Welcome to the first-ever edition of "On the Farm" (Working Title). In this segment each week, we'll take a look at what Canuck farmhands are doing with the (new) Utica Comets of the AHL. It will be somewhat brief until the season really gets cooking when they open at Rochester. I have my ticket already for that one, and it should be a lot of fun.
Anyway, let's talk preseason.
The Comets held their first home (sort of) preseason game yesterday at the JFK Arena in Rome, New York. The game was played in front of a sellout crowd in a somewhat cozy (1,000 seat) arena, that last hosted a professional game in the 2009-2010 season when the Rome Frenzy of the Federal Hockey League occupied the building.
- Where on earth did Alex Friesen come from?-This seems to be the question of the day after Friesen caught the twine not once, but twice in the first period. That total eclipses... all of last season, which encompassed 54 appearances total (44 AHL, 10 ECHL), in which he had four assists and just one goal. But while it may come as a shock to some, it could be a sign of coming attractions. He's proven he can score at the major junior level, now it's time for him to take that next step.
- Oh, Cannata- Joe Cannata had a strong game between the pipes for Utica, turning aside 26 of 28 to pick up the complete game win. After a rough outing against Hershey, I think he's made his case for playing time, but i'd give the nod to Joacim Ericsson for the opener.
The Roster Continues to Take Shape-Welsh now a Comet
The Dalpe/Welsh for Tochkin trade has gone into effect, and i have just learned that Jeremy Welsh will indeed be a Utica Comet. He's played a total of six NHL games with the 'Canes, but in this league, any player with NHL callup experience has a great chance to contribute right away at this level.
Both on an NHL and Minor league level, i love this trade. On an NHL level, an unproven commodity out of the Central league and a fourth rounder for two guys who have shown they can crack an NHL lineup is a solid deal for the Canucks, especially with a farm system that needed to add some depth this offseason.
On a minor league level, a guy like Welsh is going to help immeasurably in Utica. He adds good size at the center position, which is an often underrated advantage when playing half of your games at the Utica Aud, which has had some soft ice for as long as I can remember. As long as he's steady on his blades, he'll be a great fit here.
Opening Night in Utica
They've pulled out all the stops for the city's first regular season AHL home game in 20 years. Gordie Howe and the Hanson Brothers(who filmed the "Im listening to the song" scene from Slap Shot in this very building.) are scheduled to appear. Also, we'll have a performance by 1980s one-hit wonder band Night Ranger. Should be an all-around solid time.
And now.... For Some Comic Relief
Here's a good one. ADK Phantoms centerman Ben Holmstrom decides to use his head on his way out of the Sin Bin at Sunday's preseason game in Rome.
Ben Holmstrom getting socked in the dome by the penalty box (via Jack Williams)
Next Week: We'll get a look at the Opening Night roster, and look back at the Comets' final preseason game with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
About the Author: Ray Biggs covers the Vancouver AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets, for Nucks Misconduct. Ray is a longtime Canucks fan and the radio play-by-play announcer for the happy next door neighbors of the Comets, the Utica College Pioneers. He loves coffee and wears Zubaz pants to many non-professional functions. To send him hate mail, or to simply tell him about your favorite menu item at Tim Hortons, shoot him a tweet @FearTheMoose44