Utica Comets Post-Game Report

Game #35

Springfield Thunderbirds at Utica Comets

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific


Comets News

Reid Boucher and Brogan Rafferty have been named to represent the Comets at the AHL All-Star Game this year. Congrats to both!

Pre-Game Predictions From Twitter

Scratched Today For Utica

  1. Francis Perron: W/C – Upper-body injury, (eye) week-to-week. HNL deal.
  2. Dyson Stevenson: W/C – Lower-body injury, no timeframe. AHL deal.
  3. Mitch Eliot: RD – Healthy scratch. NHL deal.
  4. Josh Teves: LD – Healthy scratch. NHL deal.
  5. Stefan LeBlanc: LD – Healthy scratch. AHL deal.
  6. Richard Bachman: G – Healthy scratch. NHL deal.
  7. Carter Camper: C – Veteran scratch. AHL deal.

Comets Starting Lines

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

47 Sven Baertschi – 36 Wacey Hamilton  – 24 Reid Boucher (A)

95 Justin Bailey – 34 Carter Bancks (C) – 74 Tanner Sorenson

77 Nikolay Goldobin – 9 Lukas Jasek – 13 Kole Lind

21 Jonah Gadjovich – 17 Seamus Malone – 18 Vincent Arseneau

48 Olli Juolevi – 6 Ashton Sautner (A)

55 Guillaume Brisebois – 25 Brogan Rafferty

8 Dylan Blujus – 5 Jalen Chatfield

31 Zane McIntyre

64 Mikey DiPietro (backing up)

First Period

Well, that was an interesting period of hockey. The period was a well-paced back and forth affair that saw both teams grab a goal.

The T-Birds had an early chance as Owen Tippett had a shot redirected just off the target by Aleksi Saarela before Kole Lind and Nikolay Goldobin almost hooked up on a nifty play at the other end but Goldy couldn’t get enough of the puck.

Lukas Jasek followed up with a chance from in close that Samuel Montembeault shut down. The Hamilton line replaced the Jasek unit and we saw Baertschi take a puck off a turnover and hit Boucher with a feed that was swallowed up by the Birds’ netminder.

We had some good back and forth before Owen Tippett had a chance kicked out by Zane McIntyre and Guillaume Brisebois was dinged for holding moments later when he lost his stick and put the grab on his man behind the net.

Hamilton, Bancks, Sautner, and Chatfield started the kill off and McIntyre had to kick out a Saarela offering from the left side. Sautner followed up with a shot block before Baertschi, Boucher, Juolevi, and Blujus took over. Juolevi showed some well-timed aggression when he pressed the Birds’ puck carrier just inside the Comets blue line to force a turnover and send Boucher and Baertschi the other way. The Comets killed it off.

Boucher followed up the kill with a hot shot that Montembeault turned aside.

The Jasek line took over and Goldobin had a chance off the draw that Montembeault denied.

Guillaume Brisebois has been steady defensively this year, but he couldn’t hold the line and Jack Rodewald and Joel Lowry were off to the races. Lowry, a former Comets PTO player for one game, scored on the play to pick up his fourth goal of the season. Rodewald earned his fourth assist of the year on the play for the lone helper.

Dylan Blujus is a big dude and he came up with a solid hit in the Comets’ end to force his man off the puck before Aleksi Heponiemi had his shot gloved down by McIntyre.

The Hamilton line had a couple of chances at the other end, but Montembeault was equal to the task.

Paul Thompson found himself on a breakaway and Zane McIntyre found himself hearing the roar of the crowd when he stymied him with a big save. The Comets netminder followed up by kicking out the muffin that came next after a Blujus pass went awry.

The Birds were putting on some pressure before Lind went the other way with a shot off the left side that was kicked out. Jasek jumped on the rebound but couldn’t beat Montembeault either. Lind came back with another shot but put his offering off the side of the net.

The Comets kept the pressure on as the Bancks line went to work. Bailey hit Sorenson with a nice feed and the winger was robbed by a diving Montembeault.

The Comets were having a tough time with the way that the Birds were breaking out of their own end quickly in this period, but they were hanging in there during the track meet back and forth.

Utica had some nice puck movement in the offensive zone, but they were unable to get much traction. At the other end, McIntyre swallowed up a one-timer to keep his team in the game.

We had more of that good back and forth when Vinny Arseneau dropped Lowry with a solid hit at the benches. The Jasek line followed up with an active shift in the offensive zone and the Hamilton line took over and followed suit. Hamilton’s second effort led to a pair of Baertschi chances that were turned aside by Montembeault.

Brogan Rafferty is oozing confidence right now and he hammered the puck off the iron and it dropped behind Montembeault before being swept off the goal line by a defender. The Comets’ fourth line came with some good pressure, as is their way, but they were unable to make anything happen to change the score.

Lukas Jasek had a great December and was looking to carry that over with a nice feed to Goldobin for a chance that Montembeault had to squeeze tight to keep from beating him five-hole. There was a brief scrum after the whistle with Kole Lind in the middle of it, but cooler heads prevailed.

The Comets kept it coming with chances from Jasek and Blujus but the Birds’ netminder denied all of them. At the other end, McIntyre made a pair of saves before Jasek was dinged for hooking at the 19:24 mark.

The Comets were looking like they were in tough heading into the middle frame down a man, but TheTwins did their thing on the kill and tied the game with barely a second remaining on the clock. Hamilton played set-up man while Bancks did the scoring. The captain earned his fifth goal of the year on the play, while Hamilton grabbed his fourth assist of the season and Ashton Sautner picked up his sixth… again. I think Sautner has been awarded that sixth assist a few times only to see it given to someone else by the game’s end.

The Comets outshot the Birds 14-10 in the opening frame.

Second Period

Jasek was still doing time in the box when the period started but the Comets would kill his penalty off.

The Birds were bringing it as McIntyre had to swallow up a redirected shot before steering a Brady Keeper attempt out of play. The saves kept coming in the Comets end as McIntyre gloved down a Rob O’Gara offering before another long shot through traffic saw the Comets netminder sit down to cover the puck and stop play.

At the other end, Rafferty teed one up for Baertschi but the winger fired his shot off the iron. Sven took another feed from Boucher but saw his shot blocked by a defender.

The Jasek line took over and we saw Lind and Goldy play a little give-and-go in close but Montembeault stopped the Lind chance. The Birds went the other way and Ryan Haggerty had a chance from the slot that McIntyre turned aside for another save.

Jonah Gadjovich drew an interference penalty on O’Gara and the Comets were off to the power play.

Utica went back to the unit of Baertschi, Boucher, Bailey, Lind, and Rafferty for their first group after experimenting with some other looks of late. They did not reignite the fire and were replaced by a new-look second unit of Seamus Malone, Jasek, Juolevi, Goldobin, and Gadjovich.

That second unit had some nice puck movement, but they also came up empty, but not before giving up a shorty to Jonathan Ang after McIntyre misplayed the puck and it ended up in the back of his net. The unassisted tally was Ang’s fourth of the season.

The physical play continued as BigVinny blew up Ethan Prow in the offensive zone before Brisebois had a one-timer shut down by Montembeault. The Bird’s went back the other way and McIntyre denied a shot from former Canucks draft pick Rodrigo Abols and followed up by robbing Ryan Haggerty when he found himself all alone.

Wacey Hamilton has found a plum assignment between Sven Baertschi and Reid Boucher since returning from his nearly month-long injury absence. I’ve questioned his inclusion in the lineup at the expense of the more offensively inclined Carter Camper, but all Wacey has done since returning is help provide offence. He came into the game with two goals in two games since his return and he added a pair of helpers today to give himself four points in three games since coming back.

Hamilton’s physical play on the forecheck led to Baertschi setting up Boucher for a shot that was sent wide of the net. The Jasek line took over and we saw some fantastic work at both ends of the ice from Kole Lind. Goldobin came up with a takeaway and fed Lind for a nice backhander that was denied before Rodewald went the other way with speed. Lind got on his horse and tracked him down before lifting his stick to foil a scoring play.

Kole no longer looks like a player who is trying to figure out the pro game. He is now looking like a player who is honing his craft and dialling in the details that will help him succeed when he is asked to make the jump to the next level. I am more impressed with Lind’s overall game with each viewing this season.

The back and forth continued as Brisebois had to block an Owen Tippett offering at one end and Tanner Sorenson had his chance denied at the other. Sorenson was showing some nice wheels today.

Carter Bancks was whistled for boarding at the 13:59 mark and the Comets were back to the kill. Boucher joined Hamilton in the spot that Bancks occupied earlier, while Sautner and Juolevi worked the backend.

I have spoken about Reid Boucher’s ability to play a physical game when he needs to and he belted Haggerty with a solid hit to force a turnover before Baertschi and Jasek took over up front, joined by Brisebois and Chatfield. Bailey, Hamilton, Blujus, and Sautner steered this one home for a good kill after McIntyre came up with a pair of saves.

Brogan Rafferty hasn’t been overly physical this season, although he has dished out some heavy hits at times. He used one of those to take Brady Keeper off the puck in the defensive zone before McIntyre had to steer aside a point shot and sent the Comets the other way where Baertschi knotted the game at two with his eighth goal of the season. Hamilton earned the lone assist for his fifth of the season.

The goal came late in the period and we saw Seamus Malone heading down the tunnel soon after. He did not return and there was no update on his status after the game.

The Comets had some good pressure as time wound down but Goldobin and Bailey both fired their shots wide of the net before Owen Tippett put the Birds back up by a goal with just two seconds remaining on the clock. The goal was Tippett’s 13th of the season. Aleksi Saarela picked up his 12th helper of the year on the play, while Keeper grabbed his seventh.

The period ended with the Birds showing a 13-9 advantage on the shot clock.

Third Period

As mentioned, the Comets would have to finish this game down a body… and a pivot at that. It would sure be great if the organization could find some sort of deal that would land them a pivot or two who could grow with some of the other younger players in Utica.

McIntyre had to come up with a quick save on an early chance off the rush and Montembeault would have to do the same when Tanner Sorenson went down the left side with a quick shot that was steered aside with a wave of his blocker.

The back and forth continued as Prow let fly with a shot through traffic that McIntyre kicked out and Juolevi’s big shot off the right side was put wide at the other end. The Comets kept the pressure on as Boucher fired another shot wide of the net. Reid came into this game riding a 16-game point streak but he was unable to extend it.

I mentioned it earlier, but Lind’s strong play away from the puck continued as he did great work once more on the backcheck to help break up a play.

The Birds started to press and McIntyre had to steer aside a long shot from O’Gara before shutting down another chance from Ryan Haggerty. The Comets went the other way and Boucher put one off the glove of Montembeault.

Back in the Comets end, Saarela and Tippett tried to hook up for a play but a smart stick from McIntyre cut off their attempt.

Sven Baertschi and Reid Boucher playing on the same line kind of seems unfair at times. The duo often has control of the puck and they tend to give opposing goaltenders and defenders fits. Baertschi hit Boucher with a nice feed in the left circle, but Montembeault was there with the save once again.

Hamilton followed up by getting the puck back to Boucher for another chance that the winger tipped wide and a scramble broke out in the Birds’ crease. The puck sat uncovered behind Montembeault and the officials blew a quick whistle before any Comet could bat it over the line.

The Comets pressure continued as Lind tried his luck with a turn and fire play from the slot that was denied, as was the Goldobin chance that followed. Jonah Gadjovich joined the fray and took a feed from Lind for a chance but Montembeault stymied him in close.

At the other end, Ang whipped out a nifty between the legs play in hopes of fooling McIntyre, but the Comets netminder was wise to his antics and made the save and kicked out the chance that followed for good measure. Tippett followed up with another chance and McIntyre blockered it aside. The Springfield rookie came back with two more chances and McIntyre denied both of those as well.

Kole Lind did his best to set Justin Bailey up for a goal but the speedy winger wasn’t able to get control of the puck well enough to get his shot away. Kole looked to Vinny Arseneau next and the human bowling ball faked a slapper, side-stepped his check and let fly with a shot that Montembeault swallowed up. A brief scrum ensued and TheShaunavonSh!tDisturber was once again right in the middle of it. Kole is at his best when he is getting under his opponents’ skin.

Nikolay Goldobin has been having a good season with the Comets, as is evidenced by his 28 points in 29 games with the club. He is also starting to do some of the things that the big club wants to see from him at the NHL level. He has been seeing some time on the penalty kill of late but is also doing some decent work away from the puck in other ways. He drew a holding call on Brady Keeper by keeping his feet moving while being mugged.

The Comets rolled out PP one and McIntyre had to come up with a shorthanded save on Jack Rodewald before Boucher had a one-timer blocked in the offensive zone. With Malone unavailable, we saw yet another new look on the second power-play unit as Guillaume Brisebois took his spot. The Comets came up empty and they were running out of time.

Rafferty fired a late one-timer wide and with 21.6 seconds left on the clock, the Comets called their timeout and kept McIntyre on the bench for the extra attacker when they returned. They would be unable to even the game up and the Bird’s skated away with a 3-2 win.

Springfield held an 11-8 advantage on the shot clock in the final frame and a 35-32 advantage overall.

Today’s Official Boxscore

Comets Goals

  1. Carter Bancks (5) from Wacey Hamilton (4) and Ashton Sautner (6). Shorthanded goal.
  2. Sven Baertschi (8) from Wacey Hamilton (5).

Special Teams

Power Play: 0/2. One shorthanded goal allowed.

Penalty Kill: 3/0. One shorthanded goal for.

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

PP2: Goldobin, Malone, Jasek, Gadjovich, Juolevi.

PP3: Goldobin, Jasek, Gadjovich, Brisebois, Juolevi.

Penalty Killers: Bancks, Hamilton, Boucher, Goldobin, Baertschi, Bailey, Jasek, Brisebois, Sautner, Blujus, Juolevi, Chatfield.

The Three Stars in the building today were:

3rd Star: Owen Tippett. Game-winning goal.

2nd Star: Wacey Hamilton. Two assists.

1st Star: Samuel Montembeault. 30 saves for the win.

CanucksArmy’s Three Stars:

3rd Star: Zane McIntyre. It wasn’t a win but McIntyre made some big stops in this one and finished the game with 32 saves.

2nd Star: Wacey Hamilton. Wacey takes it on the chin from some in the fanbase because of his acumen for taking penalties, myself included. I have bemoaned Hamilton’s ability to take penalties at the worst possible moments in the three seasons that I’ve been covering him in Utica… but credit where it is due. If Hamilton could stay healthy for a season, he might actually be a better point producer than you’d think. His career-high for points in a season was set in 2017/18 when he put up 22 points in 45 games for the Comets. That is just shy of half a point per game. The next season, he followed up with 11 points in 23 games. Again, just shy of half a point per game. This season, he is up to eight points in 18 games… or just shy of half a point per game.

1st Star: Kole Lind. I know that Kole didn’t add to his goal total or to his growing pile of assists, but he had another game where his details stood out to me. Kole is closing gaps far more quickly in the defensive zone of late and his work on the backcheck today was fantastic. He continued to be a thorn in the side of the opposition and made some nice plays in the offensive zone as well. Plus, I finally came up with a name for him that I like… TheShanavonSh!tDisturber

Post-Game Scrum

And now for something new that we tried for tonight’s game and will be trying again going forward at Comets’ home games… player/coach comments from the post-game scrum. That’s right, folks… The team has worked with me to figure out a way for me to ask a question or two in the post-game scrums. It isn’t a perfect set-up and as such, I can’t promise that you will get this for every game, but we will endeavour to do our best.

Today, we had Wacey Hamilton and Trent Cull for the post-game scrum.

With Hamilton missing nearly a full month after taking a puck in the face in late November, I was wondering how it felt for him to step back in and be able to help provide offence as he has with four points in three games. I believe that it was John Pitarresi, (@PitarresiSports) who asked Hamilton the same question. This was Wacey’s response.

“Haha, I don’t know. I’m playing with some pretty good players right now and I’m very lucky to be playing with Bartch and Boosh. They just create so much offence every night that, you know, I seem to be getting pucks in spots that I don’t usually get them in. So I’m very blessed to have that opportunity.

But, you know, my game is coming still. I still don’t feel great, my legs still have a ways to go. I feel winded at the end of some shifts and I can usually go for a while. I think that will come as I get more games under my belt.”

I was able to get a question in for Trent Cull as well and I wanted to know how he felt Lukas Jasek was adapting as a winger playing the middle and in his new role on the penalty kill this season.

“He’s doing fine on the penalty kill. 

His move from wing to center is a must. We have no centermen. We’re playing different guys at center, so he’s acclimating. I think he’s doing a decent job but sometimes you miss your assignments and it causes goals against. It’s some of the things that we have to be accepting of as a staff… as a group, because we don’t have centermen.”

It seems that I’m not the only person who would like to see the organization find a way to add a pivot or two into the mix for the Comets. They got a whopping six games out of Tyler Graovac before the Canucks pilfered him, broke him and put him on a shelf.

Next Game

Game #36

Utica Comets at Hartford Wolf Pack

Saturday, January 4th, 2020

7:00 pm Eastern/4:00 pm Pacific