Hulak's Late Tally Vaults Comets to Victory
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Oct 29, 2016
Derek Hulak’s (1-1-2) goal with 6:18 remaining in the third period vaulted the Utica Comets to a 4-3 victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack Saturday evening. Michael Chaput (0-1-1) picked up an assist on the team’s second goal of the game to extend his season-opening point streak to seven games. The Comets record now sits at 2-5-0-0.
Jordan Subban (1-1-2), David Shields (0-2-2), and Hulak recorded multi-point games for the Comets. Curtis Valk (1-0-1) scored his third goal of the season, and paced the Comets with seven shots on goal. Richard Bachman picked up his second victory of the season with a 31-save performance.
The Comets struggling penalty killing unit was put to the test early when Wacey Hamilton was whistled for a tripping penalty just 2:26 into the contest. A harmless dump into the Comets zone turned tragic when the puck ricocheted awkwardly off the partition in the glass and into the slot. As Richard Bachman scrambled to get back to the crease, Tanner Glass tapped the puck into the gaping net to give the Wolf Pack a 1-0 lead just 2:52 into the game.
The teams traded penalties and chances until the Comets exploded for three goals in a span of two minutes and 29 seconds. Archibald, from below the goal line, found Kunyk unmarked in the slot to tie the game at 1-1. Kunyk’s goal was his first as a Comet, in his first game with the Comets.
A couple of minutes later Subban wired a shot through traffic and past Skapski for his fourth goal of the season, and his third multi-point game. On the power play, Chaput won an offensive zone faceoff draw to Derek Hulak. Hulak chipped the puck back to Subban, who walked the blue line before he snapped a shot off that planted him atop the league’s goal scoring leaderboard for defenseman.
Just 14 seconds later Shields’ perfect two-line pass sprung Valk on a breakaway. Valk darted through both the Wolf Pack defenders before slipping the puck between the legs of Skapski for his third tally of the year.
The Wolf Pack mounted a comeback with a power-play goal from Ryan Graves in the waning minutes of the second period to crawl within a goal, before Cristoval Nieves tied the game at three 5:38 into the third period.
With the game now tied at 3-3, the Comets received a bit of their own puck luck when Hulak’s shot from the top of the circle deflected off Nieves’ skate and past Skapski to give Hulak his third goal in just four games with the Comets. Borna Rendulic recorded an assist on the game-winning goal for his first point with the Comets.
A scary moment in the third took place when Comets defenseman Ashton Sautner had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher. After he cleared the puck out of his defensive zone, he was on the receiving end of a check that sent him awkwardly into the end boards. He was alert and responsive as he left the ice, and was taken to a local hospital for precautionary reasons.
The Comets power play went 1-for-5 on the evening, while the penalty kill went allowed two goals on three opportunities.
The Comets are off for a couple days before two midweek games on Tuesday and Wednesday against the St. John’s IceCaps. Puck drop for each of those games are scheduled for 6 p.m. eastern.
UTICA COMETS (1-5-0-0) vs. HARTFORD WOLF PACK (3-3-0-0)
XL Center, 7 p.m.
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Tonight’s Game:The Utica Comets begin a four-game road trip tonight in Hartford, CT when they take on the Wolf Pack at the XL Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Last Game: Michael Chaput (0-1-1) extended his season-opening point streak to six games in the Utica Comets 4-2 loss to the Providence Bruins at the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Friday night. The Comets’ third consecutive loss moved the club’s record to 1-5-0-0 on the season.
Derek Hulak (1-0-1) and Jordan Subban (1-0-1) accounted for the Comets scoring. Chaput’s third period assist gave him seven on the season, good for second most in the American Hockey League. Goaltender Thatcher Demko stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced in his third professional start.
Head-to-Head: The Comets are 1-2-0-1 all-time against the Wolf Pack.
Scouting the Wolf Pack: With wins over St. John’s, Lehigh Valley, and Hershey, the New York Rangers top minor league affiliate is off to a .500 start at 3-3-0-0. The Pack received a bit of a boost yesterday when former 10th overall draft pick, defenseman Dylan McIlrath, was reassigned to Hartford. Last season, McIlrath collected four points (2-2-4), 64 penalty minutes, and a +7 rating in 34 games with the New York Rangers. Marek Hrivik (3-4-7), and former Comets forward Nicklas Jensen (2-3-5) pace the Wolf Pack in the points department. In net, Magnus Hellberg has appeared in four games where he has collected a 3-1-0-0 record, a 3.39 goals against average, and a .880 save percentage.
Leaderboard Alert: Newcomer Michael Chaput has recorded eight points (1-7-8) in the Comets first six games of the season. His seven assists thus far is the second most in the AHL, trailing only Brandon Leipsic’s 9 assists in seven games with the Toronto Marlies. Chaput, a third round draft pick of the Flyers in the 2010 NHL Draft, won a Calder Cup championship last season with the Lake Erie Monsters. He finished second on the Monsters last season with 45 points.
Power Play Surge: Converting at a 24% rate (6 for 25), the Comets power play has been red hot to start the season and is ranked seventh in the league.
Next Game: We hit the road for Hartford, CT immediately following tonight’s game for a game tomorrow night against the Wolf Pack. Puck drop from the XL Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.