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Photo Credit: cory hergott

CanucksArmy Utica Comets Post-Game: Comets Limit Sens To Just 18 Shots But Fall 4-0 To Division Rival

Utica Comets Post-Game Report

Game #39

Belleville Senators at Utica Comets

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific

Pre-Game

Pre-Game Predictions From Twitter

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Post-Game

Scratched For Utica

  1. Francis Perron: W/C – Upper-body injury, (eye) week-to-week. NHL deal.
  2. Dyson Stevenson: W/C – Lower-body injury, (ankle) week-to-week. AHL deal.
  3. Seamus Malone: W/C – Upper-body injury, (undisclosed) week-to-week. AHL deal.
  4. Vincent Arseneau: LW/RW – Lower-body injury, (undisclosed) no timeframe. AHL deal.
  5. Sven Baertschi: LW – Lower-body injury, (undisclosed), no timeframe. NHL deal.
  6. Richard Bachman: G – Healthy scratch. NHL deal.
  7. Dylan Blujus: RD – Healthy scratch. AHL deal.
  8. Josh Teves: LD – Healthy scratch. NHL deal.
  9. Tanner Sorenson: W/C – Healthy scratch. AHL deal.

Comets Starting Lines

(1st forward line/defence pair listed started the game. The remainder are in no particular order)

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95 Justin Bailey – 19 Carter Camper – 13 Kole Lind

21 Jonah Gadjovich – 16 John Stevens – 9 Lukas Jasek

3 Stefan LeBlanc – 34 Carter Bancks (C) – 11 David Pope

77 Nikolay Goldobin – 36 Wacey Hamilton – 24 Reid Boucher (A)

48 Olli Juolevi – 5 Jalen Chatfield

6 Ashton Sautner (A) – 25 Brogan Rafferty

55 Guillaume Brisebois – 52 Mitch Eliot

31 Zane McIntyre

64 Mikey DiPietro (backing up)

First Period

The opening frame did not go the Comets’ way as they found themselves in a 2-0 hole after giving up a pair of power-play goals to the Sens.

Justin Bailey was coming off of a big game that saw him earn his first pro hattrick and he was looking hungry for more today. He had an early chance denied by Joey Daccord before Alex Formenton went the other way, only to be shut down by a Zane McIntyre save and an Ashton Sautner slash. Sauts was off to the box for his transgression.

The Sens’ power play didn’t last long as Logan Brown was soon dinged for an elbow on Carter Bancks and we had some four aside play for roughly 1:30.

We saw Trent Cull use Brogan Rafferty and Olli Juolevi on a penalty kill yesterday and that duo made another appearance during the four-on-four. Guillaume Brisebois and Mitch Eliot replaced that pair and Brisebois came up with a block and Sautner was released from jail.

Justin Bailey had an opening and took his shot, only to hear it ring off the iron.

There was some good flow to this game as these equally matched teams were going back and forth.

The Comets have used defender Stefan LeBlanc as a winger a few times this year and he was back there again today. He found himself in a familiar position at the point where he received a pass from Jalen Chatfield that he hammered off the ribs of his own captain as Carter Bancks got in the way.

At the other end of the ice, Boucher launched a terrible pass across the ice and he was picked off by former Comets’ forward Joe LaBate. Luckily for Boucher, McIntyre was ready with a save to bail him out.

Comets newcomer John Stevens was whistled for hooking at the 6:02 mark and the Comets were off to the kill. After doing great work to stifle all of the man-down situations that they faced yesterday, the Comets wouldn’t come away unscathed this time.

Sautner came up with a good shot block before poking another puck off the stick of a Sen for Chatfield to clear the zone. Michael Carcone came back and ripped a shot off the iron. Max Lajoie would sneak a point shot through traffic with LaBate screening and the Comets were down 1-0. The goal was Lajoie’s second of the year, while Jordan Murray picked up his 17th helper of the season on the play and LaBate grabbed his ninth.

The Sens kept it coming as McIntyre denied a chance from LaBate and Eliot had to come up with a timely shot block. The Wacey Hamilton line followed up with some pressure in the Sens’ end but couldn’t make anything come from it. They came back in for more and Hamilton was denied again by Daccord.

At the other end, Ashton Sautner made a calm play to break up a two-on-one attempt by the Sens.

Kole Lind was dinged for a cross-check at the 11:20 mark and the Sens took advantage once again. McIntyre made an early save with a scramble in his crease and the Comets looked like they might steer this one home by keeping the Sens to the outside until Morgan Klimchuk put the Sens up 2-0 with his seventh of the season. Michael Carcone picked up his ninth assist of the year, while Murray grabbed his 18th.

Mitch Eliot was doing some good things at times in this game and part of that was his physical play. He used his body to take his man off the puck in the defensive zone before Goldy went the other way and had a one-timer turned aside by Daccord.

Reid Boucher can also bring a physical game and he blew up Jack Dougherty with a big hit.

Guillaume Brisebois has had a nice season for the most part and he came up with a timely shot block that sent the Comets back the other way where Guillaume ended up with a wide-open net and a sprawling goaltender… but he fired his offering over the net.

Boucher had apparently not finished abusing Dougherty as he unloaded with a heavy shot that felled the Sens’ blueliner.

Time was winding down and former Comets forward Michael Carcone was looking to put his team up 3-0 but Kole Lind did Kole Lind things on the backcheck and lifted Carcone’s stick to foil his play. I picture Kole laughing maniacally as he made his play.

The teams finished the opening frame with six shots apiece.

Second Period

 The middle frame didn’t have the same flow as the first period as there were a lot of whistles early.

Speaking of whistles, Logan Brown was dinged for tripping at the 1:51 mark to send the Comets to the power play. McIntyre had to come up with a big shorthanded save on Jonathan Aspirot before Lind went end-to-end for a chance that was swallowed up by Daccord.

Mitch Eliot got a hot-shot away from the left side that was steered out of harm’s way by Daccord and the Comets came up empty.

The Sens were bringing some speed through the neutral zone as Josh Norrois was dangerous all game on that side of things.

We had some issues with AHL TV in this game and things dropped out on me for a couple of minutes and when the game came back up Logan Brown was in the box again, this time for tripping.

Boucher had a chance gobbled up by Daccord before Goldy put his shot off the mark. Justin Bailey followed up with a redirected shot that went off of Aspirot before Daccord made an alert stop. The Comets were getting chances but couldn’t make anything happen.

Boucher was dinged for hooking right before Brown got out of the box and the Comets had another penalty to kill. Norris let fly with a shot that McIntyre got a piece of before Carter Bancks was sent off for tripping. The Comets were now down two men and Belleville took their timeout to game-plan.

Wacey Hamilton came up with a big shot block and limped off the ice.

Erik Brannstrom was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct on the same play and the Sens five-on-three became a four-on-three man advantage. The Comets weathered the storm and Boucher was released.

The teams traded chances as Jasek and Chatfield were shut down at one end before McIntyre stymied Formenton at the other. The Comets were unable to do anything with their brief 25-second power play.

Parker Kelly put the Sens up 3-0 after finishing off a nice passing play from Josh Norris and Jonathan Aspirot. Kelly grabbed his fourth goal of the year, while Norris earned his 16th assist and Aspirot picked up his eighth.

The play started when Mitch Eliot got tangled up by… himself, and couldn’t hold the line, sending the Sens off to the races.

In fairness to Eliot, he was playing in just his 16th game of the season and third of the month. He only got into three in December as well after not seeing any time in October but getting into 10 games in November. Josh Teves is in a similar boat this year, seeing just 20 games of action, with all eight October games, seven in November, and five for December. Teves has yet to see any action in January.

The Comets were looking to get back into the game when Bancks sent the puck to the front of the net where Boucher was waiting to bury it, but his stick was tied up and Daccord kicked the puck out of harm’s way.

John Stevens has been relatively quiet since joining the Comets in a trade this week. He’s been credited with just two shots in his two games and both of those came today. He did come up with a solid hit on the forecheck in the middle frame and the Comets might need him to bring more of that going forward.

The team just acquired Stevens to help fill the gaping hole down the middle and they may have lost Wacey Hamilton to yet another injury. Hamilton blocked that shot earlier and he didn’t finish the game. It is almost comical how this team seems to be allergic to a healthy roster that is flush with centermen.

If there was one area of Justin Bailey’s game that I would like to see him improve on, it is bringing a consistent physical presence. He has the size for it and with his speed, he could do some real damage if opposing defenders thought he was about to light them up on every forecheck. Well, Bailey apparently clobbered Vitaly Abramov right into the Comets bench, but it was off-camera, so I will have to take the word of Joe Roberts, (@RobertsOnTheMic) on that one and I have no reason not to believe the man.

The stream froze up on me right around this time, but apparently Jasek had a nice chance denied on a backdoor play before Ashton Sautner and Alex Formenton were both dinged for roughing in the final minute.

Utica finished the middle frame up 7-5 on the shot clock.

Third Period

Wacey Hamilton appeared to take a quick spin before the period started but quickly decided it wasn’t a wise idea to stay in this game and he headed back down the tunnel. With Hamilton unavailable, Lind was pressed back into the middle for the remainder of the game. Lukas Jasek saw some time there as well after starting this game on the wing for the first time this season.

The Sens were pressing to start the third as Max Lajoie ripped a shot off the iron before Brogan Rafferty had to get on his horse to track down a speedy Michael Carcone and took the puck from him in the defensive zone. There aren’t a ton of players in the league who can track down Carcone when he’s on the move.

The Comets headed the other way where Jasek dished to Rafferty for a heavy point shot that was redirected by LeBlanc but Daccord was there to soak it up.

Nikolay Goldobin has been picking up his points this year, but good lord does that man ever fire pucks off the target a lot! He let his offering sail wide once again before Juolevi followed up with a shot off the left side that Daccord steered aside with his stick.

Do you remember what I said above about Carcone not being an easy guy to track down? Well, he is even tougher to stop when he is in full flight and you are caught standing still. John Stevens found that out the hard way when Carcone smiled and nodded at him as he flew past him and out of the Sens’ end. Sometimes I miss having Carcone on the Comets roster. Can you imagine a line with both of Bailey and Carcone on it? #WheelsForDays.

Jonah Gadjovich has been clicking along at just under half a point per game this year and his work in the dirty areas has taken another step as well. He came up with a big hit behind the Sens’ net that led to a scoring chance for Bailey. Unfortunately, Daccord was equal to the task. The Sens netminder also swallowed up the Juolevi shot that followed.

The physical play continued from Eliot as he decked Brannstrom with a solid hit and McIntyre rubbed salt in Brannstrom’s wound when he shut down his scoring chance that followed.

My AHL TV feed froze up again at this point and when things came back on, Joe LaBate was in the box for a high-stick. It was odd, but it seemed that every time the feed froze and came back, someone had taken a penalty.

The Comets power play was anemic and unable to make anything happen from either unit.

After the man-up had ended, Juolevi had another shot turned aside as the Comets got some nice pressure from the trio of Bancks, Jasek, and Pope. The stream froze up again and when it returned? You guessed it, another man in the box as this time Josh Norris had been fingered for a slash.

Nikolay Goldobin is a player who can have you on the edge of your seat one minute as he’s making a pass that very few could pull off… and the next he makes the kind of pass that is likely seen on the regular in the ECHL. You know the one… the kind of pass that sends his opponents rushing towards his goaltender with red lights dancing in their eyes. We saw one of the latter when Goldy was picked off and the Sens went the other way.

Goldy wasn’t the only one with a clumsy pass as Rafferty was picked off by Aspirot but he was bailed out when Lind got on his horse and caught up to the Sen and took the puck back. The Comets spent too much time in their own end and came up empty once more.

Olli Juolevi was impressing me with his play away from the puck today, particularly when he was using his body to pinch his man off the puck in his own end. We saw that a few times today from Olli and I like it. It is with plays like these that Olli reminds me of a Dan Hamhuis type. He isn’t outright crushing guys with nasty hipchecks, but he is getting the job done more often than not right now.

There was some back and forth as time wound down and we saw McIntyre calmly steer the puck out of harm’s way while Chatfield battled with a Senator in his crease. Guillaume Brisebois had a chance at the other end denied before JC Beaudin let fly from the right side and McIntyre came up with a blocker save.

Trent Cull summoned McIntyre to the bench with 2:59 remaining and soon after it was Joe LaBate with the empty-net goal. The goal was LaBate’s fourth of the season, while Morgan Klimchuk earned his sixth assist of the year on the play.

McIntyre was back in for the remainder and he had to knock down a long shot before Juolevi dished out another solid hit just inside the Comets blueline. That was it for this one as the Comets outshot the Sens 13-7 in the final frame and 26-18 overall for the game, but fell 4-0 on the scoreboard.

Today’s Official Boxscore

Special Teams

Power Play: 0/6

Penalty Kill: 3/5

PP1: Boucher, Bailey, Goldobin, Lind, Rafferty.

PP2: Jasek, Gadjovich, Camper, Juolevi, Eliot.

Penalty Killers: Bancks, Hamilton, Boucher, Goldobin, Stevens, Jasek, Brisebois, Sautner, Chatfield, Juolevi.

Zane McIntyre: 14 saves in the loss.

The Three Stars in the building today were:

3rd Star: Jordan Murray. Two assists.

2nd Star: Morgan Klimchuk. One goal, one assist.

1st Star: Joey Daccord. 26-save shutout.

CanucksArmy’s Three Stars:

3rd Star: Mitch Eliot. Okay, I know that Mitch was directly responsible for one of the goals against today when he got tangled up with his own shadow and couldn’t hold the line, but for a guy who hasn’t had much action this year, he didn’t look like he was afraid to play his game. He was credited with just one shot on goal, but it felt like he had more attempts than that. He was also doing some nice work on the physical side of things, which is something that the Comets blueline tends to lack outside of Sautner and Chatfield.

2nd Star: Kole Lind. Kole started this game back on the wing after spending the last two games as a pivot and he ended up finishing this one back in the middle after Wacey Hamilton left with an injury. There are not a lot of super positive takeaways when a team can’t muster a goal, but I saw some nice work from Kole away from the puck again today. His work to track down Aspirot and lift his stick in the late going showed that he wasn’t about to give up on the play just because his team was out of this game. That kind of second effort will help his cause with the coaching staff.

1st Star: Olli Juolevi. Brogan Rafferty is getting the bulk of the press on the back end this year in Utica and with the way that he has dominated offensively, it is understandable. The thing is, the team also has this guy named Olli Juolevi who is trying to find his way as a blueliner at the pro level. Like everyone else on his team, Juolevi was held pointless today, but it isn’t his work with the puck that landed him my first star today, it is the way that he was using his body to take his man off the puck that stood out to me. While he wasn’t out there wrecking guys, he was doing a nice job of saying, not down my side of the ice, you don’t to opposing forwards. I don’t expect Juolevi to be a physically imposing defender, but when he plays with that above attitude, he is quite effective.

From The Scrum

With Kole Lind seeing time off the wing and being moved to the middle, he was asked about that transition and how much of a difference that makes in his game.

“Oh yeah, there’s a huge difference between the two positions. I don’t know, there are just little things in the game, especially in the defensive zone I find as a centerman is the biggest part of it. I find you come up the ice with a lot more speed being a centerman, you get to swing through the middle and you kind of have more room to create those opportunities and odd-man rushes.”

Kole was also asked if he is getting more comfortable in that role.

“Yeah, I felt really good. Obviously, that goes to help from my linemates too, they did a heck of a job… Goldy and Bailes and I had a little sprinkling of it tonight in the third period too. Obviously the versatility is probably a good thing for me, being able to play a bunch of different positions.” 

Trent Cull was asked about how his defence looked tonight from a physical standpoint.

“I thought our defencemen as a group were slow to start the game. I didn’t think they did a good job under pressure, I thought they were slow moving pucks and that hurt us early.”

Next Game

Game #40

Hartford Wolf Pack at Utica Comets

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific