Gaunce Ties AHL Record in Comeback Win

FINAL: Comets 3 @ IceCaps 2 (OT)

by Mark Caswell, Jr.

Feb 6, 2016

For over 58 minutes the Utica Comets and St. John’s IceCaps engaged in a goaltender’s duel at the Mile One Centre. After that, Brendan Gaunce exploded for two goals to tie, and then win, the game by the score of 3-2 for the Comets in overtime. Gaunce's overtime tally came just five seconds into the period which tied an American Hockey League record for fastest goal at the start of overtime.

Jon Landry (1-0-1), and Brendan Gaunce (2-0-2) accounted for all the Comets scoring in this one. Landrys goal was his fifth point in the last four games. Michael Zalewski (0-1-1) kept his torrid pace up with an assist. He has now collected seven points (4-3-7) in four games since returning from a two-game stint with the Vancouver Canucks.

The IceCaps opened up the game's scoring 15:17 into the game when Jacob de la Rose rang a shot off of the post and then cleaned up his own rebound for his second goal in as many nights.

The IceCaps lead would be short-lived, however, as Jon Landry and the Comets knotted the game at 1-1 just four minutes later. With sustained pressure thanks to a power play, Jordan Subban and Michael Zalewski played pitch-and-catch with the puck near the left point. With a defender out of position, Zalewski sauced a pass across the entire zone to Jon Landry who was positioned at the top of the circle to Pasquale’s left. Landry collected the puck and wired a slapshot over the shoulder of the IceCaps' goaltender for his fifth goal of the season.

The second period went scoreless, but not for a lack of excitement. The goaltenders, Joe Cannata and Edward Pasquale, exchanged highlight-reel worthy saves throughout the middle twenty minutes.

The IceCaps once again regained the lead after Gabriel Dumont jammed a rebound past Cannata with 10:16 left in the game.

Cue the Brendan Gaunce dramatics.

The Comets tied the game back up as Joe Cannata raced to the Comets bench in favor of an extra attacker. Shinkaruk chipped the puck through an IceCaps defender which sprung Gaunce on a partial breakaway. Gaunce flipped the puck over the poke check attempt from Pasquale before he backhanded the puck over the goaltender’s leg pad to force overtime.

It took just five seconds of overtime hockey for Gaunce to strike again. Gaunce took the draw and won it forward. After sidestepping the center, and a defenseman, Gaunce ripped a wrist shot from the top of the circle that screamed past Pasquale’s glove to complete the weekend sweep.

With the win the Comets record improves to 22-17-3-3.

The Comets return home for a rare Tuesday night game when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins visit The AUD for the first time this season. Puck drop is slated for 7pm.

ST. JOHN’S ICECAPS (19-18-6-3) vs UTICA COMETS (21-17-3-3)
Mile One Centre, 6pm
Watch Live: AHL Live | Listen Live: Radio: 94.9 K-ROCK, Desktop or Mobile

Tonight’s Game: The Comets and IceCaps wrap up their two-game series at the Mile One Centre tonight. The trip to Newfoundland is the first time the Comets will visit “the rock”, and pits two teams that are jockeying for the final two North Division playoff spots.

The Comets currently sit in third place by a single point over the fourth place IceCaps, who are also tied with the Syracuse Crunch and Rochester Americans. The Comets have collected 48 points in 44 games, while St. John’s has 47 points in 46 games.

Last Game: The Utica Comets struck early and often, and then never looked back en route to a 5-2 win against the St. John’s IceCaps Friday night at the Mile One Centre. The Comets first ever game could not have gotten off to a better start as the team struck three times in their first four shots during the first 5:16 of play to jump out to a quick 3-0 lead.

Wacey Hamilton (2-1-3), Carter Bancks (1-2-3), John Negrin (0-2-2) each recorded multi-point nights. Fresh off of his American Hockey League All-Star Challenge appearance, Hunter Shinkaruk (1-0-1) scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season. Richard Bachman made 40 saves for his ninth win of the season.

Scouting the IceCaps: The IceCaps return home for their fifth homestand of the season after winning just two of their six road games. Tonight, the IceCaps will don their brand new Royal Newfoundland Regiment tribute jerseys as they honor World War I soldiers who sacrificed their lives. Leading the offensive charge for the IceCaps is Bud Holloway (13-24-37), who ranks tied for ninth in the American Hockey League in points. Sophomore center Charles Hudon (14-17-31) leads the team in goals with 14, and is second in points. Rookie goaltender Zachary Fucale has taken the lion’s share of games in net for the Canadiens’ American Hockey League affiliate, and has appeared 27 games. With a record of 10-11-3, he sports a 3.26 goals against average and a .898 save percentage.

Z for Zalewski: Michael Zalewski has appeared in three games since being reassigned to the Comets on Jan. 25, and all he has done in those two games is collected four goals, two game-winning goals, and an two assists. The forward improved on his impressive sophomore campaign by increasing his season totals to 12 goals, and 11 assists in 38 games. Zalewski has already bested his totals from last season’s 55 game campaign that saw him score 3 times and add nine assists.

Lucky Number 3: Scoring three goals is a big deal for this year’s Comets. When the Comets fail to reach the three-goal mark in a game, the team is 1-14-3-2 this season. When they successfully strike three times, the team is 20-3-0-1.

NHL Vets Missing in Action: The most popular questions asked about this weekend’s tilts between the Comets and the IceCaps center around John Scott of the IceCaps and Brandon Prust of the Comets. Scott, the darling of the hockey world after being named the NHL All-Star games Most Valuable Player and enduring a very public battle with the NHL, will miss this week’s action due to the birth of his twins. Prust, who was assigned to the Comets on Thursday, will not make the trip and is expected to join the Comets in Utica next week.

Shields Up: The Comets have collected a point in nine out of 10 games, and a record of 7-1-1-1, in gams that defenseman David Shields suits up in. (Hat tip to Comets superfan Greg Wrate for that stat). Shields, 24, 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.

Chasing Pelts: Shinkaruk’s 18 goals this season not only paces the team, it also puts him just four goals shy of tying Pascal Pelletier’s single-season record of 22 set during the 2013-14 season. Shinkaruk, 21, in just his second season as a professional, leads the Utica Comets in goals (17), power-play goals (9), and points (32) in 36 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. Shinkaruk was the Comets lone representative in the 2016 Toyota AHL All-Star Classic that took place this past weekend in Syracuse, N.Y.

Next Game: The Comets return home for a rare Tuesday night game when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins visit The AUD for the first time this season. Puck drop is slated for 7pm.

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