Comets Surrender Four Power-Play Goals in Loss
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Oct 15, 2016
The Utica Comets surrendered four power-play goals in the game’s first 40 minutes en route to suffering a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Marlies on Saturday afternoon at the Ricoh Coliseum. Brendan Leipsic’s four-point (1-3-4) night paced the defending North Division champions as the Marlies seemed to have picked up right where they left off last season.
Jordan Subban (0-2-2) and Alexandre Grenier (1-1-2) posted multi-point nights, and Curtis Valk (1-0-1) and Michael Chaput (0-1-1) chipped in a point a piece for the Comets. Richard Bachman made 29 saves on 34 Marlies shots, in the loss.
After Joseph LaBate and John Negrin took back-to-back penalties to set-up the Marlies on a lengthy 5-on-3 power play, the Marlies struck twice in a span of 48 seconds. Defenseman Andrew Nielsen kicked the scoring off when he wristed a shot over Bachman’s glove, then Nikita Soshnikov quickly followed suit and jammed a rebound into the net with 4:11 to play in the opening period.
Three more Marlies goals in the second period, two of which came on the power play, stretched the Marlies lead to 5-0. The line of Andrew Nielsen, Andreas Johnsson, and Brendan Leipsic accounted for all three Marlies goals in the second, with Johnsson scoring twice.
With two minutes left in the middle frame, the Comets solved Sparks with their 14th shot of the game. Jordan Subban, from behind his own goal line, connected with Alexandre Grenier on a stretch pass to the neutral zone to spring Grenier and Valk on a two-on-one rush. Valk one-timed Grenier’s cross-slot pass past Sparks’ sprawling save attempt for the Comets first goal of the season.
Before the end of the period, Andreas Johnsson picked up an interference penalty that the Comets converted on 1:02 into the third period. Grenier’s one-time blast from the top of the circle screamed past Sparks before he could get across the crease. Subban and Michael Chaput picked up assists on the tally.
The Comets penalty kill allowed four goals in their first five killing situations, which included a full two minute 5-on-3 power play for the Marlies. The unit successfully killed their last two penalties to finish the night at 3-for-7. Grenier’s tally on the power play was the Comets only successful power-play attempt on six chances.
The Comets play their second game in as many days against the Toronto Marlies tomorrow with a 5 p.m. puck drop at the Ricoh Coliseum.
UTICA COMETS (0-0-0-0) @ TORONTO MARLIES (0-0-0-0)
Ricoh Coliseum, 1pm
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Tonight’s Game: After a much longer summer break than the year prior, the 2016-17 Utica Comets season finally kicks off this afternoon in Toronto against the American Hockey League’s best regular season team last season, the Marlies. The last two North Division champions are set to battle at the Ricoh Coliseum today at 1 p.m.
Head-to-Head: Last year the Comets finished the year with a 3-3-0-2 against the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy winners. The Marlies outscored the Comets 29-19 in the eight-game series, including a 7-1 win on Jan. 24. All-time, the Comets own a 10-8-2-2 record good for 24 points, compared to the Marlies 26 points with a 12-8-2-0 record. Led by goaltender Joe Cannata, the Comets blanked the Marlies 4-0 on Mar. 4, and were the only team to shutout the Marlies last season.
Scouting the Marlies: Last season, after spending three quarters of the season re-writing the American Hockey League’s record books, the Marlies finished the regular season as the clear cut best team in the league. Their 294 goals were easily a league-high, and were it not for the Texas Stars and their 277 goals, the Marlies would have paced the league by a gaudy 35 goals (Hershey Bears – 259). The veteran-laden team returns 14 players who appeared in at least 20 games with the Maple Leafs or Marlies, however, only three (Colin Smith, Brendan Lepsic, Tobias Lindberg) of their top 10 leading scorers from last season return. The Marlies eventually bowed out in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Hershey Bears.
Captain Carter: At practice yesterday morning, before the team departed for Toronto, Comets head coach Travis Green named Carter Bancks team captain. Bancks, 27, is entering his third season with the Comets after enjoying a career year in every offensive category last season. Last season Bancks served as one of the team’s alternate captains and became the unquestioned leader in the locker room after Alex Biega was recalled to Vancouver. The Marysville, BC native was the only Comets player to play in every game this season. No stranger to being a team captain, Bancks served as an assistant captain with the Abbotsford Heat during the 2012-13, and 2013-14 season, and as a captain (2009-10), and alternate captain (2008-09) with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes. Bancks was named the Comets 2015-16 IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year for his outstanding contributions to the Utica community during the season.
The New Guys: Yan-Pavel LaPlante, Marco Roy, Cody Kunyk, Jayson Megna, Michael Chaput, Borna Rendulic, and Chad Billins have all appeared in AHL games prior to this weekend, but all seven will be looking to make their Utica Comets debut over the next two days. Derek Hulak is another new addition but did not make the trip due to a minor injury. Assistant coach Jason King, and athletic trainer Toby Blosser will be enjoying their first game behind the Comets bench this afternoon as well.
Déjà vu All Over Again: Sign of things to come? The last time the Comets season opened up with a weekend trip north of the border in Toronto was to kick off the memorable 2014-15 season. That season the team won the Western Conference en route to a Calder Cup appearance. The Comets were also led by a captain whose first name started with the letter C (Cal O’Reilly). The Comets enjoyed a three-point weekend back in 2014-15, with a 2-1 victory on Saturday, and 3-2 overtime loss on Sunday.
Welcome to the Pros: Troy Stecher, Michael Carcone, and Thatcher Demko will all be looking to make their professional hockey debuts this weekend.
The Voice: When you tune into K-ROCK or AHL Live for today’s game you may feel like your ears are deceiving you. Fear not, there is a new guy giving you all your in-game news. For the first time this season, broadcaster Andy Zilch will man the mic. Andy joined us this summer after Brendan Burke departed for play-by-play duties with the New York Islanders. Zilch came to the Comets after spending the previous two seasons in the AHL with the (now defunct) Springfield Falcons.
Next Game: The Comets play their second game against the Toronto Marlies in as many days with a 5 p.m. puck drop at the Ricoh Coliseum tomorrow afternoon.