“It’s fun playing again,” said Vancouver Canucks forward Antoine Roussel as he stepped off the ice following his Comets 4-3 win over the Toronto Marlies at Scotiabank Arena. The Frenchman’s feistiness was certainly felt in the first of the two games that Utica took on the Marlies this past weekend. He was not there for the second game, but his grittiness left a mark on the whole dressing room as the second game was equally hard-fought.
On Saturday, the Marlies and Comets were treated to a setting upgrade as they took part in the first Scotiabank Arena series of the season. The two teams, battling for position in the AHL’s North Division, have long been rivals and the weekend’s pair of games presented points that will be very crucial come playoff time.
The first game is exactly what any hockey fan would hope from a game. There were goals, fights, hits and speed, all on display in what was a thrilling afternoon at the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. There was a lot of NHL talent on display, especially for the Comets. Sven Baertschi and Antoine Roussel, two players who played all of last year in Vancouver, were in the Comets lineup and their skill was enviable by the rest of the players.
Baertschi opened the days scoring with a tidy goal, but it was what happened before the goal which showed how elite he truly his. If we take a look at the clip below and keep our eyes on 47, we can see that he looks at his teammate, signalling to the defender that he might go that way. All that before simply gliding his way through the gap he created for himself to have a clear look on the goal where he made no mistake putting it past Marlies netminder Joseph Woll.
The game went back and forth with the score before the Comets edged the Marlies 4-3 after regulation play came to an end. It was Roussel’s last game with the Comets as he now heads back to Vancouver to join the Canucks.
Sunday saw both teams back in the very familiar confines of the Coca-Cola Coliseum. Although the surroundings felt more minor league, the excitement and gallant goal scoring continued. Sunday’s first period had three goals, again falling in the Comets favour.
Utica’s second goal of the day came shorthanded came from Lukas Jasek, who had an assist on the first goal of the day. The young Czech is in his second season of North American hockey after having a rough time in the Czech junior ranks. He certainly showed well this weekend, but is likely not in the running for an NHL call-up anytime soon.
The goalies were a very intriguing story this weekend. Kasimir Kaskisuo played his first game back with the Marlies after having a cup of coffee with the Maple Leafs and his Utica counterpart was Michael DiPietro who is being touted as the Canucks goalie of the future. A similarity between the two? Both allowed at least six goals in their NHL debuts, a 7-2 loss for DiPietro and a 6-2 loss for Kaskisuo.
While there were no full-on fisticuffs on Saturday, there certainly were on Sunday and it featured two very unlikely combatants. Utica’s Kole Lind and Toronto’s Rasmus Sandin dropped the gloves and neither came out as a winner.
Sunday’s matchup was thrilling throughout, especially in the last 10 minutes which saw the Comets give up a 3-1 lead with less than 10 minutes left in the third period. The pucks just seemed to be flying past Michael DiPietro in the last few minutes. At 3-3, it was only a matter of time until the lead fell in favour of the home team. That go-ahead goal would come with 5:15 left in the game as Jesper Lindgren slotted away his first career AHL goal. Adam Brooks made it 5-3 with a couple of minutes left, completing his hat trick on the day.
The Comets fall apart was similar to that of their NHL affiliate, the Vancouver Canucks, who blew a substantial lead in Pittsburgh just last Thursday while taking on the Penguins.
“That was disappointing, we took our foot off the gas,” said Comets rookie defensemen Brogan Rafferty after the game.
With the results of this weekend, both teams still find themselves in playoff position with the Marlies leading the North Division and the Comets in third.
Toronto will now head down to Rochester for a midweek game that is a must-win if they want to stay in first place. The Comets will go back home to face the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Friday.
It was not the four point weekend either team was looking for and for the Comets, they are in a bad mood after Sunday’s game, however, both teams will have to rebound as they continue in their campaign for the Calder Cup.