On the Farm: Comets Home Opener Review/Prospect Report #1

It was more famine than feast tonight on the ice for the Utica Comets. Returning home after a winless, season-opening three game road trip, the Comets played the first AHL game in Utica in nearly 20 years, and the baby 'Nucks sent their fans home without a victory as the Albany Devils picked up the 4-1 win.

The continual trend with the Comets from the preseason to the start of the regular season was a struggle to score goals, and we had exactly that once again tonight.

Let's get right into it with the scoring, and we'll follow that up with some odds and ends.

Scoring Summary:


1. ALB Whitney, (4) (Kelly, Timmins), 7:47

Whitney went to work and tucked one underneath the pads of Joe Cannata. The kid is small but he has absolutely terrific hands.

1. ALB Merrill, (1) (Whitney, Boucher), 8:13 (PP)

On this goal, Whitney showed off his passing ability and his vision in the offensive zone, putting a great deal of zip on a backhanded pass from the left circle to the point. Merrill crushed a great shot from the center point and the Devils took the 2-0 lead into the locker room.

3. ALB McKelvie, (1) (Zajac), 9:14

The Devils gained the stripe and it didn't take long for this one to materialize. Zajac cut the puck off going up the left wall, and fed it to McKelvie for the deflection.

3. UTI Corrado, (1) (Sauve, Pelletier), 13:12 (PP)

Faceoff on the power play. The Comets win it and go to the stretch pass at the point. Corrado goes bombs away on the one-timer and puts the first goal on the board for the new guys.

3. ALB Whitney, (5) (Boucher, Helgeson), 19:28 (EN)

Easy empty net goal for Whitney to put it away.

The rest of tonight's box can be found here.

Odds and Ends

  • Zac Dalpe was sent down to the team on conditioning loan recently, and my lord, is this guy terrific at this level. (Although he seems to be racking up a hefty amount of frequent flier miles with the constant recalls and assignments). In every sense of the word, he's a playmaker out there and is constantly getting himself in position to do so. He's slippery and can get loose in the high slot at a moment's notice. He had back to back deflection attempts go wide in the second period, and also had what was Utica's best chance to score all night on an odd-man setup, but put it over the bar.
  • Darren Archibald continues to impress with the gloves off. The fight with Albany's Tim Sestito at the end of the first is the second time I've seen him win a fight this season, and do so convincingly. It was a bit of a conflict of interest for both locals and Canucks fans alike watching the two engage in the bare knuckle dance. Sestito is from nearby Rome, New York and is also the brother of our very own Tom Sestito. Tim is known for being the more skilled player of the two, but may have tried a bit too hard to be like his brother tonight in that scrap, and thus, he ended up paying a fairly hefty price. With that said, I would not be surprised if there were friendly household wagers on this game tonight.
  • Benn Ferriero continues to show off flashes of NHL caliber brilliance, but was a bit too fancy tonight in my opinion. Tried the turnaround move not once, but twice when he was in a reasonable position to take a quality shot. May want to consider other options.
  • Goaltending continues to be quite putrid. If I'm Mike Gillis, I'm counting my blessings on Luongo and Lack remaining healthy this season, because neither Joacim Ericsson or Joe Cannata are showing me they can play in the NHL right now. Then again, performances like this can come and go in cycles. Syracuse's Cederick Desjardins is stopping pucks at a worse rate than both Comets backstops, and Cederick was excellent in the playoffs last year for Steve Yzerman's top farm club. For what it's worth, Cannata stopped 19 of 22 tonight.
  • As I said before, Joe Whitney was excellent for the Albany Devils tonight. He's been the scoring leader for them the last two seasons, and what may be keeping him out of the NHL is his small stature. He's listed at an absolutely puny 5'6, 170 lbs. Finished the night at a +3 including the goal and assist in the first.

Game Night Review

As a longtime veteran of the Utica Memorial Auditorium, this was my first look at the building with the AHL upgrades fully functional. With the initial pieces of their game night fan experience package put into place, I can conclude that while it is a serviceable start, the Comets do have a lot of polishing to do on that end to make this product the best it can be off the ice.
Overall Grade: 7/10, with room to bring that score up quickly.
The Seats For this game, I grabbed a seat with a good friend of mine on the end of the ice in Section 209. To be fair, i shouldn't have swapped tickets, because I found out the seat i have for 22 games upstairs is needless to say, absolutely sweet. But the seat I was in was a tough view of the near end, particularly from the goal mouth to the end boards. If you're ever planning on making a game here part of a trip, know this: You can't go wrong with most seats in the building, but try not to get in that vicinity because the sightlines are reasonably speaking, awful.
Unfortunately, my press pass application has presently been denied due to lack of space. As a veteran of the Aud's press box, I know it can get a bit dicey up there, but I was still pretty skeptical when I got the response. Needless to say, even with an auxillary press area to the left, that booth was jam packed and then some. Skepticism put to bed for the time being.

So there i was, keeping handwritten notes on oversized index cards with a pen that was intermittently failing to produce ink, and using the metal tube railing in front of me to have something to write on. These are the kind of stories you tell to kids when you're successful many years later. It wasn't a total wash, but it was less than productive. It's also the reason I am up at 1:30 eastern typing this.

With that said, I will keep trying.
The Good

  • Beer prices were fair for an AHL game, a dollar cheaper than their AHL neighbors to the west in Syracuse. Also worth noting the price didn't hike with the management change. Beer last year at a Utica College home game was also five dollars.
  • The video boards, which I got a preview of while working on a school assignment weeks ago, were a strong addition. The wall-mounted panels are quite large by AHL standards. The fine folks at Eversan scoreboards(which is a pretty big company in that industry, and happens to be down the street) made sure to take care of the neighbors, which was nice.
  • Mr. Gillis was in the building. For some of you, that's commonplace. For me, that's like a visit from the Pope.
  • Gordie Howe and the Hanson Brothers were there signing autographs. Night Ranger performed. That won't happen every day, but chalk it up as a plus.
  • The Sound System. It needed fixes when i began living here. Now, it's just about as good as they come.
  • The National Anthem, which i can take credit for now. Night Ranger was supposed to sing. They sang, but the Microphone died before they even started. I began singing it aloud, and slowly the entire building caught on. It began to sound a tiny bit like Vancouver in there, but not quite. Still, a cool moment.

The Not-So-Good

  • I often question the sanity of the individual who first thought it would be a good idea to have cheerleaders at a minor league hockey game. To those of us who are truly into hockey, it's really frivolous stuff. TV timeouts are one thing, but we don't need to see them dance, directly in our sightlines, after every. single. whistle. Make all the jokes you want, but they're getting in the way of those of us who are trying to watch things like line changes. Also, they may want to consider the safety issues. The dance moves of the cheerleaders are quite pronounced, and they are dancing squarely in the middle of pedestrian walkways through which people access their seats, at times where they are likely to be accessing said seats. With that said, it is only a matter of time before one of them is locked in to some choreographed dance routine, and as a result ends up clobbering some poor pedestrian.
  • Some rookie mistakes were made, to be expected anywhere in the league at this time of year. 2 weekends ago, Rochester apparently forgot who Alex Biega was even though he played there for years. They put up and announced the wrong name on a penalty. Well, this time it was a similar case with goal scorers. The PA man had the wrong scorer. Happens to the best of us, and hopefully that'll clean itself right up with time and repetition.
  • More instant replay is needed. What's the point in having gargantuan video boards when you're not putting up replays all the time? Exactly. It may make the sponsors happy, but to fans, the boards could certainly serve more use with actual game related content. In-Game statistics would also help on said boards.
  • Check the microphones.Check them again. Check the level on the PA mics so the entire building isin't cringing from the feedback. Easy fix with a bit of effort.

Overall, the building looks good and the presentation is coming together. As for the mascot, you decide.

On Tap
A pair of games back at the home barn on both Friday and Saturday. I'm expecting to make it Friday, as my 2013 Eastern Conference Champion Syracuse Crunch will be in town.

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