FINAL: Comets 4 @ Crunch 5
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Feb 19, 2016
The Utica Comets could not overcome two early Syracuse Crunch power-play goals and saw their eight-game point streak snapped at the War Memorial on Friday night by the score of 5-4. The Comets were able to cut the Crunch's lead to one goal on four separate occasions, but could not find the equalizer in their first regulation loss since Jan. 24 in Toronto.
Carter Bancks (1-0-1), Ashton Sautner (1-0-1), Andrey Pedan (1-0-1), and Brandon Prust (1-0-1) scored for the Comets, while Richard Bachman made 26 saves in the loss. Ronalds Kenins (0-2-2) recorded his third multi-point game in the team's last four games.
The Crunch jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead with two power-play goals in the game's first 2:52. Matt Taormina scored his 11th of the season 1:14 into the game, and then Tye McGinn struck just 1:37 after that for his 16th of the year.
The Comets cut into the Crunch's lead with some heavy offensive pressure. Jon Landry wristed a shot through heavy traffic in front. Bancks redirected the Landry shot, and then quickly cleaned up his own rebound for his eighth goal of the season.
The Crunch were able to re-establish their two-goal lead when Jeff Tambellini tapped in a back door rebound after a Comets neutral zone turnover led to an odd-man rush.
The five-goal first period came to a close with a Comets goal with just 24 seconds left. With a delayed penalty upcoming on the Crunch, and an extra attacker on the ice, the Comets worked the puck around the Crunch's zone for a substantial amount of time. Eventually, Ashton Sautner unleashed a rocket of a slapshot that screamed over the shoulder of Gudlevskis to bring the score to 3-2. Brendan Gaunce and Ronalds Kenins chipped in with assists on the goal.
The goals kept coming in the second period.
Once again the Crunch answered the Comets goal with a goal of their own. The Crunch's leading goal-scorer, Jeff Tambellini, scored his second of the night just 2:34 into the second period to stretch the lead to 4-2.
Referees caught the Crunch with back-to-back penalties on the same play to set up the Comets with a 5-on-3 power play for a full two minutes. As the power play waned down, Andrey Pedan one-timed a pass from Kenins past the glove of Gudlevskis to cut the Comets deficit to 4-3. With the assist, Kenins has three multi-point games in his past four. Grenier recorded a secondary assist on the play to run his point streak to six games.
For the third straight time the Crunch followed up the Comets goal with one. With a two-on-one advantage down low, Blunden received a cross-crease pass from Erne for the power-play goal.
While killing a penalty, Brendan Gaunce intercepted a pass in his own zone and chipped it past a pinching Crunch defender to spring Brandon Prust on a semi-breakaway. Prust faked a shot to drop Gudlevskis to his knees before he wristed a shot under the goaltender's glove. Gaunce's helper gives him and two assist night and 11 points (4-7-11) in his past six games.
With the loss the Comets record dropped to 25-18-4-3. Utica still holds the edge in the race for the 2015-16 Galaxy Cup with a record of 4-2-0-0 against Syracuse.
The Comets return home tomorrow night for Clinton Comets Heritage Night at The AUD. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm but fans are highly encouraged to arrive early to take part in the special pre-game ceremonies. The Comets will don special throwback blue jerseys in honor of the Clinton Comets. The jerseys will be auctioned off as part of a live auction immediately following the game.
Tonight’s Game: With a chance to secure, at-worst, a tie for the 2015-16 Galaxy Cup, the Utica Comets make the 55-mile trek West to Syracuse to take on the Crunch tonight at the War Memorial. The Comets are 4-1-0-0 this season against their top rival. The lone loss to the Crunch came back on Nov. 14 in a game the Comets outshot their opponent 48-28 in the 2-1 defeat.
The Comets, with 57 points, currently sit in third place in the North Division by a point over the fourth place St. John’s IceCaps. The Crunch have fallen to sixth in the division with 49 points.
Last Game: Once again the Utica Comets special teams stepped up to lead the team to a 5-2 win over the Portland Pirates. Buoyed by a power-play goal and a short-handed tally, the Comets completed the season sweep of the Pirates with a perfect 4-0 record.
Alexandre Grenier (1-2-3) exploded for three points, including the eventual game-winning goal in the second period. Brendan Gaunce (0-2-2) and Jon Landry (1-1-2) recorded multi-point games for the Comets, while Joe Cannata made 33 saves for his 14th victory of the season. Gaunce’s multi-point game gives him eight points (4-4-8) in his last five games.
Scouting the Crunch: There is no doubt about it, the Crunch are in a funk right now. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate has stumbled to nine straight losses (0-6-2-1) after a crucial mistake in the game’s waning minutes (WATCH) on Wednesday led to a 3-2 shootout loss to the St. John’s IceCaps. Tanner Richard (7-25-32) leads the Crunch in points (32) and assists (25), while Jeff Tambellini (16-12-28) paces the team in goals (16). Kristers Gudlevskis, tonight’s anticipated starter, enters tonight with an 8-9-6 record, a 2.94 goals against average, and a .903 save percentage.
Scorching Hot: The Comets are red-hot right now and have collected 15 out of 16 possible points during their last eight games. Their record of 7-0-1-0 is the best eight game stretch of the season thus far. In the team’s last eight games the Comets have scored 34 goals (4.75/game), while allowing just 18 (2.25/game).
Jumpman Jordan: It’s no secret that Comets defenseman Jordan Subban likes to jump into the offensive play when he can. His 28 points (8-20-28) ranks as third most on the Comets, and 13th amongst defensemen in the entire league. Selected by the Canucks in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Draft, the rookie played the past four seasons with the Belleville Bulls of the OHL, where he racked up 165 points in 253 games.
Even Stevens: The Comets have held the Syracuse Crunch to just seven goals in six games played this season. Only one of those goals have come during five-on-five hockey. The Crunch have struck five times while on the power-play, and once when they pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker.
Hunting Down Pelletier: Hunter Shinkaruk has potted a goal in three straight games and now has 21 on the season. His 21 goals not only paces the team, it also puts him just one goal shy of tying the franchise’s single-season record of 22 set by Pascal Pelletier during the 2013-14 season. Shinkaruk, 21, in just his second season as a professional, leads the Utica Comets in goals (21), power-play goals (10), and points (38) in 42 games played. The 24th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Level Draft made his National Hockey League debut for the Canucks against the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 16. In 2014-15, his first professional season, Shinkaruk recorded 31 points (16-15-31) and 28 penalty minutes over 74 games played. The Calgary, Alberta native also scored six points (4-2-6) in 23 postseason games with Utica through the 2015 Calder Cup Finals.
Road Warrior: Michael Zalewski has been a man on a mission since his brief two-game stint in Vancouver, to the tune of 10 points (4-6-10) in eight games. Four of those games have been road games that he has collected six points (2-4-6) in, including his two-goal performance in Albany on Jan. 29. The New Hartford, NY is riding a six game point streak into tonight.
Shields Up: The Comets have collected a point in 12 out of 13 games, and a record of 10-1-1-1, 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 return home tomorrow night for Clinton Comets Heritage Night at The AUD. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm but fans are highly encouraged to arrive early to take part in the special pre-game ceremonies. The Comets will don special throwback blue jerseys in honor of the Clinton Comets. The jerseys will be auctioned off as part of a live auction immediately following the game.