Comets Swab the Deck with the Pirates
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Nov 28, 2015
The Utica Comets completed their perfect 3-0-0-0 week with their second win in as many nights over the Portland Pirates at the Cross Insurance Arena on Saturday night. The 6-3 win extended the Comets season-high winning streak to four games, and their record against the Pirates to 3-0-0-0.
Travis Ehrhardt (2-0-2), Michael Zalewski (1-1-2), Alexandre Grenier (0-2-2) and Carter Bancks (0-2-2) all enjoyed multi-point nights for the Comets, while goaltender Joe Cannata made 31 saves and collected his sixth win of the season. Ashton Sautner (1-0-1), Alex Friesen (1-0-1) and Nicklas Jensen (1-0-1) also found the back of the net for the boys in blue.
Just like the game played the night before, the Comets scored the first goal of the game just a few minutes into the tilt. From the top of the face-off circle, Sautner unleashed a slap shot that screamed over the Mike McKenna’s right shoulder for the defenseman’s second goal of the season. Michael Zalewski, and Hunter Shinkaruk picked up assists on the goal.
About 10 minutes later the Comets allowed their first short-handed goal of the season when Garrett Wilson skated from his own blue line, into the Comets zone, and slipped a wrist shot from the high slot past Cannata.
The Comets collected themselves before striking twice in a span of 82 seconds. Ehrhardt would be the one that put the Comets back in the lead at the 13:32 mark of the first period. Jon Landry set-up the goal when he drew four Pirates defenders to him, which left Ehrhardt all alone at the top of the circle across the ice. Ehrhardt received the pass from his defensive partner, faked a shot to drop the final Pirates defender to his knees, stepped around him, and snapped a shot past McKenna.
After the goal, Cameron Gaunce was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct when he interfered with the Comets celebration, setting up the Comets next tally.
From behind the net, Linden Vey found Jensen all alone on the doorstep with a pass that Jensen would not miss. Alexandre Grenier also picked up an assist on the play. With the power-play marker, the Comets have now scored a power-play goal in five straight games.
Early into the second period the Pirates cut the Comets lead in half. Cannata made a leg pad save on Rob Flick’s shot, but John McFarland crashed the net hard and popped the rebound into the net for his fifth goal of the season.
6:44 into the second period Ehrhardt struck again, this time short-handed. With an offensive zone face-off, Bancks cleanly won the draw back to his defenseman. Ehrhardt quickly wristed a shot into the back of the net from the top of the circle to increase the Comets lead to 4-2. The goal was Ehrhardt’s fourth of the season, and set a new season-high total for him.
The two goal lead did not last long, just 59 seconds to be exact. Sena Acolaste collected a rebound and banked a shot off of Cannata’s leg pad and in.
Five minutes into the third period the Comets, for the third time, captured a two-goal lead. The Comets caught the Pirates on a line change when John Negrin sprung Zalewski on a breakaway with a home run pass. Zalewski slipped a backhand shot underneath McKenna’s pads to extend the Comets lead to 5-3.
An empty-net goal by Alex Friesen with 1:07 left on the clock put the final touches on the victory.
With the win the Comets’ record improves to 9-8-1-1 on the season, while the win dropped the Pirates’ record to 7-10-0-0 this season. The Comets power play converted on one of their two power-play attempts, while the penalty-killing unit successfully killed all three of the Pirates power plays.
The Comets are back in action when they return home on Wednesday for a rematch with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm, and a limited amount of tickets are available for purchase.
NOTE: Prior to the game, Comets Director of Hockey Operations, Pat Conacher, announced that the team released defenseman Drew Daniels from his professional tryout contract.
Tonight’s Game: The Comets are in beautiful Portland, Maine for the final game of a two-game road trip vs. the Portland Pirates. The fifth-place Comets are now 2-0-0-0 vs the Florida Panthers’ American Hockey League affiliate after last night’s 4-1 victory. Puck drop is scheduled for 7p.m. tonight.
Last Game: The Comets ran their win streak to a season-best three games with a 4-1 win against the Pirates. Carter Bancks, Blair Jones, and Taylor Fedun netted goals in the victory, while Richard Bachman posted a 29-save performance.
About the Pirates: The Florida Panthers’ AHL-affiliate has posted a 4-4-0-0 record since their visit to The AUD back on Nov. 4, including losses in their last three games, two to the Hershey Bears, and one to the Comets. Leading the way in goals and points for the Pirates is central, NY native Rob Schremp (7-5-12). Cameron Gaunce, brother of Comets forward Brendan Gaunce, is second on the team in points, and paces the Pirates in assists (10), and plus/minus +6. In net, Mike McKenna has backstopped the club to a 6-6-0-0 record in 13 games. He has posted a 2.77 goals against average along with a .890 save percentage.
Bancksgiving Weekend: Carter Bancks celebrated his 300th professional game (298 in the AHL, 2 in the NHL) last night with first ever two goal game. He scored the game’s first goal on a deflection, and then added an insurance tally with an empty-net goal. He also chipped in an assist on Blair Jones’ empty-net goal for his second-career three point night. The 25-year old veteran posted 14 points (6-8-14), 44 penalty minutes, and a plus-seven rating in 57 games with the Comets last season.
F-Bombs: Defenseman Taylor Fedun scored on the power play last night for the Comets. The goal served as the game-winning goal. If that sounds familiar, it’s because he did the exact same thing Wednesday night against Lehigh Valley. All four of his goals have come on the power play this season. He also scored in back-to-back games on Oct. 30 at Binghamton, and Oct. 31 at Albany.
Blair Jones Project: With a goal and an assist in last night’s victory, Comets forward Blair Jones has back-to-back multi-point games. He scored twice in Wednesday’s win over his former team, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
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. Six of Shinkaruk’s goals have come while on the power play, which 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.
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 8-1-0-1.
Internet Superstar: You can add internet sensation to Comets forward Joseph LaBate’s resume, after he had an eventful game on Wednesday. His first pro hockey fight did not go well, and produced an image for the ages. He re-entered the game after getting some medical work in the locker room, and scored his first professional goal. His story, and images, took the internet by storm when CBS, Sports Illustrated, and BarDown (amongst others), ran with the story.