Puck Yeah! Comets Strike Early and Often in Win
By Mark Caswell Jr.Dec 16, 2015
The Utica Comets got off to a good start Wednesday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium and didn’t look back, as they defeated the Rochester Americans by the score of 5-2, giving them their second straight win and third straight win against the Amerks.
Alexandre Grenier (1-0-1), Mike Zalewski (1-1-2), Linden Vey (1-0-1), Jordan Subban (1-1-2), and Brendan Gaunce (1-1-2) each scored for the Comets, while Richard Bachman took home another victory with a 28-save performance.
The Comets took a quick 1-0 lead just 1:44 into the first period on Grenier’s fifth goal of the season. Grenier streaked down the middle of the ice and ripped a slapshot from the slot past Lieuwen. Subban and Ashton Sautner recorded assists on the goal. The goal, his 39th as a Comet, catapulted Grenier into sole possession of first place on the Comets all-time goals list.
Mike Zalewski stretched the Comets lead to 2-0 when he was on the receiving end of an incredible between-the-legs pass from Blair Jones that sprung the New Hartford, N.Y. native on a breakaway. Zalewski’s seventh goal of the season came as a result of a wrist shot from just above the face-off dot that screamed past Lieuwen’s blocker. David Shields picked up the secondary assist, his first point as a Comet.
Utica then went ahead 3-0, 8:49 into the second period when Vey collected a loose puck on the far side of the net, and quickly wristed a shot past Lieuwen before the Rochester goaltender could dive back into position.
The Amerks put their first dent into the Comets lead 10:14 into the second on a Tim Schaller breakaway goal.
Rochester cut the Comets lead to 3-2, 16:04 into the second on Schaller’s second goal of the night. The Amerk slipped a shot past Bachman’s left side after he received a pass from D’Amigo.
The Comets stormed right back and took a 4-2 lead with 41 seconds left in the second. From the corner, Gaunce connected with a pinching Subban at the top of the circle to Lieuwen’s left. Subban unleashed a wrist shot that found its way through heavy traffic in front, and into the back of the net.
The Amerks pulled their goalie with just over a minute to go, and Brendan Gaunce took advantage, sending the puck down the entire length of the ice and into the gaping goal frame to give the Comets a 5-2 win.
Utica outshot Rochester 38-30 while improving their record to 13-10-2-1. The Comets power play went 0-for-3, while the penalty kill went a perfect 4-for-4.
The Comets will be on the road Friday, traveling to Springfield, MA to take on the Arizona Coyotes AHL affiliate, Springfield Falcons. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Tonight’s Game: The Utica Comets are back home at the Utica Memorial Auditorium to take on the Rochester Americans for the fourth time this season. After winning a 4-3 shootout decision last Wednesday, the Comets are 2-1-0-0 against their division rival this season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Tonight’s game is a battle for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference’s North Division. The Comets currently hold a slight edge with 27 points, while the Amerks possess 26 points.
Last Game: The Comets stunned the North Division leading Toronto Marlies last game with some late game heroics to pull out a big win. Utica was down 4-3 just a minute to play when Jordan Subban scored to set up Alex Friesen’s short-handed tally just 16 seconds into overtime. Subban and Friesen had two goals each, and Mike Zalewski also chipped in with a goal in the win.
Scouting the Amerks: The Amerks have a 12-11-1-1 record this season, and are currently in fifth place in the North Division. Jason Akeson (5-11-16) is the Amerks leading point-getter. Although currently with the Buffalo Sabres, former Comets captain Cal O’Reilly (3-11-14) is the Amerks second leading scorer this season. Phil Varone (9-4-13) has the most goals on the team and is third on the team in points. Andrey Makarov and Nathan Lieuwen have been splitting time in net this season, with Makarov playing 12 games and Lieuwen playing 11 games. Both goaltenders have similar numbers this season, as Makarov owns a goals against average of 3.29 and a save percentage of .902. Lieuwen has a goals against average of 3.25 and a save percentage of .903.
Attacking When Short: The Comets chipped in two short-handed goals on Sunday, catapulting themselves into tie for the league-lead in short-handed goals with five. The Comets 12th-ranked penalty-killing unit is the highest ranked unit with five short-handed tallies. The others are: the Milwaukee Admirals (19th), Stockton Heat (26th), and the Binghamton Senators (29th).
Milestones reached: With an assist on the first goal of the 5-4 win against Toronto, Blair Jones recorded the 300th point of his professional career. The veteran forward has recorded 283 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.
Milestone Alerts: Head Coach Travis Green is six regular season wins away from 100 career wins. 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.
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 12-1-0-1.
Road Warriors: The Comets have won their last six road games, three of them coming against North Division foes. Utica has scored at least three goals in each of those games, and at least four goals in each of the last five road games, including six against the Portland Pirates on Nov. 28, and five last game against the Toronto Marlies.
Not Your Average Joe: Joe Cannata’s 2.39 goals against average is the 13th best mark in the American Hockey League. The Wakefield, MA native has recorded one shutout this season, and also has a .910 save percentage. Cannata has played in 15 games this season, going 8-5-2-0 with 362 saves.
Next Game: The Comets are back on the road, as they will travel to Springfield, MA to take on the Arizona Coyotes AHL affiliate, Springfield Falcons. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Myster Puck – The Utica Comets and the Save of the Day Foundation announced today that the wives and girlfriends of the Utica Comets players will once again be selling mystery pucks at the two upcoming Comets home games on Dec. 16 vs Rochester, and Dec. 19 vs Hartford. A mystery puck is an autographed puck that is autographed by a Comets player but is wrapped to disguise which player’s autograph is on the puck. The mystery pucks sale will take place on The AUD concourse next to the fan zone table, which is located next to the Steet Ponte Entrance. Fans can buy a mystery puck for $10, and all proceeds will benefit the Save of the Day Foundation.
Archie’s Army’s Coat Drive – The Utica Comets are proud to announce their involvement in the Rob Esche “Save of the Day” Foundation coat drive, led by Darren Archibald and “Archie’s Army”. Comets fans are encouraged to bring new, or very lightly used coats to the Fan Zone table, located behind section 205. All donated coats will be donated to the Thea Bowman House by Comets forward Darren Archibald.
Buy a Calendar, Win a Stick! – Buy an exclusive Comets calendar at tonight’s game, and you will be entered to win a team-signed, game-used stick! Calendars are for sale in the Comets Team Store, the Fan Zone Table, across the way from Labatt Blue entrance, and a booth across the way from Kookie’s Q. Calendars are priced at just $15.