Comets Bend but Can't Break Devil-ish Curse
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Dec 30, 2015
In the eighth meeting between the clubs the Utica Comets were finally able to record their first point against the franchise that used to call Utica home in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Albany Devils on Wednesday night at the Times Union Center. The Comets entered tonight’s contest having lost all seven of their previous match-ups in regulation.
Blair Jones (1-0-1), and Hunter Shinkaruk (1-0-1) handled the scoring for the Comets, while Richard Bachman turned aside 23 of the Devils 26 shots on goal.
For the third straight game the Comets surrendered the game’s first goal. Reid Boucher dug the puck out from underneath a scrum along the half wall and cut across the bottom of the face-off circle. With four Comets players stuck on one side of the ice, defenseman Reece Scarlett streaked in from the blue line unchecked and put the finishing touches on a cross crease pass from Boucher for his first goal of the season.
Just under 10 minutes later the Comets power play snapped an 0-for-16 skid to knot the game at 1-1. After he received a pass from Michael Zalewski, Jordan Subban skated across the blue line before wristing an innocent looking shot on net. Jones, who was camped out at the top of the crease, redirected the shot past Danis for his ninth goal of the season.
The Devils would regain their lead in the beginning stages of the second period. Off a three-on-two rush, Paul Thompson put a shot on net that Bachman denied. Jim O’Brien crashed hard and had two point blank rebound chances. Bachman turned aside the first chance, but did not have an answer for the second one.
Grenier forced a turnover at center ice and along with Shinkaruk broke in on a two-on-one. With the Devils defender’s stick laying flat on the ice, Grenier saucer passed the puck over the stick of the defender, and across the slot, to Shinkaruk who quickly roofed it over the sprawled out Devils’goaltender.
Regulation ended with the teams tied at two.
The Devils only needed 58 seconds in overtime to claim their eighth straight victory over the Comets. The 2015-16 American Hockey League’s MVP, Brian O’Neill, entered the Comets zone with his linemates flanked to either side. He slipped the puck to O’Brien who wristed a shot on goal from just below the dot that Bachman appeared to have gobbled up. However, the puck dribbled out to the far side and O’Brien tapped home the rebound before Bachman or a defender could clear it.
With the overtime loss the Comets record fell to 16-15-3-2. The Comets power play snapped an 0-for-16 skid with a power-play goal in the first period, and ended the game 1 for 4. The Devils top-ranked power-play unit was blanked on four attempts by the Comets penalty-killing unit.
The Comets and Devils will conclude their home-and-home series tomorrow night at The AUD. The New Year’s Eve showdown is scheduled for a 5 p.m. puck drop.
Tonight’s Game: Tonight, the Utica Comets will get their eighth crack at trying to solve the Albany Devils for the first time in franchise history when they visit the Times Union Center in Albany, NY. The North Division match-up takes on a bit of extra importance with just one point separating the second-place Devils, and the fourth-place Comets.
The fourth-place Comets have collected a point in 13 of their last 15 games for a season total of 36 points, while the second-place Albany Devils have collected 37 points.
Last Game: For the second straight night the Utica Comets surrendered the game’s first goal early on in the first period, and for the second straight night the Comets rallied to take home the victory. Supported by goals scored by four of the Comets newest defensemen, the Comets defeated the Syracuse Crunch 4-2 Sunday afternoon at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Scouting the Devils: The American Hockey League’s best team on both the power play and penalty kill have been a streaky team as of late. After winning seven straight games from Nov. 20 to Dec. 11, the Devils proceeded to lose their next four games before beating Providence 4-1 on Saturday. During their seven game streak the Devils filled opponents’ nets at a 3.14 goals per game clip, while allowing just one goal per game. The script was flipped during their four-game losing streak, as the scored one goal per game compared to their opponents to score an average of four goals per game. Leading the way in points for the Devils is right winger Mike Sislo (13-10-23), with 23 points in 28 games. The Albany Devils received a big boost to their roster recently when the New Jersey Devils reassigned 2014-15 AHL MVP and Calder Cup Champion Brian O’Neill to their AHL roster. The former Monarch scored his first AHL goal of the season on Saturday. In net, Yann Danis and his fourth-best goals against average of 2.01 has appeared in 23 of the team’s 28 games.
One Must End: The Comets franchise-best eight game road winning streak will collide head-on with Albany’s franchise-high home winning streak of seven games. The league’s best team at home, by percentage points (.821), have outscored teams 46-19 en route to an 11-2-1-0 record.
Streaker: When asked if he would be giving his stick out to a fan after being named third star on Sunday, Brendan Gaunce replied with an unwavering “no.” You can’t blame him, that stick has Gaunce on a career-best five game point streak. In that stretch the 2012 first round draft pick of the Canucks has picked up four goals, and three assists, as well as a +8 rating. Since Gaunce returned from an injury on December 9th, the team is 6-0-1-1 and hehas collected nine points (4-5-9) in the process.
Enter Sandman: This season when the Comets enter the third period with a lead, the team is a perfect 12-0-0-0. As a franchise, the Comets have never lost in regulation, and is 63-0-4-0 all-time in such scenarios.
Next Game: The Comets and Devils will conclude their home-and-home series tomorrow night at The AUD. The New Year’s Eve showdown is scheduled for a 5 p.m. puck drop.