Jensen's Ol' Faithful Takes Down the Amerks
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Dec 9, 2015
The Utica Comets and Rochester Americans needed overtime and then some, to settle Wednesday night’s contest at the Blue Cross Arena. After scoring in their two shootout attempts, and denying the Amerks in both of theirs, the Comets took home a 4-3 shootout victory.
Brendan Gaunce (0-2-2), and Andrey Pedan (1-1-2) enjoyed multi-point games for the boys in blue. Linden Vey (1-0-1), and Alex Friesen (1-0-1) tallied goals in regulation for the Comets, while Joe Cannata made 31 saves in the victory.
The Comets got the scoring going early just minutes into the game, and 15 seconds into their first power play of the evening. With the power play unit perfectly deployed in their umbrella formation, Taylor Fedun hammered a slap shot from a step inside the blue. Andrey Makarov made the save, but could not collect the rebound before Nicklas Jensen could tip it over to Brendan Gaunce, stationed to Makarov’s left. Gaunce one-touched a pass across the crease to Vey who tapped it in before Makarov could reposition himself.
The Amerks were able to return the favor with a power-play goal of their own just 1:01 into the second when Comets’ defenseman John Negrin errantly deflected a Matt Donovan shot on goal up and over his own goaltender. Former Comet Bobby Sanguinetti assisted on the tally.
Just three minutes later the Comet penalty-killing unit let them down for a second time. After Cannata turned aside a Chad Ruhwedel blast from the point, Dan Catenacci banged a rebound over the shoulder of the Comets goaltender for the 2-1 lead.
Pedan was able to make-up for his four minute double minor that kick-started the Amerks second period scoring frenzy at the midway point of the game. From up the half wall, Pedan let loose a rocket of a shot that beat Makarov to the short side. Taylor Fedun picked up an assist on the play.
The 2-2 score on the scoreboard would ultimately be short-lived. Evan Rodrigues walked the puck into the slot and ripped a wrist shot that went bar down on Cannata to reestablish the Amerks one-goal lead.
After killing four straight minutes down two men, and another minute and a half down one player, the Comets were able to tie the game back up. A fast break three-on-two started with a neutral zone turnover forced by Brendan Gaunce. After he gained entry to the Amerks zone, Gaunce pulled up and fed Pedan as he streaked down the slot. Pedan redirected the pass onto Makarov who denied the original shot before Friesen quickly buried the rebound into the net.
After a scoreless third period, and a thrilling end-to-end overtime, the Comets scored twice in the shootout, courtesy of Linden Vey and Nicklas Jensen, to cap off the big victory.
With the win, the Comets improved to 11-9-2-1 record. The Amerks’s record fell to 10-11-1-1 in the loss. The Comets fired 40 shots on goal, to the Crunch’s 34.
The Comets return home to kick off a home-and-home series against the American Hockey League’s best team thus far, the Toronto Marlies. The sold out game starts at 7pm, and will be the 27th consecutive sold out game at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Tonight’s Game: The Comets head west down I-90 once again to take on the Rochester Americans at the Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester. The season series is knotted at 1-1, with both teams holding serve on their home ice. The Comets are 12-10-0-0 all-time vs. their North Division rival
The Comets are currently tied for fourth place with 23 points with the Syracuse Crunch in the Eastern Conference’s North Division.
Last Game: The Utica Comets and Syracuse Crunch added yet another unbelievable chapter to the ever-growing I-90 rivalry on Saturday night. The Comets scored four third period goals in the final 6:13 of the game to erase a 2-0 Crunch lead at the War Memorial at the OnCenter. The win serves as the Comets first third period comeback victory of the season, as well as the Crunch’s first blown third period lead.
Scouting the Amerks: Despite signing two of the Comets leaders (Cal O’Reilly and Bobby Sanguinetti) in the off-season, the Amerks have struggled to get any momentum going so far. As a team they have allowed the second most goals in the league (80), and have scored the fourth fewest (53). The special teams for Rochester has also struggled with a power-play unit that ranks at 25th, and a penalty-killing until that ranks as 28th in the league. The Amerks top point-getter, O’Reilly (3-11-14) is currently a member of the Buffalo Sabres after being recalled to the big club on Saturday. In his absence, Jason Akeson (4-9-13), and Phil Varone (8-4-12) lead the team in points. In net, Andrey Makarov (11 GP) and Nathan Lieuwen (9 GP) have split time since Linus Ullmark’s call-up back on Oct. 23. Makarov has a 4-5-1-0 record, a 3.34 goals against average, and a .899 save percentage, while Lieuwen has collected a 5-4-0-0 record, 3.66 GAA, and an .891 save percentage.
V for Virtanen: Remember, remember, the eighth of December. That is the day Jake Virtanen was reassigned to the Utica Comets on conditioning. The 19-year old forward has played 19 games, recording four points (1-3-4) and 15 penalty minutes in his rookie season with the Vancouver Canucks. During the 2014-15 season, Virtanen appeared in 50 games with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, where he scored 52 points (21-31-52) and logged 82 penalty minutes. He played 14 playoff games (5-8-13) for the Hitmen last season before joining the Comets for their Calder Cup Finals run and played in another 10 postseason games (0-1-1).
Road Warriors: After starting 1-5-1-0 on the road, the Comets have won four straight such games dating back to their Nov. 22 contest in Hartford. The franchise record for consecutive road wins is five, which was set during last year’s playoff push from Mar. 14 to April 4.
New Sheriff in Town: Alexandre Grenier’s empty-net goal in Saturday’s game not only served as the exclamation point in the Comets thrilling come-from-behind victory, it tied him with Brandon DeFazio for goals scored in a Comets sweater with 38. The Vancouver Canucks third round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Level Draft enjoyed back-to-back to seasons with 17 goals entering this season. In 22 games this season, Grenier has four goals to go along with nine assists and 20 penalty minutes. The 6’4” forward also chipped in six goals during last season’s memorable Calder Cup Playoffs.
Lucky Number 3: When the Comets fail to reach the three goal mark in a game, the team is 0-8-2-0 this season. When they successfully strike three times, the team is 10-1-0-1.
Shots, shots, and more shots: On the season the Comets have outshot opponents by 88 shots (655 to 567). In the team’s last three games, the Comets have held opponents to 20 shots or less in each game, and have totaled a 92-54 advantage. The Comets average just under 30 shots per game (29.77), and have held their opponents to 25.77 shots per game.
Not Your Average Joe: Joe Cannata’s 2.24 goals against average is the ninth best mark in the American Hockey League. Last season the Comets goaltender split time between the Comets and the ECHL’s Ontario Reign. With Utica he appeared in five games, posting a record of 3-2-0, a goals against average of 1.99, and a save percentage of .932. In 21 games with the Ontario Reign, Cannata posted a record of 12-6-2, a 2.02 goals against average, and a .927 save percentage. He also posted two shutouts for Ontario during the 2015 Playoffs.