The Utica Comets kicked off their 2020/21 campaign with style as they took the first of 14 games against the Rochester Americans by a score of 3-2. Kole Lind potted a pair of goals, one of which came while up a man, while Jonah Gadjovich grabbed his first of the season for the other goal. Seems like a decent start for the pair of second-round selections from Vancouver’s 2017 draft card.
Lind opened the scoring for the game with a beauty of a goal after taking a feed from Sven Baertschi and burying it behind Amerks netminder Dustin Tokarski.
That was some pretty slick puck movement from the Comets’ first line of Sam Anas, Sven Baertschi and Kole Lind. Get used to that.
This was one of Lind’s good moments from today’s game, but he had some unforced errors as well. He made a few pass attempts in this game that resulted in Rochester taking possession and getting scoring chances. The points are great, but the errors will need to be fewer. I know, I know… it’s only the first game of the season.
The Amerks evened the score at one when Patrick McGrath knocked one in past Jon Gilles with less than half a minute remaining in the first. The Comets started well, but the Amerks took it to them in the second half of the opening frame. Jon Gilles was great after seeing his team being outshot 12-3.
Lind happened to be on the ice when this goal went in.
The second period saw Jonah Gadjovich take a sweet feed from Lukas Jasek and quickly deposit it behind Tokarski for his first of the year. Jasek happened to be out with Gadjovich and Blues’ prospect Dakota Joshua in place of Carson Focht at the time and that trio did some great work before the goal. The Comets have some nice balance up front, but not so much on the backend.
Gadjovich had a pretty strong game overall in the opener. He scored a nice goal, worked hard in all three zones, dished out a couple of solid hits and skated better than we have seen from him in previous seasons.
In past years, we have seen Canucks fans lament the fact that players who they felt should be given more minutes or put into better situations than what we were seeing from the Utica coaching staff were being healthy scratched or being played with “AHL lifers.” I’m not sure that those fans will have much to winge about after the first game of the year.
Trent Cull and his staff used Kole Lind as their first-line center and played him between the best two wingers on the team, and maybe even the two best wingers in the AHL.
First-year-pro Carson Focht centred the team’s third line between two other young players in Jonah Gadjovich and Dakota Joshua. Will Lockwood played on what was the team’s fourth line, but he was seeing time on the penalty kill and took a lot of faceoffs for his line as well. Jett Woo saw time on the PK and was out late in a one-goal game to help protect the lead. Overall, I think that it was a decent showing for the first contest of the year.
Lind put the Comets up 3-1 after ripping home a powerplay marker from the left circle. This time it was Sam Anas who played set-up man and Kole was more than happy to oblige with a quick release.
The Amerks made it interesting when Arttu Ruotsalainen made it a one-goal game two minutes later, but that’s as close as they would get.
The Comets finished the game up 3-2 on the scoreboard while bouncing back nicely after a sketchy first period and outshooting the Amerks 34-29 overall in the game.
Utica went 1/6 on the powerplay while giving up one powerplay goal on five Rochester chances.
Lind finished the game with a pair of goals and at the time of this writing was the AHL’s leading scorer. Seems like a far cry from the fresh-faced kid who had the tough adjustment to the pro ranks. He will be leaned on this year as a prime player for the Comets. The coaching staff and management want the play to run through him and they want him to be “the guy” rather than a complimentary piece. He’s off to a good start, although as mentioned, the defensive play will need to take another step if he is to continue in his new role as the team’s 1C.
Jonah Gadjovich impressed me today. I was happy to see his improved skating. I was happy to see him scoring a goal off of a quick release. Jonah puts in a ton of work. He’s a smart player who knows where to be on the ice in order to make things happen. He understands his role and has the hands to add some complementary scoring. It was an excellent start to his season today.
The Comets get right back at it with a 4:00 pm Saturday start against the Syracuse Crunch and the games will not be getting easier anytime soon.