Comets Rally and Shock the Crunch

By Mark Caswell Jr.

Dec 5, 2015

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.

Nicklas Jensen (1-0-1), Wacey Hamilton (1-0-1), Alex Friesen (1-0-1), and Alexandre Grenier (1-0-1) all scored third period goals, while Bachman made 18 saves, including four highlight-reel, game-saving saves in the third period, in the victory.

“I loved the way the guys stuck with their game,” said Comets head coach Travis Green. “ (They) Played good the first two periods and stayed the course. It is nice to see them rewarded.”

The Crunch broke the scoreless tie with a minute left in the first, with a power-play goal. From just above the goal line, Adam Erne one-timed a pass from Matthew Peca, across the crease to Tye McGinn who banged it into the gaping net.

Again on the power play, Tambellini slipped down from the point, unnoticed, received a pass from Matt Taormina, and fired a shot over the glove of Bachman to double the Crunch’s lead.

The Comets broke Kristers Gudlevskis shutout bid, and cut the deficit to one, thirteen minutes into the third period. Darren Archibald forced an offensive zone turnover and slid the puck over to Linden Vey. Vey drew the Crunch defender over to him before passing it across the slot to Jensen, who banked it into the net off of a diving Gudlevskis.

The Comets tied the game just over three minutes later. Travis Ehrhardt intercepted a clearing pass up the wall, and flicked a quick shot on net. Gudlevskis made the save but directed the rebound into the slot and right onto Hamilton’s stick. Hamilton, from his knees, fired hit past the sprawling goaltender to knot the game at two.

Just 54 seconds later the comeback was completed. Michael Zalewski, on a fast break, passed it to a trailing Alex Friesen. Friesen juggled the puck around DeAngelo, fired a shot off of the mask of Gudlevski, and then jammed the rebound home before the goaltender could find the puck. The goal prompted a loud reaction from the Comets faithful, as the familiar “U-TI-CA” chants rang out during the final two minutes.

Grenier added an empty-net goal for good measure with 17 seconds to play.

“Anytime we can win against Syracuse is a big win for our team,” said Wacey Hamilton. “We know how big the rivalry is and how important these divisional games are. To get two points was huge, and to do it in that fashion made it a little sweeter.”

With the win, the Comets hit the double-digit mark in wins with a 10-9-2-1 record. The Crunch’s record fell to 12-6-4-2 in the loss. The Comets fired 33 shots on goal, to the Crunch’s 20.

The Comets brief two-game road trip concludes on Wednesday night in Rochester, when the Comets take on the Rochester Americans. Puck drop from the Blue Cross Arena is scheduled for 7pm.

SYRACUSE CRUNCH (10-6-2-1) @ UTICA COMETS (9-9-2-1)
War Memorial at the OnCenter, 7 p.m.
Television: Time Warner Cable Sports Network (Channel 26)
Watch Live: AHL Live | Listen Live: Radio: 94.9 K-ROCK, Desktop or Mobile

Tonight’s Game: The Galaxy Cup rivalry gets reignited tonight when the Comets travel 45 minutes west to pay a visit to the Syracuse Crunch. The season series is 1-1-0-0, with each team holding serve on their home ice. Combined, the Comets have outscored (5-3), and out shot (74-58) the Crunch in the two games.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm and the game will be broadcasted live on Time Warner Cable Sports.

Last Game: Despite severely out playing the St. John’s IceCaps last night at The AUD, the Comets dropped a tough 2-1 overtime loss. The boys in blue doubled the St. John’s shot output (31-15), but could only beat goaltender Edward Pasquale once. Ashton Sautner scored the lone goal for the Comets.

Scouting the Crunch: Since the Comets last visited the newly-remodeled War Memorial, the Crunch have went 3-2-2-0, including back-to-back wins where they have outscored their opponents 9-1 heading into tonight’s game. The typically low-scoring Crunch, seventh least amount of goals in the league, are led in points by a defenseman. Anthony DeAngelo (3-11-14) has a team-high 11 assists and 14 points in 18 games. Jeff Tambellini (7-5-12) leads the way in goals for the team with seven, and ranks second on the team in points. In net, Kristers Gudlevskis leads the way with the fifth-best goals against average in the league, with a 1.90 mark. The goaltender’s .938 save percentage is a league best, tied with Garret Sparks of the Toronto Marlies.

Comets Penalty Kill: The Comets penalty-killing unit had killed off 18 straight penalties, up until allowing an OT power-play goal last night. The unit has allowed just two power-play goals against since Nov. 21 against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Since then, the team has killed off 23 of their opponent’s 25 (92%) power plays. On the season, the Comets success rate of 86.5% on the penalty-kill, is the fourth best mark in the American Hockey League.

Spreading the Wealth: The Comets have 22 different players that have scored at least one point, including 16 players with five points or more, and six players with double-digit points. Hunter Shinkaruk leads the way with 19 points on 11 goals and eight assists. Alexandre Grenier has recorded 12 points on three goals and nine assists. Carter Bancks and Linden Vey have 11 points each. Bancks has four goals and seven assists, and Vey has one goal and 10 assists. Blair Jones and Taylor Fedun cap off the Comets double-digit scorers, with 10 points apiece. Jones has seven goals and three assists, while Fedun has four goals and six assists.

Lucky Number 3: When the Comets fail to reach the three-goal mark in a game, the team is 0-8-1-0 this season. When they successfully strike three times, the team is 9-1-0-1.

Closing in on the Century Mark: Head Coach Travis Green is 9 wins away from his 100th win as a professional coach. All 91 wins have come as the bench boss of the Comets.

Jonesin’ For One More: Blair Jones is one point away from his 300th career professional point. The veteran forward has recorded 282 points in the American Hockey League for the Springfield Falcons, Norfolk Admirals, Abbotsford Heat, Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Utica Comets. The Comets assistant captain has also scored 17 points in the National Hockey League during his time with the Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Philadelphia Flyers.

Looking Ahead: The Comets brief two-game road trip concludes on Wednesday in Rochester, when the Comets look to face a couple of former players, in Bobby Sanguinetti and Cal O’Reilly. Puck drop from the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester is scheduled for 7pm.

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