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Comets Rout Phantoms

by Mark Caswell, Jr.

Nov 25, 2015

The Utica Comets scored in bunches on Wednesday night and gave their fans thanks, the night before Thanksgiving, when they defeated the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 7-1 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday night.

Alex Biega (1-1-2), Alex Friesen (1-1-2), Taylor Fedun (1-1-2), Carter Bancks (0-2-2), and Wacey Hamilton (1-1-2) all enjoyed two-point nights. Blair Jones (2-0-2) scored twice, and Joseph LaBate (1-0-1) potted his first professional goal, while Joe Cannata made 27 saves in the win.

The Comets jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead just 2:33 into the game when Alex Friesen won an offensive zone face-off clean, stepped around the opposing centerman, and rifled the puck past Anthony Stolarz. The unassisted goal was Friesen’s second of the season.

Fedun doubled the Comets lead to 2-0 just five minutes into the second period with his third goal of the season. On the power play, Fedun fired a wrist shot to the right of the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. Biega and Friesen assisted on Fedun’s goal.

The Comets then took a 3-0 lead 15:26 into the second, when Biega put a one-timer into the net off of a perfect pass from Linden Vey for his first goal of the season. Nicklas Jensen also assisted on the goal.

Wacey Hamilton would score just 1:50 later to give the Comets a 4-0 lead. Hamilton came down the right side of the ice, made a move to get past the goalkeeper, and backhanded the puck into the net for his second goal of the season. Bancks and Fedun collected assists on the tally.

The Comets completed their four goal third period when Blair Jones scored his fifth goal of the season. Jones fired a slap shot off the post, and in after he received a pass from Darren Archibald.

Jones tic-tac-toe goal 3:03 into the third period stretched the Comets lead to 6-0. Wacey Hamilton stole the puck away from a Phantom defenseman, quickly passed it to Carter Bancks who dished it off to Jones to finish off in front of the net for his second goal of the game and sixth of the season.

The Phantoms finally got on the board at the 9:11 mark of the third period with a goal from Aaron Palushaj.

Joseph LaBate capped off the Comets’ scoring with his first goal as a professional. LaBate received a pass from Ronalds Kenins, and finished it off with a wrist shot to give the Comets a 7-1 lead. Jordan Subban also assisted on the play.

The Comets outshot the Phantoms 33-28. The Comets power play went 1-for-6, while the penalty-killing unit was a perfect 3-for-3.

With the win, Utica improves to 7-8-1-1 on the season. The loss drops the Phantoms to 8-10-1-0. The Comets are now 3-0-0-0, and have outscored opponents 18-2 in their new green alternate sweaters.

The Comets will be on the road for their next game, as they will travel to Portland, ME to take on the Florida Panthers AHL affiliate, Portland Pirates on Friday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Utica Memorial Auditorium, 7pm
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Tonight’s Game: The Comets are back at home to take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms tonight at 7pm. This will be the Comets’ first time meeting the Philadelphia Flyers’ top minor league affiliate since the team moved to Lehigh Valley, from Glens Falls, after the 2013-14 season.

The Phantoms currently sit in sixth place in the Atlantic Division with 17 points. The Comets are currently in sixth place in the North Division with 14 points.

 Last Game: The Comets snapped their four game losing streak this past Sunday when they visited the Hartford Wolf Pack at the XL Center. Alexandre Greiner and Hunter Shinkaruk both netted power-play goals before Darren Archibald scored the game-winning goal in the third period. Richard Bachman recorded his first win as a Comet with a 16 save performance.

Scouting the Phantoms: Riding Petr Straka’s six-game goal scoring streak, the Phantoms have collected a point in five out of their past six games (4-1-1-0). Boasting an offense that is fourth in the league in scoring, the Phantoms have six players that have posted double-digit point totals. Those players are forwards Nick Cousins (5-13-18), Straka (12-3-15), Chris Conner (5-9-14), Tim Brent (5-8-13), Daniel Martel (7-3-10), and (currently in the NHL) defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (2-8-10). In net, Anthony Stolarz’s 1.93 goals against average is third-best in the AHL, amongst goaltenders that have appeared in at least nine games.

Alexandre the Great: After making his National Hockey League debut for the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 18 vs the Winnipeg Jets, the Alexandre Grenier collected three points (1-2-3) in three games for the Comets this weekend. Grenier’s tally on Sunday kicked off what would come to be a three-goal comeback victory for the Comets, over the Hartford Wolf Pack. The Canucks third round draft pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Level Draft has collected 10 points (3-7-10) this season after finishing third on the team with 43 points (17-26-43) during the 2014-15 season. He led the team in power-play goals (11), forwards in plus/minus (+13), and unleashed the second most shots on the team (182).

Lucky Number 3: When the Comets fail to reach the three goal mark in a game, the team is 0-7-1-0 this season. When they successfully strike three times, the team is 6-1-0-1.

Special Teams: The Comets power-play unit has successfully converted on 13 of their 73 opportunities (17.8%) this season. The 11th-ranked unit is one of five teams this season that has yet to allow a short-handed goal against. With a successful kill percentage of 85.3% (62 out of 73), the Comets penalty-killing unit ranks as the 10th best in the AHL. The team’s two short-handed tallies are tied for the seventh most in the league.

Among the Best: Hunter Shinkaruk’s breakout campaign has seen the forward tally 11 goals thus far, which is tied for the third in the American Hockey League, just one goal behind the league’s co-leaders, Petr Straka and Devin Shore. Six of Shinkaruk’s goals have come while on the power play, which again, is second-most in the league, just one behind Mike Sislo of the Albany Devils. The Vancouver Canucks’ 24th overall draft pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Level Draft enjoyed a 31-point rookie season last year with 16 goals in 74 games.

Next Game: The Comets hit the road to take on The Portland Pirates this Friday and Saturday. The Comets defeated Portland back on Nov 4. at The AUD with a final score of 3-2. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm.

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