BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – The 2019-20 season finally got underway for the Utica Comets Saturday night. After a long summer of preparation, the Comets attempted to erase the memories of a miserable 2018-19 season with a statement victory on the road against the Binghamton Devils.
The Comets were all over the Devils in the first period. After a brief few moments shaking off the cobwebs and getting their feet under them, Utica began to gain traction through effective zone entries from their young forward group. The game began to heat up after Utica forward Jonah Gadjovich ended up on the wrong end of a boarding hit from Binghamton defenseman Michael Paliotta. Although unsuccessful, the Comets power play led the team into a prolonged period of offensive dominance.
Around the seven-minute mark, Tyler Graovac set up Gadjovich for a power-play goal, but the refs ruled that the puck had been kicked in by Lukas Jasek, thus keeping the game tied nil-nil.
While on another Comets power play, Gadjovich picked up a hooking penalty, ending the man advantage and putting the team on their first penalty kill of the night. The Devils were able to capitalize on their first try, as a blocked puck by Wacey Hamilton found its way onto Nathan Bastian’s stick and into the back of the net to give Binghamton the early lead.
The goal against didn’t deter the Comets, however, as they rounded out the remainder of the period with some high-danger scoring opportunities off strong play from Gadjovich and Kole Lind. The Comets’ most dangerous chance to close out the first period came from a slick cross-ice feed from Lind to Carter Camper, who’s dangerous breakaway forced Devils netminder Evan Cormier into some late-period heroics.
Overall, the Comets young group looked competent and did a great job controlling the tempo throughout the period. It was simply about capitalizing on their playmaking in the second.
Domination doesn’t do justice to describe the period Utica played after shaking the rust off, with both forwards and defenders firing on all cylinders.
Lind was on another level for all 20 minutes of the period, showing some of that same flash he had in his major juniors career with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. He managed to remain calm, cool, and collected as he helped erase the Devils lead early into the second with a brilliant play on Camper’s first goal of the season. Then, just 53 seconds later, Lind once again showed off his improved passing and vision to set up Reid Boucher for his first goal of the season.
And the hits didn’t stop there, either. Just four minutes after Boucher’s go-ahead goal, Justin Bailey blitzed down the left wing to go five-hole on Cormier, increasing the Comets lead by two.
That wasn’t all for Bailey. He showed effective defensive play in his own end, exemplified when he bailed out Comets defenseman Josh Teves after Teves blew a tire attempting to defend a Brett Seney drive to the net.
After a four-minute power play, Lind rounded out his impressive second period with another great display of playmaking. He single-handedly protected the puck from two Devils players along the boards, then poked it over to Boucher, who set up Guillaume Brisebois for the Comets fourth straight unanswered goal of the period.
After four straight goals, the question remained if exhaustion would be setting in on this squad who had just spent the better part of 40 minutes setting up shop in the Devils’ zone.
Period number three played out exactly as I had expected, with Utica feeling the effects of their heightened pace of play.
An early penalty to Ashton Sautner put the Comets on the back foot early, but persevered against the Devils first sustained pressure of the game. Boucher, Zack MacEwen, and Jalen Chatfield were highly effective penalty killers for the Comets during this tough early stretch.
Midway through the third, Marian Studenic and Boucher split matching roughing minors. The penalties came after Studenic was sent crashing into Comets goaltender Zane McIntyre, and Boucher aggressively let Studenic know that wouldn’t be tolerated.
During the four-on-four, Comets centerman Graovac went down awkwardly during a battle along the boards. Coming out of the scrum, his leg was clearly bothering him, as his inability to put any pressure on his left knee allowed Devils defenseman Josh Jacobs to capitalize, cutting the Comets lead to two.
The final 10 minutes was pretty slow going for both teams. In the final two minutes of regulation, the Devils pulled Cormier for the man advantage. With the extra skater, the Devils were able to set up a goal from Joey Anderson. Capitalizing on some poor defending down low by defenseman Olli Juolevi, the Devils brought themselves within one with time to spare.
The remaining minute and a half saw the Devils pour on the offense. In the waning seconds of the game, Chatfield and Sautner took turns protecting the puck along the boards to allow the clock to wind down, securing the Comets’ first victory of the 2019-20 Season.
- Reid Boucher – Goal, assist, two shots, and four penalty minutes
- Utica outshot Binghamton 29 to 12 after the first two periods
- Carter Camper led the team with five shots on goal
CODY’S THREE STARS
- Kole Lind
- Reid Boucher
- Justin Bailey
The Comets return to action next Saturday when they visit the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Puck drop is at 7:05 pm EDT / 4:05 pm PT.
If you want more Utica Comets coverage, you can always visit The Comets Harvest, where I provide play-by-play coverage for all the best highlights and lowlights of every Comets game day!