UTICA, N.Y. – Last weekend, the Utica Comets dominated their opponents, scoring 21 goals in three games played. As if the lineup couldn’t be more inundated with talent, fans were greeted with the news Thursday that centerman Adam Gaudette would be sent down to the Comets for the foreseeable future.
Gaudette had earned himself an early-season look with the Canucks after an impressive camp and preseason. However, the 2018 Hobey Baker winner struggled to earn ice-time over NHL regulars like Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle.
Prior-to the start of the 2019-20 season, Canucks fans dreamt of a third line that featured Sven Baertschi and Gaudette together. The dream came true. Unfortunately, the dream line, while put together, was not meant for the Canucks, as most fans wished.
In his return to the Comets, Gaudette has the opportunity to play first-line-center minutes. Alongside Baertschi, both have an opportunity to not only rekindle their pre-season chemistry but a chance to force the Canucks hand in returning both to the NHL.
For Gaudette’s first game as a Comet, he’d square off against the Binghamton Devils. The Devils recently ended a four-game losing streak on Wednesday against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The Devils and Comets went even against each-other in two preseason games, but the Comets hold the edge in the regular season, having beaten them by a score of 4-3 in both team’s regular-season debuts.
Since We Last Met
As previously discussed, Adam Gaudette returns to the Comets for the first time this year.
Joining him is defenceman Ashton Sautner who spent the last week with the Canucks. Sautner had been called up due to an illness to Oscar Fantenberg.
Moving off the Comets lineup was rookie defenceman Mitch Eliot who was returned to the Kalamazoo Wings to get himself some playing time.
THE STARTING LINEUP
Trent Cull has himself a problem I imagine most coaches wish they had. Depth. And lots of it. The options Cull now has with the returns of Sautner and Gaudette gives him a bevy of options to put forth each night. While this weekend would see some relatively light tuning of the starting roster, the depth the team has will eventually become an issue.
The team, as it stands, is currently maxed out with veteran and veteran-exempt players. Trent Cull and his coaching staff will undoubtedly be put to the test of balancing the veteran-cap while maintaining a regular winning lineup, once the likes of Jonah Gadjovich and Tyler Graovac return off IR.
|Boucher (#24)||Camper (#19)||Lind (#13)|
|Goldobin (#77)||Jasek (#9)||Baertschi (#47)|
|Bailey (#95)||Gaudette (#88)||MacEwen (#15)|
|Arseneau (#18)||Perron (#27)||Bancks (#34)|
|Juolevi (#48)||Sautner (#6)|
|Brisebois (#55)||Rafferty (#25)|
|Teves (#4)||Chatfield (#5)|
|Jonah Gadjovich||Tyler Graovac|
|Stefan LeBlanc||Dyson Stevenson||Dylan Blujus||Seamus Malone||Wacey Hamilton||Richard Bachman|
It was a prototypical period for the Utica Comets as they pressured their opponent early and often through the opening ten minutes of the frame.
After nine minutes of play, the Comets had outshot the Devils seven-to-three. The Comets got themselves a significant scoring chance after a blocked shot by Lukas Jasek led to a two-on-one rush against the Devils. The Devils netminder, Evan Cormier, was forced into early heroics as he stretched post-to-post for a glove save on a Vincent Arseneau one-timer.
Following Cormier’s hero-save, the Comets went to work off the next offensive zone draw. For the third time in as many games, the Comets were the ones to open the game’s scoring.
Francis Perron was the difference-maker on the opening goal. Off the draw, a relentless Perron battled to poke the puck off Devils defenseman Joe Morrow’s stick. The puck landed right onto the tape of Comets captain Carter Bancks stick as he made a slick pivot in the slot for a wrister to put the Comets up by one.
The fourth line kept up the pressure. Four minutes after the Bancks goal, Perron got a takeaway while defending in the Comets end to spring his linemates up-ice for a zone entry. After gaining the zone, both Perron and Arseneau clogged the front of Cormier’s net with traffic, while Brogan Rafferty launched a bomb on net. Perron once again with great stick-work to poke the puck back to Arseneau, who quickly wristed one under Cormier’s pads to give the Comets a two-goal lead.
The Comets almost had a third goal a mere two minutes later when defenceman Olli Juolevi passed to Kole Lind, alone in the slot for a wrister through traffic past Cormier. However, the refs waved the goal off due to goaltender interference. Reid Boucher argued that he was shoved into Cormier, who was outside his crease, but the refs stood firm with their call.
The period ended without much fanfare. However, there was a comical giveaway from Nikolay Goldobin in his end that almost resulted in a Binghamton goal. Goldobin appeared to have lost who was in his peripheral vision as he threw away the puck to the Devil’s Chris Conner; fortunately for Goldobin, Zane McIntyre came up huge on the breakaway shot.
The Comets’ second period was a near-inverse of the opening stanza. The Comets had a few moments of setting up a cycle in the Devils zone but couldn’t get any decent shots off.
The Devils got themselves within one at the 12:50 mark of the period after a brutal giveaway from Rafferty resulted in an easy tic-tac-toe goal for the Devils’ Conner. Throughout the second, there appeared to be a drop in the quality of the Comets passes to each other. For the goal that cut the Comets lead, Rafferty attempted a no-look pass that was too weak for Zack MacEwen to receive before it was picked off by the Devils Michael McLeod.
At 13:24 into the period, Devils forward Ryan Schmelzer got called for goaltender interference after he collided with Zane McIntyre while chasing down a puck. It was at this point where the writer realized just how fast-paced the game, to this point, had been. Zero penalties had been called after 43 minutes of play with very minimal icings, meaning the game was more than halfway done after less than an hour and ten minutes of elapsed time.
The Comets powerplay to start the season hasn’t been great, having scored thrice on 22 attempts; good for 7th in the North Division.
The Comets only needed one try to capitalize against Binghamton, as Reid Boucher found space to drive down the right-wing towards the Devils net. Boucher was able to get a shot through traffic and past Cormier to pot his league-leading ninth goal of the season.
To close out the period, Zack MacEwen drew a holding penalty against Joe Morrow, after MacEwen attempted to lead an odd-man-rush down the right-wing. On the powerplay that closed out the remaining 30 seconds of the period, the Comets only managed one clean shot on net from defenceman Olli Juolevi.
Despite regaining the two-goal-lead, overall, the Comets were rather sloppy throughout the second. There appeared to be a significant lack of communication happening on the ice as players repeatedly turned over the puck in their end, giving the Devils ample time to set up for scoring chances.
The third period was more of the same from the Comets; plenty of zone-entries and cycle set-ups, but many turnovers and lapses in defensive coverage.
Fortunately for the Comets, they managed to suppress or block many of the Devils shots on goaltender Zane McIntyre. However, on several occasions, McIntyre was relied on to come up with several crucial saves to maintain the Comets lead.
The Comets were able to generate some sustained pressure in the Devils zone in the first ten minutes of the period. Defenceman Jalen Chatfield even rattled off a one-timer from the blue line that went off the post and out. His D-partner, Josh Teves, who had been having a solid game overall, received a pass from Sven Baertschi and attempted to enter the Devils zone but was on the receiving end of a crushing hit along the boards for his efforts.
Ironically, after eating the hit, Teves raced back to the Comet’s end to defend. While defending a Devils cycle attempt, Teves ended up taking a tripping penalty that put the Comets on their first penalty-kill of the night.
The Comets upheld their 100% penalty-killing record at home thanks to some great shorthanded drives from MacEwen, Bailey, and Boucher. The Comets’ ability to spend most of their PK forcing the Devils to reset behind there net led to a quick evaporation of the Devils powerplay.
As time was winding down in the game, the Comets fourth line once again got the Comets another tally on the board. This time, Perron found himself crosschecked hard to the ice, but still managed to get a puck out to Bancks. Bancks found Arseneau in the high-slot area for a pass, and Arseneau sent a wrister past Cormier for his second goal of the night.
The Devils ambitiously pulled the goalie with two minutes remaining in the game. Unfortunately for them, the Comets first-line quickly stole the puck and handed off to Kole Lind for the empty-netter to all but seal the Comets victory.
The victory was the Comets their sixth straight to start the season, a first in franchise history. The team now leads the AHL in goals scored with a seven-goal margin over the second leading teams. Despite the lapses in defensive play and the poor passing play, it’s hard to fault the Comets when even despite their flaws, they are still managing to score an average of 5.7 goals-per-game.
CODY’S THREE STARS
- Vincent Arseneau – impressive two-goal performance
- Francis Perron – three-assist night that proved to be the difference-maker tonight
- Zane McIntyre – another stellar performance as he stops 27 of 28 shots
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets head out on the road Saturday night when they visit the Hershey Bears. Last season, the Bears and Comets split the season, with the Bears outscoring the Comets six-to-four after two games. Saturday’s meeting will be just one of two games the two will play this season. The Puck drop is at 7:05 pm EDT / 4:05 pm PT.
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