FINAL: Comets 2 vs. Falcons 1
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Mar 5, 2016
The Utica Comets jumped out to a 2-0 lead and then held off the Springfield Falcons onslaught Saturday night to win 2-1 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The game came down to a matter of inches, as the Falcons had a goal waved off due to a high with 24 seconds remaining on the clock.
Taylor Fedun (0-2-2) and Alex Friesen (0-2-2) recorded multi-point nights for the Comets, while Chris Higgins (1-0-1) and Ronalds Kenins (1-0-1) handled all the scoring for Utica. Richard Bachman made 21 saves on 22 Falcons shots to secure the Comets victory.
The Comets started the game’s scoring and struck 6:55 into the first period. From the point and on the power play, Fedun let loose a shot on net that was saved by Niklas Treutle, but Chris Higgins collected the rebound and jammed the puck trickling past Treutle to give the Comets a 1-0 lead.
Utica extended its lead to 2-0, 7:46 into the second period. Ronalds Kenins ripped a shot from the left slot, and put the puck over the glove of Treutle for his third goal of the season and second in as many nights. With the goal the Latvian Olympian now has collected 14 points in his last 10 games.
The Falcons cut into the Comets lead five minutes later when Michael Bunting received a pass from Jordan Szwarz, and slipped it past Bachman to get Springfield on the board.
Springfield looked to have tied it with 24 seconds to go in regulation, but it was called off due to a high stick, sealing the Comets the 2-1 victory.
The Comets finished with 32 shots on goal, while the Falcons had 22 shots. Niklas Treutle had 30 saves for Springfield.
Utica improves to 29-19-5-3 with the win, while the loss drops Springfield to 21-29-3-4.
The Comets will look to go a perfect three for three on the weekend, as they hit the road tomorrow, traveling to Toronto to take on the first place Marlies for the second time in three days. Puck drop is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Tonight’s Game: The Comets welcome the Springfield Falcons to the Utica Memorial Auditorium for the franchise’s first trip to the Mohawk Valley tonight. Puck drop between the Comets and the Phoenix Coyotes’ American Hockey League affiliate is scheduled for 7pm.
The Comets are currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference’s North Division with 64 points, while the Falcons are in last place in the Atlantic Division with 49 points. The Comets magic number to clinch a playoff spot dropped to 34 points after last night’s victory.
Last Game: The Utica Comets came out of the gates firing on all cylinders Friday night, striking twice in the first period, on their way to defeating the Toronto Marlies 4-0 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Joe Cannata stopped all 33 Marlies shots to send the American Hockey League’s top offensive team off with their first shutout loss of the season.
Darren Archibald (2-0-2), Ronalds Kenins (1-1-2), Alex Friesen (0-2-2) and Andrey Pedan (0-2-2) lit up the scorer’s sheet with multi-point efforts, and Alexandre Grenier (1-0-1) scored his 11th of the season in the win. The Comets league-leading home penalty-killing unit went a perfect 4-for-4 to improve their success rate to 91.7% at The AUD.
Scouting the Falcons: The Falcons took a hit at the Trade Deadline when their All-Star leading point-scorer Dustin Jeffrey was traded to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Although they have lost seven of their last 10 games, their three wins in that span have come against three teams currently in the playoffs, Albany, Bridgeport, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. With Jeffrey out of the picture, Greg Carey (25-14-39) and Alex Grant (10-28-38) become the de facto point leaders for the team. In net, rookie goaltender Niklas Treutle has played in 26 games and leads the team with a 9-11-5 record, a 2.91 goals against average, and a .909 save percentage.
Cold-Blooded Killers: The Comets penalty-killing unit is the nest in the league at home, with a success rate of 91.7%. The unit has killed 43 of their last 45 penalties at home, including all four power-play attempts for the Marlies last night.
Ronnie on a Roll In his first 13 games, Ronalds Kenins only mustered up three assists through Feb. 5. Since then the Latvian Olympian has caught fire with 13 points in his last 10. Kenins, currently on a six game point streak, enjoyed a run of four out of five nights with multi-point games from Feb. 12 to Feb. 20. The second-year forward has missed 19 games this season with two separate injuries.
Prepare for Fireworks? The last time these two team’s met back on Dec. 18, the game ended with a bang. Former Division 3 college hockey player and noted enthusiastic collector of penalty minutes, Eric Selleck, collected 15 penalty minutes when he attacked Comets defenseman Jon Landry for a previous check that knocked All-Star forward Dustin Jeffrey out of the game. The scuffle in the waning minutes of the game ended with Selleck being ejected from the game with a game misconduct, and cued a verbal shouting match between Ron Rolston, the Falcons Head Coach, and Travis Green. The Landry check on Jeffrey went unpenalized.
Shuffling the Deck: The last two weeks have seen a lot of roster shuffling, so let’s catch-up. With Hunter Shinkaruk traded last week, and Brendan Gaunce called up to Vancouver, the Comets will be without their top two leading scorers this season. Insert Greger Hanson and Kellen Jones, who both signed PTOs this week. Hanson, 28, is coming off back-to-back championship seasons (CHL and ECHL) with the Allen Americans, while Jones (25), collected 15 points in 49 games last season in the AHL with the OK City Barons.
The Shields Effect: The Shields Effect is gathering a cult following amongst Comets fans. The Comets have collected a point in 15 out of 16 games, and a record of 13-1-1-1, 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.
Finishing Touches: When leading after two periods of play this season the Comets are a perfect 19-0-0-0. That doesn’t end there, all-time, the Comets franchise is 70-0-4-0 in such a scenario.
Next Game: The Comets hit the road immediately following tonight’s game for a rematch vs. the Toronto Marlies. Puck drop is scheduled for 3pm.