Comets Double Up on the Crunch
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Dec 27, 2015
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. With the win, the Comets improved their record in the Galaxy Cup series to 3-1-0-0 this year.
The new kids on the Comets block, David Shields (1-1-2), John Kurtz (1-0-1), and Jon Landry (1-0-1) all recorded their first goals as members of the Comets. Danny Syvret (1-0-1) scored his second goal, and fourth point, since joining the team just nine days ago, while Bachman picked up his sixth win of the season, and lowered his season goals against average to 2.19 with a 29 save performance. Brendan Gaunce (0-1-1) extended his point streak to five games with an assist on Landry’s second period goal.
The scoring started off quickly after when the Crunch capitalized on Comets Too Many Men penalty just 3:09 into the game. With the power play unit set-up in the Comets zone, Anthony DeAngelo slid the puck over to his defensive partner, Dylan Blujus. Blujus sidestepped a Comets defender, which created an open lane for him to slip a shot past Bachman.
Minutes ticked away before the Comets would find an answer to the Crunch’s power play goal. With 2:04 remaining in the opening period, David Shields collected a pass from Alexandre Grenier, and backhanded the puck past Vasilevkiy for his first goal as a Comet. Hunter Shinkaruk picked up his now team-leading 12th assist on the goal.
The teams entered the second period knotted at 1-1. The Comets nabbed their first lead of the game when John Kurtz redirected a blast from John Negrin past the Crunch’s netminder. Michael Zalewski picked up the secondary assist.
The Comets held their lead until they reached 13:27 mark of the second period. The Crunch capitalized yet again on the power play after Subban went to the sin bin for tripping. Tanner Richard cleanly won the draw to Matt Taormina at the point. The defenseman quickly slid the puck over to his blue line partner, Slater Koekkoek, who quickly fired a shot into the back of the net.
Just four minutes later the Comets regained their lead, this time for good. Jon Landry unleashed a rocket of a shot from the blue line that screamed past heavy traffic in front, and past Vasilevskiy. Jordan Subban and Gaunce picked up the helpers.
Danny Syvret added an insurance tally early in the third period when he ripped a slap shot from the point past Vasilevskiy just 2:53 into the final frame. Assisting on the goal was David Shields and Alex Friesen.
With the win the Comets improved their record to 16-15-2-2, and created a six point buffer between them and the fifth place Rochester Americans for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division. The loss dropped the Crunch to .500 with a 12-12-4-1 record.
The Comets will continue their hectic post-Christmas schedule with a home-and-home series against the Albany Devils starting Wednesday night in Albany. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Times Union Center. After that, the Comets return home for a 5 p.m. New Year’s Eve showdown at The AUD against the same Devils team.
NOTES: During the game the Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning announced that the club has recalled defenseman Ashton Sautner from the Comets. Sautner, 21, has recorded eight points (3-5-8) and two penalty minutes in 19 games with Utica this year, his first professional season. The 6’1”, 181-pound native of Flaxcombe, Saskatchewan native was signed by the Canucks as a free agent on March 14, 2015…The sold out game was the 30th consecutive sell out at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Tonight’s Game: The Utica Comets will host the Tampa Bay Lightning’s top minor league affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, today at 3 p.m. at the Utica Memorial Auditorium in the fourth installment of The Galaxy Cup rivalry. The Comets hold a 2-1-0-0 series edge this season.
The Comets currently sit in fourth place in the Western Conference’s North Division with 34 points, and sit just a point out of third place, and three points behind second. The Crunch are a slot behind the Comets, in fifth place, with 29 points.
Last Game: Riding a 32-save performance from Richard Bachman, the Utica Comets ran their franchise-high road winning streak to eight games with a 3-1 win over the Rochester Americans at the Blue Cross Arena last night. Cole Cassels (1-0-1), Blair Jones (1-0-1), and Jordan Subban (1-0-1) each found the back of the net in the victory.
Scouting the Crunch: The last time the Comets and Crunch met was back on Dec. 5 at the War Memorial in Syracuse. In that game, the Comets stunned the Crunch with four third period goals that erased, and then conquered, the Crunch’s 2-0 lead. Since then the Crunch have played eight games, winning just two of them including last night’s 3-1 win over Springfield. Rookie defenseman Anthony DeAngelo (3-16-19) leads all Crunch players in points with 19, and assists with 16. Pacing the way in goals is Jeff Tambellini (11-6-17), who is seeing his first AHL action since the 2010-11 season. Four different goaltenders have manned the blue ice for the Crunch this season,the leading active goaltender, in all categories, is Andrei Vasilevskiy. In seven games, the Russian netminder possesses a 4-2-1-0 record, a 1.87 goals against average, and if he had played in enough games to qualify, a would be league’s third best save percentage of .937.
Captain Americans: Having two quality goaltenders is not a new concept to Comets fans after last season’s duo of Jacob Markstrom and Joacim Eriksson led the Comets all-Sweden tandem in net. This season, it’s the Americans leading the charge. Richard Bachman’s strong play lately has lowered his goals against average to 2.21, eigth best in the AHL, while Joe Cannata’s 2.49 GAA is good for 14th best.
Return with a Vengeance: After missing seven games with an injury, Brendan Gaunce has returned to the line-up red hot. The 2012 first round draft pick is currently riding a four game point streak that has seen him collect six points (4-2-6), and catapult himself to second on the team in goals, and third in points.
Enter Sandman: This season when the Comets enter the third period with a lead, the team is a perfect 11-0-0-0. As a franchise, the Comets have never lost in regulation, and is 62-0-4-0 all-time in such scenarios.
Past Matchups Against the Crunch: The Comets have gone 7-2-2-1 against the Crunch since the 2013 season, and are 4-0-1-1 at home against Syracuse in that time. Utica went 3-2-1-0 against the Crunch last season.
Next Game: The Comets will continue their hectic post-Christmas schedule with a home-and-home series against the Albany Devils starting Wednesday night in Albany. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Times Union Center. After that, the Comets return home for a 5 p.m. New Year’s Eve showdown at The AUD against the same Devils team.