Comets Upended by Amerks
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Mar 11, 2016
After winning three straight games, the Utica Comets were cooled off to the tune of 3-1 by the Rochester Americans Friday night at the Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester. It was the just the second time this season, and the first since the American Hockey League’s opening night, that the Amerks defeated the Comets.
Chris Higgins (1-0-1) and Andrey Pedan (0-1-1) accounted for all the Comets points, while Richard Bachman made 27 saves in the loss.
The Amerks new guys once again wasted no time making a mark on the game. After scoring twice in his Amerks debut last week, Eric O'Dell staked his new team to a 1-0 lead when he flipped a rebound over the glove of Bachman, from his knees, 7:55 into the game. Cole Schneider, also acquired in the same Senators-Sabres trade, picked up an assist on the goal after grabbing three assists in his Amerks debut.
The Amerks struck again and doubled their lead just 55 seconds into the second period when Justin Bailey converted on a perfect back door feed from William Carrier.
The Comets clawed to within one in the third period when Chris Higgins redirected an Andrey Pedan shot past Ullmark at the 5:03 mark of the third period.
The Amerks added an empty-net goal with 30 seconds left to account for the final tally.
With the win, the Comets record dropped to 30-20-5-3.
The Comets three-in-three weekend continues in Albany tomorrow night at 5pm. The Albany Devils are just eight points up on the Comets for second place in the North Division.
Tonight’s Game: The Comets embark on their third consecutive three-in-three weekend with a Friday night tilt at the Blue Cross Arena against the Rochester Americans. Tonight’s kick kicks off at 7:05pm, and carries playoff implications.
The Comets are currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference’s North Division with 68 points, while the Amerks are hot on the Comets tail in fourth place with 59 points.
Last Game:Despite holding a 4-1 lead entering the third period, the Utica Comets needed Darren Archibald’s goal with 63 seconds left in the game to edge the league-leading Toronto Marlies by the score of 5-4 at the Ricoh Coliseum on Sunday afternoon. With the win the Comets ended their season series with a 3-3-0-2 record, and eight out of a possible 16 points, against the Marlies.
Travis Ehrhardt (1-1-2), Jordan Subban (1-1-2), Darren Archibald (1-1-2), Brandon Prust (0-2-2), and Alexandre Grenier (1-1-2) posted multi-point games, while Joe Cannata turned aside 32 of the Marlies 36 shots for his second win of the weekend.
Scouting the Amerks: If you barely recognize any players in the line-up for the Amerks tonight, don’t worry about it. Your eyes are not deceiving you. The Amerks line-up has changed drastically since the last time the Comets and Amerks squared off, back on Jan. 30. Gone are Amerks mainstays Jason Akeson, Phil Varone, and Jerome Leduc. In their place you’ll find Joey Mormina (Syracuse), Alex Guptill (Binghamton), Eric O’Dell (Binghamton), Cole Schneider (Binghamton), and Michael Sdao (Binghamton). The Sabres and Senators executed the minor league trade immediately following the Amerks 10-5 blowout loss to the Marlies. Since then, the Sabres American Hockey League affiliate has won both their games, outscoring their opponents (Springfield and Toronto) 11-5 in the process. When the trade was pulled off, Schneider (18-28-46) and O’Dell (20-2-40) immediately became Rochester’s team leaders in points. Former Comets forward Cal O’Reilly (6-22-28) is currently on recall with the Buffalo Sabres and will miss tonight’s game. Nathan Lieuwen has taken the lion’s share of games for the Amerks and has collected a 14-9-1 record in 25 games. His 2.72 goals against average and .915 save percentage leads all four goaltenders that have played for the Amerks this season.
Welcome Aboard: Tonight will be T.J. Hensick’s debut in a Comets uniform. The four-time American Hockey League All-Star has appeared in 46 games for the AHL Charlotte Checkers this season, where he ranked tied for sixth on the team in scoring with 25 points (7-18-25). The 30-year old center was named to the 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012 AHL All-Star teams. Hensick has amassed 456 points (137-319-456) in 484 AHL games including a 60 point campaign (19-41-60) for the Hamilton Bulldogs last year. In 112 NHL regular season games, split between the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues, Hensick has registered 38 points (12-26-38) and 18 penalty minutes..
Super Joe: Joe Cannata has quietly been steady as a rock for the Comets. After beating the league-leading Toronto Marlies twice last weekend, including one shutout, he possesses a 17-9-3 record while ranking 16th among netminders with a 2.47 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. He is also tied for 12th in wins (17), and 15th in minutes played (1,776).
Finishing Touches: When leading after two periods of play this season the Comets are a perfect 21-0-0-0. That doesn’t end there, all-time, the Comets franchise is 72-0-4-0 in such a scenario.
The Shields Effect: The Shields Effect is gathering a cult following amongst Comets fans. The Comets have collected a point in 16 out of 17 games, and a record of 14-1-1-1, in games that defenseman David Shields suits up in. Shields, 24, signed his second PTO with the team over the weekend to extend his stay in Utica by 25 more games. He originally signed a PTO on Dec. 11 and joined the Comets with four seasons and over 200 games of AHL experience under his belt with the Peoria Rivermen and Chicago Wolves. Shields spent the past two seasons with the Chicago Wolves, where he collected 21 points (5-16-21) over 97 games played. Prior to joining the Comets this season, the Rochester, NY native has played in 15 games for the Adirondack Thunder, and has registered nine points (2-7-9) and 9 penalty minutes.
Next Game: The Comets three-in-three weekend continues in Albany tomorrow night at 5pm. The Albany Devils are just eight points up on the Comets for second place in the North Division.