Utica Comets vs Toronto Marlies Game Recap and Observations

The Utica Comets entered their game on Saturday night at the Adirondack Bank Center against the Toronto Marlies looking to begin a winning streak, as they had defeated the Cleveland Monsters the night before. The Marlies had their sights set on continuing a two game winning streak – having won both games of a home in home series against the Syracuse Crunch earlier on Wednesday and Friday nights. After the final horn sounded on Saturday night, it was Toronto who would continue their winning streak, as they defeated Utica by a score of 2-1.

It was announced prior to the game that the New Jersey Devils recalled forward Andreas Johnsson from Utica with Ondrej Palat being placed on IR. With one the team’s top scorers suddenly gone, Comets head coach Kevin Dineen decided to ice a lineup made up of eleven forwards and seven defensemen instead of the usual twelve forwards and six defensemen configuration. Jeremy Groleau was the extra defenseman, drawing back into the lineup after being a scratch on Friday night.

ICYMI: Utica Comets vs Cleveland Monsters Game Recap and Three Observations.

The first period was a statistically even period, as neither team scored and the Marlies outshot the Comets by a margin of 9-8. Utica, however, avoided a potential disaster when with four and a half minutes remaining in the period, defenseman Reilly Walsh crashed into the end boards and limped off of the ice (he would return in the second period). One minute after the Walsh injury scare, Former New Jersey Devil Joseph Blandisi had a golden opportunity to open the scoring when he streaked down the right side of the Comets zone and got in all alone on Utica goaltender Nico Daws. After cutting across the front of the crease, Blandisi attempted to wrap the puck around Daws, but the Comets net minder made a spectacular toe save with his right pad to keep him from scoring his first goal of the season.

The second period saw each team take eight shots on goal, including an attempt at “the Michigan” by Graeme Clarke that did not go in. One of the Marlies shots, however, did go in. That happened at the 7:57 when defenseman Marshall Rifai scooped up the puck at the top of the left circle and flung a shot past a screened Nico Daws, off the far post and into the Utica net. The screen was set by six feet, nine inches and 242 pounds center Curtis Douglas, who also collected the primary assist on the goal.

The fireworks would pick up halfway through the third period. With 8:25 left in the period, Reilly Walsh was given a two minute hooking call that neither he nor the crowd agreed with. After making his displeasure with the call known from the penalty box, the referees felt compelled to give him a ten minute misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty would prove costly, as former Utica Comet Adam Gaudette scored on the ensuing power play to put the visiting team up by two goals.

Just over a minute after the Gaudette goal a tussle in the Toronto zone would result in a Comets power play that would take advantage of. While at the right point, Jack Dugan found Tyce Thompson open on the goal line to the left of the Marlies net. After taking the pass, Thompson snapped a shot over Toronto goaltender Dylan Ferguson to get his team within one. That would be the last of the scoring in the game, as the visitors would hang on and skate away with the victory. With the win, the Marlies record improved to 5-2-0-0, 10 points (1st place in the North Division), while the Comets fall to 2-3-0-0, 4 points (7th place in the North Division). Here are the three observations from Saturday night’s game.

Simon Nemec is adjusting to North American professional hockey very well so far.

Nemec, the eighteen year old defenseman from Slovakia who was this years number two overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft is looking as good as advertised thus far this season. He recorded is first goal and assist as a professional in North America on Friday night, and looked very comfortable again on Saturday night. He had two shots on goal and was engaged in the play in all three zones.Should Nemec continue on this trajectory, and the eventual return of Nikita Okhotiuk, the Comets could wind up having one of the best defense corps in the league.

Nico Daws was spectacular once again.

The scoresheet says that Daws and Dylan Ferguson each faced twenty-five shots on Saturday night and that Daws gave up two goals to Ferguson’s one. While Ferguson played an excellent game, Daws faced more high danger chances and was able to keep his team in the game. The Comets will need performances like this from both him and Akira Schmid while the rest of the lineup continues to gel.

Losing Andreas Johnsson will hurt.

Going into this season, much was made about the Comets losing their top four scorers from the season before and where the scoring would come from. After being reassigned to Utica early in the season, Andreas Johnsson was an answer to that question – as he is the team’s leading scorer with one goal and five assists. With Johnsson back in New Jersey, the Comets will be looking to others on the roster to step up in his absence. This is nothing more than speculation, but with Alexander Holtz struggling out of the gate in New Jersey and having been a scratch in half their games so far, could the Devils take advantage of his waiver exempt status and send him to Utica for a bit to get his game back on track? Again, it’s pure speculation, but if Holtz continues to struggle it could be worth considering for New Jersey management.

In this episode, Zac Case Oswegonian joins the show to talk about the seasons ahead for the Oswego St Lakers Men’s and Women’s Hockey Teams! Zac has a first hand of the teams as he is the “behind the glass” reporter for the Lakers and also covers the teams on WNYO Sports! Get the inside scoop on the strengths of the teams, players to watch for, rivalry games, and much more!

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