BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – After embarrassing back-to-back shutout losses at home, the Utica Comets looked to regain their footing with a win on the road over their North Division rivals, the Binghamton Devils.
Wednesday’s contest against the Devils kickstarts a brutal stretch for the Comets, wherein they play four games in just six nights.
Fortunately, the first opponent on the docket is one that the Comets have had no problems dispatching thus far this season. With the Comets currently crushing the head-to-head record, with three wins in three games played, while outscoring the Devils twelve to five.
Those wins, of course, came off the backs of players like Sven Baertschi, Oscar Fantenberg, and Reid Boucher leading the way.
Since losing Baertschi to the Canucks, the Comets have looked listless. After additionally losing Carter Camper, the Comets put up a deceptively competitive game against the Providence Bruins. Despite losing two-nothing at home.
But when the Comets lost Boucher, things went off the rails. Against the Rochester Americans, the Comets got blown out in a six-nothing rout, wherein the Comets struggled to land meaningful offense against veteran netminder, Andrew Hammond.
The question heading into this four-in-six stretch will be whether the Comets young core of prospects can fill the void left by their missing star players, and hopefully, take it upon themselves to re-assert the Comets place amongst the tops of the North Division.
Spoiler alert: they didn’t.
Since We Last Met
On his way back to the Comets lineup is defenceman, Ashton Sautner. Sautner wasn’t able to make it to Binghamton in time for Wednesday’s match-up.
Signed to a PTO from the Kalamazoo Wings, was centerman Justin Taylor. Taylor has three goals and three assists in six games played with the Wings.
The Starting Lineup
The starting roster for the Comets continues to dwindle further and further. As many of the Comets major players remain absent from the lineup with injury.
Joining the MIA list is defenceman Dylan Blujus, who unfortunately had to miss Wednesday’s action due to a family matter.
|Perron (#27)||Graovac (#44)||Goldobin (#77)|
|Bailey (#95)||Jasek (#9)||MacEwen (#15)|
|Bancks (#34)||Malone (#17)||Lind (#13)|
|Arseneau (#18)||Hamilton (#36)||Stevenson (#26)|
|Juolevi (#48)||Chatfield (#5)|
|Brisebois (#55)||Eliot (#52)|
|Teves (#4)||Rafferty (#25)|
|Jonah Gadjovich||Reid Boucher||Carter Camper|
|Stefan LeBlanc||Richard Bachman||Ashton Sautner (not available)||Justin Taylor (not available)||Dylan Blujus (family matter)|
The Comets once again laid a goose egg, as the team got outshot by a two-to-one margin over the sixty minutes of regulation time.
The Comets were up against it early after an early goal from the Devils Kyle Cumiskey.
The goal sequence originated from the Devils’ end, where the Comets captain, Carter Bancks, was engaged in a battle along the boards. After losing the puck along the right wall, defenseman, Brogan Rafferty, stepped up into the play for a pinch along the blue line in an attempt to maintain the zone. The Devils’, Brandon Baddock, evaded Rafferty, to poke the puck ahead to give the Devils an odd-man-rush. Cruising down the left-wing on the rush was Nathan Bastian, who raced past the Comets to set-up in the right circle for a cross-ice feed to Cumiskey. Cumiskey zipped a wrister under the glove of Zane McIntyre to give the Devils an early one-nothing lead.
Things did not get any easier for the Comets when just seven minutes later, the Devils capitalized again on another misplay from Rafferty. The second goal came after Rafferty was caught watching the Devils’ Joey Anderson rifle a shot off the pad of McIntyre. While Rafferty spun to try and find the rebound, his check, Ben Street, had already picked it up and buried it into the net. Street’s goal was the Devils second on just six shots on net.
The Comets rallied in the first to cut the Devil’s lead by one after a gritty forecheck from Vincent Arseneau. The Comets’ first goal in over 140 minutes came after Arseneau capitalized on a botched break-out pass from the Devils Fabian Zetterlund. After kicking the puck ahead to himself along the left wall, Arseneau sent a pass cross-ice to his linemate, Dyson Stevenson, who was crashing the net of the Devils Louis Domingue. Stevenson’s first shot went off the right pad of Domingue, but Stevenson managed to lift his second shot over the pad to secure his first career AHL goal.
It took an entire period later, but the Comets eventually equalized off a beautiful tic-tac-toe play. The goal began when another Comet, Tyler Graovac, was aggressively forechecking along the boards. Graovac’s forecheck sprung the puck out to Justin Bailey, who turned for a rink wide feed to a crashing Rafferty, who sent a beautiful no-look backhand pass to Nikolay Goldobin, who buried the one-timer for his second of the year.
Unfortunately for the Comets, their late tying goal in the second period did not give them any momentum heading into the third.
Through the final twenty minutes of action, the Comets got absolutely shellacked as they got outshot eighteen to five.
Things almost went the Comets way after a rifling shot from Francis Perron went off the bar and out. Unfortunately, on the very next play, Perron was caught puck-watching in the Comets zone as the Devils, Bastian set-up Chris Conner for a blistering one-timer past McIntyre to give the Devils the lead.
The Comets game only got worse from there as the team wasted two powerplay opportunities as they failed to register a single shot over four minutes on the man-advantage.
The final play of the game, best cemented the Comets play as of late. With two minutes left in the game, one goal down, and the Comets holding a powerplay for the final two minutes of the game. The Comets pulls McIntyre for the extra attacker. From neutral ice, defenseman Olli Juolevi, and his five compatriots approach the Devils blue line with their intimidating two-person advantage.
Juolevi flips the puck end-over-end so that the team can play dump-and-chase hockey with their advantage.
The Devils recover first.
Street scores the short-handed empty-netter.
Clock winds down to zero.
Comets make it three-straight losses after going undefeated through October.
All told, another incredibly disappointing effort from the Comets as they get badly outplayed over a full 60 minutes.
Cody’s Three Concerns
1. Kole Lind continues to show little when playing away from Baertschi, or Boucher. After picking up two goals and six assists in the first six games played, Lind has quietly gone invisible with just one goal in the last five games played. Coming into this season, Lind hoped to prove his critics wrong with a bounce-back season. With zero points while playing away from Baertschi or Boucher, the jury is still out on whether this is a comeback or another sophomore slump.
2. Zack MacEwen has not looked like himself once this season. Perhaps the pressure’s of trying to make the Canucks out of training camp got to him. To date, MacEwen has been held to just six points in ten games played. With all six of his points coming in just a three-game span in the middle of October.
3. The Comets offense lately has been hard to come by. Even with Boucher in Saturday’s game against the Providence Bruins, the Comets struggled mightily to get pucks on net. Eventually, both Camper and Boucher will return to the lineup. However, this Comets roster needs to find a way to gel and produce, away from two top-six fixtures. After once leading the league with the highest goals-for per game, the Comets past three games have seen them drop to a second-place tie with the Toronto Marlies. Puck luck hasn’t been on the team’s side as of late, but the team’s lackadaisical play set-up in the offensive zone hasn’t helped either. The team will need a stark improvement of both if they expect to turn things around on short notice.
Cody’s Three Stars of the Game
1. Vincent Arseneau is a breath of fresh air to watch this season. The guy gives it all, ever shift and is easily one of the team’s most aggressive forecheckers. Most ECHL PTO’s don’t do much with their time in the AHL, but Arseneau has gotten better with each season as a Utica Comet. On Wednesday night, he was the difference-maker in preventing another blowout loss.
2. Mitch Eliot looked great in his second AHL game of the season. Although he registered just one shot on goal, he looked calm and poised in his sophomore effort against Binghamton. His skating certainly did not look out of place, and he had better offensive contributions than his counterpart, Guillaume Brisebois.
3. Zane McIntyre was not done any favors by the team in front of him tonight. With the Devil’s 38 shots-against, McIntyre is now eighth in AHL goaltending in shots faced, with 216 total against. The three goals-against in the Comet’s effort against Binghamton are not indicative of McIntyre’s performance whatsoever. The Comets absolutely hung him out to dry for the second time in as many games.
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets return Friday night when they face off against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the final time this season. Puck drop is at 7:00 pm EDT / 4:00 pm PT.
Follow Cody on Twitter (@CodySevertson) for the latest news on the Utica Comets.