Comets Rally Big in OT Loss

FINAL: Comets 3 vs. Penguins 4 (OT)

by Mark Caswell, Jr.

Feb 9, 2016

The Utica Comets erased a second period 3-0 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton penguins lead before falling 4-3 in overtime Tuesday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The Penguins struck twice in the first period and then again early in the second period before the Comets took the game over and mounted their comeback and scored three straight.

Carter Bancks (0-2-0) had a multi-point night, while Chris Higgins (1-0-0), Jordan Subban (1-0-0), and Brendan Gaunce (1-0-0) each recorded goals for the Comets. Richard Bachman made 21 saves in net for Utica.

The Penguins struck first when Derek Army scored off of a rebound 7:47 into the first period. Reid McNeill and Jean-Sebastien Dea assisted on the goal.

Kael Mouillierat gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead, scoring off from a face-off with 26 seconds left in the first period.

Wilkes-Barre extended their lead to 3-0, when Bachman came out of net to knock the puck away, but Derek Army picked it up and put it past Bachman as he was scrambling to get back in net.

Utica wouldn’t go down easy, as they mounted a comeback.

The Comets got on the board 6:56 into the second on Chris Higgins first goal as a Comet. Higgins took the puck around the back of the net, and squeezed a wrap-around shot past Matt Murray.

With 4:52 left in the second, Subban ripped a shot from the left slot, and put it to the glove side of Murray for his eighth goal of the season, cutting the Penguin lead to 3-2.

Utica wouldn’t let up in the third period, as they tied the score 3-3 with 9:36 left in regulation, sending it to overtime. Alexandre Grenier sent a pass from the left circle, across the front of the net to Brendan Gaunce, who fired a shot into the back of the net for his 13th goal of the season.

The Penguins would score just 33 seconds into overtime for a 4-3 win. Bachman went behind the net to get a loose puck, sending a pass to the left side, but Carter Rowney intercepted the pass and bounced the puck into the open net.

Matt Murray made 34 saves for the Penguins, as they improve to 31-14-1-1 on the season. The loss drops the Comets to 22-17-4-3.

The Comets will stay at home for their next game, as they will welcome the Binghamton Senators to the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Utica Memorial Auditorium, 7pm
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Tonight’s Game: For just the fifth time since the calendar turned to the year 2016, the Comets will play a game at the Utica Memorial Auditorium when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Peguins make their first trip to Utica this season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm.

The Comets, with 50 points, currently sit in third place by a single point over the fourth place Rochester Americans. The Baby Penguins lay claim to the top spot in the Atlantic Division with 62 points in 46 games.

Last Game: 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.

Scouting the Penguins: The Pittsburgh Penguins American Hockey League affiliate came out of the gate’s flying this season and cemented themselves atop the Atlantic Division fairly early. The even had a seven-game winning streak from Jan. 2 to Jan. 13. Since that streak, the Penguins have stumbled to a 2-6-1-0 record in their past nine games, and are holding off the second place Hershey Bears by mere percentage points. The Comets catch a little break tonight, as the AHL’s second-leading goal scorer, Scott Wilson (22-14-36), is currently on a recall assignment in the NHL. In fact, the Penguins top two point-getters are currently in Pittsburgh, as Conor Sheary (7-29-36) is also in the NHL. In their absence, AHL All-Star, Dominik Simon (12-19-31) takes over top point-scorer duties. In net, it’s the AHL’s second-best goaltender in goals against average (2.02), and save percentage (.933), paving the way with 26 games played.

We’re Going Streaking!: With Saturday’s win over the IceCaps, the Comets ran their win streak to four games and have tied a season-high winning streak. They also look to win their season-high third consecutive home game tonight. In addition, Jon Landry, and Michael Zalewski have registered a point in each game during the current winning streak.

More of That Please: In the last four games the Comets have collected 16 goals, four per game. Prior to that the Comets scored 21 goals in 11 games (1.9 per game), while collecting a 2-7-1-1 record. Scoring three or more goals is important for this season’s Comets. When they 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.

Z for Zalewski: Michael Zalewski has appeared in four games since being reassigned to the Comets on Jan. 25, and all he has done in those four games is collect four goals, two game-winning goals, and an three assists. The forward improved on his impressive sophomore campaign by increasing his season totals to 12 goals, and 12 assists in 39 games. Zalewski has already bested his totals from last season’s 55 game campaign that saw him score 3 times and add nine assists.

They’re A-Comin’: Last week the Vancouver Canucks re-assigned NHL veterans Brandon Prust and Yannick Weber to the Comets roster. Neither player will suit up tonight, but they will soon. Prust joined the team for morning skate this morning, while Weber will arrive into town in the coming days.

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.

Coming for That #1 Spot: 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 39 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.

Next Game: The Comets will play back-to-back home games for the first time since Dec. 2-4th, when the Binghamton Senators make their first visit to The AUD this season on Friday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm.

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