 Lukas Jasek
3 Stefan LeBlanc – 26 Jaime Sifers (A)
40 Aaron Thow – 64 Jesse Graham
42 Derek Pratt – 8 Dylan Blujus
33 Marek Mazanec
35 Ty Reichenbach (backing up)
It was kind of fitting that the first shot of the game came off of the stick of veteran defender Jaime Sifers in his last game. It would have been even better if netminder Atte Tolvanen would have obliged by letting it get past him, but alas, that wasn’t the case.
We had some back and forth before Brendan Gaunce got a shot away from the left side that was kicked out before Tolvanen denied the follow-up chance as well. Vincent Arseneau was back in the lineup today and he was making his presence felt…and heard with a trio of heavy hits in the offensive zone, as is his way.
Brendan Woods was dinged for slashing at the 2:53 mark and the Comets had an early penalty to kill. We saw the foursome of Bancks, Hamilton, Sifers, and LeBlanc climb over the boards to get down to work. The forward duo of Bancks and Hamilton eventually gave way to Tom Pyatt and Zack MacEwen and the Crunch were soon up 1-0.
It was Alex Volkov doing the damage with his 23rd goal of the season. Mitchell Stephens earned his 13th helper of the year on the play while Carter Verhaeghe grabbed his 48th.
Lukas Jasek was looking to get that one right back when he put the puck on the net with Vincent Arseneau hounding Tolvanen, but the Crunch netminder was equal to the task. Dylan Blujus followed up with a point shot that was gloved down by the Syracuse netminder as the Comets were putting the pressure on. Stefan LeBlanc let fly with a point shot and Tolvanen whipped out the glove for another save.
Woods and MacEwen came looking for a goal as Woods hit TheBigFella at speed for a backdoor play that Tolvanen shut down with another save. Jack Stander crushed Cam Darcy into the boards soon after and was sent off for boarding. Stander would have to answer to Jonah Gadjovich for that transgression later in the period.
With Stander in the box, the Comets power play had a chance to tie the game at one.
We saw a group consisting of MacEwen, Pyatt, Thow, Kero, and Lind come over the boards before Alex Barre-Boulet was dinged for tripping just 14 seconds later and Jesse Graham replaced Thow on the point.
Tolvanen was quick to rob Tom Pyatt before coming up with another big save to stymie a Zack MacEwen offering from in close. The Comets came up empty with the extra man.
Marek Mazanec hadn’t been very busy to this point, so it was understandable when he tried to handle the puck and ended up having to scramble to make a save.
It was at this point when we saw Vincent Arseneau and Dennis Yan each given two minutes for roughing and we had some four aside action.
Otto Somppi had a shot kicked out before Vincent Arseneau was escorted from the ice immediately after exiting the box as he was assessed with a 10-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The period was over for BigVinny, but we would be hearing from him in the middle frame.
The action went back and forth as Tanner Kero had a chance denied at one end before Mazanec came up with a save at the other. Dennis Yan followed up with a shot off the iron before Hubert Labrie crushed Kole Lind. There was no penalty called on the play.
Soon after, we would see Jonah Gadjovich call Jack Stander to the carpet for his earlier transgression against Darcy.
Gadjovich and Stander squared off and Gadjovich teed off with his piston-like fist. In each of his fights this season, I have seen Gadjovich bury his head and throw bombs. Gadjovich gets the decision in this one.
Mazanec followed up the tilt by gloving down a point shot before we saw Woods challenging Labrie to take him on. Woods was looking to stick up for Lind after he was crumpled by that Labrie hit earlier. Labrie was not willing to dance with Woods and the players were separated.
At the other end of the ice, LeBlanc buried Ryan Lohin with a solid hit at the Comets blueline. Lind made an appearance late in the period before time wound down, so that was good to see.
The Comets showed a 9-4 advantage on the shot clock for the opening frame.
The middle frame kicked off with Mazanec coming up with a trio of saves as the Crunch came out buzzing. The Comets went the other way and got some good pressure from the Darcy line as well.
Mazanec had to come up with another save as he gloved down another Dennis Yan offering and held for the whistle.
Brady Brassart was dinged for tripping at the 2:06 mark and the Comets were back to the power play. Aaron Thow had an early shot kicked out as the Comets put on some pressure, but ultimately came up empty.
Just after that penalty ended, Jesse Graham was tripped with no call made and the Crunch went up 2-0 on an Otto Somppi tally. The unassisted goal was Somppi’s second of the season.
That wasn’t the start to the second period that the Comets were looking for.
The Crunch kept it coming as Gabriel Fortier had a shot gloved down by Mazanec before Stander unloaded with a shot through traffic that was gobbled up for a whistle. Dylan Blujus was doing his part to slow down the attack when he crumpled Nick Bligh with a solid hit.
It was at this point when Dennis Yan decided that he wanted to throw down and Kole Lind was his dance partner of choice. Lind declined the invitation but both men were already being sent off to the box. Lind was given two for roughing, while Yan was assessed with two for roughing and an additional two for unsportsmanlike conduct.
After the smoke had cleared, the Comets had a power play to work with. It became a two-man advantage 20 seconds later when Ryan Lohin was dinged for a high-stick.
The Comets had their chances on this one and they added a new wrinkle to the first unit as Jonah Gadjovich was now in the net-front position, while MacEwen was manning the left side and firing one-timers. It is a look that I’ve been curious to see since Gadjovich joined the team.
TheBigFella was looking to take advantage of the opportunity to shoot early when he let fly with a one-timer from the left side that was steered over the glass. He followed up by whipping out ALL of the moves for another chance but was denied once more.
Brendan Woods would not be denied, however, as he pulled his team to within a goal with his seventh of the season. Lukas Jasek grabbed his 19th helper of the year on the play, while Jesse Graham earned his 13th.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) April 14, 2019
It was roughly two minutes after the Woods goal when Jesse Graham was dumped by Alex Volkov and the Comets were back to the man advantage. The Comets were able to apply some pressure and Graham had a chance for revenge with a shot on net that was denied, but the Comets were unable to take advantage.
Lukas Jasek has been great at forcing turnovers this season and he was able to force another in the offensive zone but was unable to make anything happen. At the other end, Verhaeghe had a dangerous chance from in close that was denied by Mazanec and the score remained the same.
We saw a bit of line juggling as Vincent Arseneau was on a line with Brendan Woods and Carter Bancks. BigVinny plays the game one way and one way only…heavy. Arseneau brought the boom with a big hit on Nolan Valleau and made the defender look up at that fantastic ceiling in the Adirondack Bank Center.
Cam Darcy was looking to do his damage in a different manner as he was looking for a goal when he fired the puck on the net with MacEwen coming in hot looking for some garbage. Tolvanen was ready for both the shot and the distraction from TheBigFella and came up with another save.
One of the other new-look lines was that of Cam Darcy between MacEwen and Lind. Let’s just say that the lines were in the blender for a couple of shifts because we soon saw another trio of Gaunce, Woods, and Jasek. Those three put on a little bit of pressure that culminated with a Brendan Woods offering being swallowed up by Tolvanen.
Ryan Lohin put the Crunch up 3-1 with a goal that Mazanec would probably like back, but it doesn’t work that way in hockey and the Comets had a two-goal deficit to climb out of once more. The goal was Lohin’s first of the season, while Valleau picked up his 18th helper of the year on the play and Volkov grabbed his 25th.
It was almost as though Mazanec was trying to allow the Crunch to run away with this one when not long after the goal, he tried to play the puck and ended up scrambling to make a save. The netminder was handling the puck well in his last outing, but he was an adventure in that regard today.
A little over two minutes after the Lohin tally, Arseneau came up big with his ninth goal of the season to pull the Comets to within a goal. Arseneau took a nice feed from Brendan Woods and let fly with a shot that was stopped by Tolvanen, but the rebound was there and BigVinny pounced on it. Woods picked up his 10th helper of the year on the play, while Jasek earned his 20th. The Comets were making a game of this one.
With a little less than 30 seconds remaining in the period, Otto Somppi was dinged for slashing and the Comets would finish the period up a man. Kole Lind had his point shot gobbled up and the period came to an end.
Utica showed an advantage of 15-9 on the second period shot block.
The third period got underway with the Comets still having 1:40 of power play time, but Cam Darcy was done for the night as he did not return after the second frame.
It didn’t take long for Zack MacEwen to knot this game at three as he scored his 22nd goal of the season just 32 seconds in. Tanner Kero tipped a Jesse Grahm offering and TheBigFella cleaned up the trash in front and we had a whole new game. Kero earned his 33rd assist of the year on the play, while Graham picked up his 14th.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) April 14, 2019
Gaunce followed up with a shot from the right side that was denied and that was when we thought we might see another tilt.
Brendan Woods is not a small man at six-foot-three and tipping the scales at 223lbs, but he found himself dwarfed by the man that he was trying to throw down with. His potential dance partner? The six-foot-eight, 236lbs behemoth who goes by Oleg Sosunov. The officials, however, were having none of it and intervened before the fists of fury were able to fly.
Both men were sent to the box and given two minutes for roughing.
During the four aside play, Lind had a backhander denied before Bancks had his shot turned aside.
Newcomer Derek Pratt was seeing his first action for the Comets since signing his PTO, (professional tryout offer) with them last week and he was bringing a noticeably physical game at times and showed some solid defensive chops to break up a Syracuse play in the Comets zone.
The Comets were looking to make the comeback complete as Tom Pyatt and Jaime Sifers were both shut down by great saves from Tolvanen. Woods followed up with a shot from the right side that was kicked out before Graham let fly with a wrister from the high slot that was gloved down.
Wacey Hamilton was dinged for tripping at the 8:54 mark and it was time for the Comets to come up with a big kill. MacEwen, Bancks, Sifers, and LeBlanc got things started and we saw Jaime Sifers do Jaime Sifers things as he blew up Bligh with a solid hit. Mazanec followed up by whipping out the mitt to shut down a point shot through traffic. The Comets came up with another good kill.
Derek Pratt followed up with a heavy hit in the Comets end before his teammates went the other way and put on some pressure. Sifers came with another shot that was gloved down for a whistle before Kero dropped a pass to Gaunce for a shot that handcuffed Tolvanen as he juggled the puck before covering up with Kero lurking for loose change on the doorstep.
Carter Verhaeghe was looking for the go-ahead goal when he had his chance turned aside by Mazanec. At the other end, it was Kole Lind whose shot was being turned aside and the game remained knotted at three.
Jesse Graham was dinged for a cross-check at the 16:37 mark and the Comets had another huge kill to come up with. This kill was all about three people. Carter Verhaeghe was the one trying to do all of the scoring and Mazanec and Sifers were all about stopping pucks.
Mazanec denied Verhaeghe’s first chance and followed up with another save before Sifers blocked another Verhaeghe shot and Mazanec finished off with another save on Verhaeghe and covered up for the whistle.
Wacey Hamilton followed up with a huge shot block and the Comets came up with a good kill.
The period came to a close as Kole Lind fired a shot off the outside of the net and we were off to overtime.
Utica showed a 12-5 advantage on the third period shot clock.
Trent Cull gave the packed house what they wanted and sent Jaime Sifers out for the first shift of three-on-three with Tom Pyatt and Brendan Gaunce. The chants of “Jai-Me…Si-Fers” were deafening as the home crowd let the grizzled vet know just how much they have appreciated him over the last two seasons.
That trio looked like they were going to end it early as Gaunce sent Pyatt in all alone but the winger was denied. He did, however, draw a slashing penalty on Bligh.
With Bligh in the box, MacEwen tipped a Kero shot just wide of the net before Jesse Graham hammered a shot on the net that looked to go in and out off the back bar. There was no ambition on the part of the officials to review the play on the next whistle either.
Zack MacEwen can be a handful in the offensive zone and TheBigFella was a beast, using his body well to protect the puck while engaged in a board battle to keep the puck in the Syracuse end.
Aaron Thow tried his luck with a one-timer that was turned aside before Lind let fly wit ha shot that went wide. Gaunce followed up with a blast that was turned aside by the stick of Tolvanen. The Comets were unable to take advantage with the extra man.
That didn’t stop the shots from coming as Sifers unloaded with a point shot that was stopped. The Comets were all over the Crunch. I thought the game was about to end in a fantastic way when Sifers dished to Hamilton, who in turn passed the puck to Jasek for a shot, but Tolvanen put an end to that thought with a flash of the leather for a glove save.
Once again, I thought the game was about to end as MacEwen turned on the jets to get to a puck that there was no way he was getting to at the start of last season…TheBigFella has an extra gear that will serve him well next season when he gets a chance with the big club again. As great as it was to see MacEwen track that puck down, we wouldn’t see him end the game as Tolvanen was ready with the save.
Dylan Blujus was next to be sent in on a partial break, but he was unable to beat Tolvavne while wearing a defender on his back like a name bar. The puck stayed out, but Blujus and Tolvanen both ended up inside the net. Tanner Kero saw the loose puck and tried to bury it, but I believe that he put it off of Blujus and out.
There were five seconds remaining with a faceoff in the Crunch zone so Trent Cull called his timeout. The Comets were unable to make anything happen and the period came to a close. It would be off to the shootout for these two clubs.
The Comets outshot the Crunch 6-0 in the extra frame.
- Carter Verhaeghe – No
- Jaime Sifers – No…although…how cool would it have been to see Sifers win this one in his last game before retiring?
- Nick Bligh – No.
- Lukas Jasek – Yes.
- Nolan Valleau – No.
- Kole Lind – Yes. Game Winner.
That was it for this one as the Comets finished their season with a shootout win. Utica outshot the Crunch by a count of 43-18 for the win.
Today’s Comets Goals
- Woods (7) from Jasek (19) and Graham (13). PP goal.
- Arseneau (9) from Woods (10) and Jasek (20).
- MacEwen (22) from Kero (33) and Graham (14). PP goal.
- Jasek, (shootout goal).
- Lind, (shootout winner).
The Three Stars in the building today were:
3rd Star: Brendan Woods. One goal, one assist.
2nd Star: Kole Lind. Shootout winner.
1st Star: Jaime Sifers. Two seasons of fantastic service to the team and community on and off the ice.
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
3rd Star: Zack MacEwen/Brendan Woods/Jesse Graham. The third star is being shared between these three men because they all brought some offence to the table to make this win happen.
Graham picked up a pair of helpers to bring his points totals to four goals and 14 assists, giving him 18 points in 52 games this year. That ranks him second in scoring amongst Comets blueliners behind Evan McEneny’s 31 points in 58 games.
Woods picked up a goal and an assist today to bring his season totals to seven goals and 10 helpers, giving him 17 points in 53 games. Those are not world beater numbers, but Woods provides physicality, protection for the kids and does great work on the penalty kill. It doesn’t seem to matter who is on Woods’ line, they tend to spend a good deal of time in the offensive zone.
MacEwen scored his 22nd goal of the season to finish with 53 points in 69 games this year. That marks a 12 goal bump and eight more helpers for a 20 point gain over his rookie season total. MacEwen has proven to provide a nice package of skill and physicality that is sorely lacking from the depth chart. It has been something special to watch this young man grow his game since turning pro.
2nd Star: Lukas Jasek/Kole Lind/Jonah Gadjovich. The trio of rookies each impacted the game in their own way.
Gadjovich stepped up to throw down with Jack Stander after he gave Cam Darcy a rough go. Seeing the younger Gadjovich taking Stander to task for his treatment of his older teammate, (not that Darcy is ready for the rocking chair) was a good thing. Gadjovich has become more comfortable as the season has gone on and has shown no fear when it comes to the fisticuffs. When he throws down, his arm looks like a piston, hammering away until the officials intervene.
Jasek picked up a pair of helpers and a nice goal in the shootout. He has a couple of those this season. I have talked all season about Jasek’s determination in his board battles and his sneaky good release on his shot. I like a lot of what I see out of Jasek and can envision him as a very effective bottom-six forward in Vancouver one day if he can keep going the way he is. It will be interesting to see what kind of step he will take next season. Jasek finishes the season as the Comets rookie points leader with one fewer goal (9) and three fewer assists (20) than MacEwen had last season in but also played in three fewer games.
Lind finished the season with five goals and 16 points in 51 games. I am sure that many were expecting/hoping for better points totals from the young winger, and I was one of those people at the start of the season. Lind didn’t look comfortable in the early goings as he was learning quickly that the step from junior to pro was bigger than he expected. To his credit, Lind worked hard and after overcoming injury issues from the first half of the season, he started to look more comfortable and started to find his game. Lind looked far more engaged in the games at the end of the season than he did early on. He was a streaky scorer as his points tended to come in small bunches, but I expect that to even out for him next season after a year of pro experience and another offseason of training.
1st Star: Jaime Sifers. Sifers has spent the past two seasons with the Utica Comets, playing in 107 games and putting up four goals and 15 assists, giving him 19 points for his tenure. Offence isn’t what Sifers’ game is all about. He is a defensive defenceman who has been a selfless shot blocker and has bought a physical presence to the Comets back end that they will miss going forward without him. I have commented many times about how the grizzled vet hits like a truck. The team will also miss him in the room and away from the rink. I have heard and read several accounts from young players and those new to the team about how Sifers and his family would invite them for dinner and make them feel at home in their new surroundings. The effect that Sifers has had on the games of young defenders like Jalen Chatfield and Guillaume Brisebois should not be understated. Brisebois had many good things to say about how Sifers helped him calm his game down last season as a rookie when I spoke with him at training camp in Whistler this year. The community will miss him as well as by all accounts, he was as good as they come in terms of community service.
Stay tuned to this space for Utica Comets content throughout the offseason. I will be keeping the Comets news coming all summer long.