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FINAL: Comets 3 vs. Binghamton 4

(Comets Photo by Lindsay A. Mogle)

The Utica Comets came ever so close to extending their four game home winning streak, but a late Senator goal gave Binghamton a 4-3 victory in front of a sold out Utica Memorial Auditorium.

The fans stormed The AUD as 3,815 were on hand for the second meeting of the season between Utica and Binghamton. Alexandre Grenier had a three-point night (2-1-3), while Darren Archibald also found the back of the net for the Comets and Pascal Pelletier finished with two assists.  Joe Cannata, who made his first start on home ice since Nov. 1, finished with 30 saves on 34 shots.

The Comets struck first just 4:12 into the game as Archibald drove hard to the net and put a Pelletier rebound past Binghamton goaltender Nathan Lawson.  The goal was the fourth of the season for Archibald and the assist a team leading seventeenth for Pelletier. Grenier found the scoresheet for the second consecutive game with the secondary assist.

The Senators knotted the score at one just past the halfway point of the first as Matt Puempel buried a rebound from the right hand circle for his ninth goal of the season.  Cannata turned away Derek Grant’s slap shot but could not corral the second effort as well. Winger Andre Petersson also picked up a point on the play, his 16th of the year.

The Comets struck first just 1:26 into an exhilarating second period as Alexandre Grenier beat Lawson with a fantastic individual effort.  Pelletier put the puck into the middle where Grenier collected, spun onto his forehand and fired one past Lawson. Pelletier’s assist gave him his fifth multi-assist game of the season and defenseman Alex Biega also added a helper on the play.

Binghamton evened things up once again just 47 seconds later as Puempel scored his second of the evening. Grant fed the puck to Daniel New, whose point shot got to the front of the net where Puempel was on hand for the deflection to complete the first two goal game of his AHL career.

The Senators picked up their first lead of the evening on the power play, as Mark Stone beat Cannata off of a loose puck at back post.  Cole Schneider and Stephane Da Costa netted assists on the play as Binghamton converted with the man advantage for the second time in the game.

Grenier ensured the Comets would not trail for long as he scored one of his own on the power play, to level the score at three.  The Utica winger scored multiple times in a game for the first time in his AHL career, while he tied a career high with three points on the game.  The Comets also extended a team streak as they scored on the power play for the eighth straight game at The AUD. Patrick Mullen had the lone assist for the Comets.

The second period was filled with penalty minutes as well as goals, with the two teams combining to rack up 49 penalty minutes. Darren Archibald and Michael Sdao dropped the gloves, while Kellan Lain and Sdao each picked up misconduct penalties, the Utica man for boarding and the Senator for instigating a fight.

After a back and forth third period, the Senators found themselves the beneficiary of two late penalty calls, which put the Comets two men down in the final minute. Mike Hoffman put a one-timer past a sliding Cannata for what would prove to be the game-winning goal with just 27.9 seconds left.  The goal was the 15th of the season for Hoffman, which places him fifth in the AHL.

Binghamton finished three for six on the power play for the game against a struggling Utica penalty kill, which ranks last in the AHL at 74.3 percent on the season. The Senators have converted at a 22.5 percent clip this season, good for fifth best in the league.

The Comets look to rebound tomorrow evening as the Hamilton Bulldogs come to the Mohawk Valley for the fifth of a seven game homestand for Utica. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. from The AUD.

Utica Memorial Auditorium, 7 pm
Radio: 94.9 K-Rock

Tonight’s Game: The Utica Comets are in search of their fifth consecutive win on home ice this season, and their fourth straight overall, as the Binghamton Senators come to town for the second, and final time this season. The Comets are currently in their fourth of seven games in a row at The AUD.

When They Last Met: Utica was victorious against the Senators, 5-2, in their past meeting on Dec. 13 at The AUD. Captain Colin Stuart scored four goals for the first time in his career, while Joacim Eriksson made 42 saves on 44 shots to earn the victory. Cal O’Reilly also found the back of the net for the Comets while he (1-1-2), Darren Archibald (0-2-2), Benn Ferriero (0-2-2) and Pascal Pelletier (0-2-2) each had multi-point games.

Comets Outlook: Behind a 21 save shutout from goaltender Joacim Eriksson, the Comets won their fourth straight game over the Abbotsford Heat, this by a 3-0 margin. The Comets, who got goals from Kellan Lain, Alexandre Grenier and Benn Ferriero, became the 29th team in the league to reach the double-digit mark in wins on the season. Eriksson’s shutout was both the second of not only his career, but also in franchise history.

Senators Outlook: Binghamton won the first half of their back-to-back against the Hershey Bears last evening. Cole Schneider finished with a four-point evening (2-2-4), while teammate Stephane Da Costa added two goals of his own.  Fredrik Claussen (0-2-2) and Jim O’Brien (0-2-2) also had multi-point games for Binghamton and Nathan Lawson picked up the victory with 32 saves on 33 shots. Lawson won his second straight game since he returned from injury last week.

Bazooka Joacim: After his 3-0 blanking of the Abbotsford Heat last Friday, Joacim Eriksson is now one of just 10 goaltenders in the AHL with multiple shutouts this season. Eriksson has now won each of his last four starts and the Swede has compiled a 1.48 goals against average and a .953 save percentage in the process.

Ten For Benn: Benn Ferriero scored an empty net marker with two seconds left against the Heat, which not only iced the game but also gave him ten goals on the season.  Ferriero, who reached the double-digit plateau for the third time in his career, is also the first player in Comets history to do so.

We’re Going Streaking: The Comets are now 3-1-1-0 this season against the Heat, who are tied for the most points in the Western Conference. Utica is the only team who has defeated Abbotsford in back-to-back nights and, along with Lake Erie, the only team with multiple wins over the Heat.  The Comets are winners of their last three games.

Life In The Fast Lain: With his first period tally against Abbotsford, Kellan Lain has found the back of the net in each of Utica’s past three games played. Lain, whose active streak ranks tied for third in the AHL, now has nine points (5-4-9) this season, which ranks second on the Comets in rookie scoring,

Seven Nation Army: Courtesy of Alexandre Grenier’s goal late in the first period last Friday, the Comets have now scored a power-play goal in each of their last seven games at The AUD. Utica also now possesses the AHL’s seventh ranked power-play unit, at a 20.4 percent conversion rate and is one of just three teams that has not allowed a shorthanded goal yet this season.

Co-Linked In: Utica’s four game winning streak on home ice began with team captain Colin Stuart’s four goal effort back on Dec. 13 to lead the Comets past Binghamton 5-2. Stuart joined Matt Fraser and Linus Omark as the only players to put up four goals in an AHL game this season.

Scouting The Senators: Winger Mike Hoffman currently ranks third in the AHL with 32 points (14-18-32) and his 14 goals are fifth best in the league. Center Stephane Da Costa is also playing at a point-per-game pace with 26 points (9-17-26) over 26 games. Da Costa’s point total has him tied for 16th in the AHL and his 17 assists are tied for 12th.

Fredrik Claussen has been near the top of the league’s leaderboards all season in plus/minus, and he currently sits second with a +20 rating. Teammate Cole Schneider also ranks in the AHL’s top ten, sitting sixth at +14.

Nathan Lawson, who recently returned from injury, leads the way for the Senators in games played (16), wins (10), save percentage (.929) and goals against average (2.33).  Lawson’s save percentage ranks second in the league, while he also ranks in the league’s top 12 in wins (T11th) and goals against average (12th)