Weekly Comets Report: Week Of April 10-16
Crushing Disappointment Edition
Entering the final week of the AHL season, the Comets were in a tough spot. They had to make up three points on the St. John’s IceCaps in order to catch them for the final playoff position in the North Division, with only three games remaining and a game in hand. For Utica, every game this week was a must-win.
Utica made a difficult situation even worse on Wednesday by dropping an embarrassing 7-2 decision to the Syracuse Crunch on home ice. The game started out fairly evenly, with both teams scoring a goal each in the first two periods. Michael Carcone scored the opener, assisted by Borna Rendulic and Chad Billins. Then, late in the second, Cole Cassels tied the game 2-2 with a nice rebound goal, set up by Wacey Hamilton and Andrey Pedan. After that, it was all Syracuse, as the defense collapsed and left Thatcher Demko out to dry. Demko was in net for six goals against, including four in the final period alone. Defenders like Jordan Subban and Evan McEneny suddenly looked out of their depth as Syracuse poured on the pressure. Speaking of pressure, the Comets had now lost their game in hand and would need some help to make the playoffs. The frustration was obvious. LaBate had a fight early in the game, and Curtis Valk got into it with Tanner Richard towards the end of the game, which led to Jake Virtanen being ejected for Third Man In. I have yet to find a clip of either incident.
Utica kept their hopes alive on Friday with a hardfought home win against the Hartford Wolf Pack, 5-4. This time, Richard Bachman was in net to make an impressive 39 saves. Carcone again opened up the scoring on a snipe assisted by Alex Grenier and Mike Zalewski. Then, Nikolay Goldobin stepped up big to score two goals, both of which were assisted by Curtis Valk and Darren Archibald. Archibald also added a goal of his own, assisted by Jordan Subban and Colby Robak. Andrey Pedan scored the game winner unassisted midway through the third. Some familiar faces popped up to plague the Comets on this night, with Ty Ronning scoring a goal and Nick Jensen potting two, including a late one that brought the Wolf Pack to within a goal.
Entering Saturday, the Comets needed both a win and a St. John’s loss in order to make the playoffs. They got neither. St. John’s won an impressive 4-1 game against the division-leading Marlies, a result that Utica found out about during the third period of their own game. At that point, however, the Comets were already down and out against the Crunch. Syracuse was up by two within the first six minutes of the first, and the game never got close beyond that. Demko was back in net to take the 5-2 loss, and once again Goldobin contributed two goals in a losing effort. Robak had the only assist on the first goal, while Virtanen and Ashton Sautner notched points on the second one. At the very least, Canuck fans can be glad that the season ended on a Goldobin goal set-up by Virtanen. Little victories, I suppose.
At this point, the entire organization was eliminated from the playoffs. None of the Vancouver Canucks, Utica Comets, or Alaska Aces made it to any postseason action. It’s going to make for a long summer.
It should be noted that, while most Canuck fans would have enjoyed the Comets going on a playoff run, and it undoubtedly would have been good for some of the team’s prospects, St. John’s making the playoffs is still something to be happy about. This was the last season for the IceCaps, who will move to Laval and become the Rocket from here on out. Having the IceCaps make one more playoff appearance for the fans on the rock to enjoy is a pretty nice outcome. If anyone had to beat out Utica this year, I’m glad it was them.