Comets: Scouting the Enemy

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This is former Admiral Darren Haydar playing for the Chicago Wolves last season. He moved to Germany. And his Wolves moved to Utica. (PhotoCredit: Scott Paulus)

Last time out the Admirals won in regulation. The last time they did that was on Jan. 24 vs. Rockford: W, 3-2. The next opponent they get to face? Another member of the Western Conference’s North Division: the Utica Comets. There is just one thing worth remembering. These are last year’s Chicago Wolves.

I made mention of this when we first met the Chicago Wolves this season but there were some changes in the last offseason. The Vancouver Canucks did not renew their deal to keep the Chicago Wolves as their AHL affiliate and, instead, purchased the Peoria Rivermen. There is no denying that the Canucks wanted to move their AHL team closer to Vancouver. They were in talks over the Abbotsford organization but those talks ended up breaking off. The end result became the Utica Comets. The Peoria Rivermen became no more (despite the Southern Professional Hockey League team carrying its name). And the Wolves were taken over by the old guard of the Rivermen when the St. Louis Blues joined on.

That entire situation still seems like a complete mess to me. The aim was for an AHL affiliate closer to Vancouver and they end up in New York. Compare that scenario with the Houston Aeros to Iowa Wild move for the Minnesota Wild and your head might hurt a bit. It’s still a shame to see the Rivermen go down. And it’s also a shame to be an AHL player called up to the NHL from Utica, New York and have to travel all the way over to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. If there is a yo-yo type player filling in a lot between both teams – I envy his frequent flyer miles. Anyways, what have our ‘old’ Amtrak Rivals up to since the move?

The Utica Comets are the worst team in the Western Conference with a record of 17-22-2-4 (40 points). The only team with a worse record in the entire AHL is the Hartford Wolf Pack, 17-23-0-5 (39 points). The Comets season started painfully. It took them 11 games before they finally won their first game of the season. In those opening 10 games without a win? They only earned 2 points. Since then, they have improved but only ever so slightly. Their current run, 6-3-0-1 (13 points), seems to tell me they might just finally be finding their groove. With that in mind. Let me tell you that they are still the lowest scoring team, 107 goals, in the entire league.

Who is on this Comets squad that took part in last season’s Amtrak Rivalry as a member of the Wolves… and how did they do in last season’s match up with the Admirals? Darren Archibald, 8 games, 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists)… Alex Friesen, 4 games, 1 goal… Peter Andersson, 4 games… Alexandre Grenier, 1 game… Nicklas Jensen, 5 games… Alex Mallet, 3 games… Joe Cannata, 2 games, 1 win, 2.52 GAA, 0.937 SV%.

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Now a member of the Utica Comets, former Admiral Cal O’Reilly will play his first career game against Milwaukee tonight.

Last season, Cal O’Reilly was voted to the Top 35 Admirals of All-Time list – where he ranked eleventh. Tonight, he will play in his first career game against the Milwaukee Admirals. It will also be his first game in the Bradley Center since Jan. 22, 2010 against the Chicago Wolves where he tallied 2 assists in a 6-3 Ads loss. In his career as an Admiral he blistered the AHL all-time list: games played (262… tied for sixth with Chris Mueller), points (253… second to only Darren Haydar), and assists (197… the team in Ads AHL history – clear by 31 assists to the next closest Admiral, Haydar).

Since leaving the Ads, O’Reilly has quite literally been all over the place. He went up to the Nashville Predators, was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes, played with the Portland Pirates in the AHL, he was claimed on waivers by the Pittsburgh Penguins, went down to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, then he went to Russia to play for Magnitogorsk Metallurg of the KHL for a season, and now… *drumroll* …he’s back! In 26 games with the Comets this season O’Reilly has 19 points (3 goals, 16 assists). He has yet to take a single penalty. Having been such a great part of the team’s AHL history – I’m hoping he gets a real warm response tonight.

UPDATE: The fans will not get that chance as O’Reilly has been scratched from tonight’s game with an upper body injury. He did travel with the team, but is out of tonight’s lineup for the Comets.

With the team leader in points, Pascal Pelletier, called up to the Canucks on Tuesday – the Comets are lead in scoring by Benn Ferriero. The 26-year old has played in 98 games in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers, and Canucks. He has 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists) in 45 games this season with the Comets. For a team ranked at the lowest of the low in goal scoring, his production.. combined with Alexandre Grenier (15 goals) and Colin Stuart (11 goals).. make up for 40% of the team’s total goal production. If the Admirals want to put the Comets in a vice – lock those boys down and force others to step up.

In net the Comets have been working with rookies all season long. The current battery is Joacim Eriksson and Joe Cannata. Eriksson has been called upon the most between the two. This season he has played in 28 games, won 12 games, has a 2.57 GAA, and a 0.914 SV%. In two February starts, he has lost both games while conceding 6 goals from 65 shots. Cannata, who took part in last year’s Amtrak Rivalry, has played in 18 games, won 5 games, has a 3.21 GAA, and a 0.894 SV%. He made the team’s last start, made 43 saves, stopped 7 of 9 in the shootout, and helped the Comets win 3-2 (SO) in Iowa on Wednesday. Before that, he made 32 saves in a 3-1 win in Hamilton.

The Admirals enter tonight’s game with a record of 22-13-6-4 (54 points). They are still sitting behind the Grand Rapids Griffins (62 points) and Chicago Wolves (56 points) in the Midwest Division. The Ads are currently riding a 4-game point streak of 2-0-1-1.

In their victory against the Hamilton Bulldogs on Wednesday – the team had two injuries to work through. Austin Watson went flying knee first into the end boards. He played the rest of the game but took a nasty hit to his left knee. Joonas Rask re-injured his left shoulder and missed the entire third period.

For as tight as the team has been of late – an injury meant a recall from Cincinnati of the ECHL was mandatory. The man from the Cyclones recalled? Paul Crowder. This season with the Cyclones he has played in 42 games and is second on the team with 30 points (11 goals, 19 points). This will be his second rodeo with the Admirals. He was called up late last season: 5 games and 2 assists… 1 playoff game and 1 assist. He’ll be wearing the #11 for the Admirals.

UPDATE: Taylor Beck was reassigned to the Admirals this afternoon (story). There was also the news that Joonas Rask will be out of tonight’s lineup due to his shoulder injury – and could possibly miss much longer.

What do you expect from this game tonight? Any memories of Cal O’Reilly you’d like to reminisce over?

4 thoughts on “Comets: Scouting the Enemy”

  1. It’s been suprising that their has been so much turnover in Chicago, one of the AHL’s top franchises, over the past few years. The fact that Atlanta moved to Winnipeg and pulled its affiliation with the Wolves made sense. That is a very proud Canadian ownership with the Jets, who wanted to have a Canadian city with its farm team. I’m curious why they haven’t looked at either Saskatoon or Regina.

    Then Vancouver took over Chicago, never really embraced the Wolves, moved in on Peoria, wanted to pick them up and move them to Abbotsford, but instead went to Utica. Overall, Chicago is now in great shape with natural fit with the Blues, but I have my doubts that the Comets will last long in New York. They would seem like natural fit to move to St. John’s. Talk about the frequent flyer miles!!! Newfoundland to BC.

  2. Winnipeg Jets are exploring a move of the AHL team from Newfoundland to Thunder Bay, Ont. The city of Thunder Bay is building a 5,700 seat “event center” that should be ready for the 2017 season.

  3. I’m looking forward to seeing Cal O’Reilly . He played great for the Admiral’s under Lane Lambert. O’Reilly is a excellent play-maker. He’s career has never been the same after he broke his leg in early 2011 while playing with NHL Nashville. Younger Brother Ryan on NHL Colorado.

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