Subban and Friesen Play Hero in Comeback Win

By Mark Caswell Jr.

Dec 13, 2015

Down 4-3 late in the third period to the North Division leading Toronto Marlies, the Utica Comets found a way to strike twice in 1:16 of game action to defeat the Marlies 5-4 in overtime. John Negrin’s goal with a minute left tied the game before Alex Friesen’s short-handed tally 16 seconds into overtime ended the game.

Jordan Subban (2-0-2), Alex Friesen (2-0-2), and Michael Zalewski (1-0-1) provided the offense for the Comets, while Joe Cannata made 19 saves in the victory.

The scoring kicked off on a Comets three-on-two odd man rush. Blair Jones cut across the top of the circle, to the high slot, and slid a backhand pass through the skates of a Marlies defenseman, and onto the stick of Subban. Subban quickly flipped a backhand to the far side of Jonathan Bernier as the goaltender slid across the crease. The goal stopped Bernier’s shutout streak at 203 minutes and 38 seconds. Blair Jones’ assist on the goal was the 300th point of his professional career.

The Marlies evened the score when Matt Frattin emerged from the corner uncontested and slipped a sneaky backhand over Cannata’s shoulder for a power-play tally.

A minute into the second period Friesen reestablished the Comets lead. On a two-on-one rush, Friesen cut to the hashmarks and let a wrist shot loose that beat Bernier. Jon Landry picked up an assist on the play.

Just 50 seconds later Zalewski cashed in with a highlight-reel worthy goal. With one hand fighting off a Marlies defender as Zalewski drove to the net, he used his one free hand to flip the puck up-and-over the extended leg pad of Bernier.

From there, the Marlies mounted their comeback.

The comeback was kicked off when Eric Faille slipped a shot past Cannata.

Utica appeared to have stretched their lead to 4-2 when Ashton Sautner put the puck into the net behind Bernier. The on-ice officials convened and controversially waved the goal off, citing incidental goaltender’s interference in the crease. The replay appeared to show a Marlies defender grazing Bernier, who was positioned about two feet outside of the crease.

Then, William Nylander, the American Hockey League’s points leader, forced the game’s third tie when an uncontested, point blank shot from just above the crease slipped through the pads of Cannata, with just 27 seconds left in the second period.

After the Comets took a too many men penalty, Mark Arcobello capitalized eight seconds into the power play to give the Marlies their first lead of the game.

With the game looking dire for the Comets, and their net empty in favor of an extra attacker, Jordan Subban fired a shot through heavy traffic in the slot, and past Bernier to tie the game at 4 with exactly a minute left. Linden Vey and Alexandre Grenier recorded assists on the goal.

With Wacey Hamilton in the penalty box for a slashing minor, Alex Friesen stepped up and provided the heroics.

With the Marlies trying to gain entry into the Comets zone, Travis Ehrhardt forced a turnover that sprung Friesen on a breakaway. With a defender draped over his back, Friesen got enough on his shot to slip the puck through the leg pads of Bernier and win the game for the Comets.

The Comets return to The AUD on Wednesday night to take on the Rochester Americans at 7 p.m. A limited number of tickets are still available via EmpireStateTix.com.

NOTES: After the game Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning announced that the club has loaned forward Jake Virtanen to Team Canada for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

TORONTO MARLIES (20-5-1-0) vs UTICA COMETS (11-10-2-1)
Ricoh Colisuem, 3p.m.
Watch Live: AHL Live | Listen Live: Radio: 94.9 K-ROCK, Desktop or Mobile

Tonight’s Game: After Jonathan Bernier posted his third shutout in as many starts this season on Friday night against the Utica Comets, Utica will get their shot at redemption against him and one of the American Hockey League’s top teams this season, the Toronto Marlies. Puck drop is scheduled for 3p.m. from Ricoh Coliseum.

The Comets are currently sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference’s North Division with 25 points, while Toronto sits atop the North Division with 41 points.

Last Game: As previously mentioned, the Comets and Marlies dazzled fans at The AUD with a goaltender’s duel on Friday night. Richard Bachman went toe-to-toe with NHL goaltender Jonathan Bernier, before finally succumbing to the Marlies relentless offensive onslaught halfway through the final frame. Bernier’s third consecutive shutout since being assigned to the Maple Leafs AHL affiliate, ran his shutout streak to 195 minutes, and 40 seconds, dating back to April 10, 2010.

Scouting the Marlies: The Comets biggest test of the season comes this weekend in the form of a home-and-home with the Toronto Marlies. The Marlies, arguably the league’s best team, lead the league in points (41), wins (20), and are second in goals for (102). Oh, and they have the league’s top scorer this season in William Nylander (13-18-31), and have two other players in the Top 9. T.J. Brennan (9-13-22), and Josh Levio (7-15-22) are tied for eighth in the league with 21 points each. With the AHL’s third-ranked goaltender, Garrett Sparks, on recall with the Maple Leafs, the Marlies have not missed a step with Jonathan Bernier on the roster. In three games played, Bernier is a perfect 3-0-0-0, with three shutouts. The Marlies other option in net is Antoine Bibeau, who possesses a 7-3-0-0 record, a 3.57 GAA, and an .875 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).

Milesone Alerts: Head Coach Travis Green is seven regular season wins away from 100 career wins. Blair Jones is one point away from his 300th career professional point. Alexandre Grenier is closing in on two milestones, as he is five points away from his 100th career professional point and one goal away from claiming sole possession of goals scored by a Comet. Wacey Hamilton will be playing in his 200th professional hockey game this afternoon, and is three games from his 200th AHL game.

Lucky Number 3: When the Comets fail to reach the three-goal mark in a game, the team is 0-9-2-0 this season. When they successfully strike three times, the team is 11-1-0-1.

Not Your Average Joe: Joe Cannata’s 2.28 goals against average is the 10th best mark in the American Hockey League. The Wakefield,  MA native has recorded one shutout this season, and also has a .915 save percentage. Cannata has played in 14 games this season, which is halfway to his career high of 28 games played in the 2013-14 season.

Next Game: The Comets return to The AUD on Wednesday night to take on the Rochester Americans at 7 p.m. A limited number of tickets are still available via EmpireStateTix.com.

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