FINAL: Comets 4 vs Marlies 0
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Mar 4, 2016
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.
Utica got on the board early with a goal just 3:09 into the first period. Friesen carried the puck down the left side of the ice and sent a perfect pass to Grenier who rifled a one-timer into the back of the net for his 11th goal of the season.
The Comets scored again a little over eight minutes later to double their lead to 2-0. After taking a pass from Carter Bancks, John Negrin skated the puck behind the Marlies net, and sent a pass to Ronalds Kenins who was parked in the crease. Kenins initial shot was turned aside by Antoine Bibeau, but Kenins gathered his own rebound and finished it off for his second goal of the season.
The Comets extended their lead 14:46 into the second when Archibald brought the puck down the left side of the ice, cut across the slot, and fired a rocket over the glove of Bibeau to make it 3-0.
Archibald connected for his second of the game in the third to cap off the scoring. Pedan sent the puck towards the net, Archibald fought off a couple of Marlies defenders in a scrum and poked the puck past Bibeau, making it 4-0.
Utica finished with 28 shots on goal and Toronto had 33 shots on the night. Bibeau made 24 saves for the Marlies. With the win, the Comets improve to 28-19-5-3, while the loss drops the Marlies to 43-11-4-0.
The Comets will stay at home on Saturday as they welcome the Springfield Falcons to the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Tonight’s Game: The Comets return home for two games before hitting the road on Sunday. Tonight’s match-up pits the Comets against the American Hockey League’s clear cut top team, the Toronto Marlies. Puck drop from the Utica Memorial Auditorium is scheduled for 7pm.
The Comets are currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference’s North Division with 62 points, while Toronto sits atop the North Division and the entire league with a mind-blowing 90 points. The Marlies magic number to clinch a playoff spot has been whittled down to just 8 points, and the Comets magic number rests at 36.
Last Game: The Utica Comets could not complete the weekend three-in-three sweep and were dropped by the Hershey Bears 5-1 on at the GIANT Center Sunday night.
Alexandre Grenier (1-0-1) scored on the power-play, for the Comets only goal of the evening, while Richard Bachman made 29 saves in the loss. Ronalds Kenins collected an assist on the Comets goal to extend his point-scoring streak to five games, and has run his point total to 11 points in his last nine games. More on Kenins later.
Scouting the Marlies: The Marlies made a whopping 17 moves transactions at the Trade Deadline on Monday. It all boils down to this, Four of their young guns (Nylander, Kapanen, Soshnikov, and Hyman) will finish out the year in the NHL with the Maple Leafs, and then will re-join the club for the Calder Cup Playoffs. While that may make the Marlies line-up appear friendlier to opponents, it still leaves the Comets to deal with two of the league’s top 12 point-getters in T.J. Brennan (22-33-55), and Mark Arcobello (21-24-45), third and 12th respectively. Newly-acquired forward Colin Smith (15-24-39), and AHL All-Star Josh Leivo (13-25-38) round out the Marlies top four scorers that will play tonight. The Marlies have seen seven different goaltenders play this season with the leader in the clubhouse being Antoine Bibeau. In 27 games he sports a record of 20-5-0, a goals against average of 2.78, and a save percentage of .906.
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 11 points in his last nine. Kenins, currently on a five 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.
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.
Shields Up: The Comets have collected a point in 14 out of 15 games, and a record of 12-1-1-1, 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 18-0-0-0. That doesn’t end there, all-time, the Comets franchise is 69-0-4-0 in such a scenario.
Next Game: The Comets welcome the Springfield Falcons to The AUD for the first time tomorrow night at 7pm. The combatants in tomorrow night’s match-up have split the season series 1-1.