Comets Drop Season Opener

by Mark Caswell, Jr.

Oct 10, 2015

The Utica Comets season did not get off on the right foot as they fell 2-1 to the Rochester Americans Saturday night at the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial. Amerks’ goaltender Linus Ullmark stole the show with 38 saves, several of the highlight-reel variety.

Nicklas Jensen (1-0-1) scored the Comets lone goal of the game, and Joe Cannata made 20 saves in the loss.

It took over 22 minutes for the scoreless tie to be broken. A neutral zone turnover sprung the Amerks on a half-ice two-on-one. Tim Schaller and Justin Bailey exchanged a pair of passes before Schaller wristed a shot on net. Cannata was there to stop the first two chances before Jerry D’Amigo chipped the puck over the sprawled out goalie.

Just 14 seconds later Nevins doubled the Amerks lead. Cannata stopped Nevins initial shot from the top of the crease, but had no answer for the quick rebound. Matt Ellis and Jean Dupuy both picked up their fourth points of the season with assists on the goal.

The Comets finally got on the board 5:53 into the third period. Michael Zalewski slid a pass to Hunter Shinkaruk who, from his knees, one-touched a pass to Jensen at the top of the circle. Jensen unleashed a wrist shot that screamed over the glove hand of Linus Ullmark.

The Comets penalty-killing unit went a perfect 4-for-4, while the power play went 0-for-3. Jensen and Taylor Fedun fired from everywhere, and led the Comets with six shots.

The Comets are back in action a week from tonight in Hartford, CT against the Hartford Wolf Pack. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm from the XL Center.

Blue Cross Arena at War Memorial, 7:35pm
Watch Live: AHL Live | Listen Live: Radio: 94.9 K-ROCK, Desktop or Mobile

Welcome Back: The Utica Comets take to the ice tonight for the first time since Game 5 of the Calder Cup Finals back on June 6th. The 2014-15 Western Conference Champions square off against I-90 rival, the Rochester Americans. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:35 p.m.

The American Hockey League landscape has undergone massive change since the Comets last took to the ice.

Moving East: Gone are the confusing days of figuring out why Utica, which is east of Syracuse, played in the Western Conference, and why Syracuse, west of Utica, played in the Eastern Conference. The American Hockey League Board of Governors this summer approved a major division realignment that put all five New York State teams (Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, and Binghamton) in the Eastern Conference’s North Division, along with the Toronto Marlies and the St. John’s IceCaps.

While the Comets will not be able to defend their Western Conference championship crown, they will be able to try to become back-to-back North Division champions. More importantly, the move to the Eastern Conference means more practice days and less travel days for the Comets. This season the Comets will spend 21 nights in a hotel (eight of those coming in the team’s two trips to St. John’s), compared to 30 during the 2014-15 season, and 35 in 2013-14.

Playoffs?!?: The playoffs were another factor that have been affected by change this season. The top four teams in each division ranked by points percentage (in the North Division you can get away with the old fashioned “total points”) will qualify for the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs, with one exception in each conference: if the fifth-place team in the Atlantic or Central Division finishes with a better points percentage than the fourth-place team in the North or Pacific Division, it would cross over and compete in the other division’s bracket.

The 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs will feature a divisional playoff format, leading to conference finals and ultimately the Calder Cup Finals.

Overtime: Just like in the NHL, the AHL will go to a three-on-three format for five minutes. Gone are the days of the seven minute hybrid overtime. After the five minute sudden-death overtime, there will be a three-player shootout.

Coach’s Challenge: You won’t see any red flags flying around like in the NFL, but new this year are Coach’s Challenges. Here’s how they work. A team may request a formal Coach’s Challenge if they have their timeout available. The Coach’s Challenge must be effectively initiated prior to the resumption of play.

Situations Subject to Review:

-Puck crossing the goal line
-Puck crossing the goal line prior to the goal frame being dislodged
-Puck crossing the goal line prior to, or after expiration of time, at the end of the period
-Puck directed or batted into the bet by a hand or foot or deliberately batted with any part of the attacking player’s body. With the use of a foot/skate, was a distinct kicking motion evident? If so, the apparent goal must be disallowed
-To determine whether the puck entered the net by going through the net meshing
-To determine whether the puck entered the net from underneath the net frame
-Any situation in which the puck may have entered the net undetected by the Referee

If the coach’s challenge does not result in the original call on the ice being overturned, the team exercising such challenge will forfeit it’s time out.

Tonight’s Foe: The Amerks, in their 60th-anniversary season, kicked off their season last night with a 6-3 win over the Lake Erie Monsters last night. Veteran forward Matt Ellis netted a hat trick. Rookie Jean Dupuy assisted on all three goals as the tandem got off to a hot start.

If the Amerks look like a completely different team this year, it is because they are. Just seven players that skated in last night’s game appeared in their 2014-15 season finale. Due to a massive roster overhaul over the past 9 months for their parent club, the Buffalo Sabres, the Amerks roster was decimated last year. This year, the team is re-loaded, and ready to make a run for the North Division title.

Hey, I Know You: This past week the Amerks named a familiar face as their captain for this season. Last year’s Comets captain, Cal O’Reilly, will steer the ship for the rival Amerks this season. O’Reilly, the Comets all-time leader in assists (89) and points (106), signed a one-year, one-way contract with the Buffalo Sabres over the summer. O’Reilly finished last night’s game with no points, and a +1 rating.

New Kids on the Block: The Comets roster of 28-players currently consists of nine players who have yet to play a full season in the AHL. Three rookies on defense Ashton Sautner, Anton Cederholm, and Jordan Subban, will all be looking to make their pro hockey debut tonight. Cole Cassels, and Mackenze Stewart are the offensive players hoping to make their pro hockey debut tonight.

Bench Boss: Travis Green enters his third year of being the Comets Head Coach. In that time he has compiled an 82-52-18 record (.599 winning percentage). Including playoffs the Castlegar, B.C. native has led the Comets to 105 total wins, and just three wins shy of winning the Calder Cup last season.

A Hat Trick of Medicine: Three of the top five point-scorers for the 2010-11 Medicine Hat Tigers are on the Comets roster. Linden Vey (116 points), Hunter Shinkaruk (42), and Wacey Hamilton (73) paced the Tigers to a third round exit in the WHL. Curtis Valk also played in 56 games for the Tigers, and recorded 17 points.

Complete Coverage: Can’t listen to Brendan Burke or watch the game on AHL Live? No problem! Just follow us on @UticaComets or @CometsInGame on Twitter and we’ve got you covered with live up to the minute updates and instant videos of all the Comets goals.

Next Game: After kicking off the season tonight, the Comets have a week off until they head to Hartford, CT to take on the New York Rangers AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack.

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