FINAL: Comets 4 vs IceCaps 1
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Feb 26, 2016
The Utica Comets scored in every period Friday night, including two goals in the second period, to defeat the St. John’s IceCaps 4-1 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Carter Bancks (1-1-2), and Brandon Prust (0-2-2) had multi-point nights for the Comets, while Chris Higgins (1-0-1), Mike Zalewski (1-0-1) each tallied a goal in the Utica win. Richard Bachman made 28 saves in net for the Comets for his 11th win of the season.
The Comets got on the board 2:32 into the first to take a 1-0 lead. Landry started the play with a shot on net that St. John’s goaltender, Zachary Fucale, could not find the handle on. Zalewski swooped in and whacked the puck into the net to finish it off for his 13th goal of the season.
Utica extended their lead to 2-0, 4:22 into the second on Hamilton’s seventh goal of the season. Prust sent the puck into the crease from behind the net, and Hamilton squeezed a one timer past an IceCaps defender and Fucale for the goal.
The Comets would score again with 4:19 left in the second to make it 3-0. Shields skated down the right side of the ice with the puck and sent a perfect centering pass to Bancks as he barreled down the middle of the ice. Bancks sniped a shot over the glove of Fucale.
The IceCaps got one back with 3:17 left in regulation. Bud Holloway scored from the right slot, on a pass from Nikita Scherbak.
After the IceCaps pulled Fucale from net with just over two minutes remaining, Higgins capped off the scoring, sending the puck down the ice for an empty net goal, giving the Comets a 4-1 win.
Both side finished with 29 shots on goal. Zachary Fucale made 25 saves for St. John’s.
The Comets improve to 26-18-5-3 on the season, while the IceCaps fall to 23-23-7-3.
After a week-long break heading into tonight’s game, the Comets jump right into it with a three-in-three weekend. After tonight’s game the boys in blue hit the road for a game in Lehigh Valley tomorrow night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm.
Tonight’s Game: The race for the playoffs has unofficially kicked into high gear for the Utica Comets, and tonight’s game is a colossal one. The St. John’s IceCaps, currently just two points behind the Comets for the North Division’s final playoff spot, return to The AUD for the third time tonight.
The Comets, with 58 points, currently sit in third place in the North Division, just three points ahead of fourth place Rochester, and two points ahead of the fifth place IceCaps.
Last Game: The Utica Comets jumped out to a quick start Saturday night, leading 2-0 after the first period, but couldn’t keep up the tempo, and ultimately fell 3-2 to the Albany Devils in overtime at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Ronalds Kenins (0-2-2) recorded his fourth multi point game in the team’s last five games with two assists. Brendan Gaunce (1-0-1) and Andrey Pedan (1-0-1) each scored for the Comets while Joe Cannata made 31 saves for the Comets.
Scouting the IceCaps: The Montreal Canadiens American Hockey League affiliate wrap up a six-game road trip with two games this weekend, first in Utica on Friday, and then in Syracuse on Saturday. The IceCaps enter tonight’s contest with losses in four of their last five games. The league’s eight leading point-scorer, Bud Hollway (15-29-44), leads the IceCaps in points (44), assists (29), and power-play goals (8). The team’s leading goal-scorer, Charles Hudon (17-21-38), is on a tear as of late and has a point in six straight games. In net it has been rookie goaltender Zachary Fucale who has led the charge. In 33 games he has posted a record of 14-13-3, a goals against average of 2.98, and a save percentage of .906. The Comets successfully chased Fucale the last, and only, time they saw him with three goals on four shots in the game’s first 5:16 of play.
Remember Thy Name: Tonight’s opponent will remember the name Brendan Gaunce when the puck drops tonight. In these team’s last match-up Gaunce scored the game-tying goal with 1:28 left in regulation, and then struck again just five seconds into overtime to corral the Comets a shocking win in St. John’s. The game played on Feb. 6 has sparked the sophomore to the tune of 11 points in his last seven games.
Road Trip: The Comets and the IceCaps have squared up four times so far this season. Each team has collected a 2-1-1-0 record in the series, however, neither team has won on home ice yet. The Comets two wins came during the Feb. 5-6 two-game road trip to St. John’s, while the IceCaps two wins came at The AUD on Dec. 4 and Jan. 2.
Getting Down to Business: The Comets have played 51 games heading into tonight - the fewest of any team in the American Hockey League that will play 76 games this year. Tonight kicks off a crucial stretch that features 16 games over the next 33 days. 10 at home, six on the road, and a whopping 11 vs. the North Division. Making things even tougher, the Comets will play three-in-three series five of the next six weekends.
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.
M-V-P: You didn’t think we would make it through the whole preview without mentioning the fact that John Scott will be here tonight did you? You may be familiar with story that swept up the hockey nation for the better part of the month of January. John Scott, a noted NHL tough guy, was selected to the NHL All-Star Game thanks to fan voting. At the All-Star Game, Scott’s team won the new tournament formal and saw their captain, John Scott, win All-Star Game MVP honors. After a controversial trade that saw him get sent to the Montreal Canadiens organization, Scott found himself reassigned to the St. John’s IceCaps. In 10 games the forward has scored once, and collected 10 penalty minutes.
Next Game: After a week-long break heading into tonight’s game, the Comets jump right into it with a three-in-three weekend. After tonight’s game the boys in blue hit the road for a game in Lehigh Valley tomorrow night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm.
Water Bottles: 1,500 water bottles will be given out to the first 1,500 fans of all ages at tonight's game. In an effort to increase recycling and waste reduction awareness in Oneida and Herkimer Counties, the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority is sponsoring a “Go Green Night” at the Comets game tonight.