UTICA, N.Y. – Saturday Night, the Utica Comets were twenty minutes away from their fifth consecutive loss. Three goals later, and the Comets were back in the win column for the first time since October 30th.
Looking to build on that gutsy comeback effort, the Comets went into an afternoon Veterans Day matchup with the Syracuse Crunch looking to erase the memories of a painful November start.
THE STARTING LINEUP
For Monday’s afternoon matchup, the Comets made no changes to their Saturday lineup that defeated the Binghamton Devils. Stefan LeBlanc cemented his place on the third pairing with an impressive one-goal performance against the Devils.
|Goldobin (#77)||Hamilton (#36)||Lind (#13)|
|Bailey (#95)||Graovac (#44)||MacEwen (#15)|
|Bancks (#34)||Jasek (#9)||Perron (#27)|
|Arseneau (#18)||Taylor (#14)||Stevenson (#26)|
|Juolevi (#48)||Sautner (#6)|
|Brisebois (#55)||Rafferty (#25)|
|LeBlanc (#3)||Eliot (#52)|
|Michael Di Pietro|
|Jonah Gadjovich||Reid Boucher||Carter Camper|
|Josh Teves||Richard Bachman||Seamus Malone||Dylan Blujus (family matter)|
Once again, the Comets gave up two goals in the first period to eventually spell disaster for the Comets efforts.
The first goal came from a knuckling slapshot from the Crunch’s Boris Katchouk. Katchouk was making a routine play to dump the puck into the Comets zone when he ripped a slapshot over the glove of an unprepared Michael Di Pietro.
The second goal came in the final three seconds of the first period off of a Syracuse Crunch powerplay. The goal came after the Comets penalty-killers were caught playing way too far forward. A slap-pass from defenseman Cameron Gaunce, went to the doorstep of Di Pietro’s crease, where Chris Mueller got the easy tap-in goal.
The early two-goal advantage proved frustrating for the stagnant Comets offense, as they went on to generate only 16 shots over the remaining forty minutes of the game.
Even two speedy odd-man-rushes generated by Lukas Jasek weren’t enough to crack the defense of the Syracuse Crunch.
A late powerplay goal from Nikolay Goldobin could have been the springboard for another gutsy comeback effort. The goal began with a blast from the point from defenseman, Brogan Rafferty. The rebound came out to Zack MacEwen at the edge of the crease. MacEwen then sent a beautiful no-look pass to Goldobin on the doorstep, who put the Comets within one with the easy tap-in goal.
Unfortunately, the Comets couldn’t repeat the magic of a late comeback win. With one minute remaining in the game, Katchouk once again found himself on the scoresheet as he scored an easy empty-netter to seal it for the Crunch.
1. High Danger Opportunities: Since the departure of Sven Baertschi, Reid Boucher, and Carter Camper from the regular rotation, the Utica Comets have struggled to generate meaningful offense in the offensive zone. Despite the speed that many of their forwards bring, the Comets have done little to set-up meaningful cycles in the offensive zone. There have been great individual plays from Comets players to draw-in defenders to create space for the team. The next step, however, always seems to be way too late. There are consistent problems where, after creating space, the Comets will take too much time to find an open player. The time spent finding an open man, and the time spent by that man to find a shooting lane undoes the effort expended to create the space. The same applies to solo plays, where a Comets player will wheel around the end-boards of the offensive-zone to create space for themselves, only to wind up taking one-too-many steps. The extra steps then place them in a low percentage shooting area, which results in a less than advantageous shot on goal. Through November, the Comets opponents have rarely had to outplay the Comets while defending, as opponent’s simply had to let the Comets beat themselves. The Comets insistence on overhandling the puck into low-percentage shooting area’s ad nauseam has been one of the biggest reasons for the team’s slump this month.
2. Powerplay: the Comets powerplay needs a kick in the rear. On the season, the Comets have the second-worst powerplay percentage of the North Division. Successfully scoring on the man-advantage just six times on 48 opportunities. This writer appreciates head coach Trent Cull’s willingness to try bold strategies. For one, the choice to go with two defensemen on both powerplay units is bold. At times, that strategy has looked to be working quite well. It, however, hasn’t worked out on the scoresheet. In their last three outings, the Comets went 1/5 against Syracuse, 0/3 against Binghamton, and 1/4 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. This problem also ties in with the previous, regarding space-creation and shot-generation, as the Comets are simply playing way too slow in the offensive zone.
Cody’s Three Stars of the Game
1. Michael Di Pietro
2. Lukas Jasek
3. Kole Lind
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets get a reprieve after their four-in-six schedule this past weekend. The Comets return this upcoming Friday when they hit the road to face off against the Syracuse Crunch. Puck drop is at 7:00 pm EDT / 4:00 pm PT.
If you want more Utica Comets coverage, you can always visit The Comets Harvest for a more detailed look into each Comets game!