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Comets Monthly: December 2019

...Comets players are making some noise on the AHL leaderboards

by Cory Hergott @CoryHergott / Freelance writer

After an up and down November saw the Utica Comets finish with a sub-500 record for the month, the team rebounded with a solid December, finishing 7-3-1-2 in their 13 games. There were 26 points up for grabs for the Comets in December and they skated away with 17 of them.

The Comets have a pretty deep roster, as such, they have their share of players who are making some noise on the AHL leaderboards.

Reid Boucher finished 2019 atop the AHL scoring heap with 20 goals and 20 assists, giving him 40 points in 29 games played. Brogan Rafferty, for his part, leads all AHL defensemen with 30 points in 34 games played and is tied for first in points amongst all AHL rookies.

At the time of this writing, Boucher, Rafferty, and Sven Baertschi were all in the top 20 in AHL scoring. Nikolay Goldobin and Kole Lind were knocking on the door, sitting 21st and 22nd respectively.

The Comets special teams have been pretty good this season with their power play currently showing as the AHL's third-best with a 24.1% success rate and their penalty kill sitting 13th overall with an 82.3% success rate. The power play went 16/62 in December, while the penalty kill allowed 13 goals while down a man 55 times.

Kole Lind and Justin Bailey led the Comets with four power-play goals each in December, while Sven Baertschi held the lead with seven power-play assists. Baertschi and Rafferty were tied for the lead with eight power-play points apiece.

Bailey was the top dog amongst goal scorers in Utica with seven in December, while Reid Boucher led the team with 10 primary assists. Brogan Rafferty had 10 secondary helpers for the month and tied Baertschi with a total of 13 assists for the December lead.

Boucher, Baertschi and Rafferty each finished the month with 16 points to lead the team. Rafferty's 16 points earned him AHL Rookie of the Month honours for December. Lind and Bailey were tied for second with 12 points each, while Lukas Jasek had a productive month with 11 points to finish third on the team in December.

There are some good stories in Utica this year with Boucher dominating the league offensively, Rafferty leading all defensemen in points and the team finishing 2019 in second place in the North Division. Some of those good stories are also about players stepping up on the defensive side of the puck.

Lukas Jasek is providing some nice secondary offence for the team, but he has also taken on a prime role on the penalty kill and is doing great work there. Justin Bailey has also been a fantastic penalty killer in Utica, using his speed to skate pucks out of the Comets' end.

Kole Lind continues to put last season's struggles behind him. He is up to 28 points in 34 games with 13 of those points coming on the man advantage. Kole is getting it done on the power play and at five-on-five. He is also bringing a pesky element that the team needs. He is forcing turnovers on a regular basis and is playing with confidence.

Jonah Gadjovich also had a tough time in his rookie season, but he is making nice strides this year when he is healthy and in the lineup. After putting up four goals and six assists in 43 games last season, Jonah has matched that point total in just 19 games this year with seven goals and three assists. Injuries have been an issue again this year for Jonah, but he is looking much stronger when he is in the lineup. Five of those 10 points have come on the power play for Gadjovich.

Rafferty has been getting the bulk of the talk when it comes to Utica's blue line this year, and for good reason, but his defence partner has been having a solid campaign as well. Third-year pro, Guillaume Brisebois has been having a steady season on the Comet's backend, tieing his career-high of three goals and adding nine assists. He is currently on pace for a career-high of 28 points. It has been, in part, Brisebois' strong defensive play that has helped allow Rafferty to jump into the play for offensive opportunities.

Continuing with the defence, Olli Juolevi bounced back from missing time with hip soreness to put up eight points in 12 December games. In 26 games this year, he is up to the same one goal and 12 assists that he put up in 18 games last season. Having Juolevi and Rafferty clicking on separate defence pairs gives the Comets some nice offence from the backend.

Olli has been doing great work on the penalty kill this year as well. He has been a shot-blocking machine in Utica, eating minutes on the penalty kill and in all situations.

Mikey DiPietro spent some time up with the big club in December, so he only saw three starts, but he went 2-1 for his efforts. DiPietro currently sits second amongst rookie goaltenders in the AHL with a 2.70 goals-against average.

Zane McIntyre, for his part, went 4-1-2 in December, while Richard Bachman went 1-1-1.

The Comets outscored their opponents by a margin of 50-45 for the month of December and their 124 goals on the season are tops in the AHL. They have also allowed 104 goals, which is 12th worst in the league.

Rookie defenders Josh Teves and Mitch Eliot have had a tougher time finding regular minutes than fellow rookies Juolevi and Rafferty. Teves played five games in December, while Eliot saw three games of action. Neither player picked up any points in their limited time.

Teves has played 20 games so far this year and has one assist for his efforts, while Eliot has skated in 13 games and has five points. Both will be looking to get into the lineup on more of a regular basis in the new year.

Plays of the Month

Lukas Jasek knocks in a shorty after some nice work from the Captain. Carter Bancks and Jasek have been money on the PK this season.

Tweet from @UticaComets: Bancks activates the spin cycle and finds @LukasJasek in front for the shorty! Comets lead 2-1!#UTIvsTOR

Olli Juolvei tees it up and Jonah Gadjovich unloads with the one-timer.

Tweet from @UticaComets: Bombs away from @JGadjovich and we're tied at two!#BRIvsUTI

It's usually Boucher with the one-timer from one knee, but this time he plays set-up man for Kole Lind.

Tweet from @UticaComets: Boucher finds @klind13 for Utica's second power play goal of the game!#UTIvsBRI

TheBigFella s tarted this play with a nice takeaway in the Comets end before wheeling down the right side and dishing to Goldy.

Tweet from @UticaComets: @zmacewen11 feeds @NG078 and he makes no mistake to tie the game at three!#UTIvsBRI

Watch how Rafferty takes a few extra strides to draw his defender closer to him before dishing to Jasek for the goal.

Tweet from @UticaComets: Sweeeeet pass from @brogan_rafferty to @LukasJasek and the Comets are back on top 4-3!#UTIvsBRI

Some great second effort from Jasek and the wheels from Bailey. Those two formed a pretty potent trio along with Kole Lind for a stretch of games in December.

Tweet from @UticaComets: Mayhem in front and @LukasJasek puts in his sixth of the year!#TORvsUTI

Peep this quick release from Guillaume Brisebois.

Tweet from @UticaComets: .@GBrisebois55 shows off some pin point accuracy!#TORvsUTI

Francis Perron took a stick in the eye recently and will miss some time, but he showed some fantastic hustle on the backcheck to break up this play.

Tweet from @ChrisFaber39: Acknowledge the hustle.Francis Perron.

Jonah Gadjovich shows us that his hands are good for more than pugilistic endeavours.

Tweet from @UticaComets: .@JGadjovich with an absolute laser puts the Comets within two!#BRIvsUTI

Zack MacEwen shows some finish with a sweet backhander.

Tweet from @UticaComets: .@carter_camper threads the needle to find @zmacewen11 who finishes on the backhand!#UTIvsBEL

We will wrap things up with Brogan Rafferty and his bomb from the left circle.

Tweet from @UticaComets: .@brogan_rafferty unleashes a bomb off the faceoff and the Comets have their first lead of the night!#LAVvsUTI

The Comets have a full schedule of 13 games for the month of January. Stay tuned to find out how the first month of 2020 went for the farm club.

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